...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


Hollenbeck's Cider Mill

Two weekends ago, Boo says to me:  let's take a little drive out to Hollenbeck's.

Her mother has been staying with us and the plan was for her to come along, too...
For a brief moment, I thought about staying home to get some now non-existent quiet "me" time, 
and I almost said, "Why don't two just go and bring me back some cider and a donut?"

Thank goodness I came to my senses and said no such thing!

I had never been to Hollenbeck's before.
It's an unassuming little place in Virgil, NY.
An easy trip from our part of Ithaca, it's on the way to Greek Peak.
Family owned, and apparently still run by the son of the founder.

I love this sign.

They have sooooooo many apples in soooo many gigantic crates.  
I'm sure many a child has wanted to crawl into them and play, 
as if the apples were the balls in the ball pits at Chuck E. Cheese. 

And a nice reference sheet of many of the typical varieties 
... might be helpful while you're selecting your apples and daydreaming 
about what you might do with them...  

Boo was on a mission and got a bunch of Honeycrisps to make caramel apples, 
a treat she makes once a year now, and every year she's getting a little bit better 
at getting the caramel to stick to the apple 
and not slide all the way down to the bottom in a big glump.
Glump or no glump, they're always mind-blowingly delicious.

It takes great skill to successfully bite into one of these babies,
and the caramel and nuts are so thick, you're unlikely to get any apple in your first bite.
So, we usually cut them into slices so we don't dislocate our jaws.
Some of us (ahem) also like to eat the caramel-nut topping off.
Bad girl. 
You know who you are.
Tsssk, Tssssk.

So the heart of Hollenbeck's is this beautiful hand hewn mill.
It's over 100 years old.  
The wooden beams are massively impressive and so gorgeous, 
and the moving parts are just as beautiful.

My first visit there we saw the pressing taking place and it was SO FUN to watch!
Mr. Hollenbeck himself was back there shooting apple mash onto the trays.
Unfortunately this past weekend when I went with my camera, 
they weren't geared up for pressing just yet.  
Next time I'll take a video of it.

They take sheets of either canvas or wool... I couldn't tell... as a base...
and with the support of a tray 'form,' shoot in a layer of apple mash...
Remove the form, place down some more fabric, and repeat...  
Layer upon layer... I think I counted 10.  Each layer starts out several inches thick.
Even before the press is mechanically engaged,
each additional layer starts pressing the apples on the lower levels with their weight.

The just-pressed cider drops from one stainless steel tray to another
(if you're there during pressing time and wait until they've loaded the last tray of apples, they give samples to anyone who wants one...  they just dip a little cup down into stream of cider and fill it right up.  I know that sounds so simplistic, but there's something about it that
reminds me of when I was a kid, taking my cup down to the spring to drink.
Very gratifying.

I wasn't 100% clear on how the apples got mashed,
but this area had something to do with apples 
coming down a chute maybe? and going up a conveyer belt...

Then they traveled up into a masher of sorts.

  As the apple mash is getting pressed, and that stainless vat is filling up, 
there seems to be a continuous suction of the fresh cider into this doohickie
which could be the UV flash pasteurizer...

By law, I think all cider sold has to be pasteurized in some way.
I've heard that UV flash pasteurization is the least invasive and retains the most flavor.
Many of our local apple farms use this method.

Then there's another tube that sends the cider out to the front room,
where it looks like the bottling up takes place.
Everything is super fresh at Hollenbeck's. 
Literally apple to bottle in a short period of time, and sold out before you know it.

 Tucked behind the pressing area is this other fascinating piece of equipment.
A lady told me this area prepped apples for all of the pies they make.
And wow, they make a lot of pies.
 The apples get peeled and cored (and maybe sliced, too, but I don't remember)...
I was too distracted thinking about...

I have never had such amazing donuts!!!
They're actually nothing like any donut I've ever had before. 
There's no leftover taste of oil or grease at all.  They don't feel fatty.  
They don't make me feel sick or like I should join a gym afterwards. 
They're cakey donuts.  So light and fluffy.
How light they actually are or aren't, I don't care to know.
All I know is they're SO GOOD.

 They have plain, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, and sour cream.
Sour cream, I was curious -- a lot like plain, they said, only a touch sweeter.  
The sour cream seems to deepen the flavor a tad.  
It looks like they sometimes offer two additional flavors... 
What could they be?
Maybe one flavor, oh please, I hope, is chocolate!
 I'll have to call them up and see what the two mystery flavors are.

 Standing in line behind me was this boy, maybe in 4th grade, 
who was adamant with his family, that the plain are the absolute best. 

 His mother said things like, "but don't you want some sugar? or cinnamon sugar?" 
and the kid was like "NO!  THE PLAIN ARE THE BEST!"

So, I trusted the 4th grade boy but I also got some cinnamon sugars 
just because they looked so good.

And I tell ya, the boy was spot on.
Those plain donuts just do not disappoint.
Especially when they're wafting their warm soft cakey delightfulness from the bag,
and you pop a portion into your mouth and it literally melts in a pool of bliss.

(and the bag, by the way, I was told to leave OPEN 
or the heat from the donuts would cause them to get all mushy).  
Close the bag at your own peril, people.

 I was perfectly swooning to have a decadent treat later in the afternoon
 of cider I had let get fizzy from the week before, and a Hollenbeck's donut.
If I haven't convinced you yet, check out the texture:


Oh, and the sugar high doesn't stop there.  
I nearly forgot that they also make the best fudge I've ever had in my life, too.
(well besides my grandmother's, which is nostalgically the best fudge ever...)
but Hollenbeck's sea salt caramel fudge is in a whole new galaxy of good:

 There are tidal pools of caramel, drips of sea salt...
Almost too beautiful to eat, but someone's gotta do it.

 So, wanna go?

They're open 7 days a week from the first apple until sometime in February, 
but be forewarned that donuts are only on the weekends...
(and they only make donuts for a little bit past Halloween.)

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