Traditional drops of cider

Apple cider has been made for centuries. It was made long before the early European colonists brought their apple trees with them to this country. Cider was for many the drink of choice, in its many forms. It was cheap, easy to make, and kept well.

Traditionally, cider is made from drop apples. That part of the crop that fell before it could be picked was used by the farm family, canned, dried or pressed into juice.

The way cider is made is now being challenged, with potential requirements that all cider be pasteurized, and that no drops be used.

The future of cider was discussed recently at a meeting of Hillsborough County Farm Bureau, and several resolutions were forwarded to the state level: farmers want to continue to be able to sell unpasteurized cider at their farms, and be allowed to continue to use the drops.

Some years ago, a few cases of illness were traced to contaminated fruit juice, and the federal government responded by requiring that all cider be pasteurized. To the purist, and many old-timers, pasteurized cider is nothing more than apple juice. It has lost all of its character.

Fresh apple cider is cloudy, reddish brown, and contains varying amounts of solids. Left to itself, unprocessed cider will gradually ferment, forming at first “sparkling cider,” then, as the alcohol content rises, it becomes “hard cider.” The final product is vinegar.

Farming group’s resolutions

Freezing the hard cider can give a quite potent drink known as “apple jack.” Using the right recipes and techniques, you can produce champagne.

There are still a few antique hand presses around, mostly at farms where the adventurous can try their hand at making it the old hard way. Commercial cider is made with electric presses, with more concern about hygiene, and under strict controls.

Despite those controls, it’s getting harder and harder to find unpasteurized cider.

“Regulations prohibit the wholesale of unpasteurized cider,” said Dick Uncles of the state Department of Agriculture. “Unpasteurized cider can be sold only at the farm or the cider mill. There were several outbreaks of E coli in raw juice, so the Food and Drug Administration promulgated a regulation that a process be applied to kill the organisms.”

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