Autumn has officially begun. We celebrated the change of season with our annual end-of-summer ritual today, cider and doughnuts. There is a cider mill called Schutt’s Apple Mill in Webster, an institution that has been around for longer than Bonnie or I. Come take a tour with us.
The outside of the rambling (and expanding) building resembles a weathered farmhouse, gray and white mostly, and is situated next to a house in which the Schutt family still live. Round about are fields and orchards, to remain as long as the Schutts exist.
Pulling open the door, you are forcefully struck by the aroma of autumn - apples. To your left is the counter with the smiling, homey clerks, dispensing boxes of homemade fried cakes and cider from the two spigots that extend into this room from the mill in the adjoining section. Look about you. Observe, hanging upon the back wall, the gigantic, weathered wagon wheel, guarding crate upon crate of apples. Look over there! See the comical cornhusk scarecrow goggling at the customers with a goofy grin plastered across his burlap countenance. And over there in the back corner, near where the plastic sheeting blocks the chaos of remodeling, the rough pine tables covered with gourds of every description and ears of Indian corn bundled together, lying and dangling upon and from every surface.
Turn to the right and see the table upon table laden with foodstuffs - jams and preserves; bags of exotic coffee; teas, both loose and bagged; extracts of every flavor; herbs and spices, contained and hanging loose in dried bunches from the imposing rafters; hard candies in old-fashioned jars. Breathe in the subtle fragrances of cinnamon and rosemary, the deep, almost subliminal odor of coffee, the delicious odor of homemade pies and other baked goods.
Take a moment to inspect the tables cradling cookbooks written by Webster women and pottery of all sorts - crocks and teapots preeminent.
You discover, amidst all this goodness, in the center of the room, a cooler filled with all manner of sausages; cheeses, both hard and soft; and sinfully rich cheesecake. And the star attraction, favorite of all children, at the far end of the room - a spacious pen containing an enormous, dove-colored rabbit, available for petting by anyone who wishes. If you are very lucky, the rabbit will acknowledge your presence by partially opening one eye and peering at you before resuming its determined somnolence.
There is something ineffable about autumn in New York - the very atmosphere itself seems to change; the angle of the sunlight gradually begins to shift, the air takes on a different scent, the temperature has a slight bite to it, more comfortable than the humid haze of summer. It is a magical time, an enchanted place.