The Not-So-Boring Story of Ciderhouse Foods
Jun 21, 2017 11:00AM
By Jordan Venema
Story by Jordan Venema
Photos by Michelle Smee
No matter what she says, do not believe Kelley Hansen when she tells you that her story is boring. To hear her speak about her childhood, you’d think she grew up on Little House on the Prairie, and not in Springville, Calif.
“My dad was a logger since he was 17 years old, so I grew up in a logging camp in summers, with fur trading and trapping in the winter,” says Hansen. “We lived off the land, and if we were ever separated, dad taught us to build shelters at 4 years old.” Hansen laughs describing herself as a child, bordered by hound dogs with furs thrown over her shoulder. It sounds like something from another century, but this was only 30 some years ago.
But those were different times in Springville, and not only because those professions still flourished, but other traditions existed. Springville’s hills were still dotted with apple orchards, and a local named Barbara still made the best apple butter and cider syrup, which is why they called it Barb’s Best.
“Springville had a place called Fred’s General Store, and Barb would drop off boxes of apple butter and apple cider syrup, and it would just disappear,” recalls Hansen. “Everybody drove for miles to get fresh pressed, unpasteurized cider that literally came straight from the apples.”
But eventually Barb’s Best really did disappear, or at least an aging Barbara sold the business, which was then renamed Ciderhouse Foods. And that wasn’t the only tradition leaving Springville, explains Hansen. Environmental regulations closed logging and trapping, and many of the apple orchards began disappearing because younger farmers moved onto other professions. “They found easier ways to make money,” says Hansen.
So when the owners of Ciderhouse approached Hansen about buying the business, she knew what she had to do.
“I could not stand one more loss in this town of its traditions,” says Hansen. The logging had disappeared, the fur trapping as well, but “that was something from my childhood that I could keep going here, and everybody loves it.”
The transition from logger and fur trapper to cider brewer might seem too domestic a direction for Hansen, but she also admits more unexpected things have happened.
“When I was a kid, 3 or 4 years old, at night I’d visit the bar, and the bartender would give me a soda and a quarter, and I’d watch my dad get in a couple bar fights, and then we’d go home,” laughs Hansen, offering an example of her unorthodox upbringing. “So the fact that I married the most amazing Christian, calm, gentle, and Leave-it-to-Beaver man is just hysterical.”
Hansen and husband Chad bought Ciderhouse Foods in June 2013, but the following July, just as they were getting their business off the ground, Chad was hit by a drunk driver.
“I was told to prepare for him to die that night. He had everything shattered in his body except for his left arm, his skull and his spine. He had punctured lungs, internal bleeding, a lacerated liver, crushed legs and right arm, and pelvis broken in two places,” says Hansen.
That Chad came out of the coma, Hansen says, is a miracle. Following therapy, he regained his ability to walk, and though his recovery was just beginning, it allowed the family to continue with Ciderhouse Foods.
Hansen says she keeps a sense of humor, and laughs when she says her husband is now made of metal, “but he’s amazing and fine, and you wouldn’t know he went through an accident.” Moreover, he’s a constant encouragement to Hansen while she runs Ciderhouse Foods.
They completed a state-certified kitchen outside their home, and updated the labels of their products. They decided to keep the name Ciderhouse Foods, though Hansen regrets the name is sometimes associated with the film “The Cider House Rules.” Regardless of the name, she’s preserving the Springville tradition of ciders as best as Barb could, and continues to source from local apples.
Ciderhouse Foods sells one-pound bags of gourmet granola made with currants, cranberries, cherries, dried apples and slivered almonds, and eight-ounce jars of apple butter.
“It’s like American history,” says Hansen about the apple butter. “It takes you back to the 1800s, the Dutch and Amish, it’s just brown sugar and apple cider cooked down for hours.”
And of course, there is the apple cider syrup, which is like apple pie in a bottle.
The syrup can be used for many things – toppings for desserts, in martinis, combined with vinegar to make vinaigrette. “It’s amazing what people do with it,” says Hansen, who is also compiling a recipe book for customers.
In a way, through her recipe book and Ciderhouse Foods, Hansen is planting metaphorical seeds to continue some of the traditions from her childhood and Springville. More literally, the Hansens planted 50 apples trees on their property this year, so in three or four years they’ll be able to use their own apples in Springville’s very own and very best apple cider.
Ciderhouse Foods • Myciderhousefoods.com