BROOKLYN (CBSNewYork) – You’ve heard of genius discovery coming from an apple falling from a tree, but this case deals more with graves than gravity.
“We happened to stumble upon a couple of apples on the ground, sort of followed up a trail of apples to the top of this hill here where Samuel Morse is buried,” recalled Jeremy Hammond.
There, next to the final rest of the inventor of the telegraph, Hammond came up with the idea for the hard apple cider “Malus Immortalis.”
Hammond uses apples grown near and above the graves at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, including from trees by the tombstone of New York Tribune founder and Henry David Thoreau publisher Horace Greeley.
“We call it proper because we are simply using apples,” said Hammond. “We collect the apples, we crush them, press the juice and we ferment.”
For more than 10 years, the South Slope man and his girlfriend have been making cider, currently all at their home just across the street from the cemetery.
“Alcohol range, depending on the conditions of the season, can be 5 percent to sometimes 9 percent because it has to do with how much sugar is in that apple,” he said. “Some people have a green thumb, I have something of a fermenting thumb.”
It took a unique partnership with the cemetery further his passion. In 2015, management began letting him pick apples from their nearly 150 malus trees – allowing them to fill 200 bottle in their first year.
“It’s an amazing collection of mature trees,” said Joseph Charap, director of horticulture at Green-Wood Cemetery. “I think its special in the city.”
Even though the cemetery is an accredited arboretum, it’s not an orchard, so the hard cider is only available to be poured during tours at the cemetery. Hammond doesn’t make a penny off it.
“In 2016, there were no apples and 2017, there were some conditions that didn’t allow for many apples, so we got about 25 bottles,” Hammond said. “It’s extremely precious, it’s not for sale.”
To continue production, he decided to graft the nearly 100-year-old apple tree above Morse’s grave and a few others to plant them nearby, in effect cloning them.
“We nourished 20 of them, and nine of them survived and so seven of them are here,” he said. “One now lives at Samuel Morse’s summer home.”
In the coming weeks, the cemetery will be hosting a tasting event where people go on a guided tour to learn about who is buried at the cemetery and drink the cider from the trees nearby.