Marisa: If you’re a Northwest native, you’ve surely seen boxes of Aplets & Cotlets in grocery markets here and there, mainly around Christmastime. They were even nominated in recent years as the “official candy of Washington state”, though I’m not sure what Almond Roca would have to say about that. I do have to admit, the candy does have an interesting history, stretching back over 80 years.
Whether you like them or not – now that’s a different story. Fans and foes of the little fruity gelatinous bites seem to be as deeply divided as the Republican and Democratic parties. As quoted by writer Cathy Sorbo in her article about the candy, “Aplets and Cotlets are an acquired taste — either you love ‘em or hate ‘em, kind of like Jethro Tull.“
First off, I will unashamedly admit that I love Aplets & Cotlets, as I do Christmas fruitcake and Peeps (for every holiday, of course). The best way to describe A&C (as they will be called from now on) is a squishy firmer-than-Jello-softer-than-gummi rectangular masses containing walnuts and coated with powdered sugar. The classic box features Aplets (apples & walnuts) and Cotlets (apricots & walnuts). There’s also lots of other varieties featuring different fruits and nut combinations (such as “Hawaiian Delights”, made with pineapple and macadamia), but I’ll stick to the basics.
Which leads us to last weekend. We stopped in Cashmere, Washington, home of Liberty Orchards (the makers on A&C) on the way to the eastern half of the state. While it’s hard for us to pass up a factory outlet store with cheap goods, it’s even more difficult to pass up a free factory tour. After bumming around the shop for a bit, we popped on some hair nets, turned off our phones, I
swallowed spit out my gum and we made our way into the factory.
Factory is a bit of an overstatement about the facility, since it’s mainly just two large rooms where the majority of the action seems to happen. The first room contains big kettles for mixing all of the ingredients into a hot, fruity nut slurry after which it’s poured into wooden, plastic-line and oil-coated trays to dry. After that, the pieces are guillotined into little cubes and tumbled in powdered sugar, then they’re off to a little conveyor belt to be boxed, wrapped and sent on their merry way to be eaten by you, me or your Aunt Louise.
Ben: The tour lasts about 20 minutes including the time it takes to corral your tour mates, don your hair nets and tour the production area. Be prepared, most of your tour mates will be above the age of 65 or under the age of 12 which makes for a minimum of excitement (a plus in my book, but I guess I’m an old man at heart). There’s also plenty of free samples and discounted products in the gift shop. I know I helped myself to one of every flavor including the sugar-free versions that just might cause a gastrointestinal incident (I recommend eating lunch BEFORE you visit the factory since the samples are self served and relatively unobserved).
It’s definitely worth stopping by if you’re on your way through the area, though I’m not sure I would suggest going out of your way to visit the factory. We also happened to fall in love with the town of Cashmere. I believe it’s a step up from its neighbor Wenatchee, and a slight bit more genuine than good ol’ Leavenworth (no offense, Leavenworth).
Since most of you won’t get a chance to visit the Apples and Cotlets factory, we hastily shot some video during our brief tour for your viewing pleasure.