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Wilson's Apple Orchard squeezes nutrient-packed cider

BY DORA GROTE | SEPTEMBER 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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Taking a gulp of apple-cider vinegar, Paul Rasch said living long starts with living well and the vinegar plays a significant role.

"I had a grandma who lived to be 99 and drank a quarter cup every day, so it must work," said the owner of Wilson's Apple Orchard.

This season, the orchard has begun marketing homemade apple-cider vinegar, primarily for its supposed health benefits.

Rasch said apple-cider vinegar is used as a health tonic to heal minor body ailments including indigestion and stomach pain. It calms the stomach and can be used for weight loss and lowering blood pressure.

"It has a role for us in our daily lives and healthy diets," Rasch said.

When producing the vinegar, he follows a series of crucial steps. First, a blend of fresh apples must be cleaned, grounded, and squished to produce unfiltered apple cider. The cider is unclear because of the pectin and soluble fiber in the apples.

"A good apple cider must be sweet, tart, and have tannins," Rasch said. "Without them, it lacks a little bit of character."

Rasch said the apples will foster the components in the next couple of weeks. The better the sweet cider, the better the vinegar. The sweet cider naturally turns to hard apple cider over time through a process called fermentation — bacteria eating sugar and converting it to alcohol. Once hard cider is created, "mother" — a bacteria culture — is introduced.

"It kind of looks like snot," said Jack Neuzil, who supplies Wilson's Orchard with fermenting materials.

He said the culture has been passed down in his family for generations. He received it from his mother about 40 years ago, and she received it from her mother before that.

"You just put it in a jar, and it keeps the culture going," Neuzil said.

Rasch said production for the vinegar takes about four months, but the taste and quality increases with age. The vinegar currently on the market was started two years ago. He said customers can buy an 8.5-ounce bottle for $4.50 and a 17-ounce bottle for $6.50.

For Rasch, compared with other apple goods, the vinegar is the best.

"I like cider, I like apples, and I like apple products, but I like apple-cider vinegar the most," he said. "It is the one product of apples that lends itself to craftsmanship, and I think the real craft of vinegar making has been lost."

Barb Schintler, Wilson Orchard's retail manager, said she thinks the product will be a popular buy amongst customers with the increasing interested in health conscience products.

"It is a local product that offers a different taste than commercially bought vinegar that I think people will like," Schintler sad.

Rasch said they are in the very early and experimenting stages of apple-cider vinegar but hope to market different varieties of the product in the near future.

"We are interested in messing around with the product. Currently, we are experimenting with edible crab apples," Rasch said. "We are looking into garlic- and herb-infused vinegars and making vinaigrettes."


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