Lakeside Farms - Ballston Lake, NY
There's something about childhood memories...they get stronger yet more inaccurate as we age. I could swear things happened one way when really the events were entirely different than I remember. I tend to remember the emotion around events more than the details. I have one sister who is the same way, while the other sister can remember even the most minute detail from 30 years ago. Having emotionally-driven memories is OK until I find myself buying books I've already read (I don't realize I've read it already until about the 3rd chapter when things seem awfully familiar) and I can't describe much about a movie I saw other than whether I liked it or not.
My memories of visiting Lakeside Farms in Ballston Lake as a kid are no exception. The early part of my life was lived in upstate NY. First WAY upstate (I swear every family picture from then has 3 feet of snow in it), and then a little farther south, near Albany for a few years. During that time, my parents let us stop for a treat a few times at Lakeside Farms. Along with getting cider and donuts, we were each allowed to choose a piece of stick candy at the store. In my embellished memories, we stopped there every Sunday after church. But, according to my mother and siblings, it was only a total of a few occasions that we stopped there. That's what happens to memories you cherish - they flourish in the space you allow them to fill. (I actually asked my family for their memories because mine were clearly faulty).
When I visited my mother recently in the area, I stopped off at Lakeside Farms for some apples and a little nostalgia. There's something about farm stands, cider mills and the like that just bring a warm happy feeling. I can't really place it, but there's something "honest" about the hard work that goes into farming to produce the food we eat. It feels good to support the small-scale farmer. Lakeside Farms is a family-owned business that has had four generations working the farm. The Pearce family purchased what was then "Ballston Lake Farm" in 1948 for the barn and cider press. They had great success from the cider, which allowed them to expand as Lakeside Cider Mill and Farm Store. Since then, long after my family visited there, they added a small restaurant that boasts breakfast, lunch and pie menus. They even have a gift shop now they started last year (great place for holiday shopping) where I purchased a locally-made candle. Today, family, relatives and friends run Lakeside Farms.
I visited the "Apple Barn," which has fresh apples and other produce for sale. Picking out apples as an adult is just as much fun as picking out a flavor of stick candy as a kid. I didn't want to leave. But, I did eventually go and took some Honeycrisps (for snacking) and Golden Delicious (for baking) and a container of cider. Mr. Wine Box Gardener and I were in awe of the Honeycrisps. Big, juicy and crisp. Nothing like what we find in the grocery store. We haven't had apples this good in a while. (And my apple pie turned out delicious.)
I guess you can't really go home again, but I feel fortunate enough to be able to walk down memory lane and pick up some fresh farm produce while I'm at it. Check out the recipe for the apple pie I made, along with why I chose golden delicious apples for baking and what secret ingredient I added to my pie dough to make it extra moist and flaky.
If you are lucky enough to live nearby or are just driving on the Northway (Route 87) in NY state, stop off exit 11, you won't regret it. The farm isn't far from the exit - easy on/off. For more information about visiting Lakeside Farms, check out their website.