Did you know that fermented beverages, specifically ethanol containing beverages were a crucial component of most indigenous and traditional health strategies? Or that those who drink a moderate amount of ethanol live longer than those who drink heavily or don't drink at all? Of course the beverages fermented by native peoples and by our traditional cultural forebears were much healthier and nutritionally viable than those of today, created with local ingredients and wild yeasts, and were not filtered and pasteurized like the ones that most of us were raised around. Turning simple sugars into ethanol, amino acids, and B complex vitamins, not to mention a culturally and ritually significant inebriant is a nearly ubiquitous human behavior, and part of what holds the fabric of traditional societies together.
Earlier in the year I had the culturally enriching experience of imbibing some of the traditional fermented beverages of South America, specifically Chicha (from Maize) and Masatao (from Cassava), both traditional ferments of the people of Peru. These wonderful drinks were both relatively low in alcohol, with probably just a bit less than a modern beer, and loaded with nutrition and calories, making them as much a food as a drink. I was immediately impressed with the way that these were built into the nutritional and spiritual systems of the area. They were not viewed as guilt laden pleasures or sources of immoral behavior and debauchery, but rather as sacred and vitally health supportive. And while we use the term "intoxicant" to refer to drinks that contain alcohol, these people didn't associate their sacred beverages with "toxicity" at all.
It was my desire to begin wild fermenting a local sugar of low to moderate alcohol content that could be drank unfiltered and unpasteurized. I wanted to recreate this often undiscussed and overlooked aspect of traditional human diets and bring it into my home and my life. While I have also been fermenting honey with some success (a beverage called Mead), I wanted to brew something with a milder effect (mead has the alcohol content of wine, upwards of 16 % or more) that could be done with very little labor or input, just the way our ancestors had done it.
Through this quest I have become enamored by Cider, which is the proper name for the fermented alcoholic draught made from the fresh pressed juice from apples. Today we often refer to "Hard Cider" as the fully fermented version, and "Cider" as the unfermented, unfiltered juice of apples, which is a departure from the traditional meaning. Cider is usually defined as having an alcohol content of 2 - 8.5 % or higher, though my experience is that it tastes great and is incredibly refreshing even during initial fermentation when the alcohol content is negligible like that of Kombucha.
You can imagine that prior to the widespread use of refrigeration, areas of the world with large apple yields would have had quite a bit of Cider on hand, as the juice of fresh apples ferments quite readily. Perhaps you have bought fresh apple juice from a local orchard before and had it begin to ferment on you!
The apple juice I have worked with begins to ferment almost immediately after it reaches room temperature, and in truth gets better each and every day that it sits. The initial fermentation stage is wonderful, as the Cider develops its sparkling effervescence. I love drinking it this way throughout the day, and like saving the older, dryer, and "harder" Cider for the evenings with dinner and after.
Fermentation can seem a bit intimidating when you haven't tried it before, and that is why I am posting this video. Cider is so easy to produce at home a cave man could do it!
I hope you enjoy this two part "Wild Fermented Hard Cider" video. Please give us your feedback by leaving a comment below!
P.S. Your probably wondering what "a moderate amount of alcohol" is. Studies indicate that 1 - 3 drinks ethanol drinks per day seems to extend lifespans! Here is a review from the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology showing the effects of alcohol on life span!
P.P.S. I understand the many detrimental effects that alcoholism and alcohol related accidents have had on us as individuals and as a civilization. I have personally been witness to it in my own life amongst people that I love dearly. This blog is in no way supporting reckless or irreverent use of ethanol. Alcohol consumption goes further into antiquity than can be accounted for, in other words it is part of the human story. Each one of us must determine how we will responsibly relate to it as a substance, and how we will steward it with health and safety in mind.