I knew from the minute I got out of the car that Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard was going to be a place I would enjoy.
Among the signs in the parking lot were “Parking for cider slush lovers only,” and “Parking for nice old ladies only (mean old lady parking in rear by dumpster).”
The cider mill is in the central New York hamlet of Fly Creek, a four-hour drive from Buffalo, about three miles west of Cooperstown.
The name Fly Creek can be traced to the Dutch explorers who traveled through the area in 1714. The Dutch word for marsh is “vlie” and the northern portion of the creek running through the hamlet looks like a marsh. The Dutch named the area “vlie” which later changed to “fly.” The Fly Creek Cider Mill is the only remaining mill of eight that once were located on the banks of the creek. The other mills manufactured a variety of items, including pails, forks, barrels and lumber.
Before heading inside, we walked to the mill pond, following the signs on the ground that said, “Waddle this Way.” For a quarter you can buy a handful of corn to feed the ducks and geese that live by the pond.
I took a minute to read the sign explaining the history of the mill, which opened in 1856. The first owner, Hosea Williams, built the mill so that he could turn apples into sweet cider; using water power from the creek to operate his press. He also used the water power to run a grist mill and woodworking shop. The property’s next owner was Linn Kane, who ran the mill and woodworking shop until the 1950s, when he closed it.
Charlie and Barbara Michaels purchased the property in 1962, mainly for the former miller’s residence, which they renovated. However, . Kane would stop by and tell stories about the mill’s “golden years,” and soon the Michael’s envisioned starting a business selling cider and baked goods on weekends only. Before long this business grew to be a popular fall destination.
When they were getting ready to retire, their son, Bill, and his wife, Brenda, took over the business, expanding it to include specialty foods, a café, winery, and even an online store.
As soon as we entered the door of the marketplace, we were welcomed by an employee who explained that they have a large selection of products, from savory to sweet, including barbecue sauces, jams, pasta sauces, pickled items, hot sauces, salsas, cheeses, dip mixes, baked goods, sweet cider, hard cider, apple wine and more. On any given day, more than 40 product samples are out for visitors to taste. Many of the products are either made at the mill or in New York.
Our shopping cart filled up quickly. While we sampled some fudge and candy, we were able to resist purchasing the confections. We did however, get some dips, sauces, wine, hard cider, and of course some of sweet cider. Note that since we were there in late August, the cider wasn’t being pressed yet, but it was frozen from the previous year. If you visit now in the fall, you’ll get freshly pressed cider. All of the products, including the cider, are available from the mill’s online store.
There’s also a whole second floor to explore. The first room is filled with of holiday ornaments and seasonal décor items; an adjacent room has accessories, jewelry, and bath and body products. However, by far the most interesting thing to see is the 1889 water powered press, which is in the center of the second floor. It is here that more than 20,000 gallons of sweet cider is made between September and Thanksgiving.
The adjacent exhibit, “Power, Press and Popularity,” explains the cider-making process. Water power from Fly Creek operates the press. Water from the mill pond travels through a pipe into a wooden silo; a turbine is located in the bottom of the silo. Water flows through the turbine to turn shafts, which power the circa 1889 Boomer and Boschert water hydraulic press, which applies 2,000 pounds of pressure to turn apples into cider.
Also on the second floor is a display of apple parers from the International Society of Apple Parer Enthusiasts, which celebrates American ingenuity through the history of the apple parer, which was first invented in the 1790s.
Let’s not forget the cider mill’s snack bar and bakery. The menu includes a variety of items including pulled pork and pot roast sandwiches, soups and chili, served in a bread bowl, cider slushies, made with sweet cider or hard cider, wine slushes, premium ice cream, and other goodies. Most of the pies, cookies and other desserts are made in their in-house bakery, including their donuts and cinnamon buns. The snack bar remains open until the end of October. There is a small playground for young children right outside the snack bar.
If you go
Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard, 288 Goose Street, Fly Creek, (800) 505-6455, flycreekcidermill.com,
From Buffalo, take the New York State Thruway (I-90) east to exit 30, toward Herkimer/Mohawk. Follow NY 28 south to Route 26 north to Goose Street.