Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Making apple cider

Lady apple tree - this is the tree before we started picking the apples.
Over the weekend, we picked over 300 lbs of apples. I know it was this much, because I weighed just one of the many boxes we picked and it was over 55 lbs. We picked six of these for apple cider and a few more smaller boxes for eating, storage, giving away and baking.

Red delicious on the tree

On Monday, I left work early to pick up the rented cider mill/press at a home brew supply store on the other side of Portland. The press is clearly homemade by someone, and it's got a mill on one side of the frame (where the apples get pulverized) and a press on the other side of the frame. It came with two 'barrels' so that we could be milling and pressing at the same time.

Set up to start milling (the second barrel was sitting to the side)

Apples being washed

We started by washing all the apples. We had 4 varieties that were going to go into this cider, so I tried to make sure that each batch had some of each. This turned out to be more important than I had originally thought because as it turns out, a variety of apple sizes in each load helped keep the mill working smoothly (I faced a few jams prior to figuring this out).

The hopper loaded up - this did not work, apples had to be fed in a group of 3-4 with only one going in at a time or the mill would jam.

Basically, I was feeding the mill and my H was doing the pressing. He also washed the apples, ran the used pulp to the compost pile and filled the containers (using a strainer) with cider in between pressing loads. It took a lot longer to mill one barrel worth of apples than it did to press it, so his undying movement kept the process running smoothly. The mill had a wooden box with a round hole cut in the top that fit over the top of the hopper. My original plan was to skip this box so that I could put the apples in faster than just one at a time. Yeah, not gonna happen. This mill spit apple guts EVERYWHERE! Seriously! Without that box, I would have been inches thick in apple guts. As it was, I had it in my hair, on my face, and all down my legs below my knees (where the bottom of the mill was). As you can see from the pictures, we also had apple guts all over the porch, the boxes, the press itself...we even saw a few pieces fly up onto the roof! What a mess!

Me - feeding apples into the hopper.

Apple cider flowing from the press - note the apple guts everywhere!

My H working the press.

Once we'd done this for about 2 hours, we took a break to warm up and get something to eat. We resumed work not long after and set a goal of getting all the apples done. We filled up a 5 gallon container we'd bought specifically for this, a 1 gallon plastic jug, 3 half gallon ball jars, and half a cooler. The plan was to use all the cider in the cooler to fill freezer bags to save for long term. Fresh un-pasturized cider will keep for about a year if frozen. It will keep in the fridge for about a week before it starts to ferment. Our plan is to keep some frozen, give some away, drink a ton and ferment a container or two. All in all, we got more than 11 gallons of cider from our 300 + lbs of apples.

The last little oddity about this event is our hands...mine in particular. They are stained! When I first noticed it, my hands were kind of red, but I assumed it was mostly from being wet and cold. Then, after I washed them (and warmed up), I noticed that they were kind of a light brown. By the end of the evening (after showering and scrubbing), they were darker brown! Even today, two days later, they are still discolored - my hands look like they are dirty. Weird, huh? So if anyone is thinking of making their own cider - I would recommend wearing gloves of some sort!

It's not as obvious in this photo - but my hands (particularly my fingers) are stained from the apples!

Oh...and I should mention that the cider is absolutely delicious!!

Finished cider in a ball jar.


bonnyboo said...

You both look happy in your pictures, so I guess everything is working out. Do you plan on making apple cider? Is it difficult? With winter around the corner, I guess you will be able to catch your breath and relax a bit! Kringles will be coming in December!

JES said...

Whew! I'm really going to appreciate that half gallon of cider I bought yesterday!