It’s become a family tradition. For the past couple of years, my wife and I have taken an autumn weekend drive with our granddaughter Kaili to a pumpkin patch in Canby, Oregon, not far from where we live in northwestern Oregon. This time of year, the colors of the leaves are at their peak, and a hint of cool weather is in the air.
Our destination is The Flower Farmer in Canby, just up the road from the Canby Ferry that has been shuttling people and their vehicles across the Willamette River since in 1914. For Kaili, the highlight is a ride on the farm’s Pumpkin Run miniature railroad and a chance to climb the hay bale mountain and maze in the middle of the pumpkin patch. For me, it’s a chance to pick up some freshly squeezed apple juice at the store on the farm’s grounds, which I harden off in time to accompany our Thanksgiving dinner a few weeks later.
The farm is operated by a large family that runs the small store on the property that’s brimming with fall produce and smells of hot chocolate and mulled cider. The grandfather of the operation lets me know which local orchards grow the various apples that have been pressed to make the apple juice. When I first told him I was going to harden off most of the juice I bought during our visit, he gave me a wink and shared that he hardened his cider the easy way. He explained that he simply leaves the lid off a couple of gallon jugs of the juice and puts them next to his kitchen stove for several days, relying on wild yeast to do the job of fermentation.
As a long-time home brewer of my own beers, I’m inclined to control my process a bit more. I treat the fresh juice with Campden Tablets when I get home then pitch a good quality champagne yeast. After racking once or twice, I’m ready to serve my now hardened cider as part of our Thanksgiving dinner. Cider and turkey make a very nice pairing. The tart, dry apple taste compliments the spices in our stuffing and vegetable side dishes. Skol!