Seven Lakes Garden Club members were awash in cider and knowledge recently after a visit to James Creek Cider House in Cameron.
Apples, thought of as being American, originated in Kazakhstan. The capital of Kazakhstan, Alma Ata, means “full of apples.”
The only native American apples are crab apples. We have cultivated apples since the first settlers arrived. There are hundreds of Southern heirloom apples.
In January 2009, Ann Marie and David Thornton planted 60 Southern heirloom apple trees on their farm in Moore County with the idea of making hard cider. That trial planting thrived, and so did their passion for farming and cider making.
James Creek Orchards now grows more than 65 varieties of heirlooms and cider apples from England, France and Spain, as well as peaches, blueberries and muscadines.
Garden club members were treated to a sampling of several varieties of heirloom apples. These were not your fancy, polished supermarket apples, but thick skinned and not so tasty apples great for producing rich juice for their traditional, harvest-based cider.
The visitors tramped through the fields containing peaches, apples, pears, blueberries and muscadines. Ann Marie shared the story of their farming adventure with obvious passion for the farm and cider process.
A visit to the processing plant, a spacious room filled with a variety of casks where the cider is aged, provided an up close look at the Thornton’s small batch approach.
The field trip ended with a sampling of both the juice and the cider and the hungry gardeners descended on a charcuterie tray like locusts. It was a great afternoon of learning and fellowship at a local treasure.