With the Georgia temperatures back in the double digits and Michigan friends starting to post pumpkin pics, I find myself facing a perennial reality:
Apple Cider in the south is an abomination.
Did I call it cider? I meant cloudy apple juice.
It is sweet.
Let me say that again.
The cider you buy – even from the North Georgia apple picking farms – is sweet.
That’s okay when you’re talking about Sweet Tea. I, for one, am grateful to have been introduced to southern Sweet Tea. I learned how to make it when I worked in a restaurant my first summer down here. A waitress named “Doc” showed me. You brew a pot of tea. Let’s say 24 ounces. Mix in 24 ounces of sugar (not a typo) and then add water, tasting as you go until just before your teeth stop hurting. It takes some practice to get it right. Keep adding sugar until you do. On their first trip to visit me in Georgia, I took my parents to a BBQ restaurant and watched their collective jaws hit the table as they watched a waitress pour a full bag of sugar into a carafe half-full of brewed tea.
When you want iced tea, you have to order Unsweet Tea. By force of habit, I’ve ordered Unsweet Tea when visiting Michigan and gotten some unsweet looks from servers.
Yes, Southern Sweet Tea will give you a case of the bouncies. If we’re being honest, it is delightful.
But apple cider is something different. The only sugar in apple cider should be the kind that’s fermented into a tangy not-quite-pucker-your-lips apply-goodness. It should neither treat nor cause diabetes.
The best cider you can get is fresh from a cider mill. My family was always partial to the Franklin Cider Mill, but there are plenty around the metro area.
The best way to drink that cider is in a small plastic cup, 20 yards from the place you had to pay cash to buy that gallon of golden goodness. You should be wearing an old sweatshirt and swatting bees away from your fresh doughnuts. If you’re doing all of that under a blue sky shortly before or after a youth soccer game or religious fast, bonus points.
Of course, if you’re doing that, it means you have to go back through the bees and doughnuts grease to buy a jug for the road as well.
Nothing tastes as good after raking the leaves, going for a fall walk or celebrating when a punter has trouble with the snap.
Cider is a seasonal nostalgia that I can get behind. It doesn’t even have to be gourmet. In fact, “artisanal” is a word that doesn’t belong in this conversation. I regret even having typed it. And I say that as someone who is pretentious enough to still be baking bread from my homemade sourdough starter.
Cider, when it’s cider, is a drink that makes you think about the past and I would venture a guess that the memories that occur to you when drinking it, are good ones.
It brings back family time. Clinking those flimsy, sticky cups with siblings, parents, grandparents, friends.
It is the kind of present you can bring to a member of the Detroit Diaspora, and they will always be grateful.
In case I was too subtle, I am asking anyone reading this to transport unpasteurized Michigan apple cider 750 miles to Atlanta for me to drink. Out of an abundance of caution, I won’t share it with my kids.