Ugly but beautiful

Why do we think someone or something is ugly?

Is it simply because we don’t want to “see” past the ugly? Or is it because we’re afraid that seeing that ugly something/someone will remind us of something ugly in our past?

Perhaps we’re unsettled about ugliness because we don’t think ugly has value. I wonder if we’ve ever thought what that ugly something/someone is thinking about us.

We’ve all seen those ugly puppies that are so unusual in nature that they are cute! I like to think there’s beauty in everything and everyone. That’s not a fuzzy-wuzzy notion but it comes from a lifetime of seeing differences and I’ve learned there’s beauty of some sort in everything and everyone.

It all depends on your perspective…

For instance, I grew up learning that milkweeds are a pesky and ugly weed. Left by themselves to reproduce in the open fields, they’ll become a huge problem and choke the planted crop. We sprayed and pulled out every milkweed plant we saw.

Then I learned milkweeds have a necessary purpose in the life of the monarch butterfly and my impression of the weed began to change. Why? Because I like to see monarch butterflies as they float through the air. I enjoy their colors and the fact they help pollinate nature for everyone’s benefit.

Yes, the milkweed can be a pesky weed but they’re needed for the monarch to reproduce and then to pollinate plants and to bring some gorgeous color into our summer days. There needs to be a balance — we can’t kill all the milkweeds and still have the pollinating butterflies nor can we let the weed take over our gardens and fields. A balance of perspective is needed.

Another example we can use is when we look at the numerous apples finding their ways into our kitchens right now. When we pick them up at the grocery store or the orchard, we look for the best looking apple, correct? We want the “Apple of our eye!” An apple that looks beautiful and has the expected nice sweet/tart taste and crisp/soft chew.

But there’s one place that doesn’t care what the apple looks like and that’s your local cidery.

Hard apple cider has become the rage in this country. Apples are thought to have their ancient beginnings in an area close to China and over the centuries, the Romans and other traders brought them to Europe. North America doesn’t have a native apple and when the colonists — trying to make beer — found that barley didn’t grow well in the Northeast, they planted apples to ferment into hard apple cider.

Even the well known folk hero Johnny Appleseed had a hand in bringing apples across the continent but, not for the reasons we find in school books. He planted apple seeds to help further the availability of hard apple cider!

That’s all nice and good to know but where does the ugly enter the picture with apples? Well, the quick answer is when apple is made into cider. Beauty isn’t a necessity for apple cider.

Not only are the apples rather unpleasant to look at but many cider apples simply taste awful. In fact, some of the apples used to make apple cider are called “spitters” because you can’t eat them and if you do taste one, you’ll spit it out! However, those ugly apples make beautiful apple cider.

Apple cider depends on a spectrum of tastes to succeed — from sweet to completely awful bitterness. As the apple is crushed — stems, peels and seeds — each variety is judged and then the mixing begins. The hoped for outcome is a hard cider that is nicely sweet but has a crisp edge that dries your mouth.

Today’s cider makers are a lot like today’s brewers — they’re trying all sorts of aging techniques, mixes and recipes to entertain your taste buds. Here are some sweet, tasty and interesting examples.

From New York, we have Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider. Angry Orchard is the elephant in the world of cider and accounts for over 40 percent of cider sales. Its Crisp Apple Cider has a sweet taste that leads to a crisp and dry finish. A delight to drink.

The Metro area’s Sociable Cider Works is pushing its Hop A Wheelie Hopped Apple Cider. It’s the perfect crossover between a cider and a beer — made with apples but fermented with India Pale Ale (IPA) hops. If you like an IPA and you like to eat apples, here you are — try it!

For those of you who like a sparkling dry beverage, I would recommend Number 12 Cider House’s (Buffalo, MN) Sparkling Dry cider. It’s very complex and is nicknamed the Thinking Person’s Cider for a good reason.

Keepsake Cidery (Dundas) produces some fantastic ciders. Every one is aged between 6-12 months on cherry and maple wood and the result is a unique and lively tasting cider.

Yes, each of these named ciders begins with ugly apples but the resulting ciders are beautiful. Like the butterflies that are helped by the milkweed plant, it’s all in the perspective — working together toward a common cause can produce crisp, colorful and tasty results.

Next week, we do well.

As always, eat and drink in moderation but laugh with reckless abandon!