As air has the telltale crispness that denotes a change of season, it is time to pick apples. I am shocked by the number of people who have apple trees and do nothing with the apples! We have 4 of our own trees that produce apples but have a neighbor that planted 200 trees– just for their family and friends. I found them so inspirational that I planted 20 more trees last year. While I wait for those to come of age, I am still searching out unwanted apples from around the country. It is not hard to find people who will be happy to have you pick up their apples as a service to THEM. Just put the word out and they will come.
The apple is about as close as you can come to the perfect fruit, how can they be left to rot and waste–it is not for lack of potential. So many options and so little time, what is new, on the homestead there is never enough time for it all. This year I began my cider production with a trip to our neighbors to pick apples. I took several buckets, bags, and boxes and picked up twelve 5- gallon buckets full of apples.
I can fit about 1 1/2 gallons of quartered apples into the cider press, which is close to the equivalent of two 5- gallon buckets of whole apples.
Wash the Apples
First, I wash the apples.
Quarter the Apples
The next step takes the most time. I have never had the benefit of beautiful bruise free and worm free apples, so I quarter them and cut out any worms. I know, extra protein is a good thing, but I just can’t quite bring myself to ignore them as they look up at me with their little round faces. If you have the luxury of less “organic” apples, then just cutting them in half would be small enough to grind.
Quartered Apples Ready to Grind
Grind the Apples
A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to find a homemade apple press and apple grinding set up for $50 on Craigslist. It is not very pretty but does the trick. Their clever apple grinder is a small stainless sink with homemade legs and an attached garbage disposal.
Garbage Disposal Apple Grinder
I have a few thoughts on the good and bad of my grinder set up:
If I were starting from scratch I would like to find a slightly larger sink, ideally the drain hole would be offset so there is a little more room to dump the apples in.
In my case I carry this outside when I use it, so it is good that it is not very heavy or large to move.
Legs are tall and that really helps make it more ergonomic to stand at it.
The disposal is 1/2 h.p. I have read that others use a larger size and I think that might work a little better.
I need to install a switch on the side so I don’t have to unplug it to turn it off.
The grinding process is pretty quick and should only be done by an adult. I dump about 1/3 of the 5-gallon bucket of apples into the sink. I have to push about 4-5 apple pieces into the drain area with a plunger. It works best if you keep a piece of apple between the plunger and the blades. I just keep feeding it in, without allowing the disposal to completely clear that way I only occasionally make contact with the plunger and the blades.
There is a bucket with the cider bag waiting at the exit pipe of the disposal. When I have pushed all the apples through there is a little left in the disposal. At this point I dump a couple of cups of water into the drain, the water helps the remaining apples to flow out the drain. Once I have moved the bucket away from the drain, I run the disposal with a hose running water into the drain to completely clean it out. I only do one batch at a time–enough for one press full. I don’t know this for sure but suspect that it is best to let the disposal cool down a bit between batches.
Garbage Disposal Grinding Pulp
Apple Pulp, Ready to Press
To begin with I tried making my own pulp bag from muslin. That worked okay, but it was a little too hard to push the juice through it. I purchased a net bag, and now that I have tried it and know it works I can buy some netting and make my own for a fraction of the price.
Now the fun part begins. Have a container set up for the cider to drip into at the press. Crank the handle up so that there is enough room to get the bag into the press. Lift the pulp bag into the press and put the plunger on top of the bag. Crank the handle down so that it is putting pressure on the bag of pulp. The cider should begin to run out of the press into the container. Keep cranking the plunger down to put more pressure onto the bag. I have noticed that if I crank it down then give it a little time I can give it a few more cranks. I continue this until I run out of threads on the handle. At that point the juice has pretty well been removed from the pulp.
I remove the pulp bag and give the contents to the sheep, they love the remaining pulp. Wash the cider press and bottle the cider.
Want to try cider, but don’t have the equipment? A couple of things I have used are a food processor to grind the apples and a cheese cloth bag. Put the pulp in the cheese cloth and let it hang to allow the cider to drip out. Squeeze the bag to get as much of the cider out.
I filter the cider into the bottle through a strainer, cheese cloth would work nicely as well.
Strained, Fresh Cider
We drink our cider fresh or freeze it for later. If you are worried about E Coli, then it is best to pasteurize your cider before drinking it. Just bring it to a boil then allow it to cool. If your apples were picked up from the ground then pasteurizing the cider is a really good idea. I have canned cider in the past and unless you compare directly to fresh, it is hard to tell the difference. It is also nice to have it sitting on the shelf ready to drink. As the weather cools it is nice to heat some on the stove with cinnamon, it does double duty as a delicious drink and an intoxicating smell in the whole house. All that is left is a fiber project and a fire in the wood stove to get ready for winter!
Ready to Enjoy!
Have you got a great way to speed up the process of making cider, I would love to hear your suggestions!
Update– I had more cider than the freezer could hold. Using the steam canner I processed 14 quart jars of cider. I followed the time in the Ball Blue Book for boiling water bath canner. It calls for heating the cider to 190 degrees for 5 minutes before filling the jars to be placed in the canner. We had a taste test to see if we could tell the difference between the pasteurized cider and the fresh. There was not enough of a difference that I would be able to pick it out. This last batch is obviously much lighter in color than the one I used for the cover photo. These were made from mostly Fuji apples from a tree that was a volunteer from a tossed apple core. It is much thinner and not as flavorful. It will be best for spiced warm cider. I suspect some will make its way into Dan’s famous apple pie shots for an upcoming event we are hosting.
Quarts of Cider