I didn’t know you could still get it.  You can’t buy it in retail stores.  They can only sell the pasteurized kind, and that’s not authentic.  Pasteurization kills the bacteria that change it into a tangy, fizzy, deliciousness.  It was one of my favorite drinks when I was a kid.  I liked it when it was really tangy, just before it turned “hard.”  It had a bite and was better than any soda ever thought of being.

This time of year makes me think of the days when I was a little girl in Maine and my family and I would go to a local mill with boxes of freshly picked apples.  We’d come home with freshly pressed apple cider.

My dad stored it in a wooden barrel in the basement.  We’d draw off a jug or two to drink, and each jug of cider became progressively lively.  You see, cider is kind of like wine.  It’s a living, changing medium in which bacteria break down the sugar and produce fermentation and a natural carbonation.

Cider has left indelible memories on my heart and soul.  I remember when my first boyfriend picked me up at college early one October morning to drive home for the weekend.  The fall foliage was at its height of color, the sun washed everything in gold and the air was crisp and cool.  We came upon a little roadside stand that sold apple cider and freshly made donuts, so we stopped and had some of each for breakfast.  I’ll never forget how good they were.

That was long ago.  The real thing disappeared.  But I’ve wondered for years if anyone still makes it, the real apple cider not mere apple juice.

After doing some research, low and behold, I found some places in Maine that still press apples into cider.

In 2009, Ben and Betsy Parks-Stamm started Kennebec Cider in Winthrop.  They press cider and sell it to stores and restaurants throughout the state of Maine.  They will also do custom pressing.  Bring your own, clean apples (minimum of 7 bushels) to their orchard and they’ll press it for you.  Depending on the apples, you’ll get 2.5-3.5 gallons of cider per bushel.  This service is by appointment only, so please contact them at info@kennebeccider.com to schedule a visit or see their website at http://www.kennebeccider.com/custom-cider-pressing-1.

Hope Orchards in Hope (of course!) makes cider from their own hand-picked apples.  Their cider does not contain any preservatives and is not pasteurized (whoo-hoo!).  Pressing begins in late September and goes through October.  They only sell the cider at their orchard on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the pressing season.  Supplies are limited.  For more information, please check their website at http://www.hopeorchards.com/.

Sweetsters Apple Barrel and Orchards in Cumberland makes cider from their own apples starting in late September through December.  They don’t pasteurize it or use preservatives, but they do treat it with UV to discourage bacterial growth.  I wonder if this inhibits the cider from fermenting and developing that marvelous tang.  Check them out online at http://maineapple.com/.

Though the picking and pressing season have come to a close, we are now well into the drinking season when this beverage is at its best.  If you’re lucky enough to get a gallon or two of the real thing, share it with friends and family at your Thanksgiving table.  They’ll remember it fondly for years to come.