Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Phil's, in hilly Harvard Massachusetts (map), is one of my favorite places for unpasteurized cider.

Just some apple trees on a hillside, and a shed with a cider press, Phil's is the anti - Shelburne Farm (or Honey Pot Hill, or other orchard that sweetens its offerings with hay rides, a moon bounce, a corn maze, donuts, or Morris dancers).

No one was home when I stopped by midweek, but the orchard was open for business on the honor system.

The bare-bones approach is appealing and means that on sunny October weekends a trip to Phil's will dodge the mobs of families. Kids who do come by on weekends can help operate the cider press, which is not motorized.

Phil presses his own cider and sells it unpasteurized. Consequentially, (a) it is really good and (b) as with soft raw-milk cheese, there is a chance of bacterial infection from consuming it. I don't discount this, and people with weakened immune systems should take the possibility seriously, but the risk is small at a little place like this.

The cider placed in a statewide competition a few years back, and is now touted on all the Phil's hand-lettered road signs. You can get a free taste at the shed. Perhaps because it is pressed in small batches, the cider always seems to taste a little different each time. Some really obsessive micro-blogger (sorry, my plate is full) could go to town documenting the differences based on the apples used, the weather, terroir, or the phases of the moon.

Phil's is also the place to go to pick late-season apples, mostly modern varieties like Suncrisp, Gold Rush, and Enterprise. Come towards Thanksgiving and Phil or his brother will likely cut you a deal on a half-bushel of Enterprises, which are excellent keepers. (Yes, that's a lot, but you can eat them for a month).

Update: Very sorry to report that Phil Rymsha passed away in 2013. Another farmer tried to make a go of the orchard but the property is now a private home.


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