IF I HAD TO NAME my favorite fruits, I would choose blueberries, strawberries and peaches.
So you can imagine my excitement upon glimpsing a PEACHES sign while traveling along Minnesota Highway 60 near Lake Crystal last Saturday morning. Unfortunately my husband and I were on a tight schedule and were heading away from that tempting sign.
Fast forward to the early evening hours when, upon our return trip, I remembered that PEACHES place just in time for Randy to veer into the right turn lane.
I’m so glad I made that split-second decision to stop. We discovered not only juicy Missouri peaches at Welsh Heritage Farms, but a plethora of other goodies inside the double red pole sheds. Heritage Farms, a family-owned business which advertises itself as an apple orchard and pie shop, is that and much more.
I eyed the apple crisp and apple butter, the mustard, the honey and the soup mixes among the many offerings. I tasted the apple cider donuts and almost gave in to hunger pangs. But I stuck to the healthy peaches and Michigan blueberries. Well, not quite, as you will read.
NEXT TO THE MAIN BUSINESS sits another building, Harbo Cider Winery and Cheese Shop. We were directed there by Pamela Harbo, Welsh Heritage Farms co-owner/operator. Her son, Tim, runs the business. For a cheese-lover like me, this equates cheese heaven.
Tim carries 47 varieties of cheese, all of which (if I recall) hail from Wisconsin. Yes, I felt a moment of disloyalty to Minnesota cheese makers. But that didn’t stop me from sampling several cheeses and purchasing Henning’s Blueberry Cobbler Cheddar—a white cheddar marbled with blueberries—and Hook’s Blue Paradise ™ Cheese, the creamiest blue cheese I’ve ever tasted. (My apologies to the Swiss Valley Farms Cooperative of Iowa which recently purchased Faribo Dairy, my community’s maker of outstanding Amablu and Amablu St. Pete’s Select blue cheeses.)
Of course, along with that cheese, we needed a little wine, or hard cider. Unfamiliar with hard cider, I asked Tim for an explanation as I sipped. Hard cider is made from pressed and fermented apples and was once this country’s most popular alcoholic beverage, he tells me. Think apple trees and Prohibition.
Surprisingly, Tim’s 6.5 percent alcohol content Splitladder Syder, tastes nothing like apples, but similar to a dry white wine. He was the first in Minnesota to produce the hard cider for sale, he says.
While I didn’t buy any hard cider, I would recommend it as a fine accompaniment to cheese.
I would also recommend pulling off highway 60 between Mankato and Lake Crystal to check out Welsh Heritage Farms and Harbo Cider Winery and Cheese Shop. You might want to watch for an APPLES sign, though, as the season transitions from Missouri peaches to Minnesota apples.
© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling