Good Apples

We have no real commercial apples on our property, but we do have a lot of apple trees. We call them “deer apples,” because it is probably the deer that planted them. Years ago, many of the old farms around here had old pastures that slowly reverted to tree cover, and apple trees are one of the trees that came in first. Some don’t taste like much, but some are spectacular. We have bad apple years, like last year, and good ones like this year.

cider1I get a lot of satisfaction from being able to make the things we use, and to be able to make those things from resources on our property. So this past weekend, I picked apples, and Alice and I made cider… 14 gallons of it. I had picked half the apples the day before, but the other half was picked as part of the 14 gallon day. I’m proud to say that most of these apples came from a tree that was pruned by Steve and me last winter. I think we must have done a pretty good pruning job.

cider3The process involves dumping a bag of apples into the yellow plastic wheel barrow and filling it with water. Alice usually helps by removing all the leaves, stems, and other non-apple material from the batch, and placing the cleaned apples into the hopper of the press. Using my massive shoulder muscles, I turn the crank on the side of the press, slowly grinding the apples into mush. Once the oak slat barrel is full of apple mush, I put the cap on, and using the handle, I squeeze the juice out. The juice runs out a hole in the bottom of the press through a kitchen colander and into a stainless steel bowl.

cider2While we are really into this project, our enthusiasm is nothing compared to these little black and yellow striped ladies. They positively love everything about apple cider. The smarter ones hang around the source of the action, but don’t get too close. Their more reckless colleagues dive right into the juice and have to be extricated by friendly humans. Fortunately for us, this time of year these hornets aren’t at all aggressive, and I flicked dozens of them out of puddles of juice while they lay stuck in the sweet juice.

I used 10 gallons of this tasty cider to make a double batch of cider wine. And I had a heck of a time getting the yeast to “take” on this batch. Finally two nights ago, after I’d finished in the sauna, I carried all the primary fermentors out to the warm sauna, added some more yeast, and let the wine brew in the warmth. It seems to have worked, because all 10 gallons are now talking to me. I put my ear close to the liquid, and can hear the bubbles coming off the batch going sssssss. If this batch comes out ok, I should get about 60 bottles. We’ll know if it is any good in a year or so.

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