Thursday, September 27, 2007

apple cider is preservation, right?

I'm gonna sound like a bit of a lush here, but when I first read about the september focus of food preservation, brewing was one of the first things that came to mind. I figure, alcohol is a fine and dandy way to preserve things without having to cook the bejesus out of it. Besides, it warms the tummy. Come on now, that's a win-win situation.

Since it's coming on fall in this here northern part of the globe, apples are falling off the trees about now. This past weekend we were at H's folks' house and I had access to several hundred pounds of granny smiths. Time for juicing, for tis the season huh? Or, will be that is, so with september drawing to a close I've begun fermenting apple juice in hopes of hard cider by christmas. It was time to put up some alcohol for warming the belly come winter.

This is about two thirds of what was eventually picked on mid-saturday after a light rain had kissed the parched central valley loam. Reedley has fantastic soil, but it's hard and baked for at least half of the year so its a real treat when you get a whiff of it after a bit of rain. I walked out back and went to the cluster of apples in the orchard. The granny's are loaded with fruit but a bit wormy. Being selective somewhat and picking without a ladder I collected 13 buckets of apples with each weighing nearly 20 pounds in under two hours. I washed and cut up a few buckets worth and put the juicer I borrowed from my sis to the test. It appeared that a quart could be done before needing to disassemble and clean it. Hmm, seems like this is gonna take longer than anticipated. A bit of kitchen math revealed I would be doing this some thirty times or so. It was time to get more efficient.

So, fill the bowl on the left with hunks of apples. Feed these into the juicer. Strain the juice into the white stock pot for some settling before being decanted into the carboy for storage. Basically, the apples came in off the tree and sat near the juicer for a second before getting a quick scrub and cleave. Then they made a trip through the juicer, hang a u-turn and proceed back to the biggest glass vessel we have.

All finished and decanted on the average of twice a quart, we had near 6 & 1/2 gallons of apple juice. A quick trip to the oak barrel and we were in business for making some cider. A packet of ale yeast and a packet of potassium metabisulfite and we had our bases covered. Treat the juice to get rid of any unwanted nasties that have popped up in the few days since juicing and be prepared with a fresh batch of known yeast to innoculate it with. Considering the apples were free for the picking, that makes it about 6 gallons of cider for about 5 bucks of materials. I'm sure running the juicer intermittently for some 6 hours costs a penny or two on the utility bill, but I know it ain't no twenty bucks. It's all about them cheap apples.

Taking a gravity reading indicates that if all goes well with fermentation, we should have about 7-8 points of alcohol in the end. That will definately be warming to the belly on a cold winter day. This is surely cause for a big smile. Or in another scenario, a few weeks go by, I crack open the carboy and discover that everyone is getting organic apple cider vinegar for the holidays. We'll just have to wait and see.

I just love ol' granny smith. Pick her when her fruit starts dropping, twirl her around, sprinkle with pixie dust and let her sit for a bit in the shade. When she's done breathing hard, give her a taste of sugar and some time to mellow. Come the holidays she'll be ringin' yer bell, or puckering your mouth. Doesn't everyone need a granny like that?

18 comments:

K & S said...

that is cool! and you've made your christmas gifts--saves you lots of time at the malls...priceless!

Mimi said...

Yum. You'll have to remember to let us know how it turns out.

That bottle is bigger than your tyke. It must have been sooooo heavy!

Have you made wine yet? Just curious, seems like you've got the beer down pat and now you're doing cider. A friend of mine made dandelion wine one year. It was really good. We were more than happy to drink her weeds.

leena! said...

Oh wow. I didn't really understand a lot of the lingo in this one, but I understand the results, and hard cider is probably my favorite drink of all time. I am so envious you actually know how to make some!

I can't wait to see how it turns out. Perhaps after grad school I can join the Monkey Wrangler school of making cheap tasty liquor? Well, as long as you let me pay the tuition in the form of baked goods. Or essays on Mexican national cuisine. Thats about all I'm good for right now.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Kat: I'm all about staying out of the mall at the holiday shopping crunch. It will be very nice to head out into the garage and pick something out, slap a ribbon on it and go.

Mimi: No wine yet, but it is a goal indeed. And the bottle was somewhere near fifty pounds I'm sure. As for fifty pounds of cider or vingar, I'll keep y'all posted.

Leena: I'll let you know how it turns out for sure. And like, mmmm cookies.....pastries.....cakes, all are good in trade.

Rev. Biggles said...

Hooyah !!! My uncle's trees are laden as well. I go back for bag after bag, pears too. Cool how you took the time to actually DO something with them other than eat them. And how noble a use.

Biggles

Monkey Wrangler said...

Biggles: You know, with a comment like that and being in my area, that if it comes out all right there will be a bottle with your name on it.

Busy all the time. said...

just stopping by to say hi before I rush off to work for the night. I'm the girl who fed you + zoe doughnuts and ice cream saturday at the sens party. hope you enjoyed it!

Monkey Wrangler said...

Batt: Thank you for dropping by, but more importantly thanks for the treats! It was nice meeting you and talking food'n'stuff. I'll drop you a line in the future when I'm heading to the city and I'll bring you some starter.

Robin said...

Yum! This is a brilliant way to treat a glut of apples.

I have several bushels of apples to contend with, and I was going to go wild making apple butter, but I think my plans just changed. Thanks!

Busy all the time. said...

oh, yum, starter to look forward to! thanks :)

Monkey Wrangler said...

Robin: Hello, glad you dropped by the ranch! I'm happy this was inspirational in some way, but I hope you have a more efficient means for processing the fruit........

Batt: Chew gotit mang!

Stacie said...

look how big that baby is getting!!

Monkey Wrangler said...

Stacie: Yessum indeed that there boy is growing up fast. He's striving for sitting up and with two bottom teeth already is moving toward giving the more solid stuff a try soon. Damn, it's like next thing you know them tykes weigh darn near twenty pounds or something. (I think his mom is feeding hime lead sometimes....)

HipWriterMama said...

Love the picture of Baby Monkey next to the cider. Is there anything you can't make? I'm so impressed.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Hey there Hip: Yeah that picture of the two together was priceless. It gives great perspective to how large both items are.......

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you have a solution for storage it all ?

art fan said...

perhaps, you should invest in a carboy washer to have clean wine/cider/beer.

Berth

Fred-√Člie Rocher said...

Is it really an investement to contact a cleaning company ?