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Apple Cider Remains A Big Part Of Fall

Fresh cider being jugged by the gallon at Thompson's Cider Mill. Photo Credit: Contributed
The apple puree is put into blankets, to be pressed into juice. Cole Thompson, now 4, stands with dad, Ian Thompson, at his father's cider mill. Photo Credit: Filed, Jessica Glenza
Geoff Thompson, owner of Thompson's Cider Mill. Photo Credit: Contributed
A sign displaying the different apples that came together to make your cider. Photo Credit: Contributed

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Apples have been a big part of the autumnal harvest in Westchester for many years.

Longtime residents have fond memories of picking apples with their families, baking pies, and by extension, drinking fresh apple cider.

Apple cider, in its essence, is raw apple juice that has not been filtered to remove pulp or sediment.

While it's very easy to make, it may surprise you that there are only three places in Westchester that make apple cider. But the three that do produce large amounts, and add a handmade twist you won't find in the grocery store.

Thompson's Cider Mill , in Croton-on-Hudson, crafts an artisanal cider that, depending on when you buy it during the 12-week season, can contain anywhere from five to 30 different varieties of apple.

According to Geoff Thompson, owner of the mill, almost any good cider has several varieties in order to give the taste dimension.

"It gets increasingly complex as season goes on, because there are more and more varieties available to add into it," he said, "The first batch had seven, now it's at 21. At Thanksgiving it will have between 25-30. I keep some of the unusual varieties and stockpile them so I can continue to play with the blend."

Thompson, who has made cider for 37 years, says this season is the best he's seen yet.

"It's been a bountiful year for apples in sharp contrast to last year where there was a shortage because of early bloom," he said.

He continued, "The flowers froze, which meant no apples. This is the latest bloom I've ever seen, so the crop is very big this year. There are a lot of varieties available, so for consumer it’s a much better environment."

Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard of North Salem also produces cider.

It is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Christmas and is located on 130 Hardscrabble Rd.

Randy Pratt, of Wilkens Fruit and Fir Farm in Yorktown Heights, shed light on the farm's cider making process, which has changed little in the 70 years they have been producing it.

He said, "Presently, we make a cider that is only put through screens for filtration. Then, we use a UV machine to make sure its safe to consume."

Wilkens Fruit and Fir Farm sells up to 1,000 gallons of cider a week, with the most popular times being Columbus Day weekend, Halloween and Thanksgiving. They will be selling their cider through mid-December for $8 per gallon, $4.50 per half gallon.

It is open every day from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and are located on 1335 Whitehill Road.

Thompsons Cider Mill, given its boutique size, sells up to 250 gallons on typical weekend, which comes to about 3,000 gallons a year. It sell its cider for $10 per gallon, $6 per half gallon and $4 per quart.

It is open on weekends from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m with extended hours on Thanksgiving Eve and Day and is located on 335 Blinn Road.

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