Save pumpkins, few foods say fall better than apples. Especially in Washington, the ubiquitous apple harvest finds its way into many local foods. Some of these are even nationally recognized, such as Lattin's Apple Cider, pressed in Olympia at Lattin's Country Cider Mill and Farm.
Owned and operated by Carolyn Lattin since 1956, Lattin's is open to the public year-round at 9402 Rich Road SE in Olympia. Today, Lattin still operates the business, now with the help of her two adult daughters. Lattin's cider has won national recognition, including first place at the North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association. It's sold locally under the Country Cider Mill brand at Metropolitan Market, Whole Foods, Top Foods, and other local stores.
But what makes it so good? It tastes like an apple fresh off the tree. Part of the answer is the distinction between apple cider and apple juice. Juice is a cooked and essentially canned product, designed with an extended shelf life. Apple cider is fresh-pressed straight out of an apple and stored in the refrigerated section to prevent spoilage.
"What makes our cider so special is the mixture of apples we use. We use about twelve different varieties of apples," says Lattin. "We blend it so it isn't too sweet and not too tart."
Beyond the perfect mix of apple varieties, Lattin's dedicates itself to perfection. Not a single blemished apple makes its way into the cider. How do they know? Because not a single amount of automation is used in the sorting process.
"We look over every single apple that's made into cider," says Lattin. "If an apple isn't perfect, it doesn't go into the grinder. That's why our cider has a three-week shelf life, even though it has no sugar and no preservatives in it."
Lattin's buys its apples from farms in the Yakima area-just as it has for the last 37 years. Last year, they used 1.4 million pounds of apples! Just last week, they put 70,000 pounds of apples through the cider mill alone.
Along with pure apple cider, Lattin's also makes strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry apple ciders. With all of these, there are no syrups or sugars involved, only pulverized fruit added into the cider.
"If you make the best, you never have to apologize for your product," says Lattin.
During October, the farm sees its peak season as its Apple Festival is on. A pumpkin patch, live music, and all kinds of freshly made apple treats help make this festival one that generations of area residents have flocked to. Lattin has long been a mainstay in the Olympia community-helping to found the Olympia Farmers' Market-and just recently voted as one of the Living Legends of Thurston County.
Along with its cider fame, Lattin's is also known for its 24 varieties of jam and 24 types of home-style pies. Above all, its amazing apple pie and strawberry jam are major sellers and award winners.
"We make our pies like you would make it in your own kitchen-just the crust and fruit-no chemicals or anything. We only sell those at the farm. We sell thousands of pies here."