Category Archives: Cider History

1899: Vintage Herefordshire Apples, and “French sorts”

Rackham Pomona

A committee composed of members of the Herefordshire Fruit-Growers’ Association and of the Fruit and Chrysanthemum Society was appointed in 1899 to make a selection of vintage apples and pears best suited to Herefordshire and the districts adjoining.

The following is the list drawn up by the committee:

The Apples:

Old Foxwhelp 
Cherry Pearmain
Cowarne Red
Dymock Red
Eggleton Styre
Kingston Black or Black Taunton
Skyrme’s Kernel
Spreading Redstreak
Carrion Apple
Cherry Norman
Cummy Norman
Royal Wilding
Handsome Norman
Strawberry Norman
White Bache or Norman
Broad-leaved Norman
 
and
 
Argile Grise
Bramtot
De Boutville
Frequin Audievre
Medaille d’Or
 
These last five being “French sorts” introduced from Normandy about 1880, and now established in the orchards of Herefordshire.

Adapted from an online version of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica – Article: CIDER, or CYDER (from the Fr. cidre, derived from the Lat. sicera or cisera, Gr. mucepa, Heb. shade, strong drink)

Read more here: CIDER, or CYDER 

Tagged , , , ,

Guest Post: Wassail: An Unexpected Revival by Maria Kennedy

We’ve been following the writings of Maria Kennedy at Cider With Maria for some time, and were very pleasantly surprised to find ourselves seated next to her at Proletariat’s 2013 Cider Week NY tasting event with Andy Brennan of Aaron Burr Cider.
We share an interest in cider culture, and as part of our ongoing explorations into Wassail history and traditions, Maria kindly agreed to shared her post Wassail: An Unexpected Revival
with us.
Enjoy!

Wassail: An Unexpected Revival

by Maria Kennedy

Image
Flyer for the Foxwhelp Morris Wassail, Preston on Wye 2012

I was sitting it a pub in East Hackney, London one January night a few years ago trying to convince a young man from Portsmouth that English people did in fact practice the custom of wassail.  “Wassail?” he said.  “I’ve never heard of that.  English people don’t do that.  I don’t believe you.”  I parried his aura of certainty with my own indisputable fact: I had just travelled down to a remote corner of Devonshire to participate in a wassail.  I had seen it for myself.  We had traipsed round a village in the Blackdown Hills singing for cider and wishing good health to the farmhouse, the garage, the old vicarage, the pub, and finally the orchard itself. English people DO wassail.

The young man’s incredulity about the existence of this custom is understandable, though.  With a few notable exceptions of wassail celebrations that claim to have survived unbroken into the present, such as the one at Carhampton, Somerset, the custom seems to have died out or disappeared most everywhere else, surviving only as a festive Christmas drink or an obsolete word in a carol.  In the past few years, however, a notable revival has been rising, and as several of my friends in England put it, everyone seems to want to have a wassail now.

So why did wassailing die out in England, and why is it being revived now?  These were some of the questions I set out to answer when I first trekked out to torchlit winter processions on the twelfth night of Christmas in Devon, and later Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, and Worcestershire.

Many people think of Wassail as a remnant pagan custom, and it is easy to see why, when black-faced Morris men lead hordes of otherwise tame urbanites carrying torches through old orchards to sing to the apple trees and scare off witches with gunfire.  It’s an enthusiastic performance of what some might think of as a primitive, superstitious approach to life, which might seem refreshing after the daily grind of rational civility. Being outside after the endless indoor Christmas parties feels like a release, and the bonfires and torches light up the night in a way that wakes your tired soul from the dreary sleep of midwinter. And the cider, well the cider just makes you feel sublime, a bit euphoric.  The torches seem brighter.  The night seems blacker.  And it feels like anything is possible inside the circle of trees that almost seem alive.

Image
Morris Man from Silurian Morris at the Tenbury Wassail 2013

I think the custom’s visceral tactile appeal stems from the sensory stimulation of frost and fire and the imaginative tunnel of superstition usually silenced in a society based on scientific rationality.  It’s an opportunity to get out and be a little wild for a night, and that’s what rituals and festivals are often good for, shaking up our everyday habits and injecting the mundane world with mystery and significance we don’t usually feel.

Some of the people I came to know who had helped revive wassail over the last twenty years had a much less superstitious orientation to the custom, though, and their perspectives shed light on some of the social realities of rural agricultural life and highlight the enormous social changes it has undergone in the past century.  Wassail, a custom historically based in rural society and food production, has something to teach us about the changing ways we work with each other, as well as the ways we interact with natural and agricultural resources.

For Eric Freeman, a life-long farmer in the rural countryside of Gloucestershire, and his friends Pete Symonds, a former electrician from the Forest of Dean, and Albert Rixen, a plumber and engineer, wassail was a tribute to the work of the agricultural year and an emblem of the social contract between farmers and their agricultural workers. Pete Symonds is a skilled tradesman in a rural community whose livelihood suffered with the outsourcing of industrial work overseas.  He saw in wassail the opportunity to celebrate the social bonds of working men and commemorate the cooperative nature of agricultural labor in an era before industrialization. Albert Rixen, devoted to restoring old steam engines, including antique steam powered cider equipment, also lends his workman’s approach to wassail and cider making, keeping alive the mechanical heritage of agricultural work.  Eric Freeman, a tireless supporter of agriculturally-oriented social networks such as the Young Farmers and groups devoted to saving rare breeds of livestock, has dedicated much of his life to the practice of farming not just as a business or even a personal vocation, but a way of life still full of social and cultural richness.

Image
Eric Freeman holding the Wassail Cup at his annual Wassail in Huntley, Gloucestershire

For these men, the resurrection of the custom of wassail was not about superstition at all.  The considerable labor involved in preparing the bonfires and torches and orchestrating the festival mirrored the kind of labor they wanted to celebrate – shared labor, social labor, the kind of labor that was necessary to keep a pre-industrial farm going.  This is the kind of labor that makes work worthwhile, and which seems to be slipping away in a world of global markets, where labor is outsourced, rural communities are left slowly crumbling, and agriculture produces commodities instead of food.

It’s also important to remember that the social contract didn’t always work, that standards of living for agricultural workers in the pre-industrial era were generally dire.  But wassail was a moment when the contract was tested, when the workers held the orchard and the farm hostage for a night, demanding food and drink from their employers in return for performing the wassail and ensuring a fertile crop in the year to come.  Superstition becomes bare social reality here, because without a satisfied workforce, the farm could not be productive.  Without workers, there would be no harvest, no fertility.  Wassail was a kind of symbolic labor negotiation, with the potential harvest hanging in the balance.  And the next Monday after twelfth night, known as Plough Monday, work started again.  The fields were ploughed for the coming year.

Image
Leominster Morris Wassail in Eardisley, Herefordshire 2013

It all seems a bit serious for a rowdy evening of cider drinking, morris dancing, and bonfire lighting.  And don’t get me wrong, sometimes of the most obvious reasons to join in a wassail is simply for a good prank, a good drink, and an excuse to dress up in funny costumes and indulge in a little pyromania.  But the interplay of superstition, social history, and a walloping good time is what makes wassail a tradition with depth and complexity that can appeal to people on many levels, even as they face adapting to economic, social, and environmental change in their communities.

Can wassail take hold in North America?  A real, strong tradition here will depend on our own social needs and reasons for adopting a custom.  It will be exciting to see how it takes shape as we begin to re-invest attention in our agriculture, our orchards, and our cider.  In a way, the social contract we are now re-exploring with our food system, our environment, and our economies makes wassail all the more relevant, and the tables have turned.  Wassail, in all its irreverent topsy-turvy midwinter glory, reminds us that agriculture and food production, even in our industrialized, exploitative, globalized era is still a social, and an environmental contract.  In an old-fashioned way, it poses the question “Are we in it together folks?”  And its pretty exciting to hear folks replying: “Here’s to thee old apple tree.”

ImageOrchard near Preston on Wye, Herefordshire, Foxwhelp Morris Wassail 2012
Wassail: An Unexpected Revival all content and photographs copyright Maria Kennedy.
We encourage you to read more from Maria Kennedy at her blog: ciderwithmaria.wordpress.com
and
Take a listen to these interviews with Maria on Earth Eats:
Tagged , , ,

Wassail 2015.

The Wassail (Charles Rennie Mackintosh)

WASSAIL 2015

January 5th – January 17th, 2015

We encourage you to Wassail, honor the orchard and celebrate the apple.

Wassail in the orchard, at your favorite cider-serving establishment, or where ever Twelfth Night week finds you.

Join us and raise a glass of cider – toast the apple & the orchard.

WASSAIL 2015 

The Wassailing

Highlights from

WASSAIL 2014

January 5th – January 17th, 2014*

UNITED STATES:

CA: Tilted Shed Ciderworks Orchard Wassail on Old Twelfth Night  January 17, 2014 www.tiltedshed.com

MO: Wassailing the Apple Trees and Dinner at Powell Gardens – January 18, 2014. www.powellgardens.org/wassailing

NY: Redbyrd Orchard Cider – January 17, 2014. redbyrdorchardcider.com

NY: Wassail daily at The Drink with their Wassail cup or bowl thedrinkbrooklyn.com

OR: Finn River Cidery Winter Wassail –  January 18, 2014. www.finnriver.com

VT: Champlain Orchards – January 18, 2014.  www.champlainorchards.com

CANADA:

BC: Sea Cider Winter Wassail Celebration – January 19, 2014 seacider.ca

The Wassail (Charles Rennie Mackintosh)

OUR WASSAIL POSTS:

A Call To Wassail. January 5th – 17th, 2014.

Come All Ye Cider Drinkers and Join In The Wassail!

A Bit About Wassailing From the National Association of Cider Makers

IT BEGINS. 13 Days Of Wassailing 2014

These Days Of Wassailing

The Pagan Rite WASSAIL! Brown, Bradshaw and World’s Best Ciders.

Wassail Day 1. Fortifying with Pear Brandy. Olmsted’s Sidecar Cocktail.

Wassail Traditions: The 5 Key Elements.

Old Apple Tree, We’ll WASSAIL Thee!

Rackham Lady's Apple

 WASSAIL RESOURCES & LINKS: LEARN MORE ABOUT ORCHARD WASSAILING:

Wassailing Through History from the Colonial Williamsburg Journal, USA

About Wassailing from the National Association of Cider Makers, United Kingdom

Cider: It’s Time for Wassail by Maria Kennedy of Cider With Maria for Twice Cooked

Wassail: An Unexpected Revival by Maria Kennedy of Cider With Maria

Wassail: Some Historical Reports and their Contexts by Maria Kennedy of Cider With Maria

Wassail Story From The Radio Program – Living on Earth via the blog Cider With Maria

The Foodie Bugle Talks Wassail: Here’s To Thee Old Apple Tree

Rackham-Winter Trees

A SELECTION OF WASSAIL RECIPES:

Lambswool (Wassail) Recipe (with history notes) for a modern kitchen from RecipeWise recipewise.co.uk

Traditional Lambswool Recipes from early sources collected by RecipeWise recipewise.co.uk

Holiday drinks: Here we come a-wassailing at American Food Roots with a recipe and video from Alton Brown (with eggs, ale and Madeira)

How To Make PDTs Winter Wassail with Hudson Valley Cider from Breezy Hill Orchard via Serious Eats

From PUNCH Drink: A Recipe For Wassail: punchdrink.com

The Churchill’s Jenn Dowds shared this Wassail recipe with Rosie Schaap for The New York Times.

Rackham Pomona

*The month of January 2014 was dedicated to Wassail at United States of Cider.

Tagged , ,

From The “New, Useful and Entertaining” Thomas’ The Farmer’s Almanac. Edition No. 1. Calendars for December, 1793:

1793 of Almanck cover

The first edition, published by Robert B. Thomas in 1792, (for the year 1793) was “declared new, useful and entertaining” and sold for six pence.

Calendar for December 1793:

“Put your sleds and sleighs in order. Complete your thrashing. Visit your barns often. See that your cellars are well stored with good cider, that wholesome and cheering liquor, which is the product of your own farms: No man is to be pitied, that cannot enjoy himself or his friend, over a pot of good cider, the product of his own country, and perhaps his own farm which suits both his constitution and his pocket much better than West-India spirit.”

sources & resources:

website: www.almanac.com

link to free google ebook compilation:  The Old Farmer and His Almanack: Being Some Observations on Life and Manners in Vew England a Hundred Years Ago, Suggested by Reading the Earlier Numbers of Mr. Robert. B. Thomas’s Farmer’s Almanack, Together with Extracts Curious, Instructive, and Entertaining, as Well as a Variety of Miscellaneous Matter

Harvard University Press, 1920
Tagged , ,

On Thanksgiving Traditions In The Colony of New Haven.

Colliers Thanksgiving Cover 1901

“Thanksgiving was celebrated with the greatest profusion. For three days previous all was bustle and preparation: the stalled ox was killed, – turkeys, hens, and geese innumerable shared the fate of Charles the first, – a load of the best walnut wood was drawn for the thanksgiving fires, a barrel of the best cider was chosen, the best pumpkins were selected for pies, (to supply the place of minced,)* and strong water was provided in moderation to assist the inspiration of the joyful occasion.”

* “It has been said that minced pies were proscribed from the bill of fare of the Puritans because they were customarily made by the Episcopalians on Christmas.”

Page: 191

From: History of the colony of New Haven: before and after the union with Connecticut. Containing a particular description of the towns which composed that government, viz., New Haven, Milford, Guilford, Branford, Stamford, & Southold, L. I., with a notice of the towns which have been set off from “the original six.” 

Author: Edward Rodolphus Lambert Publisher: Hitchcock & Stafford, 1838 – Branford (Conn.)

via: google ebook

Image: Creator(s): Penfield, Edward, 1866-1925, artist. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, reproduction number LC-USZC4-1206 (color film copy transparency)

Tagged , , ,

Celebrating 200 Years of the Historic Fort Ross Orchard

Fort Ross1383074_232226773603226_180268532_n

Photograph by Paul C. Miller, courtesy of Fort Ross Conservancy

Where & When:

Fort Ross State Historic Park
19005 Coast Hwy
JennerCA 95450

Saturday, April 12, 2014 from 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM (PDT)

Event Details:

In 1814, the Russians at Fort Ross began their orchard by planting a peach tree. They and the ranchers who followed planted trees and harvested fruit from the site for over 150 years, and a number of historic trees still survive today.

In celebration of the historic Fort Ross orchard’s 200th anniversary, Fort Ross Conservancy is hosting a conference on orchards and orchard management. Lectures by experts from the National Park Service and California State Parks will discuss the history of orchards, historic orchard care, and tree preservation. A tour of the Fort Ross orchard will follow, with an opportunity to discuss recent management at the site.

The Fort Ross orchard was planted by the Russians in 1814 and several trees from the mid 1800s are still living, including two Russian-era cherry trees. This conference celebrates the 200th anniversary of the historic orchards at Fort Ross. Conference speakers include:

  • Susan Dolan, Park Cultural Landscapes Program Manager with National Park Service, will provide an overview of the history of orchards, and discuss basic techniques in orchard stabilization,
  • Jan Wooley, Historic Preservationist with California State Parks, will discuss orchards and ongoing work within the California State Parks System,
  • Susan Rudy, Fort Ross Conservancy Advisor and lead orchard volunteer, will describe the history and ongoing care of the Fort Ross orchard,
  • Amigo Bob Cantisano (tentative) will discus the Felix Gillet Historic Orchard Project. This organization identifies, preserves, and propagates the best varieties of fruit and nut trees still thriving in the mining camps, farms, homesteads and towns of the Sierra that were introduced by Felix Gillet, of Nevada City, Calfiornia, in 1871.

Schedule for the Day

  • 10am – 1pm    Lecture/Presentations in the Fort Ross Visitor Center auditorium
  • 1:30-2:30        Lunch at the orchard
  • 2:30-3:30        Historic Fort Ross Orchard tour
  • 4pm                Optional tour of the Fort Ross Historic Compound.

Special event fees apply:

$10 per person for conference and historic orchard tour.
*plus* California State Parks entrance fee of $8 per car when parking at Fort Ross. (Please carpool!)

Optional boxed lunch delivered to the orchard: $15/ person, advanced purchase only.
Or you are welcome to bring your own picnic lunch!

visit-s

For more information on the Fort Ross historic orchard visit the Orchard webpage.

Link: www.fortross.org

Tickets & event details available at:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/celebrating-200-years-of-the-historic-fortross-orchard-tickets-10786062403

988342_232228423603061_261528728_n

Photograph by Paul C. Miller, courtesy of Fort Ross Conservancy

Fort Ross1383422_232226910269879_1321793990_n

Photograph by Paul C. Miller, courtesy of Fort Ross Conservancy

Fort Ross1390635_232228273603076_2015711172_n

Photograph by Paul C. Miller, courtesy of Fort Ross Conservancy

Fort Ross16253_232226543603249_293914781_n

Photograph by Paul C. Miller, courtesy of Fort Ross Conservancy

All photos by Paul C. Miller, courtesy of Fort Ross Conservancy

Map courtesy of Fort Ross Conservancy

Tagged , , , , , ,

Oh, Ithaca! A Very Moist City. 1921.

cropped-observations.jpg

The Cornell Daily Sun

Volume XLII, Number 4, 24 September 1921

MANUFACTURERS OF CIDER TOLD TO GET PERMITS

Federal Inspector Lays Down Law to Makers of the Beverage.

ITHACA VERY MOIST CITY

Official Claims More Liquor Here Than in Other Towns of Same Size.

REGULATIONS ON VINEGAR

Cannot Be Manufactured Without Having Bonds and Taking Legal Steps.

“There Is more liquor in Ithaca than in any other city of its size in New York State, according to a statement made by the federal director,” declared Jay Carpenter when he returned yesterday afternoon from a short trip to Syracuse. Mr. Carpenter, who was accompanied by E. J. Holmes, said that they had received instructions from the “district prohibition agent that neither they nor any other cider manufacturers in Tompkins county would be permitted to make any more cider unless they first obtained a federal permit and then gave a guarantee that the cider would never become sour. The official also informed his visitors that the federal agents have Ithaca in mind for another visit in the near future. It Is understood the interest of the federal enforcement bureau was drawn to Ithaca due to the large sales of hard cider which have been made in this city. Mr. Holmes and Mr. Carpenter, both of whom manufacture clder on an extensive scale, were cited to appear before the federal director in ‘Syracuse on Thursday. They were ‘ Turned that they had no right to manufacture cider without a permit and that if they obtain a permit they must absolutely guarantee that the cider would not turn sour. Mr. Carpenter maintained that, although his cider is pasteurized before it is sold, he cannot guarantee it will not become sour. The federal director informed the Itathacans that they could obtain permission to manufacture vinegar by filing a $2,000 bond and taking other necessary legal steps.

Tagged , , , , ,

Wassail Traditions: The 5 Key Elements.

The Wassailing

Wassail In 5 Easy Steps.

The 5 Key Elements of Orchard Wassail As Outlined by NACM:

“The rite involves five main elements: gathering around an apple tree, singing the Wassailing song, pouring cider over the tree’s roots, loud noises and a toast.”

Rackham-Winter Trees

1 – Gather Around The Apple Tree.

2 – Sing Wassail Song(s) (There are several traditional songs & many variations).

3 – Pour Cider Over The Tree’s Roots (and place cider-toast in branches).

4 – Make Loud Noises (suggested implements: pots, pans, rattles, musicians, fireworks).

5 – TOAST! Salute the orchard, the apple, and the past & future harvest. (With cider, a Wassail bowl, or punch of your own devising).

Whether in the orchard, city, town, or on the farm, we encourage you to take these elements and discover/explore and create a Wassail event of your own.

Mark your calendars now, and start making plans for Wassail 2015.

NACM Wassail information  at cideruk.com

Rackham Lady's Apple

– Not near an orchard? Seek out local parks, or friendly neighbors with pome fruit trees, sites of trees & orchards of yesteryear, or devise a suitable stand-in, an elegant bowl of apples – or a spray crabapple branches, etc.

– As North American Wassailers we will continue to explore local & regional wassail culture and hope to uncover indigenous tunes & rituals, and share our discoveries for 2015.

Note: Repurposing New Year’s Eve noise-makers is a handy & thrifty way to get your Wassail noise-making kit started.

Images from A Dish of Apples by Eden Phillpotts, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, 1921. View or download at Internet Archive archive.org.

%d bloggers like this: