A jar of locally made apple cider jelly is always found on the October Country Inn’s breakfast table. It is such a popular treat for our guests that we periodically take the trip to Willis Wood’s family farm in nearby Springfield in order to keep a small stock of his cider jelly on hand for guests to purchase and take home.
The Wood’s farm is a small general farm that has been in his family since 1798. Besides keeping cows, sheep, chickens, and a garden for personal use and local sales, the Wood’s family has been making apple cider and jelly since 1882 when they bought a twin-screw cider press from the Empire State Press Company. Back then, the press was housed by the mill pond because it was powered by a water-wheel. It has since been moved up the hill to its present location, and powered by electricity, but it’s still the same press that has been in use since 1882.
Every year, during the Fall apple harvest, the Wood’s cider mill springs to life. Apples are first fed into a grinder where they are converted to mash. The mash is spread out into many layers consisting of cloth filters separated by wooden grates. When the press is full the entire stack is pressed to extract pure apple cider. The cider is collected into large stainless steel pans on top of a wood fired stove and boiled until the water evaporates and only the pure apple cider jelly is left. The jelly is packaged as is, nothing is added.
Each pressing yields about 200 gallons of apple cider. This 200 gallons of apple cider, after the water is evaporated off, yields about 22 gallons, or 27.5 pounds of apple cider jelly, a reduction ratio of 9 to 1. Each gallon of apple cider yields 20 ounces of apple cider jelly.
If you’re visiting October Country Inn during the apple harvest season, late September to early November, you might want to visit Wood’s Cider Mill and watch Willis and his crew in action. Until then visit www.woodscidermill.com online where you can order apple cider jelly as well as other apple products.