We finally completed most of our apple canning and preserving for the season. We still have one bushel picked of nice, big ones that we plan to use for pie filling. But there were still lots left hanging on the tree. So I got out my long pole and started knocking them down to press for cider.
When making hand-pressed apple cider, you don’t worry about cuts or bruises on the fruit. In fact, the bruises help “tenderize” the apples for chopping into mash. So knocking them down with vigor and even violence is not a problem. (Just make sure you wear glasses or protective goggles … I learned my lesson last year with a trip to the eye doctor after getting my cornea scratched by falling fruit. Stupid me!)
When I was done, I finished with about five bushels of apples.
So here is a pictorial description of the process.
My buddy, Tim, has a press that he restored. It is a mid-1800’s antique. I bought one for myself last year, but it still needs some restoration work, and I haven’t had time for that project yet. So Tim is nice enough to let me use his. Step one is to load the apples in to the hopper in small batches and crush them. It’s labor intensive. The apples are funneled into a steel chamber where they are crushed and shredded and fall out into the open-bottom basket below.
After making the mash, you slide the basket forward under the press, place the round press board and compression block on top, and start cranking the screw. When it gets too tight to crank by hand, I just insert an oak “cheater bar” and walk in circles until the basket begins to show a little stress and the juice stops flowing. The apple juice begins to turn a deep amber color as soon as it hits the air. This is, I believe, the oxidation of the high iron content in the apple juice. I collect the juice in buckets as it flows down off of the angled platform under the press, then funnel it over into well-cleaned one-gallon milk and vinegar jugs. This year I finished with a little over seven gallons of raw product.
Once all of the juice is collected, everything has to be hosed off and cleaned very well. Besides the juice, we are left with a compacted “cookie” of apple skins and fiber. This makes an excellent snack for hogs, cattle, or even chickens. But this year, I think, Tim placed it all in a big barrel, covered it with water, and sat it in the corner of his shed. I think he might be looking for some copper tubing now … 😉
Wit the “field phase” complete, I head for home. This year I wanted to try and reduce the amount of sediment in my cider. There’s nothing wrong with having lots of sediment in the finished product, but I like mine to be a bit more on the clear side. So I packed the jugs into two large coolers, covered them with ice, and let them sit and settle out for a couple of days.
Once they settled to a level that I was happy with, I took them (very carefully) up to the kitchen and began the siphoning process. I took about a 5-6 foot length of hollow plastic tubing and placed one end into the original raw juice jug, just above the sediment level. Then using mouth suction, I siphoned the juice to start it flowing and placed the other end of the tube in a clean jug … then I let gravity do the work. I discarded the sediment in the original jugs, then discarded those jugs.
Next, I filtered the juice through three layers of paper towels to remove any residual large sediment floaters.
Next comes the sterilization process. Using my seven-quart pot, I sterilize seven quarts at a time. I don’t want to actually boil the juice. Instead, I want to get it to a high temperature, just below boiling, and keep it there for ten minutes to make sure I kill all bacteria and yeast. I heat mine to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and stir constantly for ten minutes.
I’m almost done! Next, I ladle the hot juice into quart jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. My stove won’t take a boiling water canner, so I just use my pressure canner, filled to the top, but with no pressure. I process by boiling for fifteen minutes.
And, finally, I am done! I started with about 7 1/2 gallons of raw juice. In the end, I had 27 quarts of canned apple cider. I lost about 3 quarts in my siphoning and filtration process. Not bad …
Here’s a picture of the finished product!
So, with 27 quarts, I have to ration myself to one every other week. That will just get me through to apple time next year!
I hope you vicariously enjoyed the experience. Let me know if you have any questions.