I would like to take this opportunity to thank someone for a special tradition that we all enjoy every fall.
By JASPER J. MIRABILE JR.
Thank you John Chapman, a gentleman from Massachusetts who became famous for planting apple trees in America. Thanks to him, we have apple cider and this chef is grateful.
Yes my friends, its apple cider time in Kansas and I am ready to celebrate. When I want to celebrate, I head on over to the Louisburg Cider Mill in Louisburg, Kan., named one of Americas Top 10 cider mills by MSNBC.
As a matter fact, its not only apple cider time in Kansas, its also time for the Louisburgs 36th Annual Ciderfest being held on Sept. 28 and 29 and Oct. 5 and 6. Last year the event drew more than 15,000 people.
The main reason many thousands of people attend the Ciderfest each year is not only to enjoy the live music, arts and crafts, the pony and wagon rides, the barbeque and old time treats like kettle corn and candy apples, the pumpkin patch or the corn maze. Its to experience first hand the delicious fresh apple cider too.
And to be honest with you, the main attraction is watching the apple cider being produced.
All you have to do is walk over to the red barn and watch the process. It all begins when the owners, Tom and Shelly Schierman, purchase the apples from commercial growers, mostly just north of us here along the Missouri River from about St. Joseph to Waverly, Mo. The apples arrive in large wooden crates each weighing about a thousand pounds.
First the apples are dumped by a bin dumper which sits outside the north wall of the barn. They are tossed through an apple washer and then elevated to the hammermill which grinds the apples into a pulp called pomace.
The press operator lays a mesh cloth atop an oak rack and pumps pomace through a white hose onto the cloth. He folds the cloth, lays another rack on top and then repeats this process six more times.
Then, the racks and bulging cloths are rolled beneath the hydraulic press. This puts 3,500 pounds of pressure per square inch on the layers of pomace. The juice is forced out of the pomace and through the mesh of the cloths.
The juice is then pumped through hoses to large cooling tanks. After two or three days the cider is bottled into gallon and half gallon plastic jugs.
This is the same process that was used over 2,000 years ago when apple cider was first discovered. The Schiermans also claim that their apple butter and fruit preserves are also handcrafted and prepared the old-fashioned way in an open kettle. Wow, talk about tradition.
After watching the process, I can guarantee your mouth will be watering for a sip of this cider and all you have to do is walk less than 100 feet to the general store and purchase yourself some of the most delicious apple cider you will ever experience.
Now while youre in the store, you may see something that catches your eye. Im not talking about the apple butter, preserves, jellies, pancake mixes, the bags of fresh apples, the gallons of cider, locally made soda pop, the apple slushys and cookbooks along with gift baskets, BBQ sauces, dry goods, merchandise, kitchen gadgets and candy.
No my friends, Im talking about those delicious Louisburg Apple Cider Donuts that people wait in line for hours to get a taste. They buy them by the bag full. You can also watch them being made behind a glass window, an old-fashioned doughnut machine producing thousands and thousands of donuts each day for the crowds.
Add a glass of cider and well, you could say youre in Cider Heaven.
At Lousburg Cider Mill there are no admission or parking fees to attend Ciderfest. The Corn Maze/Pumpkin Patch area has an $8 admission, children 3 years old and under are free.
Activities begin with a pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. all four days. Other activities such as pony rides, cider and doughnut-making and craft booths are ongoing throughout the day until 6 p.m. Live music on stage runs from noon to 5 p.m.
Make sure you plan to attend, enjoy some cider and doughnuts and thank John Chapman for the cider. Of course John is no longer around but people still talk about him around here. Yes sir, they just refer to him as Johnny Appleseed these days.
Dont forget to pick up a few extra gallons of cider when you visit and when you get home, try my recipe for Apple Cider doughnuts or what we call in my family, Zeppoles!
Louisburg Cider Mill is located 20 miles south of Kansas City near U.S. 69 and Kansas 68.
Apple Cider Zeppoles
Makes 6 servings
1 cup Louisburg Apple Cider
1/ 2 cup diced apples
1 cup all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
1 heaping tablespoon solid vegetable shortening
Corn oil, for deep frying
Confectioners sugar for coating
Kansas honey, for serving
Bring the cider and apples to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. When the water is boiling, remove the pan from the heat and add the flour, salt, and shortening. Beat well with a fork. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees in a deep fryer, using a candy thermometer for best results. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the batter into the hot oil and fry until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Place in a brown paper lunch bag and add confectioners sugar. Shake the bag and serve with drizzled honey on top.
Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jaspers commands the helm of his familys 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas Citys best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show Live! From Jaspers Kitchen on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM and sells a line of dressings and sauces.