This weekend, Jeff and I took one of those old fashioned Sunday drives out into the country on what has become a nearly yearly field trip to this place:
You and I used to take drives to the Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill with mom and dad back in the day when I would stand outside the open garage door on the side of the main building, peeking in at the gears and presses of the big cider mill that crushed crate after crate of apples into pulp and juice. Then a couple of years ago, a friend and I were talking about pumpkin picking and when researching where we could go, I came across this place again (where during September and October, they also open up a pick your own pumpkin field). We came for the pumpkins, but discovered the bakery store and lunch options and vowed we'd return.
When I was about 8, someone told me that hot dogs had pig hooves in them, and that was IT for me. I refused to eat any for years to come....Except on one visit to the cider mill where I tried one of their dogs boiled in cider and declared it to be a singular treasure--the ONLY hot dog I would eat. Now, an avowed hot dog lover, the cider dogs keep bringing me back to Hacklebarney.
Jeff and I pulled up to the cider mill on a cloudy, windy, very cold day around 2:30, ready for some lunch. The whole farm seems to be permeated by a fog of sweet baking smells which just adds to the beauty of the place. We headed past the main house with the bakery store, and straight to the little shack where lunch is served. A young guy came out of the smaller house which holds the bakery and asked what we wanted. Cider dogs with cider and apple sauerkraut, and cider baked beans, please. We stood, stamping our feet against the cold, savoring the hot tasty lunch. The beans are syrupy and thick with chunks of apple and the sauerkraut is crunchy and sweet and sour and plentiful. And the dog--well, let's just say I still think this place is onto something major by boiling them in cider. I love a charred grilled hot dog as much as the next guy, but that's for summer. For a crisp fall day, I'd take this ANY day.
The drive to the Cider Mill is beautiful. Once you're off the highway you'll find yourself on back country roads along a babbling creek with old stone homes tucked into the hills along the path. If you make it out earlier in the season you'll get a lovely sampling of the leaves turning. The Mill is on the edge of Hacklebarney State Park which is full of beautiful paths through the woods if you're feeling adventurous. We, however, were cold and lazy, it being a grey sunday, and stuck to the warm inside of the bakery store where they sell pies (600 to order for thanksgiving, to be precise), apple dumplings, puff pastries, hot cider, mulling spices, and gallons of cider to take home. Oh, and cider donuts--powdered, cinnamon powdered, and pumpkin (the place was pretty quiet while we visited, but don't be deceived--the pumpkin donuts had sold out around 11am):
The donuts are light and fluffy--the kind you can plow through a few of before realizing the damage you've done. The cider taste is mild and not overly sweet--the dusting of sugar is all it needs. I bought a dozen. The Boyfriend was very appreciative.
Before we headed out, I also bought some cold cider and a basket of apples, the Mill's "Pie blend" of winesap, idared, golden delicious and a few others, good for baking or eating.
If you're looking for a jaunt out of the city one sunny, cold afternoon, I can't recommend this enough. Going earlier in the season is probably your best bet if you want to walk around or get a pumpkin, but as you can see, any time is worth it for lunch and some goodies, and petting the farm golder retreiver or cat.
And if you're Jeff, you might have the foresight to locate a Trader Joe's in Jersey on the way back so you can enjoy the other attraction of suburbia--normal sized supermarkets. Ahhhh. All you people who scorn Jersey--just give me an afternoon and I'll have you eating your words.
Also, give me a couple of days and I'll have an apple pie for you. Well, maybe not the pie itself, unless you're very lucky, but a forthcoming entry with the recipe and photos to drool over until you make your own. Til then...