Pressing apples for apple cider drinking and then fermenting the remaining juice to be used as apple vinegar for cooking purposes is a bit of Americana that most folks today have all but forgotten. We used to do it on the farm where I grew up in northern Ohio in the fifties. By brother and I would gather up the apples in the orchard that had fallen to the ground and then we would fill up eight to ten burlap sacks with the fallen apples. No worry if there was a rotten spot in the apple – you just flicked the bad spot out with your finger. The apples were taken to a cider mill that ground up the apples and then pressed them into juice. The freshly squeezed juice was pumped into a 50 gallon wooden barrel and the barrel loaded onto the truck and taken home and placed in the cellar where it slowly began to ferment.
The Cider Mill at Endicott, NY is very special to Jeanette and I as we both spent most of our working lives in the Triple Cities area (Binghamton, Johnson City, and Endicott) of NY State. We took our annual fall pilgrimage yesterday to the Cider Mill to buy some cider and donuts and to reminisce about the old times.
The Cider Mill is a landmark and has been there at its current location since 1926. In the late 60’s, donuts and candy apples were added to the retail menu besides freshly squeezed apples. I remember the old mill as one could watch the apples go up an elevator to a grinder and then the freshly ground apple slurry was placed into pallets of about 4 feet square and perhaps three or four inches deep. Each layer was separated with a cloth and then the load was transferred to a press. As pressure was applied in the layered pallets, the juice came flowing out the sides. Unfortunately the old mill was destroyed by fire in 1972 but was rebuilt and has maintained it popularity.
Part of the new Cider Mill was the addition of a playhouse. It was there that Jeanette and I went for our first date in 1994. The players were theatrical students from the State University at Binghamton and perhaps a couple of hired professionals. We still laugh about the play that we saw: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, a musical which had music and lyrics written by Stephen Sondheim. After the play, we went to the Number 5 Restaurant in Binghamton and danced till closing. I’ve concluded that relationships and cider do have something in common: it takes the right mix of sweet and tart apples to make a good cider and the same goes with relationships.