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It's getting to be that time of the year again. The leaves have turned to their most spectacular colors and it brings back memories of apple cider and Halloween. Anybody remember driving upstate (I think Rt. 17 and then Rt. 9 were the roads) before the NY state thruway was opened?

There was a place called the "Red Apple Rest" that had probably had the best apple pie in the whole world. Further up, there would be signs every few miles saying "Apple Cider...All "U" can drink...10 cents." And of course, you could stop in at any gas station and get directions and FREE road maps.

Over here in Southwest Germany, they are also harvesting the apples. They don't have cider as we know it, instead they make a hard cider called "most". The farmers bring in their apples to the local mill called a "mosterei". The apples are fed into a huge funnel, ground up and then squeezed in a big press. The juice runs out the bottom into a pipe and the leavings in the press are taken out...they look like big jute carpets. These leavings are brought out to the woods after it snows and scattered at strategic spots where the deer can find it....there is usually an elevated enclosed shooting stand where the hunters can "harvest" their deer for the season.

I say "their" deer quite literally...because when you obtain the permit to shoot a deer, the Forestmeister tells you where, when and which deer you are going to shoot. I think you also have to give half or more of the meat to the county and they in turn sell it to you always find venison on the menus later on in the year.

But, I digress...back to the most. The mosterei rarely charges the farmer money to squeeze his apples...instead they keep a percentage of the juice to market as their own product. Before the true alcoholic most is made, there is a chance for passerbys (hikers and bicyclists, etc.) to stop by and buy some of the juice. When a stranger walks or bikes into the "hof" the mosterei's owner usually welcomes him by giving him a glass of the sweet most (fresh apple juice). The problem is, once you've had one glass, you MUST have more. (Kinda like Bert Lahr eating Lay's potato chips). If you've done this before, you've prepared by packing a couple of empty plastic gallon milk jugs on your bike and have the farmer fill them up...the price is about 50 cents a liter, so for a buck and a half you get a gallon of fresh apple juice. (actually the gallon is more than 3 liters, but the farmer always gives you that extra "on the house"...the way bakers gave out a "baker's dozen" years ago.

How about the true "hard cider"...the real most? This stuff is potent! I would never attempt to ride my bicycle after drinking even one glass of it. The apple juice is stored down in the cellars in big (25gallon or more) blue plastic urns and allowed to ferment. Added to the apple juice are the juices from pears, plums (the local variety are called "Zwetschgens"), some quince and sometimes raisins. I think fermentation period is anywhere from 3weeks to 2months. Sounds delicious, doesn't it? And some of it is...sweet and potent. Other varieties seem to taste rather sour...It seems to depend on which "Besenwirtschaft" you drink it at. I'll talk about the "Broom restaurants" the next time.

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