Martha's Favorite Fall Drink? Homemade Apple Cider
When I moved to my farm about 17 years ago, there on the property were several dozen old, shapely apple trees. My second year there, I harvested my first full crop from them. I was astonished at their productivity, the variety of fruits, and the absolute tastiness of the apples. I had not touched the trees since I moved in: They had not been pruned, nor sprayed or fed, yet they produced a flavorful crop that was excellent for both eating and baking, and amazingly juicy for pressing.
My first thought was This is great apple country. The open land, oriented toward the north, was right for planting, and the soil, which I tested, had a balanced pH of 5.6. I ordered several dozen more trees, mostly semidwarf in growing habit (reaching 12 to 15 feet in height) and varieties I had experimented with at my old home, Turkey Hill. I also purchased two-year-old trees from my old friend and supplier, Henry Leuthardt, a grower in East Moriches, Long Island. Those were already trained in an espalier form, with two sets of horizontal branches. I planted them to grow along wires near my house in three rows, because I thought my grandchildren would love picking from them. Within five years, all of them were producing bushels of apples, some red-skinned, some striped, some green-all crisp, tart, and succulent.
We soon had many more apples than we, as a family, could consume. I looked into cidermaking as an alternative to pies, crisps, and pink applesauce. I bought a real press and grinder, and half-gallon glass Mason jars for storage. Today I produce all kinds of things from the cider we press: drinks like bourbon sours and hot mulled and hard cider; braised chicken; and even apple-cider vinegar. But it's also always delicious enjoyed simply: icy cold on a brilliant fall day.