Personal Journal of Cassandra Blackwell
January 3, 1900
The routine of shipboard life reminds me of our farm and how everything has a time and place. Early morning wakeup, feed and milk the animals, fieldwork, sorting and picking fruits and vegetables, bee and honey production, pressing fruit in the fall and the final fermentation and bottling. Then, of course, there is the eating, baking, and canning of the fruits and vegetables, and the tasting of the ciders and meads. Fall is the very best with its smells and tastes and the gradual winding down of the year.
When my great, great grandparents first came here they brought the beginnings of the vast orchards that we are caretakers of today. They brought seeds and cuttings to be grafted onto native stock for weather and disease resistance. They were lucky enough to have a few of the local crabapple trees on the land to graft to and begin their cider and eating stock. Unfortunately my family began with mostly French style apples, which caused some bad feelings when the war truly began. There were a few from England and Russia along with some native varieties as well but the French apples are some of the best tasting and very prolific. The McIntosh variety in fact, was a trade made directly with French Canada. Not wanting to cut off a revenue stream, trading continued for mead and cider, which cost us dearly in fines and near social and business ruination in subsequent years when it was discovered. My grandfather was jailed for a time and we nearly lost our land and holdings. All trade with Canada was halted and we negotiated military contracts at only slightly above cost. It was a difficult bargain to swallow, but better than the alternative.
Later generations added fruit from New England and New York as well as more local varieties. Plans were laid to have a nice cross section of eating, baking and cider apples as well as pears and other fruits.
Summer Rambo – (France 1530) Large fruit with good winter hardiness. It is excellent for eating and baking.
Lady – (France 1600) A very aromatic apple, which is great for eating and ciders.
Calville Blanc – (France 1600) Unique shape and wonderful taste. Good for eating and cider making.
Roxbury Russet – (Massachusetts 1600) A lovely all around apple, which is good for eating and cider making.
Duchess of Oldenburg – (Russia 1700) Fruit is medium to large with excellent flavor for eating and baking.
Newtown Pippin – (New York 1760) Apples are great for eating and cider making.
Baldwin – (Massachusetts 1790) Great for pies and cider.
McIntosh – (Ontario, Canada 1790) Good for eating and cider making.
Bramley’s Seedling – (England 1813) Apples are great for sauces and general cooking.
Kingston Black – (England 1820) Apples have a bitter sharp taste for use in cider only.
Northern Spy – (New York 1800) An all around apple, which is good for eating and cider making.
Winesap- (Colonies 1817) Apples have a wine flavor and aroma, which is good for eating and cider making.
Tolman Sweet – (Colonies 1800) A very hardy apple that is good for eating and cider.
Golden Russet – (New York 1840) Apples are very sweet and are good for eating and cider.
Wolf River – (Wisconsin 1880) Apples can be up to 1 pound each with good eating and baking qualities.
Bartlett – (England 1700) Pears are very mild and good for eating.
Bosc – (Belgium 1807) This pear is an excellent all around fruit for eating and ciders.
Winter Nelis – (Belgium 1818) Fruit is juicy and sweet with excellent cider making and eating properties.
Montmorency (France 1600) Cherries are excellent for cooking.
English Morello (Colonies 1860) – These are tart cherries that are good for eating and cooking.
Moorpark – (England 1760) Apricots are very flavorful and reliable.
It is only recently that meads and hard pear ciders have caught on in this area. They have a much more mellow flavor and texture. The general populace is more interested in hard ciders and beers, which are tasty and inexpensive to produce. Fruit and grains are easily grown and fermented; although the quality of the final product can vary widely. Meads themselves have taken a bit to get used to since they can be quite alcoholic and the honey is fairly costly. It is well worth the extra effort to harvest the honey and tend to the bees. In fact, we need the bees to pollinate our orchards so it isn’t a hardship to have them around. I hope to speak to Captain Brennan soon about setting up a small fermentation system on board which will keep us in fresh hard cider. Quite tasty!
Crew Quarters – HMA Badger