Cider is as American as apple pie and just as much a part of the Thanksgiving feast, but you don't have to settle for the processed, store-bought variety. Freshly made from apples harvested from nearby orchards, Long Island apple cider is available this month at farm stands and cider mills from Jericho to Cutchogue.
Brian Witt, 42, a graphic designer from Farmingdale, was recently among about a dozen people lined up on a Saturday afternoon to buy the refreshing beverage at Jericho Cider Mill in Jericho. Leaving with a gallon in one hand and a cup of hot spiced cider in the other, Witt says he buys locally made cider because "it tastes good, it's fresh and it's supporting local business." He plans to return later this month for another gallon for his Thanksgiving table.
If you're in the mood for a drink that's seasonal, traditional and not too sweet, here are three locations where you can buy cider as well as fresh apple pies, cider doughnuts and mulling spices to make your own nonalcoholic holiday wassail.
WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, Route 106, Jericho
Cider-making on the site goes back so far that there once was a cider mill run by horsepower -- as in real horses, says George Zulkofske, 79, whose family has owned Jericho Cider Mill since 1938. Nowadays, customers pull off to the shoulder of Route 106 and line up between bins of shiny apples outside the building constructed in 1919. The cider is sold cold by the gallon, half-gallon, quart and pint, as well as hot and spicy in a Styrofoam cup. Fresh batches are made "every day or every other day," Zulkofske says. Call ahead to see if cider is being made the day you plan to visit.
WHERE THE APPLES COME FROM Hudson Valley and Long Island
BY THE GALLON $7.75
WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily, 1318 Pulaski Rd., Northport
"There're a lot of older farms on Long Island, but I don't think you'll find any older apple orchards," says Andrew Amsler, current owner of the farm that was founded in 1900. Amsler's father worked on the farm beginning in 1934 and eventually bought the property after the original owner died. The cider- making operation lives on. The cider, a blend of juices from five apple varieties, is made in a separate, on-site building with a traditional rack and cloth press. It's sold inside a circa-1900 barn. Between 9 a.m. and noon on Saturday and Sunday, visitors can watch the cider-making process inside the mill, where apples are chopped up, and juice is squeezed out and pasteurized.
WHERE THE APPLES COME FROM Richters' 23-acre orchard on Pulaski Road
BY THE GALLON $7.75; $8.75 holiday blend
WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 28700 Main Rd., Cutchogue
INFO 631-734-6441, wickhamsfruitfarm.com
At 300 acres, Wickham's is one of the largest farms on the North Fork, and one of the oldest continuously cultivated farms in the country -- part of it dating to 1661. The farm still presses its own cider using a gigantic machine dating back to 1902, said to be the oldest such machine on the Island. Owner Thomas Wickham says he's making his cider "sweeter than it used to be," but it still contains "a good mix of apples, some sweet, some tart and some with strong flavor." For an extra treat, pick up half a dozen cider doughnuts sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar ($4).
WHERE THE APPLES COME FROM The farm's 200-acre fruit orchard
BY THE GALLON $8