Thursday, October 15, 2009

pressing cider

When these beauties hit the kitchen counter, the cider making season began. My neighbor Professor Evil gave me a grocery sack filled with apples. He called them "drops" from his boss who lives here in the east bay. Before I even saw what variety they were, my nose told me I was in familiar territory. I opened the bag and got hit with the smell of my childhood summers in Sebastopol: Gravensteins.

I immediately ate one. I whacked up a few and dehydrated them for snacks later. Then I gave the rest a pass through the juicer. With a yield near a quart and a half, I poured it into an empty glass milk jug. I added about 3/4 cup of blackberry blossom honey. Shaking vigorously to dissolve the bee love, I put it on the counter and began waiting for the magic to happen. The next day bubbles arrived.

With one little experiment up and running I began thinking about doing a bigger batch. It wasn't looking like Reedley was going to happen this year, so no free Granny Smiths to juice up. That's okay I thought, my friend P told me that "your apples" were looking good and ready any time I wanted to come over and pick.

At the next market my favorite peach farmer Carl asked me "hey, you have any use for hundreds of pounds of apples this year? Like for cider?"
Uhh, sure, like how many?
"Oh, at least 20 boxes, so about 400 pounds or so, but easily more if you think you could use them."
You talking like giving me the apples and I give you cider back?
"We could work it out that way......"
I was already considering renting a press. So, 34 boxes later, it looked like the best idea I'll have all year.

The press came apart somewhat and managed to fit into the back of my wagon. Over at B's (my pressing pal) house reassembled, it looked like something straight out of the middle ages but with an electrical cord at one end. Plug it in, start tossing the apples into the hopper on the upper right, and then keep them coming until the press basket below it is full of pulp. (Make sure to place the basket under it when actually performing this task.) Fold the mesh bag lining the basket over itself on top and insert the pressing plate (not easy to see but being used under the auger press on the left). Crank away and watch nearly a gallon per basket flow down and into your carefully positioned, non-breakable vessel.

The juice from this ancient technology was clear and pretty much pulp free. Five gallons into it and I was impressed. At 10 gallons I was considering a way to build one. Nearing 15 gallons and I wanted to go buy one. By 20 gallons I thought it the best invention since liquid soap. 25 gallons and I was convinced a genius designed it. 30 gallons and I was glad we ran out of glass carboys to fill before we ran out of apples.

Now, what did we do with 30 some odd gallons of cider? We decided to split up the fermenting task and each claimed responsibility for roughly half. Then we used different yeasts in different containers and let the microrganisms get to work. Three short weeks later and I have now completed the first racking of my portion. Rumor has it B is working on his. I bottled a sample of each of the three kinds I have going.

Now, I'd write more, but after sampling a touch while performing the aforementioned tasks, I'm feeling rather spent. Also, I'll have to wait a week or two and try the bottled samples before deciding on how to proceed. Still or sparkling? Blended or not? Only time can tell. I'll give a bottling update when it happens.

Go press some juice, would you?


Ryan said...

I'm incredibly jealous, one of these years I'm going to have to track down some apples.

Anonymous said...

Well dang, I was going to content myself with making applesauce with the apples from our tree but now I want to make cider. Too many options!

Mimi said...

Wow. You have to love barter. lol!!

Monkey Wrangler said...

Ryan: Just think: small batch. Crank out a quart or two, put it in a glass milk bottle, cover the top with foil and let it ferment on your kitchen counter. Most likely, within a few weeks you will have hard cider. If not, apple cider vinegar to use. Go ahead and satiate that apple based curiosity.

Liz: Do it! Read the response to Ryan. It is that simple. Really. Apples have plenty of yeast on their skins and will readily ferment. Just keep the flying bugs out and give it time.

Mimi: Word!
Oh, and ditto.

Rev. Biggles said...

Keeripes! You're awesome.

I just picked up a few bags from my uncle's tree. Granny smiths, red delicious and a few cocks orange for good measure. I wanna make booze!