It’s that time of year. The leaves are changing color, the days are getting crisper, and the frost is on the pumpkin. This is my favorite time of year. From the late days of September to late November, no other season beats it here in Pennsylvania.
This year has been outstanding for apples. Trees that had never even bore fruit in a generations memory, were loaded with apples, or pears. We have a few trees on the hill beside our house that I knew were some sort of fruit tree but being that I am not an avid botanist, I was not sure what kind they were. They had never bore fruit to my memory. This year they were loaded with pears! I was so excited that I grabbed one and took a big bite……BLECH! They were very wild pears, bitter, and leaving a “dry mouth” feeling. But in any case, my neighbors apple trees which we usually pick from were loaded down with delicious apples.
We usually make applesauce with our neighbors apples. They make the BEST applesauce. Dont ask me what kind they are because I don’t know. They are yellowish green, with a tinge of pink in the skin. This year I was interested in making apple cider as well as applesauce since there was such an abundance. I began looking into what was involved in the whole process. I figured that it couldn’t be any more difficult than the Maple Syrup we make. So I began researching. I found many examples of cider presses, both homemade and some professionally made. It was clear that I didn’t have the time to make one, nor the money to buy one ($500+ for a good one).
Interestingly enough, that same day I came across a facebook post of one of my friends using a cider press with a youth group. I sent him a message asking where he got the cider press and he told me that a mutual friend of ours had built one and that he lent it to the youth group to use as an activity. So I contacted our friend DJ and scheduled a time that we could bring our apples over one evening.
He has children of similar ages to ours so it was a great time together. When we arrived we unloaded the apples and he showed us how the whole process works. We had a table where we had the apples sitting in a cold water bath, just as a rinsing method. Then we chopped the apples in half and took them by 5 gallon bucket full to a sink he had attached to some pallets and attached a garbage disposal to the sink. The apples get shoved through the disposal which turns them into a mash. The mash is then poured into a cloth net material that is draped over a
hollow frame on the press table. The extra netting is folded over the mash that is in the frame, the frame is removed and a wood lattice, made of slats of oak screwed together with 1/4′ spaces between slats, is placed on top of the netted mash. The frame is then placed on top of the slats for another layer of netted mash. This is done until about 3-4 layers are stacked. Then a car jack is mounted to the top of the press and you start expanding the jack as it presses down on a few blocks of wood that are placed on the top layer of the stack.
The press table has a 2-3″ high rim around the perimeter with a notch cut out in the front to allow the juice to pour out, where we placed a 5 gallon bucket underneath to catch the juice. On top of the bucket there is a pillow-case-type cloth rubberbanded over the top to filter out any finer unwanted dirt or pulp. The filter also helps if you’re doing this during the day and yellow jackets start wanting some too. My youngest hung outside with me and my friend DJ in the cold. He was a trooper. He also got to enjoy a drink of cider as it flowed out from the pulp, you should have seen his smile!
Out of about 5 bushels of apples we got about 11.5 gallons of cider….16 oz of which I am drinking as I write this post =). YUM!