We just celebrated labor day, so fall must be around the corner. Heck, in some places it is already here. Autumn is probably my favorite season. The change in the air as we prepare for winter, the smells, the harvest, and of course apple cider.
Cider like beer and wine is a big part of the harvest traditions. In Michigan most might not realize it but it is an Old World tradition. We didn’t invent it in the US. But there is one that that is distinctly part of US history that we can thank for the abundance of apple trees and our access to them.
You may remember the tall tales taught in school. Stories and legends of people that have done things that no ordinary person should have been able to do. Think Paul Bunyan and his blue ox named Babe, or John Henry the Steel Driving Man. The thing about tall tales, there is always some semblance to truth in their telling.
The tale of Johnny Appleseed falls into the legends based on a big truth. John Chapman is the man the legend is based on. He did exist and he planted quite a few apple trees while also promoting the use of apples.
But there is a side to this story that was stricken from the records. And you can thank Prohibition for this. John Chapman was part of the Temperance movement. Prohibition grew out of this movement. But there is a difference between the two. The Temperance movement did not want to get rid of all alcoholic beverages. Their aim was for such things as whiskey and rum. Hard cider, beer, and wine were important for our quality of life especially back then.
John Chapman promoted the planting of apple trees and the use of apples in the making of cider. This push was intended to turn people away from the love of hard liquors. His actions were big enough to help fuel the movement as well as build a legend around his name.
Come full circle to now. We are seeing a resurgence of cideries (is this the word?). Hard cider is coming back on the radar and it’s a great thing. I have always loved cider (in Michigan cider is something completely different than apple juice you get at the supermarket). And hard cider is an extension of that love.
Next time you find yourself with a cider in your hand, raise a toast to Johnny Appleseed and his work in fostering a great tradition.
time for a pint…