When we set out a few years ago to make hard cider for my sister’s wedding we searched high and low for a cider press. It was the fall and the tool library’s cider press was in high demand and the community cider press day in town had already come and gone. Two years later as we moved out of our house our landlord offered to sell us his 100 year old cider press that was stored in the shed that whole time! After having that cider press right under our nose for the years and not knowing about it we weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to get our hands on it. $100 later we were proud owners of a 100 year old cider press. We had no furniture to move back cross country just boxes, our bed and our cider press! So even though it is a little late in the season, this weekend after setting up our Christmas tree we got two bushels of apples; deer apples (seconds that can’t be sold due to shelf appeal) from the farmer’s market and pressed some apples!
Mistakes were made let me clear we didn’t do it perfectly the first time, even after watching the goofy youtube videos out there. We didn’t use a nylon mesh bag which would have preserved a lot of the juice from spilling out of the sides. That would be one thing we will do in the future and the other would be using a stick or axe handle to turn the machine rather than just out hands on the press. Our yield would have been higher if we had done both of those things. However, we did yield a good amount of cider from our two bushels and had a great time practicing. We plan to go back next weekend and get a few more bushels and try again. The outcome- amazing tasty apple cider we enjoyed at dinner last night.
Cider pressing has been around a long time and has typically been a community event in the fall. Yesterday we had a few friends over and shared laughs, mulled wine and gingerbread cookies while trying out our press. After having such a great time I can see why it was so popular as a community event. Next fall look in your local community for a pressing event or even build your own (I’ve seen lots of plans online, here is one from Mother Earth News) and start your own community tradition!
A little information on the difference in juice, cider, ect. and apple varieties
A cider press is used to crush apples or pears. In North America, the unfiltered juice is referred to as cider, becoming known as apple juice once filtered; in Britain it is referred to as juice regardless of whether it is filtered or not (the term cider is reserved for the fermented (alcoholic) juice). Other products include cider vinegar, (hard) cider, apple wine, apple brandy, and apple jack.
When choosing apples for cider most apples can be used and we used whatever we could get our hands on this late in the season however the advice out there is to use a combination of 50% sweet, 35% sharp, and 15% bitter apples. Apple varieties depend on the season and your location so I wouldn’t get too hung up on finding the perfect combination of apples especially when first starting out.
SHARP/ACIDIC (higher acid levels)
BITTER,BITTERSWEET (high in tannins & sugar add complex flavors), BITTERSHARP/BITTERTART(high in tannins & acid)
Cox’s Orange Pippin
Here is a useful chart for good apple varieties for cooking, baking and cider
If you don’t have your own orchard (which bummer we don’t) deer apples as we found them called are the second run apples at the farms market are a cheap way to get a large amount of apples. We were able to get a bushel of deer apples for $5.
Most cider presses I’ve seen you have to crank the apple crusher by hand but ours had a motorized crusher added by the previous owner’s father a while back. This was a time saver and made the process really easy but isn’t essential it just takes less time and work but there are some out there that have gotten clever in beating the process of hand cranking and there are some that even use bikes to take the load off. (Make your own bike cider press!) Once you add the apples to the crusher the basket is moved to the press and the juice is squeezed out the side (this is where the nylon sack is helpful so that it contains the juice to yield a higher juiced amount). Boom! that is it really easy. Here is our own goofy youtube cider press video.