Walking around the Farmer’s Market today on a mission to pick up some Oaxaca Mama salsa, I was reminded by the gigantic piles of gorgeous produce all around me that September is Local Food Month here in Humboldt. As previously mentioned, every day should be about eating locally as far as I’m concerned, but if you haven’t discovered the bounty we’ve got going on here, now is certainly a good time.
My suggestion? Get yourself down to Fortuna right now and pick up some Clendenen’s apple cider. This little roadside stand complete with an orchard in the back has been pressing cider since 1909, and they’re still doing it the same old-fashioned, unpasteurized way. Pasteurization takes away that just-picked-from-the-tree taste, and Clendenen’s refuses to do it and lower the quality of their cider. Thanks to the whole nasty Odwalla E. Coli outbreak in 1996, you can’t buy Clendenen’s cider in stores anymore – only from the Cider Works itself. And that’s not such a bad thing because then you might get to meet Clif.
Not only does Clif Clendenen make the best freakin’ cider in the world, he doesn’t let a majority of irritating Fortunans who constantly complain about having to drive clear to the metropolis of Eureka to buy underwear (will somebody puhleeze open a damn clothing store down there so they’ll shut up already?) sway his opinion that a big box like Walmart won’t be anything but a sprawling blight on the town he obviously loves. Clif rocks. He’ll tell you all about which apples went into the cider you’re buying, since it varies based on what’s ripe. He knows the subtle differences of the myriad of honey bottles warmly glowing in the window. He’ll even show you the cider press if you’d like, and if you’re really lucky to be there on a day that they’re making it, he’ll give you a sample straight off the press.
I always grab a few bottles when I go – at least one to share with an uninitiated friend who will be frightened by the warning label but immediately converted by the taste. And another to put in the back of the pantry. The beauty of unpasteurized cider is that in a few weeks when you pull it out, it’s fermented, bubbly and tastes like the sweetest apple champagne.
And unlike thinking about a Walmart invading your town, the splitting headache you’ll have in the morning is totally worth it.