DEAR ‘CREEKERS, happy almost new year. We are still open every day. You can get cider, apples, and squash. Sprouts are dwindling. And now for a wee history lesson from our winter reading, Apples of Uncommon Character by Rowan Jacobsen.
“Apple culture was a huge part of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American life. There were few national apples, but endless regional ones, each adapted to the local climate and needs. Each one had been propagated because it did something superb. Some came ripe in July, some in November. Some held their shape in pies. Some started off hard and sour, but sweetened outrageously after a few months in a root cellar. Some had red flesh so full of tannins that eating one was like biting into a bar of soap, but if you pressed it and let the juice ferment in your basement all winter, it produced a dry, fragrant cider—the default buzz of agrarian America.”
Henry Ward Beecher—the celebrated New York minister, abolitionist, and bro’ of Stowe—described a typical home cellar of the mid-1800s: “On the east side stood a row of cider barrels; for twelve or twenty barrels of cider were a fit provision for the year, and what was not consumed for drink was expected duly to turn into vinegar, and was then exalted to certain hogsheads kept for the purpose. But along the middle of the cellar were the apple-bins; and when the season had been propitious, there were stores and heaps of Russets, Greenings, Seeknofurthers, Pearmains, Gilliflowers, Spitzenburgs, and many besides, nameless, but not virtueless.”
Most of you Creekers know that you can find these strange apples—over 75 varieties, in fact—in our Dwarf Orchard. You know you can become a DIY moonshiner by bringing your carboys to get filled with Ambrosia. And you know you can order some of the best hard ciders in America from our friends at Eve’s Cidery. Yes, folks, cider is here in a big way. It’s the new craft beer—almost. Check out the infographic.
In other farm news, this fabulous painting of our old blue Ford tractor, by the Boston architect John Rufo, just appeared on the cover of Cornell’s literary magazine, Epoch. Suddenly our whole ramshackle operation feels dignified.
Speaking of the Ivy League, millions of readers have been asking about the glassware pictured at the top of this Crop Alert. The red and green glasses were blown by a Harvard astrophysicist especially for extracting the optimal flavor profile from unpasteurized cider. Heady stuff. Meanwhile, back on earth, these are the last sprouts in the field. They’ll be gone by the time you get this message. Stop by anyway. Hope to see you at The ‘Creek.