I remember walking through the woods in Georgetown when I was a child and discovering apple trees in the woods. To my young mind, this was proof of one thing: Johnny Appleseed had been there. Alas, Johnny spent his time in the Midwest, not in Maine. These trees were the remains of an orchard from a farm long vanished. And the apples were planted for making New England’s favorite alcoholic beverage: Hard cider.

I was musing about cider the other day and wondering how difficult it might be to make it. Cider is a lot like beer, except that it tastes better. By strange coincidence, I came across a book on cider making that same afternoon called “Sweet and Hard Cider: Making it, Using it and Enjoying It,” by Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols. Proulx graduated from Deering High School in Portland and went to Colby College years before winning the Pulitzer Prize for “The Shipping News” and finding further fame with “Brokeback Mountain.” Before becoming known as a novelist, Proulx wrote several how-to books, like this detailed one about cider making. After reading through it, I decided that it would be far easier to simply buy the stuff at the store.

When Julius Caesar invaded England, he discovered the Kentish people drinking a form of hard cider. The drink soon spread across the empire. When the Normans conquered England a thousand years later, orchards were planted, and cider became a major drink. Water was often foul and could make people sick, so they drank cider, beer or ale instead.

The American colonists brought apple seeds with them from England and began cider-making here in the 1600s. Grain was difficult to grow in New England, and beer was, therefore, difficult to brew. Apples grew abundantly, however, and cider became the drink of choice. John Adams swore by a glass of hard cider first thing in the morning. It was not only delicious and alcoholic, but it was nutritious as well. Cider was often provided by early political candidates to buzz up the crowd before voting. George Washington refused to abide by this tradition when he first ran for office in Virginia and lost by a landslide. After that, his campaigns included many barrels of cider.

Cider-making took a hit when German immigrants came to America and settled in the Midwest with its amber waves of grain. They quickly set up breweries and pumped out so much cheap beer that the popularity of cider, which took longer to make than beer, started to wane. The temperance movement also took its toll on the cider industry, and Prohibition wiped it out completely.

Today, hard cider is making a comeback. When you go apple picking this year, you should think about fermenting your harvest. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but nobody said you had to eat the apple, right?