Getting cranky with apples

cider press ready to press

cider press ready to press

The Hub knows some interesting people, including a couple who own their very own cider press. Each fall, they throw a apple cider-pressing party. After attending, I know why. Pressing cider is hard work.

Surprisingly, my minutes of dedicated effort on the gym’s weight machines did not prepare me for the cranking involved to grind up the apples. Apples went into a hopper that contained a revolving drum with small sharp teeth. The drum to be hand-powered to grind the apples to a pulp, which fell into a mesh-lined wooden tub. When the tub was full, a round wooden disc was placed on top and the pressing began. A metal screw cranked the pulp down, releasing the strained cider into a glass jar.

I found the pressing easier than the cranking. Especially when our party host inserted a wooden log that enabled me to press the apples by walking around in a circle like a plodding yak.

i'm cranking the crank

i’m cranking the crank

The fresh cider that emerged was heavenly, like the concentrated essence of apple. Each batch tasted a little different because different combinations of apples went in. We took some home in exchange for our labors. I froze most of it and we sipped the rest.

I asked the hosts why they had a cider press. They even left it with a trusted friend for babysitting when they lived in Florida, where they assumed apples would be scanty. They looked at each other, baffled. The best they could come up with was: “We like cider.” They freeze a lot of it.

I also began to wonder what exactly was the difference between apple cider and apple juice – leaving hard cider out of it, which has an obvious difference. I asked Harley Prewitt of Apple Hill Orchard & Cider Mill near Morganton, who said that both apple juice and apple cider are pressed exactly the same.

The difference comes after pressing.  Apple juice is highly filtered until most or all of the pectin and crude

fresh cider emerges

fresh cider emerges

fiber is removed.  Supermarket apple juice is also pasteurized at a high temperature. The combination of filtering and pasteurization leave a crystal clear liquid, Prewitt said.

Apple cider is much less filtered, and contains pectin and crude fiber.  “Most of our customers expect and desire some ‘settlings’ in the bottom of the container,” Prewitt said. He “flash pasteurizes” his cider, which makes it look and taste unpasteurized.

Prewitt added that, the day before I contacted him, he had made 200 bushels (8,000 pounds) of apples into 650 gallons of cider. That’s a lot of cranking.

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