Letterwerks Sign City
"Where Fillmore County News Comes First"
Online Edition
Monday, August 29th, 2016
Volume ∞ Issue ∞

Pressing Cider

By Loni Kemp

Fri, Nov 1st, 2013
Posted in All Columnists

My heart sank as I heard the news. The Amish family who had pressed our apples into cider for many years was not home. Indeed, nothing was left in the house at all, reported a friend who tried to reserve our pressing date. A neighbor reported that they had moved away to Wisconsin. What on earth were we to do with some 40 bushels of apples? We needed a new presser. Our small group of friends had been working together annually to make fresh cider, picking our apples, helping to process them, and bottling the crisp new vintage for freezing.

Luckily, the family was careful to get word to me, through their lawyer who happens to be my husband, that someone else was taking up the business. With great relief I paid a visit to a friendly young man who not only learned from his predecessor, but hand-built his own new and improved pressing system. A convenient drive-through shed enabled easier unloading of the heavy apple bins onto an elevated platform. A quieter motor ran a feed grinder to crush the apples into pomace, which dropped immediately down into a large bin before being raked into the beautiful wooden frames he made and stacked three at a time. A few cranks on the hydraulic cylinder put pressure on the frames and liquid gold came running out the sides of the frames. The dry pomace left over was thrown into a wagon, and fed to the sheep nearby. We agreed on a date for him to press our cider.

On our designated morning, the group effort mobilized. My husband helped me load the 14 bins of apples I had picked after they were kissed with a few frosts to add sweetness. As I drove the borrowed pickup across the countryside I noticed other farmers hauling corn and cattle and felt a part of the whole harvest miracle. A crew of loyal friends were making their way from Harmony, Lanesboro and Preston to help out. It was a cool and breezy morning, but none of the predicted snow and rain showed up, so we felt lucky. As we converged at the lovely grouping of Amish farms, our supervisor welcomed us, directing visiting buggies to where they could unload their apples.

We got right to work, as he started up the grinder engine and we fed the apples through, tossing any rotten ones onto the pomace wagon. A group of children watched the commotion, and the older ones helped out, cranking the press and bringing milk cans for the finished cider.

I pulled out my steel cup and thrust it into the gush of cider, and passed it around, while it was pronounced delicious and complex. Tasting nothing like pasteurized store-bought cider, fresh cider has all the flavor of the apple itself.

Finally, the bins were empty and there sat a row of seven ten-gallon milk cans filled to the brim. We loaded them up and drove a short way to my main cider partner’s home, where we set up an assembly line to siphon the cider into a hodge-podge of clean juice, vinegar and milk jugs. After rinsing the milk cans and the jugs, we divvied up the 70 gallons of cider. I took 30, with plans to chill, freeze or ferment my share. It was amusing to watch the four women start to say they’d take one or two, but eventually give in to my pleadings that we had to deal with this cider. Certainly we weren’t about to let any go to waste, so in the end it was all parceled out with promises of sharing with others.

Hard Cider

Place fresh cider into a glass gallon jug filled to the brim. Place the jug on a tray in a quiet, out of the way place. After a few days the cider will turn dark and start to bubble and foam up, as the natural yeasts present on the fruit begin to ferment sugars into alcohol. Foam may rise up out of the neck of the jug, so keep it clean and replenish the level of the cider near the top of the jug. Within a couple of weeks the foaming will stop and the fermenting will settle down to a steady state of bubbles rising. At this point put a bubbler airlock, a stopper filled with water, on the jug (available for $1.25 at brewing shops.) This allows the jug to exhale gases while keeping everything else out. The cider will cycle through dark brown, golden brown, tan to almost clear. Allow it to keep fermenting until the bubbling totally stops, if you want complete fermentation, which will take a couple of months. Let it sit for another month or two to clarify. Then siphon off the hard cider and bottle. Look into adding just a little sugar at this point for natural carbonation, but pay attention to details because you don’t want any burst bottles.

No Comments Yet. Be the first to comment!

Your comment submission is also an acknowledgement that this information may be reprinted in other formats such as the newspaper.