On the hunt for those delicious New England cider donuts
Madallyn Campbell selects a pumpkin at Red Apple Farm.
George Hill Orchards’ Cider Donuts made fresh.
Photos & story by James Maxim
Searching for the quintessential New England experience known as the Cider Donut, I visited four very different orchards. What I discovered was a uniquely satisfying portrait of modern farming, innovation and a very important product.
Westward Orchards offers fresh produce, crafts, baked goods and gifts from a charming retail spot off Route 111 in Harvard. However, as store manager Stephanie Waite explained, “Cider donuts are a requirement these days. People would come to pick apples and ask if we carried cider donuts. When we said no, they’d leave.”
Somewhat of a newcomer, this is their third season selling fresh donuts. They’re fast learners, however, offering blueberry donuts during the summer and pumpkin and cider donuts in autumn. They’ve sold upwards of 130 dozen in a single day.
The No-Nonsense Donut: strong apple scent, crisp outside and soft inside, where flavors of vanilla or white cake dominate.
By comparison, George Hill Orchards is a small, dark barn in the hills of South Lancaster. Owner Donald Siver’s sales floor is clear except for apples, cider, pies, popcorn and the donut making station, which was sold out that afternoon. When asked if he would share his recipe, Siver said, “You can ask, but I won’t tell you…lots of people say we’re the best around.”
Siver was one of the first in the area to offer cider donuts and has been doing so for almost 15 years, selling as many as 2,900 on a Sunday.
“We have families that drive down from Boston, buy several dozen, to take home and freeze,” said Silver.
Siver cites the challenges of restrictions in local government, taxes and the price of gasoline. High gas prices means expensive bus rides, which translates as less field trips. Rattling off orchards that sold land for housing developments, the realization is staggering.
To start an orchard, you’d have to clear cut acres of land, plant apple trees and wait years to get fruit. That means no one creates an orchard these days, they just take over an existing one. When an orchard goes under it doesn’t grow back.
And sadly, Johnny Appleseed is not spreading apple trees any more.
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