Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Toledo Talks - Apple Cider Vinegar

Toledo Cats
Although my Uncle Jesse is most recognized for his rum, he also brews a fine hard cider. When we were kids, Hanover and I would sometimes visit him at the old house where he and Mama and Aunt Delilah grew up. At harvest time we'd climb the apple trees, picking the apples that grew on the highest branches. His apples are the finest. They have a tart sweet crunch. We still visit now and then, but Hanover won't climb the trees anymore. His tree-climbing days ended when he fell out of one when we were six. Jesse moved away not long after that, but he moved back to the farm in 1922 and he still lives there. He's old, but not too old to brew cider.

Jesse always has a barrel of cider open. He says it keeps him young. I don't argue with him. It wouldn't do any good anyway. Even Mama knew that.

When we were kids, he'd pour me and Hanover a thimble full when Mama wasn't looking. She always wondered why we got so sleepy on the boat ride home. She always brought a few jugs home for herself. One of those jugs was reserved for making apple cider vinegar. After Jesse moved away, we'd go out to pick apples and Mama tried her hand at brewing hard cider. It wasn't like Jesse's, but it was good enough for making vinegar.
Mama made her apple cider vinegar in mason jars. The jars were lined up in the corner of her clothes closet, where she could be sure the sun wouldn't shine and ruin it. She would always use the last bit as the starter for the next batch. Mama never filtered hers. She just shook it up every time she used it, mixing the filmy mother of vinegar in with the clear amber liquid.

I keep mine in the drying shed while it cures. I also filter it. But before I do, I put aside a bit that contains the mother of vinegar so I'll have a starter for the next batch. It takes a couple months for hard cider to turn to vinegar, so I usually have a few batches at different stages in the process. If you're curious about how to make apple cider vinegar, you can find more information here.

Apple cider vinegar is good for a lot of things. It helps improve digestion and can even lower blood sugar. Mary O'Malley keeps some on hand to ease sunburn. Being red-headed and Irish, the sun is lethal to her. Hanover, however, prefers his apple cider hard. If you want to learn more about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar, here's a link to apple cider vinegar on WebMD.