Massachusetts apples came in early this year. Apparently warm weather in March and April encouraged an early bloom. For many orchards the harvest was good, it just came at the wrong time. This impacted the pick your own operations as farm tourists aren’t interested in picking apples in August. Nationally, though the harvest was down quite substantially (14% according to the Globe). This means prices are up at least on the wholesale level.
My domestic unit has had spotty luck going to orchards for apples this year, but this last weekend I made it to one of my favorites, Bashista Orchards. I’ve only been going there for three years or so, but their apples never disappoint. They have a wide variety of heritage apples as well as some of the newer favorites. When I visited I was one of a few patrons loading up our arms with donuts, cider, apples, honey, and assorted other delights.
The place thrummed with activity because of the Bashista clan. There appeared to be four generations of family members and everyone was busy cleaning, stocking, cooking or helping a customer. Each time I’ve visited I’ve seen the same thing. There aren’t any bored stockboys here, everyone is fully invested in the enterprise.
I was there because I love some of the unusual varieties that can’t be found elsewhere. I bought a few varieties plus five and a half gallons of cider. For me cider is a bit sweet, but when I cut it with some seltzer water it is really delicious. I’ve found that if I partner up with some yeast, I can cut the sweetness even more effectively. It also has the added benefit of creating a bit of a kick.
According to legend John Adams enjoyed a tankard of cider every morning in the belief that it helped cut gas. I find that unlikely. My former boss tells me that his father always drank cider from their orchard that was stored in the cellar. He was an abstemious fellow in general, but as the cider aged he would wax more loquacious at the dinner table. He was a teetotaler in spirit anyway.
Farm produced and consumed cider was a staple of American culture for decades. Johnny appleseed, hailing from Worcester (?) wanted to spread apples not for people to eat out of hand, but for cider. The presence of alcohol meant that many of the nasties in water couldn’t survive. Farmhands drank cider to quench their thirst.
I’ve taken to fermenting a few carboys each fall. I have not started drinking it at lunch as it would likely be frowned upon by the administration, but I do take a growler to parties in the summer. It’s light and refreshing. It always gets a bigger thank you than a bottle of wine.
I would love to press my own apples, but I don’t have a press as of yet. I’ve scavenged my equipment from former home brewers (they are legion) and so my costs are minimal. I pay about $55 for 5 gallons (including cider, yeast, and insundries). What I make doesn’t compete with the likes of Farnum Hill or West County, but theirs costs about $14 for 750 mLs, or $60 a gallon. So unlike everything else I do in the way of gardening or making food, I may actually save money at this.