Friday, October 7, 2011

Community Cider Press

Today was our first apple pressing of the year. I had hoped that we would only have to go once, but things didn't work out that way. The press only runs on Thursdays which is the day of the livestock auction, hence the farmers are already in town. We took at least 4 different varieties of apples, cider is never as good when it's made from only 1 variety. Later apples make sweeter cider than early apples; so much so that we can taste the difference without having the jugs marked. The press runs until the week before Thanksgiving so we have plenty of time for more gathering and pressing.

In all our years of picking up windfalls at the orchard I've never seen a worse crop of apples. We gather them and then bring them home, then each apple is individually washed in soapy water and rinsed. This is not an organic orchard and windfalls can pick up soil borne pathogens. Better safe than sorry. There was so much worm damage and core rot, we probably threw out almost half of what we brought home, but if you want a decent end product you have to start with decent apples.
The apples are dumped into the holding area and then pushed into the chute which carries them up to the grinder.

The belt and pulley system that powers this machine.

The pumice is let down from that hanging bag and caught by big wooden trays lined with canvas. They are stacked layer upon layer until all of the apples are contained therein.

Once the stack of trays is full they are "driven" (see the wheels?) to the middle section.

The trays are lifted up until they hit the top and the squeezing begins.

The cider runs into a holding tank and then you fill your jugs from the spigots.

The spent pumice is dumped into this room after pressing, local farmers shovel it up and fatten hogs with it. The room had been recently cleaned out, but the pile still reached above my waist.

We got 21 gallons from 10 4 or 5 gallon buckets. That's a pretty typical yield.

The bill? $14.70, the lion's share of which was the cost of the jugs.

The 21 gallons comprise about 1/3 of the total we had last year so we'll be pressing again. We could, theoretically, buy cider but I admit that I'm spoiled. As with maple syrup I know exactly what went into the end product. I know the apples were free from dirt and bruises, I know they were fresh and I know no pasteurization was required to cover up the lack of quality. Obviously no commercial producer could or would take this much care (not in this day and age anyway) but there is no other way for us