Upcoming Cider Demo and Talk at Pottsgrove Manor

On Saturday, May 7th, I’ll be at Pottsgrove Manor’s May Fair (Pottstown, PA) talking about 18th-century cider, offering some free samples, and presenting my illustrated talk, “Cider: Pennsylvania’s Once (and Future?) Favorite” at 3 pm. The event runs from 11 am to 5 pm.

For more information check out https://www.montcopa.org/1421/Annual-Colonial-May-Fair

Hope to see you there!

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An 1817 Receipt for Making Cider – by Mark A. Turdo

Just in time for the 1817 cidermaking season, James Grant, of Dover, New York, received a letter from Andrew Race. Race began his brief note picking up where their conversation had evidently ended. Saying he got home safely, offering news of two horses in an upcoming race, and promising to let Grant know the outcome, Race went on to share a “Receipt for Making Cider.”

It is unclear if the instructions are Race’s work. No matches turned up in an online search, but it certainly reads like advice he picked up from a printed source and copied by hand for his friend.

Besides the instruction’s origin, Race’s identity is also a bit of a mystery. The red stamp on the cover and his dateline shows he wrote it in New York City. So far no New York-area Andrew Race has been fittingly identified as the author of this note.

Cover and address for Race’s letter to Grant.

If Race remains a stranger, his note feels familiar. That’s because this is how cidermaking information was shared in early America. It was often sprinkled in letters amongst the racing news, local gossip, and business offers. And like other early cidermaking instructions, Race’s assumed a solid cidermaking foundation on the part of the reader. For instance, Race doesn’t mention what kind of apples to use or how to grind or press. Instead, he focuses on details he feels are underappreciated or unobserved, including letting the pomace oxygenate overnight and keeping the equipment and vessels as clean and sanitized as possible. He wrote

Museum of the American Revolution (2018.13.068)


Sir I got home in six days after I left your house without any bad luck to my self or Horse Mr Hunt has two of sir salmans Colts in [thrain] they are to Run next wednesday and as soon as the Race is over I will write the Perticulars two your [olds]

Receipt for Making Cider

Gather the apples neat and Clean in good weather then put them under Cover Exposed to Air as much as Convenient pick them over Immediately before Grinding – Let the Mill and Every thing about it be perfectly Clean put the pumise in a large Vat expose it to Air and stir it ofen if the weather is not hot let the Cheese stand on the Press over night Let the Casks be perfectly Clean put the Cider in Open headed Casks and when the froth begins to apear Through Cracks of the pumise draw it off into other Clean Casks putting about Eight pailsfull at first into a Cask then take a Brimstone Cloth match 2 Inches wide and 14 in. long suspend it in the Cask until it burns out then shake the Cask till it absorbs the smoke fill the Cask stop it tight and put it by in a good Cellar taking Care to draw the vent Occationly that the Cask may not burst when perfectly Clean rack it off into other Clean Casks

Andrew Race

New York September 25th 1817

We’re left to wonder if Grant put any of Race’s suggestions into practice? If he did, did he reply to let Race know what worked and what didn’t or did he wait until they saw each other again? Either way, they probably picked up their conversation right where they left off.


1. The original spelling, punctuation, and grammar have been left intact. Some words are not clearly decipherable. When that is the case they are surrounded with [ ].


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Nero Hawley, Revolutionary Cidermaker – by Mark A. Turdo

Nero Hawley couldn’t not make cider.

Born enslaved to the Mallet family of North Stratford (later Trumbull), Connecticut in 1742, he was gifted to Phebe Mallet and Daniel Hawley at their marriage in 1758. The Hawleys were a prosperous family. Between Daniel and his brother, Ebenezer, they owned and operated farms, a sawmill, a gristmill, a store, a brickmaking operation, and a cider mill. Nero worked in each of these.

The Daniel Hawley House survives, but the cider mill does not. Source

Nero’s labor made Daniel’s agricultural pursuits easier and more profitable. When it came to Daniel’s cidermaking, Nero was likely involved in almost every step, from planting and pruning trees to pressing and barreling juice. He probably worked at the cider mill in the fall pressing apples for many of the Hawley’s neighbors.

Detail of p. 483 of Daniel Hawley’s 1797 probate inventory listing his cider mill. It is unclear when Daniel built his cider mill or how long it operated.

In 1761 Nero married Peg, who was enslaved by the Reverend James Beebee on a nearby farm. While still enslaved by Daniel Hawley, Nero seems to have also worked for Beebee in the his sawmill, gristmill, fulling mill, and on his farm, where Nero probably helped make cider.

On April 20, 177, during the Revolutionary War, Nero was enlisted in Granger’s Company, 2nd Connecticut Regiment, taking Daniel’s place. He saw service throughout the Hudson Valley, in the Philadelphia region (including Valley Forge), and at the Battles of Monmouth, NJ and Stony Point, NY. He was honorably discharged on April 12, 1781 and returned home to North Stratford.

On November 4, 1782, when he was 41-years old, Daniel Hawley freed him for “divers reasons,” possibly in recognition of Nero’s service in the Revolution. Nero continued to work for Daniel and Beebee through at least 1785. That year, Beebee sold Nero a small parcel of land and Beebee died, freeing Peg and Nero’s children.

Using skills he had learned for Hawley, Nero began a brickmaking business in 1785 and then a timber business in 1796. While he used his experience with Daniel’s other businesses to establish his own, nothing has been found yet to suggest that Nero made cider either for himself or for others after 1785.

Nero began to slow down by 1807. By 1815 he was unable to do physical labor. He died on January 30, 1817, at 75 years old.

Nothing of Nero’s cidermaking survives, but some of his bricks do. These are currently on display at the Trumbull Historical Society. Source.

As we’ve seen, Nero led an exceptionally active and industrious life, but his life isn’t an exception. Like many other less-documented African Americans, Nero Hawley made American cider and American independence possible.


I would like to thank Nancy Fisher, President of the Trumbull Historical Society for taking the time to investigate the construction and ultimate fate of Daniel Hawley’s cider mill.


Further Reading

Along with probate inventories for Nero Hawley (1817), Peg Hawley (1833), Daniel Hawley (1797), and James Beebee (1785) found on Ancestry.com, the above is based on the following sources:

From Valley Forge to Freedom: A Story of a Black Patriot by E. Merrill Beach

“Historic Profile: Nero Hawley” on Past Prologue – A round-up of new research which expands Beach’s biography.

Nero Hawley at “Patriots of Color at Valley Forge”


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Rewriting the Rules for America: The 1818 Devonshire Rules for Making and Managing Cider – by Mark A. Turdo

Despite the title, the c. 1818 “Devonshire Rules for Making and Managing Cider” aren’t a step-by-step guide to making and managing cider. Instead they’re a user’s manual for a double-screw apple press, with a wealth of orcharding suggestions and cidermaking details. It’s also a revealing look at how cidermaking knowledge was communicated in early America.

One version of a double-screw press. Cider Making (1840-41), by William Sidney Mount, The Met.

The “Devonshire Rules” are in the Benjamin Vaughan papers at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. Vaughan was an English radical politician, whose support of the French Revolution forced him to flee England in 1794. After a few years in France, he settled on land inherited from his mother in Hallowell, Maine. He spent the rest of his life amassing a private library rivaling Harvard’s, pursuing his agricultural, political, and scientific interests, and maintaining a constant correspondence with people on both sides of the Atlantic.

From Old Hallowell on the Kennebec (1909) by Emma Huntington Nason.

Although the “rules” are in his handwriting, Vaughan didn’t author them. As the title suggests, the rules were originally written in Devonshire, one of England’s famous cider regions. They reflect what some ciderists were doing there and appear to have been written for other professional and serious English cidermakers. Based on a note in the margin of the “rules,” a Captain James Vasey sent them to Vaughan. It’s unknown where Vasey took the rules from, if he copied them in a letter or sent along a publication, or why he sent them.1 Perhaps he was aware of Vaughan’s interest in horticulture, or perhaps Vasey was simply helping round out Vaughan’s ever-growing library.

Vaughan must have thought the rules important enough that he considered publishing them. Details within the manuscript reveal his editorial efforts and suggest his desire to see them in print.

Vaughan transcribed the rules twice. The first version, entitled, ““Devonshire rules for making and managing cider” shows a number of clarifying corrections. This was possibly Vaughan’s attempt to improve on the original author’s descriptions. A second transcription, entitled, “Rules mentioned by a large Devonshire farmer in Devonshire (in England) for making and managing cider & orchards; by a large Farmer in Devonshire, in England” also shows several clarifying notes. Unlike the first version, the second version also includes spelling and grammar edits, suggesting he was proofing it to send to a printer. Two additions in the second version offer further clues to its potential use. The second version’s title is more explanatory, identifying the Devonshire in question as the one in England. It also includes a reference to New Jersey apples not present in the first version. These two edits suggest this was Vaughan’s attempt to rewrite the rules for an American audience.2

Page 1 of Vaughan’s transcription of the “Devonshire Rules” showing his corrections.

Despite Vaughan’s many edits, the content differences between the two versions are minimal. They both describe a very similar milling and pressing process: after sweating the apples, one should grind enough to make three to four hogsheads of 61 gallons each (or 183 or 244 gallons of cider). Once ground, the pomace should be left in the mill for 12 hours (to macerate). After that, the cidermaker should build a cheese with the pomace in a double-screw press. Once built, press the cheese and let it stand for three hours. After that, unscrew everything, rebuild the cheese, and press again for three more hours. This should be done three or four times. After pressing, the juice should rest in a vat for 12 hours, be skimmed three times, and then barreled in a hogshead. After eight or ten days, the cider should be racked into a new barrel, and then racked four or five more times every two weeks or until the cider is clear.

Along with milling and pressing, the rules also touch on orcharding. They advise that every three to four years the turf around the trees should be removed and a layer of manure three to four inches thick spread around. To help keep everything healthy and growing, the rules also note that cows and horses are allowed in the orchard, but sheep are not (they tend to destroy the trees). No mention is made of pigs.

Tucked in throughout the instructions are a wealth of important cidermaking details. The rules note that the hogshead of cider should be elevated on a barrel horse and the cider should be racked from that barrel into a new one via a cock (spigot). They also suggest that the cider should be barreled and cellared for five years before being tapped, but it could be served to workmen at two years.

Barrels would be elevated on wooden horses and racked from barrel into another through a wooden cock located in one of its heads. The Double Surprize (c. 1770),
© The Trustees of the British Museum.

The rules note that some apple trees are grafted, but the majority are “natural,” or seedling. In the second version, that line is crossed out, suggesting that it is either unnecessary to mention it because that’s the American reality already or doesn’t suit the American situation (though it is likely the former). Both versions remind the reader that sour and sweet apples are mixed to make cider and that the finished cider has little carbonation and “an acid-sweet taste.”

Unique (so far) to the “Devonshire Rules” are the time estimates for several steps, including hours for: 

Resting ground apples in vat        12

Pressing (4 times at 3 hours per)    12

Resting juice in vat            12

TOTAL                36

That’s 36 hours to make 183 to 244 gallons of cider. The “rules” don’t include time estimates for several necessary tasks, including moving the apples from where they were left to sweat to the mill, milling the apples, transferring the pomace to the press, building and rebuilding the cheese on the press, filling barrels from the vats, cleaning vats and three or four hogsheads before they are used, and the multiple rackings each barrel was to go through. Along with the financial investment for equipment, the Devonshire rules suggest a steep time investment as well. It is possible that American cidermakers, often making for their own use and for local trade, reduced the number of steps, the time invested, or a bit of both. Wealthier makers, who may have been more inclined to follow the steps laid out by “rules,” were able to do so because they used hired or enslaved labor.

Though it answers a number of questions about early cidermaking, it also leaves us with new ones. How many bushels or pounds of apples was enough to make three to four hogsheads of cider? Did anyone in America really rack cider 5 times or cellar cider untouched for five years? And why didn’t Vaughan publish them? Did another project capture his attention or did someone tell him American cidermakers would never do all of that?3

You can see Vaughan’s original transcriptions of the “Devonshire Rules” in the collection of the APS here.

You can find my transcription of Vaughan’s “Rules” here.

You can visit the Vaughan Woods and Historic Homestead, Benjamin’s estate, in Maine.


1. Both Vasey and the source of the “rules” remain unidentified.

2. Perhaps he intended to publish them in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. Vaughan was admitted as a member of the Society in 1786 and his brother, John, had been librarian there since 1803.

3. Also, did Americans ever use the cylinder of cheese from the press as a backlog in their fires, as the “rules” suggested?

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The Women Who Painted the Apples of Our Eye – By Mark A. Turdo

Alyse’s painting after Ellen Isham Schutt’s Shiawassee apple watercolor got me curious about the USDA’s pomological watercolor collection. I was especially curious about the women who created the vast majority of the collection.

You’ve probably seen the watercolors. Their colorful and accessible imagery continue to make them popular illustrations in apple and cider publications. While the watercolors are familiar, their origins and the artists are rarely, if ever, mentioned.

Malus Domestica: Harrison. This is signed D.G. Passmore, short for Deborah Griscom Passmore
USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection

The watercolors were an initiative of the USDA’s Division of Pomology (DoP), which was created in 1886. One of division’s first tasks was to find a way to record information about the fruit and nuts which were being grown in America and sent to them for study. In an age before refrigeration and color photography, art was the only way to capture and disseminate that information.

Between 1886 and 1942 twenty-one artists created 7,497 images.1 The first few works were pencil or pen and ink drawings. It wasn’t until 1888 that the now-recognizable format was created, which included interior and exterior watercolor views of the fruit surrounded by a border on (roughly) 6.69 inch by 9.84 inch paper. A year later, the DoP hired the first woman, Deborah Griscom Passmore. By the time the project ended in 1942, ten of the twenty-one illustrators hired by the division had been women. Together they produced 5,873 watercolors.2

Below is a sketch of each woman’s work, including one watercolor, her name, life dates, link to a biography (when available), number of watercolors created, a link to her collection of watercolors, and her tenure at the DoP. The list is in order of each woman’s start date with the division.3

As you’ll see, many of their tenures overlapped. It would be curious to know if they ever worked together and inspired each other? What we do know is their work continues to teach and inspire us today.

Deborah Griscom Passmore (1840 – 1911) 
1,520 paintings between c. 1889 – 1911
(average of 69 per year)
Roberta Cowing (1860 – 1924)
6 paintings between 1890 – 1891
(average of 6 per year)
Katherine A. Mayo (? – ?) 
3 paintings between 1890 – 1891
(3 per year)
Bertha Heiges (1866 – 1956) 
595 (plus this 1899 one listed separately) paintings between 1895 – 1912
(average of 35 per year)
Eliza C. Swann (? – ?) 
3 paintings between 1896
(3 per year)
Mary Daisy Arnold (c. 1873 – 1955)
1,059 paintings between 1899 – 1942
(average of 25 per year)
Amanda Almira Newton (c. 1860 – 1953)
1,211 paintings between c. 1900 – 1933
(average of 37 per year)
Ellen Isham Schutt (1873 – 1955)
720 paintings between c. 1903 – 1931
(average of 26 per year)
Elsie Lower Pomeroy (1882 – 1971)
287 paintings between 1903 – 1918
(average of 19 per year)
Harriet L. Thompson (? – ?)
25 paintings in 1915 & 1938
(24 in 1915, 1 in 1938)


1. The collection also includes 87 line drawings and 79 wax models.

2. The 7,497 watercolors don’t capture 7,497 fruits and nuts. Sometimes the same fruit or nut was painted by different artists or multiple versions of one were done by the same artist. For example, see these Northern Spy watercolors.

3. The numbers and dates are from my review of the online collection.

Further Reading

USDA Pomological Watercolor Collection (complete and free)

“Collection Profile: Pomological Watercolor Collection” (Celebrating Research blog)

An Illustrated Catalog of American Fruits & Nuts: The U.S. Department of Agriculture Pomological Watercolor Collection, by Jacqueline Landy, John McPhee, Michael Pollan, Marina Vitaglione, & Adam Leith Gollner

Heirloom Fruits of America: Selections from the USDA Watercolor Pomological Collection, by Daniel J. Kevles

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A Blend of Old and New For Christmas

For Christmas, my friend Alyse made me a gift that combined my interest in apples, my enjoyment of her art, and a research project we’re embarking on together. She scanned a page from a nineteenth-century nursery catalog and painted a shiawassee apple on it in the style of USDA pomological watercolors.

Malus Pyrus, by AVDP

She based the apple on a c. 1911 watercolor by Ellen Isham Schutt.

Here’s hoping your holidays are a blend of all your favorite things and good friends and family.

Happy Holidays!


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Midwest Cider History

Time and place are important in both cider and cider history. Late eighteenth-century Pennsylvania cider culture does not necessarily translate to Massachusetts cider culture in the 1850s. As any good historian or orchardist will say, there are parallels between them, but they’re not the same.

That’s certainly true for cider’s westward migration. Which is why Patrick McCauley’s recent overview of cider history in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area is a welcome addition to our understanding of America’s wide-ranging cider culture. Covering three hundred years of cider, it touches on everything from cider mills to cidermakers (including an African American cidermaking family).

Check out the full article:

The Unexpected History of Cider in Washtenaw County: From hard cider and ciderkin to sweet cider and donuts – and back again.

Ah, those little Midwestern rascals.

Along with his historical interests, McCauley is also a wild-fermenting cidermaker. I’m looking forward to hearing more about his research and his ciders.

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English Cider Fermented the American Revolution – By Mark A. Turdo

English cider helped ferment the American Revolution. Not drinking it, taxing it.

In 1763, at the end of the French and Indian War, Great Britain stood victorious and debt-ridden. Americans today often think that Parliament immediately taxed the colonies to pay down this debt, which had doubled during the war to £132.6 million.1 But before they taxed Americans, Parliament taxed fellow Englishman first. Just as the war was drawing to a close, Parliament voted on a new tax entitled “An Act for Granting to his Majesty Several Additional Duties Upon Wines Imported into This Kingdom, and Certain Duties Upon All Cyder and Perry,” which was intended to raise £3.5 million. For obvious reasons, the name was often shortened to the Cyder Act.2

Today, if the Cyder Act is mentioned at all, it is often told as the charming tale of how appealing cider was and how poorly Parliament acted. However, it was more than an unpopular tax on a popular drink. In fact the Cyder Act was seen as an invasive tax that gave unlimited power to excise collectors, created unprecedented government oversight into private life, and was a burdensome tax on poor people. Over the three years the act was in place, it stirred resentment in England and taught American colonists how to protest effectively. 

Parliamentary debates over the act began in late 1762. By March 1763 the act was drafted and approved. One of the first public announcements was in the March 1763 edition of the London Magazine. Laid out in 73 sections, the Cyder Act established new duties on imported French wine and vinegar and imported cider, created three lotteries, and implemented heavy taxes on cider and perry production and transportation (but not sales).

The cider and perry portion of the Cyder Act required that after 5 July 1763, all cidermakers, no matter if they made strong or weak cider for personal use or commercial sale, pay a 4 shilling per hogshead tax. Before they could even begin milling their apples, cidermakers were to apply to the local excise office in writing for permission to make cider ten days before they began, and include the place where the cider was to be made, all equipment used (and whether it was theirs or another’s), and the location where the cider would be stored. Once approved, they could begin to make cider. Makers had to specify what equipment would be used, but if they were going to borrow or rent another’s mill and press, the equipment’s owner also had to submit a written statement authorizing that use. To prevent fraud after that start date, makers had to submit an inventory of cider on hand before 5 July 1763, which would be exempt from the tax. Families who did not make for sale but for their own use, were still charged 5 shillings per person in the household over eight years old per year. If a family did decide to sell, they needed to apply for a one-time license. To ensure that there was no funny business, the act also prohibited the transportation of six or more gallons without written consent. Excise officers were granted the power to inspect any home, cellar, or outbuilding without notice to make sure each household and maker was in compliance with these rules. 

Cider, it seemed to many, was how the British government would abridge British rights. Protests bubbled up even before the act passed. One member of parliament reminded the house that “every man’s house was his castle… If this tax is endured, it will necessarily lead to introducing the laws of excise into the domestic concerns of every private family, and to every species of the produce of land.” Almost immediately upon its release, others protested the act saying the “excise strikes at the constitution and are grievous and oppressive.” The Cyder Act seemed to empower excise collectors to be both judge and jury in all cases, robbing people of their right to trial by jury. Other arguments noted that the act permitted excise men to to search private property without restraint or cause, including those of the peers, and that it hurt poorer farm families who made cider and perry for their own use.3

This artistic rendering of protesters’ fears includes everything from the excise men violating homes and wives to the destruction of English cider culture. Detail from The Devil to Pay; or, The State Indifference (1763). © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Protestors created anti-excise pamphlets, prints, and products. Reaching back thirty years to the protests of the 1733 Excise Tax, which also allowed almost unrestricted searches and seizures, the Cyder Act protesters resurrected the slogan “Liberty, Property, and No Excise,” putting it and variations of it on all kinds of goods.4

“Liberty, Property, and No Excise” was first used during the 1733 excise protests, when Parliament passed a bill taxing various goods and allowed officials to search private homes, in what was seen as violating the English rights. “Liberty / Property / And No Excise ” Medal (1733). © The Trustees of the British Museum.
One could drink cider and protest the Cyder Act with glasses like this cider glass (c. 1763) ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
One could also protest the Cyder Act over tea. Teapots would become important tools in protesting imperial power in England and America. Source.
One could wear their protest as well, even if it was difficult to see the “No Excise” slogan and barrels all the way down on someone’s feet. This buckle was found as Rosewell Manor in Virginia, making it an extremely rare American tie to the protests. Source.

Throughout the rest of 1763 and 1764 attempts were made to change the law so that it was less onerous to the working poor. It took until 1765 for the act to be amended. The changes included extending the time to pay all fees from six weeks to six months, reducing the fees for personal use from 5 shillings to 2 shilling per person eight and above in the household per year, giving makers ten days to submit a form for borrowing equipment, and cider equipment owners no longer had to apply for permission to lend their equipment to others. The new act also reduced fees for hindering excise officers in their duty, and penalized officers for not submitting correct reports.

The hope was that this would be enough to calm the roiling opposition in England. 

Americans remained untouched by the Cyder Act, but American observers were deeply interested in it. Newspapers throughout the colonies reprinted articles from British newspapers about the protests throughout England. At first, these seemed like distant events, but in 1765, as the Stamp Act was adopted, Americans suddenly felt the intrusive power of Parliament.5

Fresh in their minds, the Cyder Act protests became a model for some of the American response to the Stamp Act. As English protestors of the Cyder Act viewed the excise, Americans saw the Stamp Act as being unnecessarily invasive and costly. Taking some inspiration from the Cyder Act protests, Americans adopted the slogan, “Liberty, Property, and No Excise.”6 A similar range of “No Cyder Act” products was created for America, now featuring the “No Stamp Act” slogan.

American protest efforts succeeded relatively quickly. The Stamp Act, approved in 1765, was repealed in March 1766 before it ever took effect. However, it took three years for the Cyder Act protesters to successfully win repeal. In April 1766 the Cyder Act was replaced by a new tax on cider wholesalers and retailers.

The Cyder Act and the Stamp Act stirred up public protests as people on both sides of the Atlantic saw them as examples of government overreach and an abridgement of individual rights. Detail from Six Medallions Shewing the Chief National Servises of His New Friends the Old Ministry (1765). © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The Cyder Act was supposed to settle the British Empire. Instead it sprouted protests in England and planted the seeds of rebellion in America. If the Cyder Act had succeeded, it is possible Parliament would not have turned to the Stamp Act and Americans would not have had such a recent example to follow. In other words, without English cider, there might not have been an American Revolution.


1 Jeremy Land, “The Price of Empire: Britain’s Military Costs During the Seven Years’ War” (masters thesis,  Applachian State University, 2010), 36, https://libres.uncg.edu/ir/asu/f/Land,%20Jeremy_2010_Thesis.pdf..

2 Spelling in the eighteenth century was not standardized. Cider could be spelled a variety of ways, including with a “y” instead of an “i.” For more on this, see “Cider By Any Other Letters Spells as Sweet.”

3 For “castle” quote see, The Parliamentary History of England, From the Earliest Period to the Year 1803,v. XV A.D. 1753-1765 (London: T.C. Hansard, 1813), 1307; For “grievous and oppressive” quote, see John Wilkes, The North Briton, no. 43 (Dublin: J. Potts, 1763), 148; For other protests see, R. Baldwin, The London Magazine, or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer (May 1763): 255-258 and R. Baldwin, The London Magazine, or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer (June 1763): 287-290.

4 For 1733 use of “Liberty, Property, and No Excise” see Stephen Duck, Poems on Several Subjects, 7th ed. (London: J. Roberts, 1730), 30; John Winstanley, Poems Written Occasionally by the Late John Winstanley (Dublin: S. Powell, 1751), 192; An Enquiry Into Some Things That Concern Scotland (Edinburgh: 1734), 47; William Belsham, History of Great Britain, From the Revolution to the Session of Parliament Ending A.D. 1793, vol. I (London: G.G. and J. Robinson, 1798), 245; A Collection of Parliamentary Debates in England, From the Year 1668 to the Present Time, vol. XI (London: John Torbuck, 1741), 347.

5 For news of the Cyder Act published in America, see New-York Mercury (no. 646), March 12, 1764, 3; The Massachusetts Gazette (Supplement), November 14, 1765, 1; Pennsylvania Journal, or, Weekly Advertiser (no. 1202), December 19, 1765, 2; The Boston Evening-Post (no. 1602), May 26, 1766, 2.

6 For example, a Stamp Act protestor in Boston published a broadside entitled, Liberty, Property and No Excise: A Poem Compos’d On Occasion of the Sight seen on the Great Trees, (so called) in Boston, New-England, on the 14th of August, 1765.

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To the Cidermakers, To Make Much of Time

A maker only gets one chance each year to make cider, and so in the life of someone who starts making cider at 20, by the time they are 70 they will have had just 50 seasons, 50 attempts to make cider…

Felix Nash1

Every fall I’ve had to wait on farmers and brew shops to have cider available, or at the very least return my phone calls. At times, it’s put my cidermaking in jeopardy. That’s no way to work. Especially when the chances to make are already so limited. So this year I bought a grinder and press. This means I can cut out the middle man.

Like cider, some assembly required.

Now, instead of waiting for other people, I only have to wait for trees. This is not as hard as it sounds. For years friends have been offering me their apple trees and orchards. I’ve been turning them down because I didn’t have the equipment, but now I can run amuck. In a nice way, that is.

I began this past Saturday at the historic 1719 Hans Herr House, in Willow Street, Pennsylvania.

The 1719 Hans Herr House.

The Herr House is one of the oldest extant Germanic houses in the country. The Herr family emigrated with a small group of fellow Mennonites to America from Switzerland, by way of Germany, in 1710. By 1711 they had settled in the Conestogo area, and by 1719 they built the stone house. Over the next few years they expanded their agricultural operation, including building “One Appel Mill and Drough” and “One Cider Press.”2 It’s one of my favorite historic Pennsylvania homes. So I’m especially pleased I can continue the site’s cidermaking tradition, in my own small way.

An old friend, Tiffany Fisk is the site administrator. She offered to let me pick from the Herr House orchard. While we know they had cidermaking equipment, we don’t know what kinds of apples they planted historically, there is evidence suggesting they had an orchard. Today, the Herr House orchard consists of heirloom varieties planted and grafted in the 1970s.


Tiffany and I spent about three chatty hours picking fruit and talking about life, the universe, and everything. We even ate apples right off the tree.

I can’t remember the last time I had an apple right from the tree, but I know it’s the first time I’ve had a Tompkins King.

All told I got almost two bushels each of Tompkins King and Macintosh, along with some Roxbury Russets, Smokehouse, Winter Banana, and a small amount of seckel pears. This should make for some interesting blends. 

I’m happy that I finally have the tools to make the most of cidermaking season and fresh apples to experiment with. A promising start to the 2021-22 cider season.

Special thanks to the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and Tiffany Fisk for permission to pick from the Herr House orchard.

And for helping harvest.


1. Felix Nash, Fine Cider: Understanding the World of Fine, Natural Cider (New York: Dog’n’Bone Books, 2019), 97.

2. Steve Friesen, A Modest Mennonite Home: The Story of the 1719 Hans Herr House, an Early Colonial Landmark (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 1990). For Christian Herr’s inventory listing his mill and press, see 59.


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A Lackadaisical Cider Season

Maybe it’s the pandemic, maybe it’s been a busy year, maybe both, but my cidering has languished a little this season. It all started, as it often does, with research. I didn’t do any. Despite promising myself I would research new historic cider recipes, I never did. When cider season arrived, I knew I wasn’t going to recreate anything, but I figured I could at least make something interesting.

Unlike the research, I started looking for juice early. I began reaching out in August, hoping to get everything squared away. My emails and calls went largely unanswered and by October it was starting to look like I wasn’t going to have anything to ferment. Happily, I was wrong. I was able to get 16 gallons of three kinds of juice. It’s almost half of what I’ve been getting the last few years, but more than I thought I was going to have this year.

Clockwise from the top left – Granny Smith, Jonagold, and the orchard’s December Blend.

The Jonagold started at the end of November and the Granny and December blend came mid-December. All three are wild fermented (though I had to add some already-fermenting juice from the Granny to the December blend to get it going). The Jonagold fermented quickly and cleared very well. Within a five weeks it looked ready to be racked.

However, in keeping with this year’s pace, I didn’t rack it into secondary until yesterday.

The other ciders have apparently picked up on my vibe, because as of yesterday they’re both still pretty dark and bubbling away. Though the Granny (on the left) has recently calmed down. This isn’t really a complaint. I’d rather have a long, slow ferment than a fast one.

I combined yesterday’s racking work with a blending test. J and I pulled out three single-varietals from last season’s cidering to play with.

I was really excited to get the Porter’s Perfection, which has a reputation as a fascinating single-varietal. While it did start wonderfully, it had a leathery, almost chemically finish. J didn’t like it all, but I thought it was good, if a bit earthy. The Medaille, d’Or has always been perfumey to me, unpleasantly so. After a year in the bottle it retained its perfume and added a little vinegary tartness. It’s no good on its own and it easily overwhelms a blend if left to run amuck. The Dabinett was a good, solid cider, though I preferred it as the base of a blend.

We tried a few other blends, but these are the ones J recorded.

It’s the first bottle of each we’ve opened and we went right to blending. I’d like to try the Porter’s and Dabinett by themselves. One thing I’ve noticed is it helps to decant these ciders and let them open up. Maybe taking a little more time isn’t all bad.

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