Stand in the place where you live: Carr’s Ciderhouse opens new farm store in Hadley
Carr’s Ciderhouse has found a new way to stay at home, with the addition of a farm stand to its location on River Drive in Hadley. And so far, co-owners and married couple Nicole Blum and Jonathan Carr, who sell small-batch cider products and hard cider at the shop, are enjoying this alternative to selling at regional farmers markets, at least during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We, in the past, have driven to the Boston area and the Berkshires, and we’re kind of all over the place going to farmers markets trying to get the things that we make into the hands of people who want them,” said Blum. “It’s been really hard to stay close to home.”
Blum said the farm shop has been in the works for years, but when the pandemic began, the couple wanted to plan for the future.
“We decided that it was probably not going to be worth it to go to the farmers markets that were going to be open because they were going to be so incredibly different,” she said. “It turns out, just talking to people — it has been very hard financially at those places.”
In addition to hard cider, Carr’s Ciderhouse makes apple cider vinegar, cider syrup (traditionally called boiled cider in New England), cider jelly, elderflower syrup (made from flowers grown at the orchard) and shrubs.
“They’re typically a blend of vinegar, sugar and fruit,” Carr said of the shrubs. “They’re a traditional way of preserving a fruity beverage. The vinegar and sugar act to preserve it. It’s like pre-soda.”
Normally during the autumn, Carr’s Ciderhouse would allow for public tours of the apple press, but due to public health and safety concerns, the owners have decided to cancel public tours this fall.
The cider house was founded in 2011 and is now entering its ninth season, Carr said. The couple own 38 acres of land with more than 1,500 apple trees, including cider-making varieties such as Golden Russet, White Jersey and Dabinett apples.
“We planted our orchard in 2006, and we’ve always been really interested in focusing super locally because we’re concerned about climate change and minimizing our emissions and how we undertake that as farmers,” Carr said. “It’s been a long road to opening our farm stand, even though that’s been a goal of ours pretty much forever.”
The land has been used for cider making dating back to the 1860s on and off, but when Blum and Carr purchased the land they decided not to use pesticides and to function as a no-spray orchard, Blum said.
Carr said the cider-making process starts in the autumn when the apples are harvested and then pressed in a century-old Mount Gilead Cider Press to make hard cider. The pressed apples are then fermented during the next five to six months before being bottled in the spring or early summer.
Their cider-making process is similar to how people would make hard cider more than 300 years ago, he said. The natural process of cider making can yield unexpected results, but when everything goes right it makes “very complex and interesting” hard ciders.
“We practice natural wild fermentation, so it’s no commercial use. It’s yeasts that are already in the apple and in the environment,” Blum noted.
By the time they begin the fermentation process in tanks in their insulated press barn on the orchard, the weather has already cooled. “It gets really, really cold, and even part of the tank freezes,” he said. “That’s something that this particular yeast really enjoys. Other yeasts don’t.”
For more information about Carr’s Ciderhouse, visit carrsciderhouse.com.
Chris Goudreau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.