Please note that as of Spring 2013, The Old Cider Mill is under new management. Check out my updated post here.
It must say something unflattering about my gastronomical tendencies that, even after five plus years as a Glastonbury resident, I still thought of The Old Cider Mill as just a place to get some really good apple fritters. So recently, when we took Boo there to sample his first taste of apple-flavored heaven, I was surprised that we ended up spending a very pleasant hour exploring this multifaceted site.
The Old Cider Mill is owned by the Town of Glastonbury and operated by another well-known Glastonbury institution: Old Maids Farm. Unfortunately, there is not much information out there in cyberspace about this beloved spot, but I did find an older post on a fellow blogger’s website, CT Museum Quest, that gives a nice little history lesson.
Since he did such a nice job with that, I’m going to move right along and tell you about all the other, non-historical stuff. Let’s start with those delectable fritters, shall we? The first thing you should know is that the famous apple fritters, cider donuts and (sometimes) hot apple crisp are only available at the shack, and the shack is only open on the weekends. Bummer, I know. Fortunately, we had the good sense (or good luck) to make our annual pilgrimage to The Old Cider Mill on a Saturday. Side note: When you get there, look for the “enter” sign to turn in and park up the hill behind the mill building so you end up near the shack and not down by the road. Additional parking is available behind the house too.
Of course, the first thing we did was purchase a large bag of apple fritters.
Our previous visits to The Old Cider Mill had been exceeding short. Typically we would just grab the fritter bag and go. But today we noticed, perhaps for the first time, the array of inviting picnic tables scattered on the grassy hill in front of the shack. It was the perfect spot to sit and have our delicious, if not all that nutritious, breakfast.
It also gave Boo a chance to crawl around for a bit. Just beware of the steep-ish hill.
The shack also serves cider, hot and cold, and other assorted beverages. Today we decided to sample a bottle of cold cider and I found myself somewhat confused by the label. Since, heretofore, I had not paid much attention to anything but the fritters, I was surprised to find that the cider was from an orchard named Buell’s in Eastford, CT. For some reason I had assumed this place actually made its own cider.
Well, one look at The Old Cider Mill cider press cleared up any of those misconceptions. It is indeed historical, after all. And by that I mean filthy. According to CT Museum Quest, it works, but doesn’t meet health codes (no surprise there). I got a similar story the day we visited, but the nice lady I talked to thought that the press, in addition to being dirty, was also no longer operational. (The rumor is the town used to fire it up and run it once every year so they could keep the title of the oldest “continuously operational” cider press in the country, but budget cuts shut it down indefinitely. I’ll have to do a little more digging to get the whole scoop.) As you can probably imagine, I am not exactly a cider press aficionado, so it was kind of hard to tell what we were looking at. And, unlike for the CT Museum Quest post, no one offered to let me into the room with the cider press to take a better look. Although, I think once Mandy and I get some proper business cards that look more legit than scribbling our website on a piece of scrap paper and assuring proprietors that we are poking around in corners and taking a zillion pictures because we write a blog and not because we are some crazy stalkers, I might get a few more backstage passes. So I totally admit to grabbing this picture off the CT Museum Quest site because the ones that I got (taken through a glass window in a dark room) look even more like a cross between a heap of scrap metal and some sort of medieval torture device.
Before we got our glimpse of the cider press, however, we thought we’d check out the petting zoo. Please note that I use the term “zoo” loosely. Perhaps “petting pasture” would be more apropos. Either way, there is no cost to enter. A sign told us that there were cups of food for purchase in the mill building, but since I wasn’t totally convinced there were any animals in there yet, we decided to hold off.
Down in the pastures we did see a bunch of chickens and some pretty rambunctious goats. I know there was a fence between us, but those goats did the best they could to get right up to us. And I’m talking face to face here. Of course, when they realized we were empty-handed their interest waned substantially.
Straight ahead there was some kind of small animal coup that seemed empty, and around the bend was a giant pasture in which there appeared to be…nothing.
Hmmm. I’m not sure two goats and some chickens make a “zoo,” but Boo seemed to think the goats were hilarious. That’s enough for me.
We made our way back up to the cider mill where there were rows and rows of pumpkins available for purchase.
There were lots of colorful mums too. And, of course, apples, which you can buy by the peck or the pound. Sometimes there are other fruits or vegetables available too. All the produce comes from local, organic farms like Old Maids Farm.
Inside the mill, which has been converted to a little store, you can purchase assorted sauces and condiments, some of which are imported from Old Maids Farm and Rose’s Berry Farm, which is not too far down the road. They also sell larger sizes of Buell’s sweet cider, which I have to say is very tasty.
I also got that peek at the old cider press that I mentioned/stole a picture of earlier. It sits behind a glass wall in the middle of the store, just off to the left of this photo, actually. But if someone hadn’t pointed it out to me, I swear I would have missed it.
After talking for a few moments with the nice lady at the register, we learned that the petting zoo was so sparsely populated because several of the animals had not arrived from other farms yet (it was still early September). She mentioned that there were some turkeys on their way, although I don’t really think they are for petting. And perhaps some sheep. But she also told us that there were a mama and baby cow out there somewhere in that large, long pasture, and directed us to a dirt road running by the grassy knoll with the picnic tables. At the moment that seemed very exciting to us, so we took off toward the pasture.
I should take a minute to mention that Boo’s method of transportation at this point was Daddy’s arms. But if you have a decent heavyweight stroller, I think you could probably get around OK with that too. Just be careful as you head down this road though, because it is also used by vehicles exiting the grounds.
The dirt road leads back to the fields. It’s quite pretty back there and we were enjoying the views.
They didn’t seem too interested in coming over for a visit (once again, we were food-less), but it was probably just as well because Boo was already looking a bit apprehensive with them at ten yards away.
Our curiosity regarding the cows satiated, we followed the looping road to the right and back around to the overflow parking area, which is also the place where the tractor-pulled hay rides depart. There does not seem to be any sort of schedule for the hay rides, other than they run only on the weekends and during business hours. Although, we stopped back in to grab some more cider last Saturday morning (the place opens at 9:00) and were told that they would be getting started with the hay rides around noon. As you’ve probably gathered, it’s a little bit loosey-goosey over there, but that’s part of its charm. The ride, we were told, takes you even farther back into the scenic fields.
Arriving back at the mill building, we made one final pass through the retail area where I spent a full five minutes contemplating the purchase of some beautiful maroon mums for my window boxes. In the end though, I decided I’d tortured my fair share of potted plants for one season and settled on a bag of Cortland apples and some cider. I’m much better at baking pies than I am at cultivating flowers.
As we were heading back to our car, I noticed that the picnic tables were really filling up now that it was close to noon. Some older kids were also playing around on these big, display tractors. No one seemed to stop them, so I guess that’s allowed.
Now, I know at first this may not seem like the most compelling family outing, especially if you don’t live around the corner like we do. I’m sure you could find bigger petting zoos and fancier hay rides and places where they really do make the cider. However, since Boo arrived I’ve found that having a destination, ANY destination, can be a boon when faced with a bad case of fussy baby. (For those of you who have read my Stew Leonard’s post, you also know about my original song lyrics inspired by moments like those.) And when the sun is shining and the trees are turning, sometimes a scenic autumn drive is all you need to turn an ordinary outing into an adventure. Especially when all roads lead to apple fritters.
The Old Cider Mill
287 Main Street, Glastonbury, CT
860-633-6601 (This number will get you in touch with the folks at Old Maids Farm who can answer questions, confirm hours and activities, etc.)
For official information on The Old Cider Mill you can consult the Glastonbury town website.
After Labor Day through Halloween:
Monday-Friday 12:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. cider mill and petting zoo ONLY
Saturday & Sunday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. cider mill, petting zoo, food shack, hay rides
Get directions here:
There is no fee to enter the mill building or look at the cider press, and the petting zoo is free too. But you might want to buy a cup of food for the animals. Trust me, they will lose interest in you pretty quickly if they realize you’ve come empty-handed.
Changing station: No
A wearable infant carrier will give you the most flexibility to navigate the hilly seating area, grassy pastures of the petting zoo and dirt road, but you could probably get a stroller around most places if you prefer. Also keep in mind that Anna’s food shack is on a raised platform that will be inaccessible to anything with wheels.
Cash. They do not accept credit cards (but we were informed by an employee that The Old Cider Mill store will take a personal check).
Comfortable shoes, preferably closed-toe like sneakers because there is some dusty terrain.
Check back next week for more of our top picking picks. Don’t know what to do with all those apples? We’ll even throw in a few toddler-tested recipes that grown-ups will go ga-ga for too.