Autumn is here at last — there’s a lingering chill in the air, even on the sunniest days, and the soil is cold and damp. Time to plant fava beans and garlic, onions and cover crops, before it gets too cold for the little seeds to sprout. But first, it’s time for something that seems to be becoming a fall tradition for us: apple-cider making!
Cider-making is one of those things that are best done with company; we team up with our friends Paula and Eric, who have a beautiful little cider press. Last weekend we hauled 400 pounds of apples over to their backyard, where we spent a lovely morning chopping and crushing and pressing apples… and of course talking and cider-tasting and swapping mushroom-hunting and mead-making tips. Paula and Eric’s yard is completely entrancing, with their handmade ceramic sculptures tucked among the trees and bushes.
Pressing apple juice isn’t complicated, but it does take work! Friends Donna and Tom join us to help as well. We start by chopping the apples into quarters, so they run easily through the hand-cranked crusher. Sounds easy enough… until you calculate that there are several thousand apples sitting there in those lug boxes. And that’s just step one!
A mixture of Black Arkansas, Green Scrumptious, John’s Delicious, and Granny Smith apples gives a well-balanced juice, both sweet and tart.
Next, we dunk the apple chunks in a bath of citric acid and water to keep them from browning. The apple chunks then go into the hopper, where they head down the chute to the hand-cranked crusher. They’ll emerge at the bottom as a coarsely-ground mash, ready for pressing.
The crushed apples are then pressed to expel the juice. As fresh as you can get! The pressed-out apple mush piles up quickly, though the volume is far less than the apples we started with… we’ll add some to the compost, and give some to the chickens. The juice goes into clean jugs; Paula and Eric make delicious hard cider with most of theirs. We’ll make some cyser (cider mead) and freeze the rest for later.
Hard work, yes, but fun work, too — and ever so satisfying to go from this…
When we finish, Paula conjures up a fabulous lunch, complete with toasted homemade bread spread with homemade cheese and topped with dried cherry tomatoes. (Somehow, I neglected to take a photo of that!) We raise glasses of bubbly apple-pomegranate cider toast a good day’s work, and good friends, and all the bounty of Fall. Cheers!