Sunday, September 22, 2013

Making Cider the Old Fashioned Way

On September 11  Peter Grace invited us over to press cider. We have a number of apple trees on our property that are fine for cider but not very attractive for eating. Scott gathered enough of them to fill a huge bucket and we brought them along. There were lots of apples there already as you can see in one of the pictures (and that's only a portion of them). Sandy Bragg was already there and had done some apple picking himself.
Peter is a great teacher and soon we were pitching in. We all did some sorting at first. Then Sandy and I teamed up to load the apples (Sandy) and arrange the mash into packets (me) with Peter overseeing and jumping in as necessary. Basically you slowly dump the apples into the bottom of a conveyor belt that carries them up to the grinder. Then the resulting mash drops down through an accordion like square tube into the "diapers", fitted carefully into a frame on a oak grates. The "diapers" are rough brown cloth squares about a yard square.
My job was to put a grate under the tube, then position the frame on top. The diaper was laid over in a offset position and then fitted into the frame. The mash dumped down into this until I had enough to fill the frame up to the top. Sandy then stopped adding apples and we disengaged the conveyor belt. Then I folded over the diaper carefully forming a packet and removed the frame. This was done a number of times until the pile of packets was as tall as the space beneath the fully raised press. The pile was drawn under the press and it lowered slowly, pressing the juice out and into the stainless steel pan you see at the far right of the machine. The juice ran through a hole at the end and into containers through a cheesecloth filter (an apple served as an occasional stopper to change containers). These were dumped into a large stainless steel tank.
Scott and Peter sorted, washed and ferried the apples around as well as gathered up the cider and dry mash at the end. That product is fed to pigs (not Peter's). Peter also instructed and helped when I made mistakes - too many times forgetting the diaper!
Penelope Weiss and John Davis arrived mid way with some of their pears, which we pressed separately.
We all took home some wonderful cider, which after pasteurizing, was amazing.

Peter at the apple (pear) sorter

Sandy and I hard at work

Later Penelope joined us and brought her pears

But mostly we pressed apples, some from our trees

Here's a look at the chopping/pressing machine

Washing the fruit

And the pressing grates

Heather fills the "diapers" with mash

And then adds another one

Here you get a good look at the mash

A tower of mash ready for the press

And now under the press with the cider flowing into the pail

The leftovers go to local pigs