Apple butter milk shakes at the Cashmere Cider Mill.
Cidery tour: In search of the perfect cider
Road Journals Blog—I come from a farm on Washington's Olympic Peninsula that's been in my family for 118 years. East of the barn sits an organic apple orchard that's more than a century old, which yields waxy skinned, sweet-tart Tompkins King apples.
I no longer live on the farm, but every fall I gather my family there for cider making on an antique apple press built by my grandfather. The buckets of sun-warmed Kings are gradually tumbled into the chopper hopper, becoming a stream of complexly flavored, sediment-rich cider that we pour from a stainless-steel basin into a growing cluster of jugs.
With this history, it's no surprise that whenever I encounter a sign for fresh cider while traveling, I don't hesitate.
On a fall family road trip through Washington State, we crossed the backbone of the Cascades at Leavenworth and coasted downhill past brilliant flashes of scarlet vine maples peeking out like petticoats from a forest of green, following the sinuous bends of U.S. Route 2 as it rambled down the valley.
I had done my homework, and was in search of fresh-squeezed cider at The Cashmere Cider Mill, a small, family-owned, non-alcoholic cider producer deep in apple country.
Tidy rows of apple trees like wave sets rolling across the valley floor announced that we were in apple country as we neared the tiny town of Cashmere, tucked alongside the Wenatchee River. Best known as the home of Liberty Orchards' Aplets & Cotlets, a form of Turkish delight made with apple and apricot juices, Cashmere is also where Lady Blush artisan ciders are made.
We turned off the highway and followed signs past well-kept heritage homes to the mill. Just inside the driveway a bright red antique truck sat surrounded by showy sunflowers and pumpkins, still on the vine. A tree-shaded lawn next to a bubbling creek offered spots to lounge atop picnic tables and Adirondack chairs.
Inside the rustic building was a café, a gift shop stocked with apple products, and a tasting bar. A lanky, polite young man—Joseph Green, son of owner Marcia Green—poured samples, and we savored not just traditional apple cider but huckleberry, pear, spice, and cherry blends, all made from century-old heritage varietals.
This was “honest” cider—no preservatives or artificial ingredients. Our favorite was the cherry; refreshing and not too sweet, it had an ideal balance of fruit flavors, and lived up to its name by blushing in a fetching way.
Lady Blush cider is available both fresh and frozen, and we bought a slender bottle of it for refreshment on the road, as well as a frozen jug that would stand up to the three-hour journey home.
No cider will ever taste quite like the homemade juice of my family's farm, but The Cider Mill's comes darn close.
Q: Do you have a favorite cider that can stand up to the Cider Mill's? Or does your region have a distinct beverage of its own?
Leslie Forsberg wrote about cideries for the March/April 2011 Oregon edition of VIA.
Photography by Leslei Forsberg
This blog post was first published in April 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.