Two 2019 travel events finally came together on Salt Spring Island. When Ruth & I were in Hereford, England, earlier this year we went to the Cider Museum. I found it comprehensive but not an exactly overwhelming travel experience. I will say this for the museum, if you don’t leave it fully informed about cider making, you haven’t been paying attention. Most local apples are still used in cider making but growing apples is not a complex subject. Neither is cider making. Milling and apple collecting, pressing apples for juice, and fermenting this liquid, which takes about 6 months, are not brain busting or mind expanding procedures.
Cider apples have been grown in England since Roman times. Romans mastered cider making, but this drink had already been around for eons before they perfected it. When Rome invaded England about 55 BCE, the army found cider making already well under way, and English speaking countries like Australia and Canada have continued the tradition of consuming lots of cider. England is still a big market for Scrumpy Jack and other types of cider. Today, there are about 350 cider apple varieties in England. Before the Temperance Movement, drinking cider was promoted as a cure for illnesses such as gout. Cholera was common and people believed that it was caused by drinking contaminated water. Laborers in England were given a daily half gallon allowance of hard cider as part of their wages. It was not unusual for workers to consume 2 gallons of it per day. Orchards surrounding Hereford reportedly produce about half of the cider made in the United Kingdom. The big hard cider producer that was once here, Bulmers, grew to be the world’s biggest cider maker. Heineken bought Bulmers.
In America drinking hard cider was considered safer than water or milk. Most pioneers had apple trees and cider making skills. It’s no wonder that in colonial times cider was the most commonly consumed beverage. Even children drank it watered down. John Adams was said to drink a tankard of cider every morning, and he lived to be 90.
Around Hereford, springs are mild and frost is unlikely to kill fruit blossoms. Summer sun ripens apples, pears, and other fruits used in cider making. As soon as we arrived here, I saw several stores with Polish names and became aware of a large Polish population. I later learned that non-skilled laborers from Poland emigrated to England to work in apple orchards. The Cider Museum in Hereford used to be Bulmer’s main cidery that 2 brothers ran in the late 19th century. Visitors can still admire elegant cider glassware, stroll through old champagne cider cellars, see offices, and taste and buy a wide range of ciders.
I didn’t appreciate the film about cider making or this Hereford museum until I was on Salt Spring Island. Cider making is one of 2 thriving businesses there. Jesse was very welcoming and gave us a complete tour of the Salt Spring Wild Cider facility. We bought a delicious pear cider that we sampled, and Jesse told us that the Perry pears used to make it grow wild on this island and taste awful but make the best cider. I learned in Hereford that the Kingston Black apple makes the best British hard cider.