Last weekend, I pressed apples with my father-in-law. He’s devoted to his apple trees and the whole family benefits. Fresh apple cider featured prominently at the annual Halloween party and we all look forward to the cork cheerfully popping off his homemade hard apple cider in a few months.
His apples are a taste of history itself. Roxbury Russet, Ashmead’s Kernel, Liberty, and Spartan all nestle happily in the backyard orchard. I’ve never see these varieties outside of his yard. They’re uncommon to find grown in commercial orchards because their appearance makes them less likely to sell. It’s interesting how much of the apple’s history was written by its outside appearance. (Read The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan, if you’re curious.)
Oh, and his cider press? It’ll top your head with a mob cap and drop you in colonial Boston if you look at it askance.
Apples and cider hark back to the American frontier, when families came together for the harvest and stayed to celebrate its finish with a mug of the best. I suppose that’s what I love so much about cider: it brings people together and encourages conversation. Put down the iphones and computers for a moment to sip and talk. Laugh with each other. The work for today is done. Laugh.
Ginger Apple Cider
Makes enough for everyone
In a large pot, heat a gallon or so fresh apple cider over medium heat. As it warms, add a lemon sliced into rounds, as much fresh ginger as you think you can handle (skinned and sliced), 10-15 allspice berries, 5 black peppercorns, 5 whole cloves, 4 crushed pods green cardamom, and 1 cup (or more) orange juice. Hold it at a near simmer for a half hour, then keep it warm on low as you ladle it into mugs for your guests. Drink it plain or add a splash of brandy on those chilly nights.