Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Jericho Cider Mill and Crispin and Idared Apples

I’ve passed the white clapboard structure for years, and only visited briefly in high school. But, every time I travel route 106 I note the line of cars at the side of the road and the clusters of people, particularly in autumn. As it is the harvest season – and as we continue our quest for exceptional food – the time seems right for a visit to Long Island’s Jericho Cider Mill.

The Jericho Cider Mill is a piece of Long Island’s forgotten history in plain sight. A brief article in the New York Times provides the backstory. The mill was built around 1918. Local farmers and workers from Long Island’s exclusive Gold Coast estates would come to trade their surplus apples for cider.

Cider has been made on the premises annually since the mill was purchased by the Zulkofske family in 1938. The only ingredient used in the cider is fresh, ripe apples. There are also plenty of baked goods and fresh apples to be found.

Long Island has been blessed with a beautiful autumn. Nearly every weekend has been picture perfect for biking, hiking, oyster festivals and crisp, juicy apples. As I approach the mill, the first thing I spot is hundreds of enormous red, green and gold apples piled in large, rustic wooden crates and glistening in the morning sun.

The pale green Crispin apple has a Japanese origin. It was originally called Mutsu, but renamed Crispin in the late 1960s. A relative of the Golden Delicious apple, it is sweet, crisp and juicy and excellent for eating and baking – equally good for salads and pies.

The Idared runs blush pink to green to red in color and is firm and tart – a cooking apple good for pies and tarts. Idared is a cross between the Jonathan and Wagener apples and was developed in Idaho and introduced in 1941. I use a combination of the Crispin and Idared in one of my Thanksgiving pies – an Apple Crumb Pie with an almond nut crust and topping.

I also purchase a small jug of cider made on the premises at the Jericho Cider Mill. It tastes sweet, bright and clean – not cloying like most commercial cider varieties. Amy Traverso, author of “The Apple Lover’s Cookbook” says that cider pairs particularly well with cheese. Traverso says that’s because cider has more yeast flavors that mimic the nutty and tangy notes in cheese. She recommends pairing cider with cheeses that have flavor profiles of nuts, caramel and fruits, so I pair my Jericho apple cider with a nutty Manchego from Spain. It is a delicious match!

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