Event Summary: Cider Press at Tamarack Time! October 9, 2010

Setting up the press

by Catherine Haug

Today was a gorgeous fall day, just perfect for pressing cider. Jeffrey F. arrived about 10 AM with his pressing apparatus. With several helpers we had it all set up on the deck of La Provence (which we shared with the “Chocolate Desserts” table) before 11 and began pressing.

In the photo, right (by C. Haug), Marc Guizol looks on as the equipment is set up on his deck.

We had lots of helpers which made it a fun time, and pressed at least 44 gallons of cider for 8 different ‘customers’! We packed up and had the deck washed off by mid-afternoon.

One of our helpers, Kathy L., blogged about the event on her Two Frog Home website. She also took many of the photos shown in the remainder of this summary.

Jeffrey’s community-press apparatus, & the process

All photos in this section by Kathy Lapcevic unless noted otherwise

The pressing apparatus was built and assembled by Jeffrey F. from scrap metal or dumpster-diving expeditions (except for the pressing basket and scrim liners, which were purchased):

  • 3-tub sink for washing and rinsing
  • grinder to make apple pulp
  • stair-step exerciser to power the grinder
  • press to squeeze juice from the pulp
  • box & garbage bags to collect compostable used pulp

First, apples are washed using the three tubs, one for washing with fruit & veggie wash, and two for rinsing. Here Mona Rae attends the wash station (but later found her calling as master pusher-of-apples-into-grinder):

3 sinks are part of the setup

Then the apples are transfered, one apple at a time, to the grinder basket where they are pushed into the grinding mechanism with a special wood tool. Here, Cat is dropping in the apples, while an unidentified volunteer pushes them into the grinder and Jeffrey pumps the treadle.

At the grinder

Here’s a closeup of the grinder apparatus, while it was being set up:

The grinder and stair-step

Meanwhile, a person operates the treadle (an old stair-step exerciser) to move the gears and chain that turn the grinder, storing energy in the flywheel. This is truly aerobic exercise, as all volunteers including Jean will attest.

Jean powering the grinder

The ground apple pulp is collected in a bucket below the grinder. When full, the pulp is transfered to the press.

Ground apple pulp

The press can be operated using a wood beam to turn the gear that lowers the press, or by hand as Edd demonstrates:

Edd at press

The juice, or raw cider, pours off the bottom into a collector bucket or bowl.

Raw cider from press

When the bucket is full, it is transfered to the pouring table, to be poured through a funnel into jars, as Zena and Jean demonstrate below. Cat, the main greeter and spokesperson for this event, is in the background pouring testers for interested onlookers.

Pouring cider

All the spent pulp was collected and hauled away for composting, as Edd is doing here: (photo by Jean H.)

Edd B bagging pulp for compost

During the event, Jan Krause came by to take a few photos for her Lakeshore Country Journal, and a journalism student from the UM interviewed most of us for an article he is writing about Bigfork and our local community.

Cider vs Juice

One of the most common questions from onlookers and taste-samplers, is “what is the difference between cider and juice?” The most widely held answer is that cider is what comes out of the press, unfiltered; whereas juice has been filtered and, if commercially made, also pasteurized.

But cider also has another meaning: fermented juice of apples. In this category there are two recognized levels of fermentation: soft cider and hard cider.

Soft cider begins as unfiltered, freshly pressed juice of apples, then allowed to settle and mature, stoppered with a wooly plug, for 3 – 4 days at room temperature before being racked off to bottles. During the settling period, the pulp and other sediments will settle to the bottom, leaving behind a clear juice that can be siphoned off. At this point it can be pasteurized, if desired.

During this short fermentation period, natural yeasts from the apples and the surrounding air work on the sugars in the juice, with a minimum amount of alcohol formed. Soft cider still retains much of the sweetness of the original juice.

Hard cider starts out with the same process as soft cider, but is left to ferment for a longer period at room temperature, until all the sugars have been converted to alcohol. At this stage it is hard and dry, not sweet nor sour. However, if left to ferment too long it begins to get a sour, vinegary edge.

Apple cider vinegar is what happens when hard cider is left to ferment past the alcohol stage, to make short-chain fatty acids, predominately acetic acid.

For more on how to make raw, soft and hard cider, or apple cider vinegar, see The EssentiaList: Homemade Apple Cider. This pdf file also provides links to websites to purchase a press, or instructions to make your own.

A few of the crew

(photos, this section, by Jean Helps)

Jeffrey and Betsey F, who provided the community press:

Jeffrey & Betsey F.

Janet B pushing apples into the grinder, with Kathy L at the washing station:

Janet pushing apples through grinder

Cat pouring cider:

Cat pouring cider

Zena with camera

Zena, with camera

Everyone at their stations:

The crew at their stations

Which apples make the best cider?

This is the other most frequently asked question, along with its corollary: is it best to use one variety or mix varieties for best flavor?

This year it seemed like Macintosh apples made the sweetest cider; last year we concluded that gravensteins produced a delicate, flowery-sweet cider; while Macs produced a dark, rich, sweet cider.

But there are other factors besides variety that affect the flavor of the apples: moisture content (largely controlled by summer rainfall), degree of ripeness, and whether or not the tree has experienced a good freeze. Many varieties only sweeten-up after a freeze.

Mixing varieties allows for a more complex flavor, but not necessarily sweeter. Many people swear by adding crab apples to the mix for the best flavor.

Shelli with Edd at press, 2009

For more information

(Photo, left, by Edmund Fitzgerald, October 2009)

Check out the Gathering Summary: Cider Press 2009 to read about all the fun from last year, with photos and flip videos (by Sally J).

See also The EssentiaList: Homemade Apple Cider for instructions on juicing apples to make raw cider, as well as fermentation to soft and hard cider or apple cider vinegar. It also provides links to websites to purchase a press, or instructions to make your own.

Credits & Thankyous

  • Photos by Kathy Lapcevic and Jean Helps
  • Jeffrey Funk provided the press
  • Marc Guizol offered his deck space and access to his sinks at La Provence
  • Michelle Patterson provided a pop-up cover (in case of rain).
  • Shelli Riedesel provided new plastic milk jugs for cider (in case someone forgot containers)
  • Volunteers: Shelli R, Jean H, Jeffrey & Betsey F, Zena P, Kathy L
  • Thanks to all who brought apples and participated in the fun.

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