Apple cidering

It has been a grand apple year here in Nebraska, at least in our neck of the woods. I tell you, if I didn’t have anything else to do (and had another chest freezer, hint hint BRYAN) and perhaps had a small army of little people anxious–anxious, maybe even eager!–to do my bidding day and night, I’d have a freezer stocked full of jugs of apple cider and apple pie filling. Also I’d have one of these with a hundred trays atop, (mine’s just too bitty, honey) and I’d have gallons and gallons of apple rings dehydrated and waiting for winter snackage. Also to add to homemade granola. Can’t you just picture it?? Heaven!

There are just so many apples. And they don’t last forever, you know. You only get that unique starchy snappy sweet delight from a freshly-picked apple off the tree.

applecidering

Oh! (I’m just getting started here) also I’d make lots of that good applesauce that I’ve made a couple times (you know, with the fresh ginger and the freshly ground nutmeg and cloves, and just enough honey) that we eat up while it’s still hot. I’d put up enough in jars to fill that last empty shelf in the pantry, instead of letting the apples out in the garage turn soft one by one and then throwing them to the chickens.

But I do have other things to do. And I don’t have an army of minions. And sadly, I only have one chest freezer, which (as a matter of fact) is full, full, full. And little Mack is doing well in his piano lessons, but he does much better if I sit with him as he learns his new songs, one by one and note by note. Amalia says we need to work harder (and smarter, Mom!) on our Halfling-inspired recipe book. I’ve only got about half my tomato cages torn down in the garden. And there’s (land’s sake!!) cleaning and de-cluttering to do, you have no idea. So much. There are a whole lotta critters and folks around here that need to be fed every day, too, usually more than once.

And I do have a few friends and some family, too, who like my company, from time to time, God bless them.

apple cidering

Yup. It’s been a grand apple year. And if we don’t use up all the apples that we’ve brought home from my folks’ apple trees, and if we don’t use up all the apples we brought in from our little trees, and if we don’t use up all the buckets and boxes of apples that we brought home from that orchard in the country that we got permission to pick from, we won’t go hungry.

We can go to the store and buy apples at any time. They aren’t exactly fresh, with that starchy snappy crunch that we’ve gotten used to from freshly-picked apples, but we won’t lack a thing. We can buy applesauce, too, for that matter, and apple-anything else we want. But that doesn’t keep me from wanting to go pick every last apple in that orchard (there must be 30 mature trees there) just so they don’t go to waste.

apple cidering

It’s probably the way I was raised–my folks planted fruit trees and gardens and edibles everywhere they lived, and we tried not to waste a thing–but I can’t stand the thought of wasting anything, either.

So we wear ourselves out picking and paring and making cider and sauce and filling, and I know how good it all will taste this winter, when the apples in the store are not so great. And it’s a great feeling to be able to put up so much of our own food. Everything we raise (and forage) is organic, too, so it doesn’t get much better than that.

apple cidering

Making cider is not for the faint of heart. You can’t really do it if you are in a hurry. It takes a bit of planning. It’s a labor of love, and it takes more time than you’d imagine. First, you start with lots of apples. Well, you have to go pick them first.

apple cidering

When some folks get together, invariably there is tomfoolery. I don’t know why this is so, do you?

apple cidering

And photo-taking.

apple cidering

apple cidering

See what I mean??

See what I mean??

After you’ve picked as many apples as you want, and you’ve indulged in a bit of fun, then you make a date with my folks, because they’re the only ones with an apple cider press in the area, at least as far as I know. We’ve been using it to make cider since I was a little girl.  We lived in Nelson then. Dad was the local pharmacist–and the mayor, for a time–and we had the only cider press in town then, too. (For pete’s sake, doesn’t anybody else have an apple cider press??)

Dad made a deal with the folks in town who had apples and wanted cider made: we’d press the cider for them for either a share of the cider (I think we kept half of it) or one dollar a gallon. Those folks really got a bargain.

Sometimes the apples that people would drop off would be in great condition (not wormy) and we’d just run them through the press with a quick washing first. Other times, the apples would be full of worms. Invariably, when the apples were wormy, folks would want us to press cider for shares. Then the work began. I learned how to use a paring knife early in life.

Because you don’t want an off-taste that the mold in the middle of some apples will give, or (horrors) worms pressed into your cider, you cut each apple in half. If the apple is clean inside you drop it into the bucket and press it. If it’s wormy or moldy, you take the time to cut out the yuck. It takes a lot of time, but if you do it with the right people, it’s something you look forward to every year.

apple cidering

apple cidering

Of course as the hours pass, some people get sillier. And some people get less fastidious with how well they cut the apples. It always happens. You start wondering if one little worm in the mix will matter . . . or even be noticed.

Eventually you start believing that a little protein won’t hurt a thing . . .

apple cidering

apple cidering

apple cidering

As soon as you have a bucket or two full of washed and cut apples, the pressing can begin. The old press is a dangerous machine, and for years and years (decades, actually) Dad wouldn’t allow anybody but himself to operate it. Now that he is a geezer (cough) a bit more trusting of his offspring, he lets a few of us operate it, as long as we are being appropriately respectful of the inherent danger, sober, and very, very careful. And as long as he can oversee the process. I suspect it is quite a test of will for him to give up this task, even just for part of the time. It’s hard work, though, and really gets your heart pumping!

“Forget the cardio workout today, honey, let’s just go make apple cider!!”

apple cidering

apple cidering

This is how the process works: one person grinds the apples into the first open-bottomed basket, above. Once it is full, it is slide to the front position, and then another person tightens the crank, which presses the apples down tight. The very best apple cider that you will ever taste will start to drip, and then pour out of the bottom of that basket. See the foam? It’s delicious, too.

apple cidering

We set up a kettle to catch the cider, and a strainer to catch any bits of apple or the inevitable bee or two who will find us. There’s plenty of time to watch and visit and tell stories and sing Roger Miller songs while the cider fills kettle after kettle.

“You can’t roller-skate in a buffalo herd . . . “

apple cidering

Sometimes friends will stop by, and Dad’ll let them try a crank or two.

apple cidering

And then, of course, everybody must have a taste. Or three.

apple cidering

apple cidering

SOME folks continue the silly bit for a long time.

SOME folks continue the silly bit for a long time.

If you have lots of apples, this whole process can take the better part of an afternoon and evening. Your fingers get sticky and stiff from all the cutting, and you start to get cold from all the sitting. At the end of the day, you’ll have buckets and buckets of dry apple pulp to haul to the pickup truck. It’ll get thrown to the chickens in the morning.

apple cidering

Once the kettle is full of cider, then somebody (usually Amalia gets this job) strains it into clean jugs.

apple cidering

At the end of the evening, we haul buckets of crushed apple pulp to the pickup, do a hasty clean-up and divvy up the gallons of cider. There’s not as much as you might imagine from an afternoon and evening’s work: for each bushel of apples that are picked, washed, cut up, grinded, squeezed, and strained into jugs, we might get two gallons of cider.

And that, my friends, is why we drink this stuff with such relish, and why we don’t offer it for sale. Ever. It’s just too precious.

But if you come over to my house, I might share a glass or two with you. 🙂

*hugs*

 

 

23 thoughts on “Apple cidering

  1. Nathana Clay (theengagedhome.com)

    You and my mom and grandma should team up! Granted my grandma just has a couple apple trees, but they generate A LOT of delicious apples! My mom and grandma preserved many jars of applesauce and apple butter, dried apple rings, frozen apple slices, etc. My parents recently came to visit and brought jars of applesauce, apple butter, bags of dried apples, and a tote of fresh apples. Just a couple days ago I froze a couple bags of apple slices and we have been enjoying the rest of them fresh for breakfast and for snacks! I am sure my mom would love to team up with you if you ever need extra help! 😉

  2. Alana(@RamblinGarden)

    Oh, you bring me back so many years to the first (and last time) I ever had true freshly pressed apple cider, years ago at a farm festival in Wichita, Kansas. I’ve never had anything so delicious before or since. I’m sure the drowned yellow jacket added its own little spice. A little protein, indeed. P.S. I am going to share this on Facebook even if I can’t figure out how to get the link to my page on your rafflecopter.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      THanks so much, Alana, and thanks for your entry in the rolling pin giveaway. I’ll add an extra one for you, just for making that effort, and also because you’re my favorite. <3

  3. Ashley

    WOW! My goodness, that was A LOT of apples and how amazing to make all you did with them. You’re family seems so close and like you guys genuinely love one another. It’s great to see in pics!

  4. elly stornebrink

    Those sure are some mighty fine applies…was that the immediate thought I had with the first photo (great pic by the way!)…oh I can’t recall now, should have written it while I had the thought! Anyway, I can see how labor-intensive that work is Amy and well, no wonder people get silly! Maybe smelling and drinking the fumes from the apple cider do that too, no? 😉 Enjoy your organic apple cider: delicious! 😉 <3

  5. Mary

    So many apples! I swear I could smell them through the computer. There is nothing like the smell of a freshly picked apple. Darn it – now I’m hungry. I loved reading about the cider making process.

  6. Emily

    What an interesting post! Brought back a lot of memories of me working with my grandparents and family on their farm.

    Take care.
    Emily

  7. Alexandria Gunn

    That’s awesome and looks like so much fun! I wouldn’t have the patience to do it myself, but it certainly looks like a great family activity. *shudder* at the idea of the worms in the cider though!

  8. Chef William Chaney

    Ah, there are so many memories. At one of my foster homes we had an apple press and made cider. Not on the grand scale that your doing. As I remember we only made a few gallons. My job was the picking of the apples. Although we lived in Northern California, the family we lived with were from Oklahoma and new how to harvest and can almost anything. That is where I learned to love home made apple butter on fresh homemade bread. I have not heard you mention apple butter, you are putting up some to go with that fresh bread that you are known for, are you not? I really enjoy the pictures that you share, Thanks for another great article.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Ohhhhh, apple butter! That is one thing that I haven’t made yet this year, Chef, and I even have a few apples left. I think making it in the crock pot might be worth a try!

  9. Nicole

    Love all the photos. I just got back from the supermarket with a half gallon of apple cider, and I now I need to pour myself a glass. 🙂 Looks like it would be such fun to make it at home with an apple cider press.

  10. Lesa

    My Dad also had a cider press. I am not sure where it is but plan on using it next year if it is still workable.
    Awww Fall and Apples. Hmmm and a new rolling pin to roll out the crust for that apple pie I am dreaming of. Loved this blog.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      THank you, Lesa! Remember you can enter every day–via Twitter and Facebook–until the contest is over! Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Anti-Spam Quiz: