Our apple trees are loaded with more fruit than ever. For my birthday celebration, my mom brought up a cider press she and Dad had purchased many years ago. It had been sitting in her garage gathering dust and she thought our farm was the perfect place for it to gather dust for the rest of its days.
Gathering dust, it hasn't! We've been celebrating the fall season every weekend with friends, school kids, and family by making cider with our very own apples. The press has gotten more use in less than a month than it did in 20 years. It is a Happy Valley Ranch Homesteader Model and works beautifully. This thing is really rugged - it weighs 165 pounds and is extremely well made. Here are some shots from last weekend's pressing with our friends Kay, Mike and Clara.
First we picked the apples from the orchard. Perfect fruit isn't necessary and although most Americans wouldn't dream of eating these apples, there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. They make wonderful crisps, pies, sauce, and CIDER.
Cider making is so basic. We drop the apples into the hopper which is fitted with blades.
The apples are pulverized and come out below into a nylon bag which fits into the tub. It is hard work cranking the wheel but if there are a lot of people helping, it goes quick.
Once the tub is full of crushed apples (which is called pomace), a wooden circle is put on top of the whole mess. A large metal screw cranks down on the wooden press.
We used a wooden stick to turn the screw. Kids love to do this part - they try to run really fast in circles until they fall down. The Farmer and The Baker had a good time too.
Voila, the cider trickles out the bottom and into the collecting pot. With the apples we used the other day, we got a gallon of cider from each pressing. The pressed pomace goes to the sheep, chickens and compost pile. (You have to watch how many apples you feed to sheep - they can get a real bellyache just like people! And the results can sometimes be lethal for a sheep.)
My next job is to make up a batch of hard cider. I'm using this wonderful book called Cider - Making, Using and Enjoying Sweet and Hard Cider from my friends at Storey Publishing to learn all about it. Our neighbor Syd is being my cider mentor. Let's just hope it doesn't explode all over the house.
For all you rather local folks, don't forget Cider Days at all the orchards in Franklin County this coming weekend. If you are looking for something fun to do with your family and you live within a couple of hours of the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts, you might want to check this festival out!