Extra nutrients in the soil, perhaps
"Alcohol" might not be the first word that comes to mind when you visit a cemetery. In a game of word association, you'd probably be more apt to blurt out something like "trick-or-treat" or "horror movies." But for Jeremy Hammond and Joy Doumis, who, for several years, have been making cider using the apples they've picked from trees growing in one of the oldest cemeteries in the US, the two words have become nearly synonymous.
The boyfriend-girlfriend pair had originally been making their Proper Cider brand for over ten years in their Brooklyn basement, using apples foraged in upstate New York. They've never sold the bottles, and instead consider cider-making to be a creative outlet of sorts. As Doumis told Munchies, "We share cider like street artists share their work. Love it or hate it, we made it."
Recently, though, their art got a whole lot more interesting, thanks to a discovery by Hammond. In 2015, he began taking long walks at Green-Wood Cemetery in the South Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. One day, he stumbled upon a pile of apples that had fallen from a nearby 40-foot tree (he and Doumis would eventually come to nickname it "Morse Code" because he had found the apples right by the grave of Samuel B. Morse). Upon tasting it, he realized that the apple was a prime cider candidate.
But Green-Wood's 478 acres constitute a National Historic Landmark, and it seemed unilkely that it would be okay to just take the apples and make cider from them. It was surprising, then, that when Hammond and Doumis asked the cemetery for permission, the cemetery's owners told the couple to go right ahead.
Just as they'd suspected, the resulting drink "had zero acid and a smoky, mezcal-like quality"—a perfect cider. Now, they've bottled it up, allowed it to sit in their cool basement for over a year, and will soon be sharing it at events held with the cemetery. Doumis has also mapped out and begun researching the 150 species of Malus trees in the cemetery... which makes the whole thing pretty beneficial for both parties.
"I usually have ideas people want to stay no to, but so far the cemetery hasn't shown us any resistance," said Hammond. "When we identify a tree and tell them, they put a sign in front of it. When we bought a blight resistant variety, they planted it. When we suggested doing events, they asked us for ideas. No one is here to dominate the other, we are all working toward a good cause."
This story originally appeared on Foodandwine.com.