This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Cider (or "Cyder," an early form of the word) is the juice of apples which has been fermented advisedly. It contains about the lowest percentage of alcohol of all popular fermented drinks. Unlike beer, or any other malt liquor, it acts as an antidote to gout, and to uric acid rheumatism. Vintage apples, as used for making Cider, contain more tannin than the table fruit, and this imparts tonic properties to the liquor apart from its general astringent principle. Moreover, Cider districts enjoy a remarkable immunity from disorders of a choleraic nature, and it is within the repeated experience of Cider drinkers that gout and rheumatism fly before this liquor. Chemically the sub-acid juices of the apples become converted by combustion within the body into alkaline salts, which neutralize all the gouty elements wherewith they meet. A good Cider contains a considerable quantity of potash, and soda, so that from drinking it there is almost no acid resultant within the body. "It will beggar a physitian," wrote Austen, "to live where Cider and Perry are of general use."In making sweet Cider the fermentation is artificially arrested, so that the amount of alcohol which becomes created is very small, and some free sugar remains still in solution; therefore this sweet Cider is not so wholesome for rheumatic persons as the rough Cider with its fermentation finished, and no sugar remaining.
Medical testimony goes to show that in countries and districts where natural Cider is the common beverage; stone in the bladder is quite unknown. A series of enquiries among. the doctors of Normandy (which is a great apple country, where Cider is the chief, if not the sole, drink) has established the fact that not a single case of the nature in question had been met with there throughout forty years; so that it may fairly be credited that the habitual use of natural unsweetened Cider serves to keep held in solution materials which are otherwise liable to be separated, and deposited in a sedimentary form by the kidneys. Again, Cider drinkers during epidemics of cholera have been found to singularly escape the disease, Cider being powerfully antiseptic because of its methyl-aldehyde.
Nowhere is the subtle, time-honoured, fragrant perfume of the apple more noticeable than when its expressed juice is,being wooed into Cider. There is something peculiarly national in the sweet, rich, fascinating scent, the very same as was inhaled by our ancestors far remote, and "under the influence of which we can see the misty forms of Bard and Druid as they gave their blessing to the sacred apple tree. Again we get a romantic vision of fighting kings, and dauntless chieftains; beneath the shade of hoar apple trees Harold of England stands, and falls; in the calm of orchard lawns by Avalon, the Island of Apples, sleeps Arthur - "Rex quondam, et Rex futurus." It was customary of old for apples to be blest by priests on July 25th; and in the Manual of the Church of Sarum a special form of service for this purpose is preserved. Furthermore it is now stated as an incontrovertible fact that cancer is almost a thing unknown among regular Cider drinkers. In Normandy fermented apple-juice is the general beverage of the people; it is locally known as "piquette," being quite pure, and unsweetened, as the simple juice of the fruit diluted. But the doctors there denounce this particular liquor for rheumatic, or gouty persons.
In Devonshire the countryfolk distil a coarse kind of spirit from Cider-dregs, calling this "Still-liquors," as locally reputed to be "rare glide physic vur asses and bullicks; 't'ath abin knawed tu cure tha boneshave (sciatica) in man; 'tiz cabbical stuff tu zettee up 'pon a cold night".
"But," writes Evelyn (1729), "to give Cider its true estimation, besides that it costs no fuel to brew it, and that the labour is but once a year, it is good of a thousand kinds, proper for the cure of many diseases, a kind vehicle for any sanative vegetable, or other medical ingredients; that of Pippins a specific for the consumption; and generally all strong and pleasant Cider excites and cleanses the stomach, strengthens the digestion, and infallibly frees the kidneys and bladder from breeding the gravel, and stone, especially if it be of the genuine Irchin-field Red Strake (the famous Red Strake of Herefordshire, and surnamed the Scudamore's Crab), not omitting how excellently it holds out good many years to improvement if full-body'd and strong, even in the largest and most capacious vessels; so as when for ordinary drink our honest countrymen and citizens shall come to drink it moderately diluted (as now they do six-shilling beer in London and other places) they will find it marvellously conduce to health; and labouring people, where it is so drunk, affirm that they are more strengthen'd for hard work by such Cider than by the very best beer." "Innumerable are the virtues of Cider, as of Apples alone, which being raw-eaten relax the belly, especially the sweet, and their concoction; depress vapours; being roasted, or coddled, are excellent in raw distempers, resist melancholy, spleen, pleurisy, strangury, and, being sweeten'd with sugar, abate inveterate colds.
These are the common effects even of raw Apples; but Cider performs it all, and much more, as more active, and pure. In a word, we pronounce it for the most wholesome drink of Europe, as specially sovereign against the scorbute, the stone, spleen, and what not".
Cider nowadays is brought to such perfection at the regular Cider-factories, that not more than 4 per cent of alcohol need be contained in the liquor thus manufactured. Apples are chosen carefully (whereas heretofore the farmers took all, and sundry), the pulp is treated by hydraulic pressure, and the juice runs into barrels with the fermentation accurately regulated, while finally the liquid is filtered through sterilized cotton-wool, and thus the Cider becomes a most safe drink, even for gouty persons; this last fact is of great public importance, seeing that almost everyone is in the present day a victim more or less to uric acid. The chief fruit acid in Ciders is malic, whilst analysis shows also the presence of salicylic acid, formalin, and other chemical constituents. The Latin name was Pomaceum. Cider apples were originally introduced by the Normans, and the beverage began to be brewed in 1284. The Hereford orchards were first planted in the time of Charles the First. Old, natural Cider invariably forms a slight deposit, or crust, at the bottom of the bottle.
A bin of Cider over forty years old has been found perfectly sound for drinking.
When apples are late in the season, or dry, for making them into a good apple-tart the addition of a little Cider to the fruit before cooking is a capital thing to do. It is stated in Kitchen Physic "that old Martin Johnson, the Puritan Vicar of Dilwyn, Herefordshire (1651-1608), bore impartial testimony as follows: ' This parish, wherein Syder is plentifull, hath, and doth afforde, many people that have and do enjoy this blessing of long life. Neither are the aged here bedridden, or decrepit, as elsewhere, but for the most parte lively, and vigorous. Next to God wee ascribe it to our flourishing orchards; they do yield us plenty of rich and winy liquors, which long experience hath taught do conduce very much to the constant health, and long lives of our inhabitants, the cottagers.' " A wholesome Cider drink for summer use by persons disposed to gout is Skimmery (St. Mary Cup): One bottle of soda-water, one quart of Cider (not sweet), one liqueur-glass of Old Tom, or of good gin highly impregnated with juniper, lemon-peel, borage, or cucumber, but no sugar, and no other ingredient; add ice enough to cool thoroughly.
In Wickliffe's version of the New Testament his rendering of Luke i. 15 as to what the angel says to Zacharias, alluding to his promised offspring, runs thus: "He shall not drink wine nor Cyder" (the latter being a variation from "strong drink"). Wickhffe, as representing the English feeling of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, clearly viewed Cider much in the same light as the fermented juice of the grape. The Roman poets make no reference to Cider as a drink of their time. It is in French records we meet with the earliest vestige of the Cider-making industry. Our Roger Bacon (1260) talked of Cider and Perry as notable beverages in sea-voyages; he explained that the Cider of his day did not turn sour in crossing the line, and was wonderfully good against sea-sickness. But Tennyson, in the Voyage of Maeldune, has powerfully depicted the maddening effects which may follow a riotous indulgence in liquors fermented from apples, and other saccharine fruits: -
"And we came to the Isle of Fruits; all round from the cliffs, and the capes, Purple or amber dangled a hundred fathoms of grapes; And the warm melon lay like a sun on the tawny sand; And the fig ran up from the beach, and rioted over the land. And the mountain arose like a jewelled throne thro' the fragrant air, Glowing with all-coloured plums, and with golden masses of pear, And the crimson, and scarlet of berries that flamed upon bine and vine; But in every berry and fruit was the poisonous pleasure of wine.
And the peak of the mountain was apples, the hugest that ever were seen, And they prest, as they grew, on each other, with hardly a leaflet between; And all of them redder than rosiest health, or than utterest shame, And setting, when even descended, the very sunset aflame. And we stayed three days, and we gorged, and we maddened, till everyone drew His sword on his fellow to slay him; and ever they struck, and they slew; And myself I had eaten but sparely, and fought till I sundered the fray; Then I bade them remember my father's death, and we sailed away".