Cider, The Cider Revival, and Fire

I have always loved apples, apple orchards, cider, and all that goes with it, including Johnny Appleseed (whom we chose as one of our family heroes for Wyatt’s studies this year). Every January, we pull on our boots and hats, and troop outside to our suburban front yard, and wassail our apple tree. If our neighbors were to look outside during this time, they would probably think we were crazy. If they came out to ask what we were doing, I would offer them cider.

It was I used to reserve all of my cider drinking for fall. I even took a tiny poll last year asking my closest friends when they thought the cut-off for drinking cider was. This year, I decided I didn’t care and started drinking it over the summer, sticking to the more fun ones like Virtue Michigan Cherry, and Virtue Rose. Now it is finally fall and I am branching out into new cider territory, finding new ciders to enjoy.

I recently read The Cider Revival: Dispatches From the Orchard by Jason Wilson, and absolutely inhaled it. Usually it takes me a while to finish a nonfiction book. That was not the case this time. Wilson states that cider is familiar, American, not exotic. It is seemingly “genderless” in ways that some people might view wine drinking or whiskey drinking (not me, whatever floats your boat!) And once was the drink of choice in America, until Prohibition left cider orchards to decay and die off. But cider is having a revival, with craft ciders and cideries, pommeliers and more commercial brands are becoming more and more popular again. And I for one am here for it.

There was no way that I could read The Cider Revival without wanting to explore different ciders. So, I texted my brother and asked if he wanted to have a cider tasting and fire at his house this weekend, and he of course agreed, as they are cider fans as well. We only had the ciders available at our local liquor store to choose from, and while they are pretty varied, it was still limited to one four foot section in an otherwise enormous store. They are pretty cool though and will order anything, so we are going to explore that option next time. However, we had a blast tasting the ones we did have, and there were some definite favorites!

The lineup: From Virtue: Michigan Cherry, Brut, and Sidra de Nava; From Shorts Starcut Line: Pulsar, Magpie, Octorock, and Mosa; then from a local orchard, Broken Barrel.

We didn’t know how to do a proper tasting, where to start and where to finish, so we started with the more appley, dry versions and worked our way to the more flavored ones, and decided to end with Sidra, because it was the most expensive.

The verdicts:

Billy: Hands down loved the Broken Barrel as his clear favorite, followed by the Michigan Cherry.

Me: My favorites were the Pulsar, which was mellow and dry yet had just a little more oomph that I wanted. My second favorite was the Michigan Cherry.

Chrissy: Chrissy had the same favorites as Billy, the Broken Barrel followed by the Michigan Cherry. She felt that the Broken Barrel was perfect, fresh tasting, and like pure apples. (she is right)

Devin: Again, Broken Barrel and Michigan Cherry were the winners.

Honorable Mention: The Mosa by Starcut Ciders. We all agreed it did not taste really like cider, but if you had to drink cider for breakfast, it was the one to choose. It was actually very delicious.

And the finale: The Sidra de Nava. I chose this one because it is a cider made in the Spanish style by Virtue Ciders, and I had read that Spanish ciders are pretty important in the cider world. I don’t know if it was just this one, but Billy, Chrissy and I did not enjoy it. It was too – astringent? I think Chrissy said it best when she said it smelled like nail polish remover. We even checked the bottle to see if had expired, as the three of us could not even drink it. Devin however liked it, but it was not a favorite. We will probably seek out a different version one day, hopefully an actual Spanish import to compare it too, but perhaps our palettes are just not ready.

We had so much fun, and we all felt so much more relaxed than we had felt in weeks. We plan on doing another tasting this next weekend, this time with craft beer. It should be interesting, especially since I am not a big beer drinker.

If you are at all interested in reading about cider, I highly recommend reading The Cider Revival. And then maybe have a little toast to the author over a warm fire on a chilly autumn night, for introducing you to a whole new world.

It’s Fall Y’all!

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I love autumn – and it does light a fire in me every year. It rekindles my spirit and energizes me. The whole season is a ablaze, with its oranges and reds and yellows and I think that spark is contagious, at least to me.

First let me say that my cousin had her second child on Saturday, the fall equinox! He is adorable! I think I spotted a bit of redness to his hair too from the photo that they sent…we have lots of redheads in our family so it is possible!

On Saturday, we said goodbye to summer and waved hello to fall. The morning started with apple cider doughnuts and coffee (and milk for the kiddo). After being so nutritiously fortified for our day, Wyatt and I headed to the farm market for a few small gourds and pumpkins to place around the house and outside, to bring in that fall feeling. I put a little tiny pumpkin in his fairy garden, and I am amazed that the squirrels haven’t found it yet! Maybe there is some magic around there….lol. We hung a few suet bird feeders for our bird friends, as the summer season ends for them too.

Next we headed to a tagged monarch release, and watched as these delicate creatures of summer took flight and headed off to parts south. In the spring we will be able to check on our monarch (Lovebug). Hopefully he makes it to Mexico! It is amazing to think they undertake such a journey every year. Sometimes I feel like they can barely flit and fly to the nearest flower much less head across the country. We will be able to check an online database in the spring to see if he was spotted anywhere. Fingers crossed!

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This is Pinkie Pie, Wyatt’s cousin’s butterfly.

Later in the evening, I made my favorite soup, Chickpea Dumpling from Oh My Veggies, and followed it up with some apple pie. We were planning on drinking some Angry Orchard cider to cap off the day, but we just couldn’t manage it after the soup and pie! Herbal tea for me and coffee for the husband, instead. Sunday we spent in one of our favorite places, walking through the woods. Our whole family loves being among the trees, and this time of year is especially beautiful. We even found a little toad on the trail!

 

 

Fall is a time to slow down, for self-reflection. To put some things away for the year. But also, sometimes, it is a time to clear out for the winter, make room, make changes too. I have some plans for this fall. Things I want to change. Things I want to do. I spent some time talking with one of my SIL’s about plans for Halloween and October. My other SIL is pregnant with my third niece and is due around the end of October so that is another wonderful fall happening in our family. I am just filled with shiny happy feelings about the season.

How about you? Are you a fall person? Do you have plans for this autumn? Or if you live in the southern hemisphere, what are your spring plans?

 

 

 

Rainy Day Weekend

Lately, I haven’t written much here. I sit down to write, but first I usually scan Facebook. Then honestly, I get too depressed to say anything. My stuff just seems so trivial, so little in the scope of what is happening around the world and United States – devastating fires, hurricanes, earthquakes. Shootings. Where does my little post about what we all did over the weekend, or what I read, or what we ate fit. And then I thought, it is like everything else. We grieve. We try to make things better where we can. And we live our lives. That’s all we can do. So, I have gotten back to being me, being us. Celebrating life, this world and its wonders. Because amazing things happen amongst the sad – like that woman who biked her way out of the California fires, with her 70 pound dog in her duffel bag. That was some serious grit and determination, and love. All love for that dog. She wasn’t a big woman by any means, but she and her dog got to safety – on a bicycle. Like I said, just dang amazing.

Our family spent the weekend celebrating the Halloween season. It’s my favorite time of the year, and now with a two year old, I am even more excited about it. We started off the weekend festivities Saturday night, when we went to the Detroit Zoo Boo. It was rainy but not too terrible, and it did not stop us from having a good time. My son was all smiles in his adorable skunk costume, loving every minute of the night. I was soaking wet, but I didn’t care. (He wanted to be carried by his father so, dad got the umbrella with the baby. I really need to add another umbrella to my shopping list so we have more than one!) They had some fun entertainers at the end of the trail, people performing with flaming batons and magicians and bands and music – it was a good time. Plus, I got to eat some candy. Lol.

The next day we were off and running again, this time to the apple orchard, a time honored Michigan fall tradition. This is a Midwest thing I found out, or at least it is not a widespread United States thing, which makes sense. Going to the cider mill in the fall is one of my favorite things we do all year – and we had awesome autumn weather. Blustery, gray, windy, rainy – at one point my son and I were sitting on the wide front porch of the shop, eating donuts, when a crazy strong gust of wind practically blew us off of the porch. We just laughed in the face of that wind!

Before we had the boy, we searched for a cider mill without the gimmicks, and found our perfect one – Bennett’s Orchard. Simple, great prices, great products. There are no bounce houses, bands, or booths of vend, which is fine if that is what you like. For us though, it is all about the locally grown and made products. Pumpkins, jam, doughnuts, honey, popcorn, and .. for parents .. hard cider, made on site. By law they can only serve three tastings per person, so my husband and I got different flavors and tried each others, splitting them. We have different palettes apparently – he really liked the crisp apple that had strong cinnamon flavor to it, while I liked the more tart ciders. We both agreed though, that the elderberry shine was so good that we had to buy a howler to come home with us. Perfect for around the bonfire.

We had a great rainy day weekend, spent outdoors. Remembering what is important about life. Family, experiences, making moments and memories.

First day of Fall!

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Happy fall, y’all! It is officially the first day of autumn, although here in Michigan it still feels like summer! I am so ready for these hot days to go away, and for the cooler, crisper weather to start. I want to wear snuggly sweaters, hoodies, scarves, jeans, boots; I want to drink cider around a bonfire in the slightly chilly evenings. I want my pumpkin spice latte to not seem out of season! It looks like I am going to have to wait though, as the next week is supposed to be in the 80s still.

This is my most favorite, most wonderful time of the year! I may not have the weather (yet!) but Halloween is coming, and that means spooky movies, chilling reads, and fun activities! My calendar is literally filling up! We have family trips to the apple orchard, which I learned last year is a regional thing; various Halloween costume activities at the zoo, at our local metropark, and at Haunted Nights at Greenfield Village. I have Wyatt’s costume bought and ready to go, and I feel ahead of that game. We made his Viking costume last year, complete with a Viking ship made from a wagon, which was pretty amazing. This year I went a little easier, and bought his costume from the Land of Nod. It is adorable – I will share it with you when we get closer!

My plans are not just where we can go – but what we can do. Simpler things. Things like a nature walk through the woods, crunching leaves underfoot, collecting chestnuts and acorns. I want to bake bread, and go to a football game, make a few (easy) fall craft crafts. Make soup. I can’t wait to make soup. I know I can make soup at anytime, but it’s not that fun to eat when it is 90 outside. At least to me, someone who lives in the Midwest. Soup with crunch bread sounds amazing. With goat cheese to spread on the bread – yum!

 

I’ve got so much goodness planned – I can’t wait! What about all of you? Any traditions? Anything you look forward to in the fall? What is your favorite holiday?