Despite a poor apple crop in the garden this year, we still have too many apples to deal with, even though we eat lots, cook them and make apple juice every couple of days with one jug to drink and one to freeze. I always find my home stored apples a bit of a disappointment when they’re wrinkled, spotted and soft by December so we’ve long since decided that the best way to store apples is to make cider. Apple pressing day is an annual family event; my mother turns up with her own apples, knife and chopping board while others arrive with just a willingness to help in return for a bottle or two of freshly pressed apple juice to take home.
With no small boys to climb the trees for the high apples this year (because their mother was too busy doing this to come) we made big boys climb ladders while the knife wielders chopped the apples into small enough pieces to fit into the shredder. Knives varied from a small paring knife to large meat cleaver and some favoured meticulous cutting into neat cubes while others hacked the apples into odd shapes and sizes. This is the most labour intensive part of the process and I think we’re all hoping for a mechanised solution.
The apples were put through an old garden shredder to pulp them and then packed into the press. The skill is to pack the press full enough that sufficient pressure can be used to squeeze out as much juice as possible but not so full that the pulp spills out from the confines of the wooden slats and into the trough at the bottom. Once packed in, the blocks and handle were inserted and the apples pressed down, causing the juice to flow into the waiting bucket. Some of the juice is kept back to drink simply as juice while the rest is left in a warm place to ferment.
Once the juice has been extracted the resulting cake was taken away and scattered along a hedge line in the hope that some wonderful new variety of apple tree might spring from one of the pips.
Afterwards, we went inside to eat an old-fashioned Sunday Tea (including apple cake of course) and afterwards sat by the fire drinking last year’s cider. This year’s cider has started to froth and ferment and won’t be ready for a few months, but last year we got rather carried away and still have plenty of that to drink.