It's that time of year again. The weather is cooling down and leaves are starting to change colors. Now that the fall season is upon us, people say they're looking forward to their favorite seasonal treats, one of which is apple cider. Our Cara Thomas tells us what makes cider so special in Central New York.
CLINTON, N.Y. -- For decades, there's been one fall tradition in Central New York that's never changed.
"I've been coming here for 50 years, so it's basically a tradition of the fall. The fall comes, go to the cider mill," said Utica resident Carol Altimonte.
It's the smell of warm, sugared donuts and the sweet taste of freshly pressed apple cider that people lined up for at the Clinton Cider Mill this weekend. And while they waited, they got a show.
"The press is over 100 years old. It's still driven by belts and makes a lot of great noises and it's right in the middle of the shopping area, so you can see it all operating," said head press operator Ben Fehlner.
Since 1927 when the Clinton Cider Mill opened, they've made their apple cider the exact same way. It's not pasteurized and the only ingredient used comes directly from a New York apple tree.
Fehlner said, "It's something that years ago, even ten years ago, there were over 50 cider mills in the state that didn't pasteurize. We're down to just five now that don't pasteurize, that I'm aware of."
And the process is simple. First, the apples are washed. Then they're sent up an elevator to be ground into apple sauce. That gets dumped and wrapped in a cloth where it's pressed until all the cider has been squeezed out.
"Through that process, from beginning to end, if we're really cookin', we can get it in about an hour, hour and 15 minutes," said Fehlner.
Each of these 20 bushel bins holds about 2,000 apples and from it, they produce about 80 gallons of cider.
Workers at the cider mill said the presser runs all day long to keep up with the demand. Some people stock up, leaving the mill with their hands full of gallon jugs.
Altimonte said, "With this apple cider, it's so fresh and it's simple apples and you know, it's healthy for you, you don't feel like you're doing anything wrong. You're enjoying yourself and taking care of yourself at the same time. It's a perfect combination."
This seasonal favorite is only available fresh from the press for a few months at a time. Many New York cider mills close back down by the end of November.