I can’t think of any fruit, or food even, with the cultural and historical significance of the apple. Think about it: Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge… three apples supposedly caused the series of events that led to the Trojan War… William Tell terrorized his poor child with an apple and a crossbow… Snow White was poisoned by an apple. Apples are everywhere in the story of humanity! And no one on the planet would be eating them if some other stories had not risen up to challenge all these nightmarish myths. For example, Newton allegedly discovered gravity when he saw an apple fall, and where would we be without that discovery, huh? And Johnny Appleseed — what an environmentalist, planting all those apple trees! If you’re breathing oxygen right now, you can thank him for that! And the Big Apple — everyone loves New York! Even the laptop on which I’m typing this right now has a big, white apple on it. Kids love to give apples to their teachers (maybe a few poisoned ones here and there), and we’ve all heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” So our recent trip to Showalter’s Orchard in Timberville did not conjure thoughts of starting a war or causing the demise of the entire human race. No. Instead, I arrived at this very carefully and logically crafted conclusion: Since apples keep the doctor away, they must be meant for teachers because making a sub plan when you’re sick is such a dang pain; therefore, drinking hard cider every day is necessary to the health of teachers everywhere, including Brandy and me! And the fact that Sarah Showalter taught school for many years only solidifies this theory.
We arrived at Showalter’s Orchard, home of Old Hill Hard Cider, on a warm summer evening, accompanied by our friends Danielle, Jess, and Jennica, and a small army of children. When I was a child, I wandered and explored. I’d ride my bike up and down these dirt hills surrounding my neighborhood, I’d build dams in the creek, I’d make forts in the woods and play “house.” Walking the grounds of the orchard made me think of those joyous times, staying outside all day long until the bottoms of my feet turned absolutely black and my mom’s far-away voice called me in for the night, my sprint back home lit by fireflies. Ah, to be a child again and run through the orchard rows, picking up too-ripe apples and pitching them into the sunset! Or this:
The tables on the cool, shady patio were nearly full as we made our way to the tasting room. Inside we sidled up to the bar for a tasting. The tasting included six varieties of cider:
1. The Yesteryear — an echo of our forefathers, created with ingredients used ages ago at Monticello, it’s a clean, tart cider you could pair with nearly everything and would make a great mimosa.
2. The Heritage — this one was my favorite that day. A fair amount of tannins makes it dry, but it’s still smooth and creamy.
3. The Farmhand — this is a special batch variety, where no two batches ever taste exactly the same. It was such a big hit at the Red Wing Roots Music Festival that the Showalters sold out and had to return to the cidery to get more!
4. Cidermaker’s Barrel — Shannon Showalter calls this his “rebel of the group” with its vanilla-meets-charred-oak flavor, and it’s their number two seller.
5. Betwixt — True to its name, this one is halfway between a micro and a wine style cider. It’s their most popular variety.
6. Season’s Finish — the dessert cider for all you sweet-teeth out there. It goes great with a cinnamon liquor.
Having tried them all, we settled on a couple bottles of Betwixt, Yesteryear, and Heritage and headed outside. Nestled in to our table, sipping cider, eating Gaudi chicken sandwiches from Belen’s Thrill of the Grill, listening to tunes by The Mash, hearing the laughter of the kids in the distance (Jess’ daughter sounds just like Boo when she giggles), we were happier than Slinkies on an escalator. Happier than kittens under a leaky cow. Happier than teachers on summer vacation. Oh, wait.
You may or may not know that the orchard has been in business since 1965. 1965! They grow 26 varieties of apples that you can pick and purchase — harvest usually begins in August and goes through November. You can also buy plants from their Greenhouse in the spring and fall. They offer gardening classes from time to time, and there are always events going on: greenhouse tours, charity fundraisers, festivals, growler night most Thursdays, and Thirsty Third Thursday with Mama’s Caboose gourmet food truck and live local music.
The best news: Showalter’s Orchard will celebrate their FIFTIETH anniversary this month, on August 22 to be exact. There will be apple and peach picking, food trucks, live music, and activities for the kiddos! If you’ve never been to the orchard, mark your calendars now because that will be the day to visit. If you have been there, take some time to celebrate this milestone with them! See y’all there!
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