Wednesday, October 14, 2009
While it pains me to say goodbye to the berries and stone fruit of summer, I still greet autumn with open arms. (And while we’re on the subject, I just want to take a moment to say how super it is to live in an area that actually has four distinct seasons a year.) At the first sign of a chill in the air, Hubby and I hop in the car for a drive to the scenic Hood River Valley, otherwise known as apple and pear country, to take advantage of the fall harvest. The Draper Girls' Country Farm, situated in the shadow of Mount Hood, is the friendliest orchard on the Hood River Fruit Loop.
I hadn’t even started deciding between the countless varieties of apples when Theresa Draper, the owner, emerged to greet us. She may not know our names, but from our many visits to her orchard and her farmers market stand*, she remembers exactly how hubby likes his apple cider—tart. “They’re pressing the cider right now,” she said as if it were my lucky day and invited us to take a peek. You bet I jumped at the chance! (For the record, Theresa had invited me to see the cider-making process before, but you know how complicated coordinating a time can be…)
That day’s blend included lots of Gravensteins. The just-picked apples are meticulously washed and then chopped. The apple puree is pumped onto sheets of canvas, which act as a sort of filter.
Then pressure is applied, and out flows the golden liquid.
A surprisingly simple process—old-fashioned cider but produced with modern equipment.
Unfortunately Theresa would not let me drink directly from the press. But she did sneak us a sample.
A very, very generous sample. The just-pressed cider was cold, tart, and extremely refreshing, the essence of the fruit. To drink it was to gulp down fall. The Drapers do not pasteurize their ciders, so the fresh flavor is retained.
Too bad we came too late to see the cinnamon-sugar dried apple production.
With the cider to energize us, we headed off for a stroll through the orchard.
Then it was time for the shopping. I loaded up on Gala, Braeburn, Red Delicious, and Golden Delicious apples.
This, by the way, is the place where I learned that Red Delicious apples are indeed delicious. I didn’t get any pears because for some inexplicable reason the husband abhors them. We picked up plenty of winter squash too.
Perhaps there will be Butternut Squash Gnocchi and apple crisps in our future.
The Drapers also have a petting zoo, where we got a good lesson in manners. (Keep this in mind for Thanksgiving, as it will most likely apply.)
If the food is really good, it is perfectly acceptable to climb into the platter for choicest bits. If you’ve had a little too much to eat, go ahead and take a nap under the dinner table. No one will mind!
Now that the pantry is stocked, bring on the cold and rain. Give me space heaters and steaming soup, snuggly blankets, pajamas, and fuzzy socks, and mulled cider and hot chocolate. I’m ready for fall!
*We love to visit the Drapers in the summer for u-pick cherries, Italian prune plums, peaches, and nectarines. We also go for the cherry cider, which is so good you’ll think you died and went to heaven.
And no, I am not a paid representative.