hist-brewing: Question on scrumpy

Tim Bray tbray at mcn.org
Thu Nov 6 13:57:17 PST 2003

>   I have a question that I've not yet been able to find the answer to on 
> web searches.  Maybe one of you can answer this for me??  Why is raw meat 
> put in scrumpy?

The short answer is: tradition.  Slightly longer answer: to provide a 
source of nutrients, thought to be missing from the juice, in order to 
obtain a better (faster?) ferment.  It's not actually necessary and 
probably has little or no benefit to the finished product.

But there is some confusion among published sources about the actual 
meaning of the word "scrumpy."  Most authors imply that scrumpy is a rough, 
rather nasty drink, frequently high in alcohol, made without care; often 
using windfalls, wormy or diseased fruit, etc.  Authors frequently comment 
on its roughness or sourness; it was probably often partly acetic and 
undoubtedly had Brettanomyces infections.  Some say that it was not even 
always made from apple juice, that other fermentable adjuncts (any cheap 
source of sugar) might be added.  But at least one author (Jo Deal, "Making 
Cider") claims that scrumpy is cider made with apple juice and nothing else 
- no additives of any kind; quite contrary to what others claim.

I have several books on cider, and none of them give a solid definition for 
scrumpy, nor do any of them state or imply that it was always made with 
meat.  I have a vague recollection that this was a local/regional 
tradition, part of the "mystique" of scrumpy in some areas.

>   I wanted to try my hand at making this but was deterred when I saw raw 
> meat in the recipe.

Actually, if you use clean fresh meat, it probably won't do much harm, as 
long as the finished alcohol content is above 7% and the cider has enough 
acidity (just don't use Red Delicious).  I've no idea how it might affect 
taste, but scrumpy isn't exactly known for tasting good anyway.

I'll post a question to the Cider Digest and see if anyone there knows more.

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