Fresh apples are in season. The markets are brimming with those just picked fruits ready to be turned into pies, sauces or eaten fresh. For those not familiar with apple picking there are numerous opportunities around New York State and the Adirondacks to go into the orchards and find your own perfect batch of apples. Not only is apple picking a fun activity, but also it’s an easy way to get outside as a family, show children where food comes from and spend time together.
I remember the first time I went apple picking with my son. I was surrounded by such a talented group of parents that they could have woven their own clothes and built the car they arrived in. During this excursion, one of the other chaperones asked my son if we would make applesauce with the apples he picked. He solemnly informed her that his mother did not know how to make applesauce; at his house, applesauce came in a jar.
Well, I don’t make my own cider either. There are only a few places around the Adirondacks that I could find (or just beyond) that offer on-site cider demonstrations. Eagle Mills Cider Mill and Family Fun Park in Broadalbin, Elf’s Farm Winery and Cider Mill in Plattsburgh and Rulf’s Orchard in Peru.
Eagle Mill’s cider making process is achieved using an old-fashioned working water wheel and antique knuckle joint press that will squeeze up to 50 bushels of apples at a time. Using a series of huge pulleys and belts, this 100-year-old cider press harnesses the water power and converts it to mechanical energy needed to crush the chopped up apples. This facility also offers a host of pay-as-you-go children’s activities from a Dino Dig to Gem Mining. Eagle Mill’s annual Cider Fest will be held this Columbus Day Weekend with live entertainment and activities.
At Rulf’s Orchard in Peru there is no guarantee that the cider mill will be processing but there is a window available for viewing how cider is made. Rulf’s also offers wagon rides and apple picking so if the cider isn’t being processed then there are plenty of other healthy activities. A fun fact is that none of the apples goes to waste. After the juice is all squeezed out the leftovers go to feed the livestock or is composted.
Lastly, Elf’s Farm Winery and Cider Mill is a vineyard that utilizes a 75-year-old antique wood rack and canvas cloth hydraulic cider press to make its cider. They offer free tours but call first to make sure the cider is still being processed. The vineyard is available by self-guided tour. Even if the press isn’t in operation, Elf’s offers a free cider tasting with the flair of a wine sampling.
Now my children may be experienced apple pickers, but applesauce still comes in a jar at our house. That first time though, I silently cheered the fact that my son knew the main ingredient found in applesauce while I defended my familiarity with the applesauce making process. I just happen to have a preference for pie.
The cider at these three locations is safe for children to consume though it is always best to double-check. Eagle Mills and Rulf’s Orchard use a UV process to protect the public from bacterial contamination while Elf’s uses flash pasteurization.
Photo courtesy Diane Chase.