My friend Nils invited us over this past weekend, to press fresh apples in his cider press and taste the resulting juice. This was a very interesting experience!
First, Nils had to cut out any wormy bits. He collects apples from his own trees, from neighbor’s trees, and also buys some from the farmers market. This full steel pot of apples (probably 8-ish gallons?) made about 1 gallon of juice.
The next step is to feed the apples into the grinder, which is operated by someone turning a sideways wheel quite fast. The inner cylinder with sharp teeth makes short work of the apples, turning them into pulp below in a lined wooden basket.
Then a wooden disc is applied to the apple mash and the top screw is turned, to press the juice. It runs out the bottom into a tray, and then into the bowl of your choice.
The bowl is emptied several times during the pressing, and the screw is turned ever tighter, pressing the mash further down into the basket. The leftover mash is ideal for the compost bin (or livestock), and the juice is either drunk straightaway or warmed up for hot cider. Or, of course, you could freeze it, can it, or ferment it for hard cider (and then again for vinegar). We just tasted the fresh, cold juice, and let me tell you - it was one of the best things I’ve ever had.
I don’t know why, but it tastes completely different from what you can buy in the store. It’s lighter somehow, and very refreshing. Unpasteurized of course. And I suppose the flavor changes depending on what kind of apples you press. We pressed mostly Granny Smith, and it was so incredibly tasty. I could have drunk a pitcher by myself.
So of course on the way home Tom and I were angling for a press - how could we get one of our own? Nils had found his on Craigslist or some such, and refurbished it. I looked online and found new ones for about $300 or so. That’s too pricey for something we won’t use often. But I’m thinking that maybe we could rent Nils’ for an afternoon next year. We have neighbors who always bring us lots of apples and I’m sure we could find more. It would be great to pay a fee for an afternoon’s press use, and have our own cider to do with as we pleased. Something like the ‘village mill’ that would grind everyone’s grains, or the ‘village bakery’ which would bake everyone’s bread. I love this idea.
Something about this process was very familiar, and it made me wonder if I had done this as a child back in Maryland.
Do any of you own a press, or know someone who does? Is this a tradition in your house? If so, I’d love to hear your stories about it.