Homemade cider is hard, but tasty work

  • Apples must be ground into pulp first. Then, the pulp is pressed to make cider. Carole Soule / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Friday, November 03, 2017

At the pressing party, each person took three to four-minute shifts turning the crank that ground the apples into mush. Six bushels of apples waiting to be ground sat on the picnic table; there was a lot of grinding to do.

After the grinding comes the pressing, which squeezes the apples into cider.

One more step, straining, and then the do it yourself cider was ready for sipping.

The centerpiece of this operation was a manual cider press worked by three or more people. One person cranked, another fed in the apples and a third pushed the apples into the grinder to turn them into mush.

Once the small bucket was filled with apple mush, two people, using a board for leverage, turned a screw to compress the apple mush extracting the cider which was then strained through cheesecloth and poured into gallon jugs ready to drink.

The work looked hard (I just watched and took pictures) but the cider was sweet and golden.

There was an abundance of apples this year for most farms. Unfortunately, a micro hailstorm hit one orchard, Hackleboro Orchard in Canterbury in the spring. This storm missed neighboring orchards but hit Hackleboro hard, damaging apples and pears. It’s odd how one orchard can lose its crop to weather and another, just minutes away, escapes harm. If your apples escaped damage this year you might want to try DIY cider.

Do you know the difference between apple cider and apple juice? Apple cider is made from apples that have been pressed into raw juice. It takes about ⅓ bushel of apples to make one gallon of cider that must be refrigerated.

Cider ferments over time and can turn into “hard cider,” which is alcoholic.

Apple juice has been made into a concentrate, then water is added back to it, and it is pasteurized so it can’t ferment. Pasteurization makes apple juice shelf stable and available unrefrigerated year-round.

I took home a gallon of cider from this “pressing party” and I also took home two bags the apple mush to feed to my pigs. The bags from three pressings fed 15 of my pigs who someday will be bacon. Can you imagine sipping hard cider while munching on a BLT where the bacon is from an apple fed pig?

Not everyone has a press to make cider, but it’s worth looking for one, especially if you have an apple tree in your backyard. Don’t waste those backyard apples; make cider and let it ferment into hard cider if that suits you, then give the apple pulp to a hog or cattle farmer to feed his critters. You’ll love your DIY cider and the hogs will love the pulp.

(Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs and other local products. She can be reached at cas@milessmithfarm.com.)