Apple Cider Pressing

My good friends (and former neighbors) have an old cider press and a big apple orchard, and during the fall they often invite friends who also have a lot of apples over when they’ve got the press out. A few weekends ago, my sister and I grabbed a couple of boxes of apples from the big old tree in the front yard and headed over for the afternoon.

apples in bushel baskets

Tradition at the farm is to mix all the different types of apples (and crabapples too!) so you get a little of the flavor from each. Our two boxes of bug-bitten apples paled in comparison to the 10 or so bushels of huge, unblemished apples that greeted us when we arrived, but I like to think that our tart little Macintosh-type apples added a special flavor to the mix.

We worked outside on picnic tables, first mixing and washing the apples. Then they were cut into big chunks, cutting out any blemishes but leaving the cores. I got to be the “mix master,” plucking apples from each basket and throwing them into the washtubs, then carrying big bowls of clean apples over to the cutting table. I happily volunteered for some apple washing, having already processed way too many apples from our trees (but we’ll leave that for another post).

washing apples before cider pressing

When we cut enough apples to fill the press, the real fun started. One person turned the wheel on the grinder as another threw apples into its maw. The smashed apples dropped into a cloth bag inside the press, and when it was full we turned the big screw on the press until it could turn no more, as the rich brown cider poured out into a pitcher at its base.

grinding apples in cider press

grinding apples in a cider press

apple cider pouring from cider press

When all the apples were finally pressed into cider, we delivered the scraps to some very excited cows.

cows enjoying leftover apple mash

And then we reminisced about the last time I was here for a cider pressing, and one of the cows (impatiently waiting for apples by the gate) bumped the electrical pole and sent a shower of sparks raining down from the power lines above. In a split second I was all the way across the yard, still clutching my butcher knife. “Oh good,” my neighbor laughed, still calmly seated at the picnic table. “You’ll be able to call 911 if we need it.”

This time, the cows left the power lines alone and we had an uneventful cider pressing (unless you count waving off a few dozen hungry hornets, and the bite I received from a large wolf spider that was lurking in one of the bushel baskets). Afterward, we spent some time hanging out at the farm and visiting all the animals.

mother hen and chicks

The highlight of my day was seeing one of the hens I hatched for my friends back in February, who is now raising chicks of her own. This hen is the granddaughter of Kung Pao and General Tso, and she’s an excellent mother.

She led her five chicks all around the barnyard while we were there, pointing out good things to eat and giving a reproachful side-eye to the “feral” barn cat (actually friendlier than most house cats). The cat kept her distance, casually licking a paw whenever the hen looked at her. Clearly, she’s already learned a lesson or two from Mother Hen about messing with the chicks.

mother cat vs mother hen

not-so-feral barn cat

The not-so-feral barn cat, affectionately known as Mama Kitty

We headed home that afternoon with three big jugs of cider (more than our fair share, to be sure). Apple cider still contains all the sediment that’s normally filtered out of apple juice, so it’s dark and rich and cloudy. I’ve been drinking it cold, hot, and sometimes spiked with a bit of rum — just the thing for a crisp fall night.

3 Thoughts on “Apple Cider Pressing

  1. Janna Mauldni heiner on June 11, 2015 at said:

    I’m enjoying reading a few posts from around your blog! Started with the chicken-sexing rundown (after searching chest bumping, which has been entertaining us lately). Our chooks are about 5 weeks and they are hilarious. Husband grew up with a farm mentality and I’m artsy, so our chicken discussions for years ended in a quiet stalemate over the redneck vision and the (embarrassingly) Martha Stewart one. Game-changer was our boys’ effective loss of their Grandpa, with whom they’d helped tend chickens several times a month. We thought some chickens of their own might help ease the transition when Grandpa had to be moved into a memory unit.

    Then the cider press post caught my eye. We’ve owned a 100-year-old commercial press for about five years, and have an arrangement with a local organic orchard that keeps us well-supplied with cider and gives our kids some spending money too. If you’re interested, there’s a slideshow video on YouTube of the old press’ restoration.

    Off for more reading!

    • Sara on June 11, 2015 at said:

      Thanks for all your kind comments, Janna! I love hearing about your cider press and falcon-training daughter. I’d really like to see some pictures of the “Oval Office” too! Feel free to connect with me on Facebook and Instagram (@thehomegrowngourmet) for updates — live stream of the chicken hatch starts this weekend! 🙂

  2. Pingback: 20 Ways To Help Create A Fall-Inspired Front Lawn « Club

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