JACKSON CENTER — Three years ago The Sidney Daily News talked with Dennis Thatcher, who presses cider on his farm just over the Logan County line about two miles southeast of Jackson Center. He uses fruit grown in his own orchard, then cleans and removes every blemish from every apple.
He then pulps the fruit, which is subjected to a three-tons per-square-inch squeeze in his cider press. The juices are collected, stored at precisely 38 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours, then filled for sale in those familiar plastic jugs.
Thatcher is happy to report he is well into his third decade of pressing his own cider and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. He was still at it this past week, putting the squeeze on what turned out to be the last 96 gallons of cider he will produce this season. Some years he presses cider and sells apples through Thanksgiving, but that was a no-go this year thanks to Mother Nature.
Thatcher said following an average harvest, he expects to produce 800 to 1,000 gallons of cider in the fall, but he struggled to hit even 600 gallons this season.The apples he did have were excellent, he said, but the numbers simply weren’t there.
“That seven weeks of rain in spring just killed us,” Thatcher said, of his apple harvest. “This is the last of the apples I have to sell,” he said pointing to the two or three bushels of various varieties he had sitting around. “After that, we’re done for the year.”
Given that there are many people in Shelby and Logan County who consider Thatcher Farms Apple Cider just this side of ambrosia, that last 96 gallons will be gone by the time this piece hits the press. People are forever stopping by Thatcher’s, 4551 Township Road 23 North, homestead during the autumn months in search of the nectar that can only be found in the wilds of Bloomfield Township. And it’s not just the locals either. Thatcher has people from all over the state checking in on his stock of cider. What makes his bronze-colored liquid so popular?
The answer can be found in one word, pasteurization, which Thatcher refuses to do when it comes to his squeezings.
“Pasteurization ruins cider,” Thatcher said. “Once you pasteurize it, it’s not cider anymore because you have to put in preservatives and additives and coloring. If it has all that junk in it, it’s something like sweet, brown water, but it’s not cider.”
Few of those who have tasted Thatcher’s cider would argue with that statement. A swig of Thatcher Farms Cider contains but one ingredient, that being apple. Not so much as one drop of water is added. Thatcher strains the juices through a 20 micron filter, so while the cider has body, there is little or no sediment. It’s this attention to detail that keeps thirsty people cruising past his spread in the fall to see if the ‘Open’ sign is out.
But as always, there is a curve-ball. Thatcher is quite welcome to sell just as many gallons of his elixir as he pleases, as long as he doesn’t stand in his driveway to do it.
That’s because a quirky Ohio law prohibits Thatcher (or anyone else) from selling unpasteurized apple cider outside a 50-foot radius of the press that is used to make the cider. In other words, no deliveries. You want Thatcher Farms Apple Cider, you have to make the trip to rural Jackson Center.
Just because its unpasteurized doesn’t mean it won’t keep. Thatcher said that his cider will last about 29 days in your standard fridge, which is a better shelf-life than most dairy products. He went on to say that that he’s never had anyone complain that their cider had ‘turned’.
“It’s never around long enough to spoil,” Thatcher said.
Send your Jackson Center news to Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.