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Early History
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Apple Cider, Apple Butter, Perry, and Vinegar


Antique Cider Press from the 1860s in the National Apple MuseumAntique Cider Press from the 1860s in the National Apple Museum

Apple Cider is produced by several large processing plants in Adams Co. as well as by a number of small firms and a number of orchards also produce cider for sale in their roadside stands. In all cases, the cider is pasteurized. generally, the smaller firms and the orchards sell a darker unfiltered cider.

The article below is with thanks to:

The History of Apple Cider

Historians largely agree that apple trees existed along the Nile River Delta as early as 1300 BC, but it is unclear whether cider was ever produced from the fruit. When the Romans arrived in England in 55 BC, they were reported to have found the local Kentish villagers drinking a delicious cider-like beverage made from apples. According to ancient records, the Romans and their leader, Julius Caesar, embraced the pleasant pursuit with enthusiasm. How long the locals had been making this apple drink prior to the arrival of the Romans is anybody's guess.

By the beginning of the ninth century, cider drinking was well established in Europe and a reference made by Charlemagne clearly confirms its popularity. After the Norman Conquest of 1066, cider consumption became widespread in England and orchards were established specifically to produce cider apples. During medieval times, cider making was an important industry. Monasteries sold vast quantities of their strong, spiced cider to the public. Farm laborers received a cider allowance as part of their wages, and the quantity increased during haymaking. English cider making probably peaked around the mid seventeenth century, when almost every farm had its own cider orchard and press. The industry later went into decline, due to major agricultural changes. Cider regained its popularity during the twentieth century, but demand was largely for the mass-produced variety. Only in recent years has traditional cider making finally triumphed.

American History of Apple Cider

American history tells a different tale. Early English settlers introduced cider to America by bringing with them seeds for cultivating cider apples. During the colonial period, grains did not thrive well and were costly to import. On the other hand, apple orchards were plentiful, making apples cheap and easily obtainable. As a result, hard cider quickly became one of America's most popular beverages. Consumption of cider increased steadily during the eighteenth century, due in part to the efforts of the legendary Johnny Appleseed, who planted many apple trees in the Midwest.

However, a series of events led to cider's fall in popularity. The introduction of German beer with its faster fermentation process quickly made beer popular because German immigrants were able to set up large breweries for producing great quantities of beer. The production of apple cider was still limited to small farms. The religiously based Temperance movement then caused many church-going farmers to give up cider. Some even went as far as to chop down their apple trees. Then Prohibition became the law and pretty much destroyed the market for apple cider.

Today, with the growing popularity of microbreweries, the tide has turned. Traditional cider making is experiencing a major resurgence in both America and Europe.

The following article is with thanks to: Historic Herefordshire On Line and its web site: (Home Agriculture & Industry Index Post Medieval Index SMR Database, for the following article)

Cider Making

In the early days of cider making all of the picking, milling and pressing was done by hand, perhaps with the help of some horse-power in the true sense of the word! In the autumn when the majority of the farming activities are beginning to quieten down, cider making begins to occupy the farmer’s time. Opinions vary on which type of fruit should be planted in cider orchards and regional preferences are very much in operation, but most cider manufacturers use a variety of apples in their product to give a flavour that is pleasing to more of the population.

When it came time to harvest the apples those that hadn’t dropped of their own accord were shaken off the tree by a wooden pole, often with a hook on the end. The apples would then be collected together and in Herefordshire the practice was to leave the fruit out in the orchard in tumps, which were covered with straw, for two or three weeks prior to milling. The reason behind this was that the fruit would lose some of its moisture and concentrate the sugars in the juice.


When the fruit was ready it was taken to the mill. Because cider apples are relatively hard they had to undergo two processes to extract the juice. In early times the fruit was broken up by hand with a mortar and pestle or in wooden troughs. The first mechanical mill was similar to that used in other industries to rush rocks and the like. It was a circular horse-powered mill, in which a circular grindstone was pulled around in a trough. In Herefordshire most millstones are made of local red sandstone conglomerate.

Cider Mill

The milling process was simple. The fruit was laid on the central pier of the mill and the horse harnessed up. The farmer would knock small amounts of the fruit into the trough as the horse drew the mill stone round. After a certain amount of fruit had been crushed water would be added and milling continued. When the trough was full the farmer would test the pulp by squeezing it in his hand and if it retained its shape then it was ready. At this stage the pulp would be deep brown with a strong apple smell.

Milling one load of fruit (about 150kg) would take around half an hour. The stone mill was by no means overly efficient and could not be mechanised. One solution to this problem was the Ingenio Rotary Cider Mill, which had first been mentioned by John Worlidge in the 1670’s. It was based on a Cuban sugar mill and consisted of a cylindrical toothed roller, whose teeth engaged with a fixed comb. Fruit that was dropped in from above was chewed as it was forced through the comb. Later versions were fitted with a pair of rotating rollers underneath to complete the milling cycle. This rotary mill could pulp several tons per hour but it did not crush the fruit as finely as the old stone mill and the pips were not broken down.

In most cases the milled fruit was pressed at once but some cider makers like to leave it to stand for 24 hours to bring out the flavour. The presses used varied in design. The earliest design involved a large central wooden screw, set into a massive block of oak, often weighing up to half a ton. The strength needed to turn the screw must have been great. From the late 1700’s cast iron screws began to appear and these were easier to use and lasted longer. From the 1830’s onwards a new design, with the side supports for the headblock being replace by two metal screws, was in use. These presses were much lighter than the earlier ones and enabled the cider-maker to travel with it.

Apple pulp is too wet and mushy to stay in place while being pressed and so in Herefordshire it is contained in cloths, traditionally made out of horsehair. A hair is laid out on the press bed and filled with two or three buckets of pulp, and then the corners are turned in to stop any from escaping. Another hair is placed on top and the process repeated until there are about 8 layers. The apple pulp and horsehair layers were known in Herefordshire as a ‘cheese’.

A heavy wooden board was then placed on top of the cheese to spread the weight and then pressure was applied, slowly at first so the juice was contained. The cheese would be reduced to 1/3 of its original size during pressing. The dry pulp that was left after pressing was known as pomace and was often fed to the farm animals. However, it had to be fed to them on the day of pressing as if it was left to ferment then there would be a few tipsy pigs wobbling around the farmyard. Some said that Herefordshire bacon tasted all the sweeter for the apples that the pigs ate.

Cider Press


Usually the pressed juice was put into casks or vats immediately. For the first process of fermentation nothing was added but the casks were keep topped up to the bunghole to prevent air from getting into the juice and spoiling it. A brown froth would develop around the bunghole and after a few hours or days this would turn white. Fermentation would take a week or two in warm weather but could take up to two months or more in cold weather. The slower the fermentation the better the product.

Farmers had no idea what made the fermentation happen and they added various ingredients to the cider, which they though helped the process. Some added handfuls of earth, some wheat and barley and in Herefordshire there was a practice of adding raw meat to the mix. Bacon was a particular favourite, but some times it would be the leftover joint from Sunday lunch.

Once the first stage of fermentation was over the farmer would bung down the cask and seal it with lime cement to keep out the air. For the next three months a second stage of fermentation would take place where bacteria would work on the tannins and acids in the juice to bring out the flavour.

The flavour of the farm cider is somewhat different to the cider that we drink today. It was produced without added sugar as the fermentation process could not be stopped to add it. This made the cider quite rough and acidic. Herefordshire farm cider was often known as ‘squeal pig’ cider, after the noise that you made when you drank it! The acidity of the cider did have its advantages as it meant that disease carrying germs could not thrive within the juice and often the cider was safer to drink than the local water, which could be very polluted.

Some cider makers went to great lengths to produce a better quality cider, but this was usually the local gentry who had more time on their hands. The best fruit was selected for pressing and the casks were carefully cleaned. The pulp was not pressed at once but left for about a day in an open barrel. It began to ferment and more juice and flavour was released. The pressed juice would also be put into open-topped casks for a few days with a little lime added. Another fermentation would bring all the pectin to the top in a crust and then the juice could be siphoned off to ferment slowly.

Periodically the juice was poured off the top of the cask leaving the yeast deposits in the bottom. The result was a cider that did not fully ferment, leaving it naturally sweet and clear. The drink was highly prized and would be bottled in earthenware jugs.

The Travelling Cidermaker

The introduction of the rotary scratter mill and the improvements in the designs of presses led to the Victorian development of the travelling cidermakers. The cidermaker would have a rotary mill mounted on a low cart, with a twin screw press on its own set of wheels. He would hitch these up one behind the other with a flat bed trailer attached on the end carrying all the accessories of cidermaking. The equipment would be towed from farm to farm by a team of horse and later a traction engine or a tractor. At the farm the mill and press would be set up and milling and pressing begun. The travelling cider maker would call at farms where only a small amount of fruit was grown, not enough to justify installing the equipment themselves.

The travelling cidermaker had a very short season of work and would often work in set route around the villages. The work was charged at piece rates – around the turn of the 20th century the rate was a halfpenny or a penny per gallon. As the amount of fruit each farmer had was small fruit from several farms would be milled at one place, thus cutting down the number of places the cidermaker had to stop at.

The travelling cidermaker would often stop at pubs where he would press the fruit that had been bought by the landlord from local farmers. As the travelling cidermaker only called once a year all fruit had to be milled at the same time, regardless of whether it was ready, and as such this cider was thought to be of poorer quality.

Cidermaking in a Factory

During the Victorian period cidemaking went into a decline as French Wines became more popular and agricultural depression meant that many orchards were in a state of neglect. In the 1890’s the situation had got so bad that it was predicted that cidermaking would die out in Britain. Fortunately for the industry events occurred to safeguard its survival.

Scientists such as Louis Pasteur were responsible for an increase in the interest in the processes of fermentation and a growth in the urban population in the industrial areas of South Wales, London and the West Midlands brought an increased market for cider.

However, the traditional cidermakers and smaller farmers did not benefit from this new interest, as they had neither the experience nor equipment to exploit the market. Instead a groups of small factory-based cider makers began to appear in the cidermaking regions. They would buy in the fruit from the surrounding farms, make the cider in bulk and sell to the towns and cities. This was particularly evident in Herefordshire, where the coming of the railways in 1853 had helped open up the county to outside markets. Between 1870 and 1900 12 cider factories opened around Hereford City.

These new factories led to a marked decline in farm made cider as farmers now preferred to turn their fruit into cash by selling it to the factories rather than give it away to their workers. By the start of World War 2 farm cidermaking was almost a thing of the past, but even now it hasn’t quite died out.

Through the continued innovation of factory-based cider producers cider can now be found in pubs and supermarkets across Britain and all over the World. The cider that they produce comes in many varieties, flavours and strengths, still and sparkling. Automatic bottling lines can produce over 12,000 litre bottles of cider every hour enabling the supply of an ever-expanding market. Herefordshire is still known as one of the best cider producing areas in the world and orchards full of blossoming apple trees continue to make this one of the most beautiful counties.

Note that there are quite a few cider and perry producers in the West Midlands of Great Britain (Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Wocestershire). Many as well also produce Apple Brandy, Apple liqueur, and Apple Aperitif. Great Britain is the largest producer of cider in the world.

Bulmers is the largest cider mill in the world, located near the city of Hereford. Each year Bulmers presses around 80, 000 tons of cider apples from the regions orchards and makes 65% of the five million hectolitres of cider consumed in the UK. The mill has the world’s largest alcohol beverage storage container in the world, able to store millions of gallons at any one time.


With thanks to the Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania and their web site,, for use of the following article.

"Pennsylvania Apple Butter" by Sarah Wolfgang Heffner
MHEP Quarterly
Volume 5, No. 3, Fall 2002

Our Apple Butter Frolic at the Indian Creek Farm each October celebrates how life was lived on nineteenth century farms in southeastern Pennsylvania. The name of our frolic is an appropriate one. Apple butter was such an integral part of our past that it has jokingly been referred to as "Pennsylvania salve."1 Apples, apple butter, and apple schnitz are representative of much in our heritage: the journey from Europe to find religious freedom, dependence on the land for sustenance, the Pennsylvania German skills of "putting food by," and community celebrations.

Religious Freedom in Pennsylvania

Apple butter is a traditional part of the Schwenkfelder Day of Remembrance, or Gedächtnestag, that is held each year to honor the memory of the Schwenkfelders arrival in Philadelphia on September 22, 1734. The Schwenkfelders emigrated from Saxony to America in six groups with the largest group traveling in 1734. They had lived peacefully for seven years in Saxony after fleeing persecution in Silesia but then the political climate changed and oppression began again. Although forbidden to emigrate by the authorities, forty families left their homes in April 1734 and journeyed to Holland. Once in Holland, prosperous Dutch Mennonite merchants gave them food and shelter and paid for their passage to America. The voyage was a difficult one with storms at sea accompanied by sparse food and water rations and nine Schwenkfelders died at sea during the 1734 trip. The diary of 16-year-old Christopher Schultz describes how, on September 21, 1734, the ship dropped anchor near New Castle and they had their first fresh water from the river and fresh apples and bread from a nearby ship.2 They came into Philadelphia the next day and again received fresh apples and beer to drink.3 Two days later, they celebrated their safe arrival with a service of thanksgiving. Gedächtnestag is now celebrated on the Sunday closest to September 24 when a simple meal of bread, apple butter, and water is served. Tradition holds that apple butter was part of the first Day of Remembrance celebration.

Living off the land

Apples were one of the earliest horticultural crops grown in Pennsylvania by European settlers. An orchard of one to six acres was planted on each homestead as soon as land was cleared because years would pass before the trees would begin to bear fruit. Apple trees are typically grafted or budded to have a named variety because apples do not grow "true to type" from seed. The earliest Europeans primarily planted seeds because imported nursery stock from Europe was expensive.4 A 1792 Bucks County farmer wrote that: "Every farm has more or less orcharding; an average of eight acres is allowed for that use, the product thereof in apples and cider cannot be worth less that thirty dollars."5 The harvest from the early apple orchards was eaten fresh, dried for winter use, and the excess fed to livestock but the largest portion of the crop was use for cider making. Some of the cider was used for making apple butter and vinegar but a lot of the cider was fermented in a cold storage area and later consumed at almost every meal. Cider makers generally used whatever mixture of apples was available but preferred a mixture of sweet and tart varieties. Preferred cider varieties included Baldwin, McIntosh, Northern Spy, Rome Beauty, Smokehouse, and Stayman Winesap.

Early eighteenth century cider production involved pounding (also called milling) apples in a wooden or stone trough with a stamper, and then placing the crushed apples (called pomace) in a large basket to drain. Quantities of dried apples called schnitzen were prepared by hanging strings of quartered apples in the kitchen fireplace. The dried apples were taken to market or used for barter in the early days of Pennsylvania.

By 1745, cider mills were beginning to be constructed. The harvested fruit was unloaded into the cider mill that had two wooden cylinders working in opposite directions, crushing the apples between them.6 Powered by a horse walking in a circle, the cylinders could process a cartload of apples in about three hours.7 The pomace would fall from the cylinders into a large vat and from there it was shoveled onto the grooved cider press platform. The first layer of pomace was covered with clean rye straw and this would be repeated until the layers were about three feet high and then it was covered with a top board. Pressure was applied until the juice was extracted and put into jugs or casks. After the cider was produced, apple butter could be made with the cider and diced and peeled apples. Cider consumption decreased during the nineteenth century as people began drinking more water, milk, coffee, and tea. The Prohibition Act of 1920 further diminished cider production because of the restrictions on making or consuming alcoholic beverages.

Dry-houses for schnitz production were found on family farmsteads in the late eighteenth through the early nineteenth centuries. These were small buildings that were either portable frame structures or constructed of stone or brick. A stove was placed in the center of the dryhouse and wooden trays with slats of thin wood or wire mesh were inserted in the upper sides of the dryhouse. The slices of apple schnitz were dried from twenty-four to forty eight hours and then placed in paper sacks or glass jars for storage. Vegetables like corn, string beans, and squash as well as herbs were also dried in the dryhouses. Schnitz was also dried in bake ovens at the end of a daylong baking session. Later on in the nineteenth century after farms became well established, summer kitchens, multi-purpose buildings used for domestic chores during the summer months, were used to cut, pare, and dry apples for schnitz. Schnitz is well known in Pennsylvania German culture as a primary ingredient in pies and schnitz-un-gnepp whose translation means dried apples and dumplings. The recipes for this dish vary a bit but the basic ingredients are ham, dried apples, and potatoes boiled together with dumplings added shortly before serving.

Community Celebration

Cooking a quantity of apple butter meant a social occasion – many hands could be used to accomplish peeling, coring, and cutting bushels of apples. Friends and family would gather to peel and quarter apples. The October 15, 1838 issue of the Farmer’s Cabinet recorded apple butter proportions of three bushels of apples to two barrels of fresh cider.8 The cider was boiled in a copper kettle to about one half the volume and then the diced apples were added. Traditional spices including cinnamon, cloves, or sassafras were added. This was then boiled "briskly," stirring constantly until the apple butter was thickened "thick as hasty pudding."9 The resulting product was ladled into crocks, covered with paper, and stored in the attic for winter use.

Bauman’s Apple Butter

Today few family cider and apple butter businesses are still in operation but Bauman’s Apple Butter is thriving in the small town of Sassamansville in upper Montgomery County. Harvey and Kathy Bauman and Harvey’s mother Ruth Bauman (you can find the Baumans and their apple butter at the Frolic) operate Bauman’s Apple Butter Factory. Harvey’s Mennonite grandfather, John Bauman, originally a carriage maker by trade, purchased a cider press in 1892 for $432. He soon began producing apple butter using his wife’s recipe which had been handed down from her Schwenkfelder ancestors. Today, the same cider press is still in use although it has been modified and most of the wooden pieces are now stainless steel. Modern food processing regulations also require the cider to be flash pasteurized. Still, the atmosphere in the apple butter factory reminds one of another era with lidded apple butter kettles with the hundred –year-old copper cooking coils. Five bushels of apples and 80 gallons of cider are cooked for six to seven hours to produce a 20-gallon batch of apple butter. During the peak of the season, several thousands bushels of apples are pressed each week to be used to make apple butter and for drinking cider. They use a mixture of sweet and tart apples from local growers. The Bauman’s press is one of the few left in Pennsylvania that does custom cider pressing. Both backyard growers and farm stands bring anywhere from 3 to 300 bushels of apples which are pressed while they wait, so that they can jug and take home cider from their own apples.

The Bauman’s produce many fruit butters along with apple butter – including blueberry, cherry, peach, plum, pumpkin, and strawberry – rhubarb. Bauman’s Apple Butter Factory is located in the center of the town of Sassamansville on the main street (Hoffmansville Road). The sign in the front of the building announces apple butter and custom log sawing (another of Harvey’s enterprises). During their peak season from August through January they are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. From February through July they are open Tuesday and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and by chance or by appointment. You can also find a sampling of their products in the MHEP museum shop.


An article about Pennsylvania apples would not be complete without some mention of apple pie! Here are two classic apple pie recipes for your culinary enjoyment – the apple pie recipe from our Apple Butter Frolic and an equally delicious dried apple (schnitz) pie recipe from the Goschenhoppen Folk Festival.

MHEP Apple Butter Frolic Apple Pie
6 cups diced apples
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoon flour
1 ½ tablespoon butter
¾ tablespoon cinnamon
1 ½ tablespoon milk
unbaked pie shell and top crust for one 10" pie

Mix apples, sugar, flour, and cinnamon together until well blended. Place mixture in unbaked 10" pie shell. Add milk and dots of butter over the top. Add top crust. Bake in 400 degree oven for 1 hour or until done.

Goschenhoppen Festival Schnitz Pie (printed with permission from the Goschenhoppen Historians)
2 cups dried apples (schnitz)
2 cups water
2/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 orange rind, grated
1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell
sweet dough for top crust

Cook the apples in the water on low heat until they’re soft (about 45 minutes). Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Stir in the apples to mash them and add remaining ingredients. Pour into the pie shell, top with a lid of sweet dough, cut slits in the top, and bake for 45 minutes.

Goschenhoppen Festival Sweet Dough (printed with permission from the Goschenhoppen Historians)
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 egg

Stir together flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Beat egg in a separate bowl, and then add to dry ingredients. Roll dough into a circle, using additional flour if it’s sticky, and use as a lid to top a pie or cut into strips to make a lattice top. (Enough for one top crust.)


1. Don Yoder, "Schnitz in the Pennsylvania Folk-Culture," Pennsylvania Folklife, Fall 1961, Vol. 12, no. 3, 49.
2. Andrew Berky, "Bread and Apple Butter Day," Pennsylvania Folklife, Fall 1961, Vol. 12, no.3, 42.
3. Ibid.
4. Stevenson Fletcher, Pennsylvania Agriculture and Country Life 1640-1840. (Harrisburg, Pa.: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1950), 208.
5. Ibid, 209
6. Alice Morser Earle, Home Life in Colonial Days. (NY: The Macmillan Company, 1931), 161.
7. Fletcher, 411.
8. Editor, The Pennsylvania Dutchman, Vol. 2, No. 1, May 1, 1950, 1.
9. Alfred L. Shoemaker., et. al., The Pennsylvania Dutchman, Vol. 2, no. 1, 1.


With thanks to Pears and Perry in the UK from, and Gillian Grafton & Paul Gunningham for the following article.

Perry is the fermented juice of pears that is similar in taste to that of hard cider. There are many growers of "perry pears" (those varieties best deemed to make the drink) and hence producers of perry in the West Midlands of England (Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Wocestershire). The earliest known reference to the use of pears for making a fermented drink was by Pliny who said that the Falernian variety, being very juicy, was used for making wine. Palladius, in the 4th century, wrote of pears being used like apples to make both a drink and a sauce and said that the Romans preferred wine made from pears to that of apples. He also gave instructions on how to make perry, then called Castomoniale. Perry making was well established in France following the collapse of the Roman empire, but there is no evidence of in in Britain until the Norman Conquest.

In 1580, Harrison said that -pirrie- (from the Saxon word for pear) was made from pears along with cider in Sussex, Kent, Worcestershire and other counties. Correct growing conditions, a sufficient balance of rainfall and sunshine, restrict the growing areas for pears in England, and thus affect the development of new varieties. The areas in which pears were traditionnly grown (the counties of the West Midlands) had the correct growing conditions, a long tradition of orcharding, areas of soil where were unkind to apples but which could support the growth of event the largest pears, and most of the indigenous varieties arose there. In the early part of the 19th century, scientists established trial pear orchards in six counties in England. Testing proved that the perry pear is at its best on deep loam, and that satisfactory orchards could be established on acid sandy soils overlying sandstone; on heavy clays and marls; on dry gravels; and on low-lying alluvial land. On the second group of soil types it was clear that choice of perry pear variety is important.

Perry pear varieties have a special charm. There are over 100 perry pear varieties in Gloucestershire covered by over 200 names. The names are often vivid with respect to the perry they produce. Some of the most colourful examples are: Merrylegs; Mumblehead; Lumberskull; Drunkers and Devildrink. The longest name on record is "A drop of that which hangs over the wall".

Modern perry making processes were developed in Britain in the late 1940s by Francis Showering, of the firm Showerings of Shepton Mallet. They developed a market for perry (sold as Babycham) which led them to realize that there was a need for new orchard planting to support the new growing interest in perry. They in turn bought up farms around their factory in Somerset and began a planting programme.


The information below derived in very large part from The Vinegar Institute and its' web site Many Thanks!

Vinegar, from the French: Vin Aigre-meaning sour wine, has been in use for thousands of year. Its origin derives from the discovery that wine left to long in a container would turn sour, and a new food condiment and preservative was thus discovered. Vinegar can and has been produced from many foods and drinks such as: apple cider, molasses, dates, sorgham, berries, melons, other fruits, coconut, honey, beer, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, malt, grains, and whey. The process remains the same in all cases: the fermentation of natural sugars to alcohol and then a secondary fermentation to achieve a vinegar or acetic acid.

Around 5000 B.C., the Babylonians used vinegar as a preservative and a condiment. They also flavored it with herbs and spices. Roman legionnaires used it as a beverage. Cleopatra demonstrated its solvent property by dissolving pearls in it to win a wager that she could consume a fortune in a single meal. Hippocrates extolled its medicinal qualities. It was probably one of the earliest medical remedies. The Greeks reportedly made pickled vegetables or meats using vinegar. Biblical references state it was widely used for its soothing and healing properties. When Hannibal crossed the Alps, vinegar was used by his army--large boulders impeding his march were heated and then doused with vinegar, which helped to crack and crumble them. During the American Civil War, vinegar was used to treat scurvy. In World War I it was used to treat wounds.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that any product labeled "vinegar" contain at least 4% acidity. This requirement ensures the minimum strength of the vinegar sold at the retail level.

Specialty vinegars are a category of vinegar products that are formulated or flavored to provide a special or unusual taste when added to foods. Some of these include:

Herbal vinegars: Wine or white distilled vinegars sometimes flavored with herbs, spices, or other seasonings, to include garlic, basil, tarragon, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg among others;

Fruit vinegars: Fruit or fruit juice can be added to wine or white vinegar. Raspberry flavored vinegars create a sweetened vinegar with sweet-sour taste;

Balsamic Vinegar: A traditional Balsamic Vinegar made in the Modena area of Italy is produced from white and sugary Trebbiano grapes . The grapes are harvested as late as possible to increase their natural surgar content. This traditional vinegar is made from the cooked grape "must" matured by a long and slow vinegarization process through natural fermentation, followed by progressive concentration by aging in a series of casks made from different types of woods. No other spices or flavorings are added during the process.

The bulk of the Balsamic Vinegar produced and sold in the U.S. is made in a more economical process, with no restrictions on how long it should be aged or on the materials from which the storage vats are made to be made. Commercial products are safe and of high quality;

Malt Vinegar: This is an aged and filtered product obtained from the fermentation of distilled malt. Malt is the product of grains softened by steeping in water and allowed to germinate. Germination causes the natural enzymes in the grain to become active and help digest the starch present in the grain with the starch converted into sugars prior to fermentation. Malt has a distinctive flavor that contributes to the flavor of Malt Vinegar and brewed beverages such as beer;

Raspberry Red Wine Vinegar: Natural raspberry flavor is added to red wine vinegar derived from the secondary fermentation of select red wines;

Rice Vinegar: This is the aged and filtered product obtained from the secondary fermentation of sugars derived from rice. It is light in color and has a clean delicate flavor. It is popular because it does not significantly alter the appearance of food it is used on;

Other vinegars include White Wine Vinegar, Coconut and Cane Vinegars common in India, the Phillipines, and Indonesia, and Date Vinegar in popular use in the Middle East.

The Dutch were credited with being the first to introduce a "quick" process for making vinegar: trickle a mash over pumice, sticks, wood, etc. to give added oxidation surface similar to the method used to the 1950s. In the 1930s circulating generators came into use using a similar process but added temperature controls which resulted in less space required per gallon generated, more efficiency and faster fermentation--this soon became a continuous process in factories. In the late 1940s submerged fermentation technology became available yielding better processes with the introduction of minute air bubbles forced into the mash. After generation the newly processed vinegar is held in aging tanks- new vinegars are harsh in flavor and aroma but after storing in wooden tanks a mellowing takes place due to the chemical combination of acids and alcohols forming aromatic compounds. This aging process gives the vinegar what is called "bouquet or fragrance". After aging, the vinegar is reduced to its desired strength with water and then it is filtered to obtain a sparkle and polish and then finally pasteurized to kill any living vinegar bacteria so that after filling in sealed containers it will have a good and safe shelf life.

Small vinegar generatorThis small vinegar generator was filled with coke (a form of burnt coal), a special yeast (mast) was put into it, and then apple cider was slowly poured in from the top. As it slowly trickled down to the bottom, the yeast and the air on the surfaces of the coke would work on the cider changing the sugars and alcohols to acetic acid (vinegar). This vinegar generator is in The National Apple Museum
Modern computer-controlled vinegar generators in a plant in Adams County.Modern computer-controlled vinegar generators in a plant in Adams County.

The Biglerville Historical and Preservation Society
and The National Apple Museum
154 West Hanover Street - P.O. Box 656
Biglerville, PA 17307-9442 - Telephone: 717-677-4556

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