Traditional Folktales in the Classroom
Johnny Apple Seed and Apple Jack
America has a rich tradition of folk heroes.
The real Johnny Appleseed was John Chapman September 26, 1774 - March 11, 1845 who spread apples for the purpose of creating cider orchards. John Chapman frequented Western Pennsylvania.
The American Whiskey Trail:
By the mid-1790s, around the height of the Whiskey Rebellion. Origins of Hillbilly Music / Story Roots of Moonshine Whiskey Rebellion and the Amber Waves of Grain. Chapman lived in a cabin on Grant’s Hill in Pittsburgh, where he tended an orchard. Inspiration struck after noticing the German cider mills south of the city. He gathered left over apple seeds from the cider mills’ pumice stones and sold them to settlers. This idea quickly led to Chapman’s nickname of “Johnny Appleseed. "
Chapman’s sole purpose in planting apple trees was not for the purpose of supplying the settlers with wholesome snacks along the way. Most of the apples he planted were used in the making of cider and distilling apple brandy and applejack. Apples grown from seeds are usually too sour for eating out of hand and were mainly used for this purpose.
Apple Jack - the natives call it Jersey Lightnin' - Heritage Tradition
Apple Jack - the natives call it Jersey Lightnin' - Heritage Tradition heard about in the movie:
From Stolen Life starring Betty Davis
In this romantic melodrama, Bette Davis plays twin sisters for the first time (she would do so again in 1964's Dead Ringer). Kate Bosworth (Davis) is a sincere, demure girl and talented artist. Her twin sister Pat (also Davis) is a flamboyant, man-hungry manipulator.
Unlike aged apple brandies, this white lightning is produced by a process known as “jacking,” in which cold temperatures work to separate the water and alcohol by taking advantage of their different freezing points. The water freezes into ice and is strained out of the mixture while the ethyl alcohol remains liquid, resulting in a higher alcohol concentration.Applejack was an old standby of the early colonists and, also known as “Jersey Lightning,” was favored during Prohibition for its comparative ease of home brewing. A local affectionate name in New England for applejackwas “essence of lockjaw.”
By 1685, New Englanders settling in New Jersey were busy establishing apple cultivation on a large scale. Cider had been their favorite drink. It could be fermented for a hard cider or fermented and distilled to make brandy, or if you prefer, Jersey Lightning. A method popular in New England was simply to freeze the cider and discard the ice. Some of the cider was made into vinegar which was used in cooking and preserving.
The Ideal Bartender, Tom Bullock, 1917 JERSEY LIGHTNING COCKTAIL
Use large Mixing glass; fill with Lump Ice.1 jigger Apple Jack Brandy.
1 pony Italian Vermouth.
Stir well; strain and serve in Cocktail glass.
"Apple jack is made by taking hard cider and putting it outside when the temperature is below freezing, or by placing in your freezer. When the cider begins to freeze pour the unfrozen 1iquid into a container. The unfrozen liquid is apple jack. Apple jack is a delicious drink, but a word of caution is in order. You might not taste the alcohol in apple jack, but the beverage is very potent. When frozen, water is removed leaving a beverage with a much higher octane rating than the 10-12 % of hard cider.
If you don't have any hard cider handy, I made a tasty version using a fifth of Apple Schnapps mixed with a fifth of apple cider. I put the mixture into two quart jars, and put them in the freezer. It took about eight hours for the liquid to begin to freeze."
Whole Story By Tamara Scully
Apples were big business in Randolph, and the surrounding areas of Morris County, since the Revolutionary War times. As a matter of fact, most of today's housing developments were probably once apple orchards. The soil and terrain here were suitable to orchard crops, and apple and peach orchards were prevalent.
Bill Wilkie, a railroad and history buff from the Mendham
area, presented this intoxicating lesson in local history to a crowd of 40
or so people gathered in the community room of the Randolph Township Free
Public Library. According to Wilkie, many families produced an excess of
apples, even after making pies, canning and drying the fruit, and storing some of the crop for winter consumption.
There wasn't much of a local market for apples - everyone grew them- and the fruit would get damaged in transit to more urban areas which, at that time, were served by Bergen County farms.
With apples readily available, cider was routinely processed. It was the main beverage of choice for colonial Americans. Water was not readily accessible, and because of water-borne illnesses, it was not
Hard cider had a long shelf life, so it was always available, well after the harvest. It was the beverage, consumed by all
members of the family, to quench thirst.
Enterprising businessmen took cider a few steps further.
First, as sweet cider fermented, hard apple cider was produced. Hard cider was about 60 proof. When a second distillation was made, the resulting 120 proof liquor was then diluted down to 100 proof, and the barrels aged. The result was an 80 proof product that, when bottled, became known as Apple Brandy, or Apple Jack, or "Jersey Lightning." A booming business was born, Wilkie said.
"Farmers would take their apples to the cider mill, and the mill owner would keep a percentage of the juice in payment. To distill
that juice in to Jersey Lightning was to make a sought-after product from a commonplace staple. It was big business."
Entertaining them with a slide show to accompany his commentary, Wilkie kept the audience's attention as he explained the lore of Jersey Lightning.
The legal distiller had to pay the tax man. And, he had to pay taxes on all of the 100 proof liquor he made, Wilkie explained.
"Unfortunately, that meant that he was paying for alcohol that wouldn't exist when the product was finished and ready for sale."
"Government measures how much you make at 100 proof and levies a tax at the time its made," Wilkie explained. However, the product is then aged for 3-7 additional years, and by that time, a good amount of
evaporation has occurred. That taxed product that later evaporated was known
to distillers as the "angel's share," Wilkie said.
The distiller also had to store his barrels in a special structure, with steel doors and indows, which became known as a "Lincoln
house". This was to ensure that no one ould get to the product before the tax man levied the appropriate taxes. A certificate of axation was then affixed to the barrels with a tack and shellacked in place.
Apple Brandy was "one of the largest industries in the state of New Jersey from the early 1800s through to the Civil War," Wilkie stated.
With major stage-coach routes between Easton, Pa and the ports of New Jersey and New York ity running through Morris County, Jersey Lightning found markets elsewhere. Unlike the raw product, apples, the liquor would not bruise or rot during the arduous trips. Because the route took more than one day to traverse, travelers would have to stay overnight in local inns.
"They were served Jersey Apple Jack."
That, stated Wilkie, is how the reputation of the local apple brandy spread, and how "Jersey Lightning" became known far and wide.
Civil War to Prohibition
"The fame of the New Jersey Apple Brandy became known and it became, between 1804 and the ivil War, the largest cash crop in New Jersey," Wilkie said. According to the 1830 census, here were 388 legal
distilleries in New Jersey. Fifty-three of those were in Morris County, and four of those were in Randolph ownship. Nearby Roxbury Township had dozens more, and Chester had five. unterdon and Warren Counties ere also home to many distilleries.
During the Civil War, the government imposed a very high $2 per barrel tax on the Apple Jack. Coupled with the loss of business from the southern states, distillers were hit ard. And railroads made the
stage-coach routes all but obsolete.
Following the war, the use of alcohol in the United States more than quadrupled, according to ilkie, perhaps offsetting some of the loss of business and profits the distillers had suffered. This, however, set
the stage for the next era in the saga of the distilleries: Prohibition. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1919, ushered in the age of Prohibition, and no distillery was legal.
Lasting 14 years, Prohibition was an era of illegal distilleries, many of which undoubtedly were found here in Morris County. At least one known mill, that on Route 4 in Ralston, did stop its production
around the time of Prohibition. It's machinery was left relatively unchanged since then. Inside, the belts, pulleys, and presses remain. The mill, recently acquired
by Mendham Township, produced Tiger Apple Jack, from approximately 1906-1920.
Some distilleries and Lincoln ouses found new uses following the demise of the Jersey Lightning heyday.
On Route 24, near Parker Road in Chester, Wilkie reports that the stone house, now a vicarage for the Episcopal Church, was once a distillery. It was known as the Mountain Spring Distillery, and its incoln
house remains intact on an adjacent property. The most prominent of the Randolph distilleries is also now a home. At the intersection of Park Avenue and Sussex Turnpike, in the Ironia section of the township, is the Bryant Distillery.
Now a beautifully restored home, the Landmarks Committee of Randolph Township has honored it with a plaque.
The location of the other distilleries is not certain. It is known that about 1,000 gallons of apple brandy were legally made in
Randolph Township during the days of Jersey Lightning. Most evidence of such production as long since disappeared.
Jack Hopkins found the presentation enlightening in many ways. "It was an interesting talk that ombined some local
history with a look at some of the economic realities in colonial New Jersey," he stated.
Another audience member, John Oehler, was unaware of the legacy of Apple Jack distillers in Randolph Township. "I had to attend the recent resentation at the Randolph Library to find out. I was not disappointed with the history lesson and
great presentation," he said. The person responsible for scheduling these popular
presentations is Deborah Rood Goldman, the programming manager at the