Tuesday, October 4, 2011

cider day

As Sarah walked by me she asked what I had in my hand. She had just dumped a bucket load of power-washed Macintoshes for Sam, who was feeding the grinder one-perfect-fruit at a time. "Where did you get THAT?," she asked about the delicious fried dough in my clutches. I pointed to the workbench-turned-buffet in our friend's garage. "Apple cider donuts, Stewart's Finest!" and she snatched one up. She took a bite and said, mid-chew, "I love fall"

My sentiments exactly.

The cider pressing we held Saturday was the kick-off to my true Autumn. A new tradition here among all these peers who are mostly non-native Veryorkers. Sarah's from Ohio, Sam's from Connecticut, Chrissy and Tyler come from Virginia, and I hail from Pennsylvania. Others such as James and our host, Dave, are locals. But we all ended up here in this rural, awkward, corner of the world post-college and have found some community between the fieldstones. Thanks to this culture of misfits and locals: we're starting some new traditions, such as the annual hard-cider making weekend that starts collecting apples and ends with us sipping some of Dave's 24 proof knockyouback. Viva las tradiciones.

And so I spent a day amongst friends and our joint desire to make booze out of fruit. My company was mostly human (a few canines) and mostly skirts and blokes around my age, plus a cider press from 1865. It was hosted by Dave and Sue who's land and home is just outside the New York borderlands in Shaftsbury, Vermont. You can get there by winding through this area called Ashgrove, which to me is like going to a hobbit village. You drive through this magical place where highland cattle and ponies are more common than cars. Horse-drawn vehicles pass you on the left. Monks and nuns who train dogs and make cheesecakes live in monasteries on hillsides, and all of it separates Cambridge from Vermont This is the land between my farm life and office life.

When I arrived at Dave's I had my friend James in the front seat with a big black Dutch oven of pork in his lap. Gibson was in the backseat with my fiddle and cider containers. We were going to press a lot of apples. We filled Sam's Tacoma's bed with drops from a local orchard that morning. Half a dozen of us braved the mosquitoes and rain to pick up what the farmer didn't want to turn into compost. It took an hour and James handed him the agreed-upon forty dollars. It felt like a crime, all that food for the cost of two large pizzas and beer...

The work of the day was split into stations. No one was assigned to any one task, but it was agreed by all to fill in where the chain was broken. If you don't see anyone replenishing the grinder pile, start power washing what was in the truck. If you don't see anyone filling carboys from the filter-keg, start locking and loading. The grinder did not stop for nearly three hours. With so many hands, the work party flew by. There was plenty of time to stop and enjoy the potluck and crack a beer. I made pulled pork but others brought chili, mac-n-cheese, and pies and cakes. Beer was plentiful. At one point I drank a Guinness pint in one hand while cranking apples with another. It brought on a lot of laughs, and a light buzz.

The day ended with 65 gallons of fresh-pressed, most of it will be turned into alchol through a few months of yeast and honey and tight airlocks. But some will be enjoyed fresh, or heated up over the stove on cold nights with cinnamon (they want it in the twenties here Wednesday night)! There will be some supping on cider, this week at the farmhouse.

At some point during the fray, I sat down with my fiddle and played a few tunes while the rest of the hive buzzed around me. Eventually I found myself in a folding metal chair, slumped back, Gibson at my feet and slower dorian drones coming from the strings. This was my favorite part of the entire day. Being a soundtrack in the background, while people I knew and cared about laughed over shared work. A dog at my feet, a full stomach, a promise of a future buzz on a cold night, and music in my sticky palms. That's my kind of tradition.


Blogger small farm girl said...

Now THAT looks like a good day.

October 4, 2011 at 5:22 PM  
Blogger Luann said...

Wonderful tradition Jenna! I would love to make traditions like that here in my new homestead in the WV mountains. :D

October 4, 2011 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Sounds like you're found your "people"! What a wonderful day!

October 4, 2011 at 5:35 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Sounds like a grand time. We make loads of applesauce each year and I'm intrigued to hear that you power washed the apples. We usually scrub ours in the sink but power washing must be quicker--is it as thorough? Would love any tips. Your blog is fantastic, I read it faithfully for smiles and inspiration.

October 4, 2011 at 5:48 PM  
Blogger embracingitall said...

Sounds like the best way to spend an autumn day. I'm sure the cider will be amazing. I love when things are done the traditional way. Oh and the way you have described the area is not doing anything to help quiten my travelling bug. I love it! Jacinta

October 4, 2011 at 8:18 PM  
Blogger Kat said...


October 4, 2011 at 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This. is. awesome. What fun! I need to find me a place and a crew like this.

October 4, 2011 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger CJ said...

Sounds great, I'd like to find a crew like that around here.

October 4, 2011 at 11:13 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

I love that you used a press from 1865!

October 5, 2011 at 12:03 AM  
Blogger The Kelly's Adventures in KY said...

That looks like so much fun! What a cool cider press!!

October 5, 2011 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Lainie said...

Love it!
Friends, food, drinks... I wish I lived in cider country. YUM

October 8, 2011 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Homesteader in Suburbia said...

Care to share your hard cider recipe? I have a local cider mill that will fill up a container with fresh unpastuerized cider...yum...

October 9, 2011 at 11:28 PM  

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