Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dandelion Wine & Applejack

Patrick and Ellen (Naughton) Carney, along with the John Moran and other Irish immigrants in the mid 1800s, settled in Orlando. For more on this important Orlando Community see the entry for May 29, '06 The Irish Immigration

John Carney, now a retired pharmacist, remembers his grandmother Katherine "Kate" (Moran) Carney's dandelion wine. Their grandmother told John and his twin brother Patrick how it was made. (By then, the 1950s, she had moved to Clarksburg to live with her daughter Margaret and son-in-law John Dolan.)

Discovering that the humble and abundant dandelion flowers could be turned into strong brew was one of the memorable experiences of that summer. When they got home the two boys put all their ingenuity and enterprise into their new-found mission of secretly making dandelion wine in the cellar. Alas, they discovered the making of dandelion wine was not as easy as grandma had made it seem.

In the photo to the right Katherine "Kate" (Moran) Carney is standing between her twin grandsons in stripped shirts.

With my brother Mike and me, it was applejack, also in the 1950s and also on Clover Fork. Our great-grandfather Gid Skinner pulled out an old cider press and all the cousins gathered apples and washed them in the stream while the aunts and uncles chopped and pressed the apples using the cider press.

Well, cool, sweet apple cider was a treat, but even more interesting was the whispering we heard: "Just let a jug of cider sit outside and after a while when it freezes pour off the alcohol on the top." (Such things would never be spoken aloud as my grandmother, Edith (Skinner) Stutler, like any good Methodist, was opposed to alcoholic beverages.) Applejack. It seemed so simple. We tried it a couple of winters, but we never got booze.

To the left above is a photo of the cider mill at my parents' home in Michigan in the 1980s. (My dad rebuilt the wood slat buckets, but the rest of the press remains original.) The fellow with the red & black plaid shirt is cousin Bill Beckner who was about 10 at greatgrandpa Gideon's pressing.

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