28 November 2020

Scrumpy Cider Mill (1973 - 1996)

"Please don't call it juice!" That's the first thing apple cider entrepreneur Jerry Sundheimer would tell you if you asked him to describe the delicious output of the Scrumpy Cider Mill. Apple juice is that overly sweet pasteurized "stuff you buy in supermarkets." He began the business  - officially the Belle Mead Beverage Company, and known to locals as Scrumpy's - in his barn in 1973 and moved to the site of the old Belle Mead Creamery in Montgomery Township in 1977.


1977 Newspaper Ad

From there he built a regional apple cider empire. In a few short years, Sundheimer was the largest producer of apple cider in the tri-state area - churning out hundreds of thousands of gallons each season.

November 1981 Home News

It takes twelve pounds of apples to make one gallon of cider. Typical varieties used at the Scrumpy Cider Mill included Winesap, Golden Delicious, Delicious, Macintosh, Rome, and Cortland. Apples were sourced from all over New Jersey and New York and were delivered in half-ton crates.

November 1979 Courier News

Apples were moved to a conveyor where they could be inspected and stray leaves and twigs could be removed, brown spots cut away, and rotten apples tossed. Scrumpy is a word for cider originating in the west of England and typically refers to a hard cider made from apples that were not exactly choice.

November 1981 HomeNews

Before pressing, apples had a final cleaning in a water bath.

November 1981 Home News

The next stop for the apples is the grinder where they are turned into a mixture with the consistency of apple sauce.

November 1981 Home News

The ground apples are then delivered to the press through a hose.

November 1979 Courier News

Three thousand pounds of pressure is applied to produce the liquid cider.

November 1979 Courier News

After the cider is strained, jugs are filled and readied for shipment. Scrumpy Cider was ubiquitous in the refrigerated sections of grocery stores and supermarkets in the 1980s. The season for cider is typically between September and March.

November 1979 Courier News

For locals and daytrippers, Scrumpy Cider wasn't just a market day purchase - it was a whole experience. A trip to Scrumpy's in the fall offered an education in cider-making and a fun day out for the whole family. Just about anything and everything to do with apples could be purchased at the mill store - apple butter, apple pie, apple cake, not to mention the apples themselves!

Photograph courtesy of Vivian Makin

In June 1992 Jerry Sundheimer sold the business to a young couple - Kerstin and Francis Humann - each with graduate degrees in business and looking to become entrepreneurs. They dove headfirst into Scrumpy's - expanding the product line into juice beverages and other products while continuing to produce everything on site. Their hope was to build a business that would operate year-round instead of shutting down in April and May as Sundheimer did.

April 1993 Home News

The Christmas holiday season became a big part of Scrumpy's during this period. 

On December 19, 1996, a small blurb appeared in The Courier News stating that Scrumpy Cider Mill would close for the season on New Year's Eve. It is unknown whether or not they opened again the next year but by 1998 Francis Humann had begun a new career in the pharmaceutical industry where today he is the president and CEO of OncoVirx.

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