CiderDays a national draw for apple epicures

  • Laura Sieger and Lydia Pendegast of the Maine Heritage Orchard in Unity, Maine, sample cider apples on Friday afternoon in the Ashfield Community Hall. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • New Salem Preserves & Orchards was one of the stops on CiderDays 2021. Staff Photo/Julian Mendoza

  • Cider pouring during April Woodard’s demonstration at New Salem Preserves and Orchards. Staff Photo/Julian Mendoza

  • Erika Connell Cooper cooked up a sweet and savory apple bacon stuffing almost entirely using local ingredients at Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield Sunday. Staff Photo/Julian Mendoza

  • Erika Connell Cooper cooked up a sweet and savory apple bacon stuffing using local ingredients. as part of CiderDays at Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield Sunday. Staff Photo/Julian Mendoza

  • April Woodard giving instruction in cider-making at New Salem Preserves and Orchards for CiderDays, Sunday. Staff Photo/Julian Mendoza

Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2021 4:45:30 PM
Modified: 11/7/2021 4:45:32 PM

DEERFIELD and NEW SALEM — CiderDays, Franklin County’s yearly celebration of apples, cider and local orchards, experienced a sweet revival for locals to savor this past weekend.

The 27th annual festival that was first hosted at farms across the county has blossomed into a nationally-recognized event. More than a quarter century since its inception, though, CiderDays has maintained its strongest roots in the towns that birthed it. On Sunday, highlights included a cooking demonstration held at Deerfield’s Clarkdale Fruit Farms and a cider-making class held at New Salem Preserves and Orchards.

Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Marketing Manager Lisa Davol, who serves as the coordinator of CiderDays, said the event has evolved from being a small-scale hard cider festival to being a “celebration of the local economy.”

“In this country, this is the epicenter of cider,” she said of Franklin County. “We have people who come from all over the country for this. It’s like a reunion, in a way.”

One of the people who participates in this yearly “reunion” is chef and Williamsburg, Mass. native Erika Connell Cooper. Connell Cooper, a longtime friend of Clarkdale Fruit Farms owner Ben Clark, served as an instructor for the farm’s outdoor CiderDays cooking series, a role she had played in past years as well. For this year’s demonstration, she cooked a sweet and savory apple bacon stuffing almost entirely using local ingredients.

“I really want to do things to support and highlight the ingredients (Clark) has at his farm,” Connell Cooper said.

For her, using such local ingredients while cooking is a priority. In addition to the apples and cider she sourced from Clarkdale Fruit Farms for her Sunday demonstration, she acquired her bread from Bread Euphoria in Haydenville, her shallots and bacon from Atlas Farm in South Deerfield, and her mushrooms from Mycoterra Farm in Deerfield.

“I am a champion of local ingredients,” she said. “I share them with friends. I like to cook with as many local ingredients as possible.”

The cooking demonstration, which lasted around 30 minutes, resulted in a batch of “flavorful, complex and rich” stuffing that married tart hints with autumnal apple flavors and the warm comfort of broth-soaked bread to appease holiday-minded palates.

“Stuffing is a really nice side for any occasion, not just holidays,” Connell Cooper said.

Over at New Salem Preserves & Orchards, cider maker and CiderDays board member April Woodard went a more traditional route with her demonstration, reaching back to the purely cider-oriented roots of CiderDays.

“There’s something about it I love,” Woodard said. “The mystery, the making of it, the science of it, if that turns you on.”

Her class catered to those of all knowledge levels, being simple enough for the average person to understand while also filled with expert tips that could prove useful for any cider aficionado. She walked those in attendance through her process and stressed the variety of methods at a maker’s disposal. Woodard’s primary teaching, though, was her idea that the apple should be allowed to “express itself,” suggesting that the cider maker should minimally manipulate the fruit for ideal results.

Davol said the future of CiderDays is so promising that it can get concerning in terms of preparation. She said organizers will have their work cut out for them in terms of coping with the celebration’s burgeoning national popularity.

“We are in a place of figuring out how to move forward in a sustainable way,” she said.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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