For our regular Capital Region Q&A feature, we ask local people questions about themselves, their jobs and the place we call home. Today’s subject is Rich Pearce, whose family has owned Lakeside Farms, a cider mill, market, restaurant and gift shop in Ballston Lake, since its 1948 founding. Today, three generations of Pearce family members, relatives and friends work there. Pearce, 47, lives in Ballston Lake about a tenth of a mile from the store. Answers have been minimally edited for space and clarity.
Q: It’s October, which means cider season. How much cider do you make?
A: About 1,000-plus gallons a week.
Q: How have cider sales changed over the years?
A: They’re down ever since the E. coli scare in the late 1990s. We used to make 1,000 gallons or more a few times a week, but now we’re down to once a week and about 1,000 gallons.
Q: Dozens of people were sickened in California in 1996 from drinking unpasteurized apple juice, and cider sales were affected nationwide. One of the results was a New York state requirement that fresh-pressed cider be treated with UV light. Did that affect sales?
A: People think they can taste the difference. I know I sure can’t. But they see the UV and think what we’re selling is like the boiled, pasteurized cider in the supermarket, so they might as well get it there. We’re definitely selling a lot less since then.
Q: How many pounds of apples are required to make a gallon of cider?
A: You need a bushel to get 3 gallons.
Q: Do you use a specific blend of apple varieties?
A: Mostly it’s whatever comes along. You need a bunch of different varieties for what each kind brings to the cider. Some sweeten it, some tarten it, some darken it.
Pop quiz: Apple cider is the official beverage of what state?
A: New York?
Q: No, New York’s is milk. Cider is the official state beverage of New Hampshire.
A: New Hampshire? Huh.
Q: Where do you go locally to get away from it all?
A: I don’t really in the fall, when I work probably 80 hours a week. When I can get away, I like to take day trips up north, to Indian Lake.
Q: It’s also the season for cider doughnuts. How many do you make a day?
A: On the weekends, we have three machines going all day long, and we get 10 dozen out of a batch that takes 15 to 20 minutes. That’s a lot of doughnuts.
Q: People love doughnuts in general, but at least in the Northeast, cider doughnuts evoke a special reverence. Why do you think that is?
A: It’s like pumpkins and cornstalks — just something else that goes with the fall season.
Q: But you still sell cider doughnuts and apple cider when you first open, in the spring, yes?
A: People love them the whole time we’re open. We freeze a lot of cider so we have it for sale from when we open in April until cider season starts, in September.
Q: Is your doughnut recipe secret?
Q: Will you give me just one of the secrets?
A: I’ll say allspice. And that’s all I’ll say.
Q: Do you actually like cider doughnuts?
A: Of course. Sometimes I get sick of them, but I’m not appalled when I think of how many I’ve had to eat over the years. Sometimes I say I have to taste them just to see where they’re at, taste-wise.
Q: That’s not a bad quality-control job to have.
A: No, it’s definitely not.
Q: Now on to the great debate of our time: Lakeside Farms spells it “donut,” which is gaining popularity in large part due to it being spelled that way in the name of the ubiquitous doughnut chain, Dunkin. Do you have an opinion on the spelling?
A: I spell it either way.
Q: Who’s responsible for the way Lakeside spells it?
A: I couldn’t tell you. It just happened.
Pop quiz: What regional author is credited with one of the very first mentions of a “dough-nut”? (He spelled it with a hyphen.)
A: I couldn’t tell you if my life depended on it.
Q: In 1809, Washington Irving wrote about “balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called dough-nuts, or oly koeks: a delicious kind of cake, at present scarce known in this city, excepting in genuine Dutch families.” That was in 1809. So there you go.
A: I see.
Q: Because I have magical powers, I can arrange for you to trade jobs for one day with anyone in the Capital Region, and I can give you the skills needed to do that job. With whom would you want to trade?
A: I’ll have to call you back on that. Nobody would want to hear Hugh Hefner.
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