Some might look to the leaves for signs of fall. But for many, the true harbinger of autumn on Long Island is when the cars queue up at the historic Jericho Cider Mill on Route 106 to purchase apples, homemade pies and the mill’s signature freshly pressed cider. The mill has just reopened, and right now, there are crates filled with mountains of honey crisp, gala and Jonamac apples, and the refrigerators are fully stocked with bottles of fresh cider.
Owner George Zulkofske, 79, has seen a lot of apple seasons and customers come and go. His family purchased the cider mill in 1938, and he took over as owner and operator in 1970.
“I’ve been brought up with apples,” says Zulkofske. “They call me Apple George.”
The current mill—housed in a white clapboard structure—dates to 1920. Zulkofske says his family was able to find evidence of apple cider production on several properties in the area going back to the early 1800s. One of the mills produced sparkling apple wine, but that business ceased to operate around prohibition.
Today, the Jericho Cider Mill continues to draw crowds with a local cider that tastes freshly picked. The only ingredient is “fresh apple juice.”
“You can’t get what we sell anywhere,” says Zulkofske. “We use only New York state apples and later on in the year, we’ll get the crop from Long Island and use that. It’s strictly what comes out of the apple on the squeezing time.”
The business uses a German-built wine press that he describes as “very efficient.” Zulkofske says the flavor of the cider can change throughout the season, depending on the apple crop and the time of year.
“In the first week or two, it’s a little on the tart side,” he explains. “The apples are very early apples and they’re not sweetened up a lot. Come around Thanksgiving, it’s just loaded with sugar.”
Zulkofske says cool autumn mornings tend to bring the customers in droves. He says more and more people are drawn to fresh cider, which he describes as “old-fashioned, good food” without additives.
“In the store now, you don’t know what you’re really getting,” says Zulkofske. “You have got to read the fine print.”
Apple George smiles slyly and adds, “There’s no fine print here.”
Jericho Cider Mill
Jericho, New York
9:00 AM to 6:00 PM Daily – September through May
T.W. Barritt blogs at culinarytypes.blogspot.com