Class Warfare Blog

April 28, 2017

American Mythology (Con’t.)

Filed under: History — Steve Ruis @ 9:48 am
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As a school child I was told the tale of “Johnny Appleseed” who wandered around early America planting apple seeds, bringing apples to much land that didn’t have any before. He was characterized as a kind of goofy guy, an eighteenth century hippie environmentalist, who ended up giving away apple orchards. (Modern conservatives would now brand him as a socialist.)

What my teachers didn’t tell me was that apples planted from seed are small and sour, basically inedible. (One nickname for such apples was “spitters” because as soon as you bit into one, you spat it out.)


So, what were such apples actually good for? They were good for making hard cider, alcoholic cider (roughly 20 proof, half the proof of whiskey, twice the proof of beer). Such ciders are a tad sweet to the taste from the enzymes of the yeast breaking down the starch into sugars which are then fermented, but only up to a point. When the alcohol content rises up to a point that it deactivates the yeast, there is still sugar left over. In colonial days, sugar was very expensive and honey was rare, so cider was one of a few tastes that would provide any sweetness in one’s diet at all. And after a couple of tankards of “cider” you kinda didn’t care.

One of the other things that our school teachers didn’t share was that early Americans had an almost constant buzz on. Workers were granted “cider breaks” and were provided with a substantial amount to drink. Work just buzzed along!

Since barley was a crop hard to grow in the colonies, almost all of the beer was made from imported barley (the ingredients for beer are: water, barley, and yeast). Other grains were tried, not at all successfully and so whiskey became the most common alcoholic beverage. But it was unseemly for women and children to drink whiskey, so there was still a wide market for hard cider.

Also, some enterprising “upeaster” found that if you left apple cider exposed to very cold air in the winter, ice formed in it. That ice was almost entirely water, with almost no alcohol in it, so if you plucked out the ice and tossed it, you were left with a far more alcoholic beverage, called applejack. (Whee!) Much easier than setting up a still.

It is not unusual to “simplify” stories for children in school, but it is disingenuous to not tell then “the rest of the story” later in school. Alas, too much of the America we now “know” consists of these doctored, sanitized stories; just ask any American Congressman (it is all they know). Does fake history lead to a taste for fake news; it seems to.

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