Saturday, November 3, 2012

One Crisp Morning

     One of my favorite days of the year (second only to the first day of tapping season) is cider pressing day. It's crisp outside (pun intended :) but it's easy to forget how cold your fingers are when your heart is warm. I love times like this when the whole family is working together 

    We ordered four bins of apples and picked them up last night. There are 18 bushels in a bin and 38-40 pounds in a bushel. Three of them were yellow delicious and the fourth was red delicious. One of the crates was for friends who love to buy them at the bulk price and use them to make applesause, pie filling, etc... Of course we hold back a few for all our canning needs as well.  
    We like the two to one ratio of yellow and red delicious. Most people like a tart cider, but because we use our cider to make apple juice our family tends to like our cider sweeter.

    Our Amish friends wanted to see how we pressed the cider, so we had them along. Their help made it go by so much faster, and made the expiriance that much more fun. The apples were wet with dew so our fabric gloves were soon soaked and froze our hands rather than kept them warm. We were cold, sure, but we enjoyed it.

    A couple years ago we used to press our apples in a hand crank press of our own. This method took so much longer and when we discovered a cider press just down the road that would get us more cider out of less apples in a tenth of the time we decided it was a wash and never looked back ...

    The apples are dumped into the chute which lifts them up on a conveyer belt into the building where they are crushed up. We dump in two yellow crates, one red, two yellow crates, one red ... this keeps all of the juice tasting the same. 

Chunky Applesauce
     The crushed apples pour into large sacks where they are spread flat with a paddle and wrapped up. There can be only so many bags in a press so we did three pressings. The bags are stacked with a wooden pallet between each one. They are then slowly pressed flat.

  It's a victorious feeling to see the juice just flood off of that rack and into the basin. From the basin it drains through a hose into our barrels in the truck bed. This year we pressed one hundred and fifty four gallons. That will last us until next October-November when we press again. 
      The press sells one-gallon jugs and we buy one every year to help us measure the juice into our blue barrels. Seventeen gallons to a barrel ... those things get HEAVY!

Empty Bins & Full Barrels
What's Left of the Apples?
Half Gallon Jars of Cider
     Then it's the long haul!
     This year Mom and I stayed up until three o'clock a.m. preserving our juice.
    We love to drink the fresh cider, but it has to be kept cool or it will start to ferment and start to taste sharp. So we freeze all we have room for in our chest freezers and can the rest. We had room for seventy half gallons this year.  

     I dragged the barrels in one at a time on a bathroom rug (one without the grippy rubber underneath layer) and we used pitchers to transfer it from barrel to pot. We warm the juice to a near boil before ladling them into half gallon jars, putting the sterilized lids on top and securing it with a ring.
With all the lifting and pouring and hefting there is to do your arms feel like strings of spagetti by the end of the night. 

    We do the canning itself in our green house where we can spill and drip and not worry because we'll just hose it off afterwards. The juice seals in a hot-water-bath for ten minutes before we pull them out and let them sit overnight on rag towels on the floor. 

    Now all we have to is wipe them down, label them, and take them down to the basement, not to mention scrub the barrels, clean the caners, and take the crates back to the orchard ... but that's another day.

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