Cider is an alcoholic drink made from fermented apples and thought to originate in Holland’s Zeider Zee, where it was commonly consumed before battle and thus gave rise to the phrase ‘Dutch courage’. Early Batavian traders brought the recipe to England in the 9th century, establishing the first breweries in the Somerset Levels where there was a plentiful supply of water, apples and eels (the use of eels in cider was largely discontinued after the Sargasso rebellion of 1278).
By the 14th century, most of Somerset and Devon was given over to cider production, with contemporary records suggesting that more than 8 million casks, butts and barrels were produced in the peak years of the 1390s.
However, following a papal bull of 1417, which decreed that the secular use of apples was heretical due to their presence in the Garden of Eden, cider production was driven underground. Evidence of this can still be found in the recently excavated Scrumpy Caverns of the Mendip Hills.
Modern, commercially produced cider is a pale imitation of its rustic forebears and is largely made from the Russell Bland variety of apple, which has been genetically modified to exclude 98% of any discernible taste.