John Phin, on Avoiding (not Making) ‘Cider Without Apples’

"Genuine cider cannot be made from anything but the juice of apples, properly expressed and fermented. Anything else is a fraud. Some of the recipes for artificial cider that have been sold do not give an article having anything of the flavor of cider, and the stuff cannot be sold for cider to any person who has ever tasted the real article. Such, for example, is that which directs 2 lb. of sugar or molasses ; 1 oz . tartaric acid ; 4 tablespoonfuls of yeast ; 2 gallons of water. Dissolve the sugar in part of the water, made hot, and then mix the whole.

Other recipes of a similar stamp have been sold, but none of them will enable the user to produce an article having the flavor and character of real cider. In some cases the recipe directs the use of a portion of real cider, or the mixture of some of the 'cheese' from a cider press . This, of course, gives a sort of dilute cider, but cannot give satisfaction ; and besides, the vendor of such stuff, which is very easily detected by any chemist who chooses to spend five minutes in examining it, lays himself liable to heavy penalties in most States. Our advice to our readers, therefore, is to let such mixtures alone, and to put no faith in anyone who promises to furnish a recipe for 'cider without apples.'"

John Phin, Trade “Secrets” and Private Recipes (1887)

The author of this late nineteenth century volume, John Phin, claims by way of the preface to be on a mission to uncover, un-mask and prevent an entirely fraudulent practice that was apparently quite common back in the day. It seems there was a widespread trade in advertising special, unique, even miraculous ‘recipes’ or ‘trade secrets’ for sale by return post “at prices ranging from 25 cents to $10” which subsequently turned out to be nothing more than well-known recipes copied from already-published books.

And who were the perpetrators of this dastardly mail order scam? Why, that most heinous class of criminals, the uncouth youths of the United States of America:

"In many cases these advertisements of 'valuable recipes' are put out by boys, who frequently Operate under high-sounding names of companies which exist only on paper ; in their circulars they offer to send recipes for anything, and when they get an order for something they have not got, they go to the nearest public library and copy the formula which seems to come nearest to the wants of their customer."

What? That’s shocking! Outrageous! (Boys, eh? Evil little gits, the lot of ’em.) And it’s certainly a practice that our noble author would never stoop so low as to perpetrate. Except, I can’t help but notice, in the above item on entirely fake “cider without apples”, said author has provided a common recipe, albeit under the guise of denouncing said recipe as a waste of time and money. But it’s there, isn’t it?

Of course, by this point, you’ve already paid good money to buy the book. And, let’s face it, you’re probably just a little bit curious as to how close a “cider without apples” recipe might come to actual cider. So hey, you might as well give it a go, just this once. What harm could it do..?

Well, you jolly well remember that if the results aren’t all you hoped they would be you can’t say you haven’t been warned, can you?

(If you decide to make up a batch, please do let me know how you get on, via the comments…)

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