Cider - A Historic Drink
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Did you know at one time cider was the most popular drink in America?
The first references to cider date way back to 55 BCE. In Roman times Julius Caesar found the Celtic Britons fermenting cider from native crabapples. The people of northern Spain were making sidra before the birth of Christ. In 1066 may apple varieties from France were introduced to England. This happened during the Norman Conquest of England. Very quickly in England cider soon became the most popular drink after ale. Cider was even used as a currency. It began to be used to pay tithes and rents – a custom that continued later in America. Cider is still very popular in England. England actually has the highest per capita consumption as well as the largest cider producing companies in the world. Cider is also enjoyed all over Europe.
As American As Apple Cider
On elf the first things the colonists did in America was to plant apple trees. Only 9 years after first landing at Plymouth in 1620, colonists planted apple trees in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In Colonial America, cider was the most common beverage, and even children drank it in a diluted form. This was because often the water was not safe to drink and most homesteads had an apple orchard. Pressing and fermenting fresh apple juice was the easiest way to preserve the large fruit harvest. Remember there were no freezers back then! In rural communities, taxes, wages and tithes were often paid in cider. Cider was also often the base for other products like vinegar. Vinegar was very useful as it was used to preserve fresh foods and more around the farm!
By the late 1800's cider was no longer the most popular beverage in America. Several tings happened to make Americans forget about cider. one was the Industrial Revolution - people left farms and headed to the city to work. Thus many orchards were abandoned and production slowed. Also unfiltered and unpasteurized raw cider did not travel well from farms to the city. Also cameB BEER! As people consumed more beef especially in cities, cider's popularity fell. German and Irish immigrants led beef to replace cider on the menu. Also cheap grain amiable in the midwest that was easier to transport to make beer contributed as well.
Prohibition also did not help. Prohibition was enacted in 1919. In 1919 the amount of cider produced in the U.S. was down to only 13 million gallons. This was a huge drop down from 55 million gallons in 1899.
Now this time honored American tradition is kept alive by small family operated local farmers. Here at the Julian Cider Mill our cider has been hand pressed, all natural, unsweetened, and unpasteurized - for four generations!