Pouring Apple Cider
Clyde’s Cider Mill is country’s oldest steam-powered cider mill.
A variety of hard ciders and apple wines on display at Clyde’s Cider Mill’s retail store in Mystic, Connecticut.
Gears clank and chum as a century-old press drops down on a thick mishmash of apple pomace, filling the brisk autumn air with the sweet aroma that’s been wafting through Clyde’s Cider Mill for more than a century. A fixture along a rustic road in Mystic, Connecticut, Clyde’s has the distinction of being the oldest original steam-powered cider mill in the United States.
In this historic seafaring town with a prominent shipbuilding past, five generations of the Clyde family have made it their mission to continue production of sweet cider, tangy hard cider and apple wines using a process that hasn’t changed since the late 19th century.
“It’s fresh-pressed juice with nothing added to it,” says Amy Monk, mill manager and a fifth-generation family member. “It’s a very proud feeling. My family has been able to keep something going that was once so commonplace.”
It all started when Benjamin Franklin Clyde crushed his first apples on the site in 1881.
The current mill dates back to 1898 and has been continuously in use during fall months ever since. The mill’s 1896 original steam engine continues to power the process. It runs quietly, but why not update it with a new engine? “Because it’s been here so long,” says Monk. “It’s tradition and just wouldn’t be the same without it.”
On any autumn weekend, visitors flock to the mill’s retail store to taste the fresh cider and to purchase it by the gallons. Cider made that day often sells so quickly it doesn’t have time to chill.
From September through December, handpicked apples arrive weekly by the truckloads from New York’s Hudson Valley – up to 70 tons a week during October, the height of the season. Apple varieties include Macintosh, Empire, Ida Reds, Cortland and Red Delicious. “Whatever’s in season and whatever they’re picking,” Monk says. “I particularly like the Red Delicious cider.”
The process begins as the apples bob up and down on a conveyer belt. They are then washed and pass through a grinder. The pomace, or the crushed pulp, drops through a chute onto the press below and is placed between layers of cloth filters. The powerful press exerts 100 tons of pressure, squeezing the juice through the filters and producing up to 500 gallons an hour.