First, some background: in August, I mentioned to a friend, L., that I had been picking apples and thought it might be fun to make apple cider. I used the term “cider” loosely, thinking more along the lines of apple juice. She latched on to the word “cider,” however, dragged our mutual friend D. into the process as well, and so for the past three months, my fridge has been looking something like this:
The problem was that the three of us couldn’t co-ordinate our schedules, plus it took me a couple of weeks to acquire all of the apples. (If you’re wondering, I volunteer with Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, which is where most of the apples came from. Some also came from my grandmother’s tree — two bags’ worth, though we picked six. Even though I wasn’t sure how many apples we would need, I’m so glad now that one of my aunts and two of my cousins took some of the bags, because this was more than enough apples.)
Finally, we picked last weekend to make cider. Looking at all the resources, it seemed a little overwhelming, but L. finally found a really good website that lays it out pretty simply and I think we followed well. (The link to the homemade press is dead, sadly, but if you still follow the link and then do a search on the site itself, a PDF will come back.) Originally, L. and I were going to do some prep on Saturday and then the three of us would finish it on Sunday, but between cleaning the apples, chopping them and pressing them, there isn’t a really good stopping point. We did, however, out of sheer exhaustion, split the pressing into two parts and then D. and I did the jarring the following day.
I’ve been telling everyone for months that my fridge is fit to exploding with apples. L. said later that she didn’t realize that I really couldn’t fit any more apples in the fridge, she just thought there was a bag on each shelf and that was it. We sorted most of the apples; about two bags’ worth went back into the fridge because they were too damaged to use (safely, we thought) for cider, though they can probably still be used for applesauce, jelly or pies. D. also has about two freezer bags worth of apples that I don’t think we pressed, again, out of sheer exhaustion. I think this is most of the apples we used; there might be some more in the sink and on the kitchen table, which is to the left of this photo. In the blue bucket we had a really mild bleach solution, and then we were rinsing them twice in the sink and then putting them in the clear containers, which were sterilized as well. The cleaning process was probably the most tedious, but also probably the most important.
Then came the chopping and blending. Through trial and error, we finally got it down to a system of how finely we had to chop the apples (depending on whose blender/food processor we were using, it varied from very fine to just quartering and coring them) and then “mooshing” them into pomace.
We then took the pomace and wrapped it in cheesecloth, to squeeze out the juice. Again, because we didn’t have a proper press and were doing this in an apartment kitchen, a lot of trial and error. L. was orginally wringing it out, and when we got tired of that, we rigged up a system of heavy items to squish the cheesecloth. The only problem with this was that it still didn’t exert enough pressure to get out all the juice, we had to still do a lot of poking afterwards and were probably tossing more juice because the cloth would rip easier, because we had more pomace in there than if we were doing it by hand. But by this point, a, we had a fair amount of juice and b, were getting kind of tired. All told, we cleaned, chopped and squeezed apple goop for about 9.5 hours on Sunday.
All of that was a lot of work, I won’t lie. It was fun, and luckily my kitchen is big enough that no one stepped on anyone’s toes, but chopping apples for nine hours is hard. So I wasn’t sure what to expect or how long it would take D. and I to pasteurize and jar the juice Monday night.
Luckily, not long. Probably about an hour and a half — we poured all the juice into a big pot (though I found one more margarine container full of juice Tuesday morning that I jarred Tuesday night) and put the jars in the dishwasher to clean then, then put them in the sink with boiling water to keep them hot and sanitize them more.
So now we have apple juice. D. apparently has an apparatus that we can use to ferment the cider, so when he puts that together we’ll open the jars and pour it all in there for another couple months or a year or something (I wasn’t in charge of reading the instructions). There is sediment settling on the bottom, so we’ll see how much it settles out, but will probably also strain it once or twice before fermenting it though.
Oh, and one more thing: this is how we ended the night on Sunday. Looking forward to when we’ll be able to drink our cider, maybe with ice cream and apple pie?
Finally, to make for a really long post: in case you’re wondering why this post also mentions pears and carrots, it’s because thanks to OFRE, I had a bunch of pears this summer as well, and decided to make pear jam out of them. Thanks to L., who helped me — I have never canned or jammed before — it turned out really well, and now I’m trying to figure out what else I can make. This isn’t being helped by my best friend, who has heard about these adventures, and casually asked last time we were talking if I knew how to make pickled carrots. No, but I can probably figure it out. So that’s my next project, probably this weekend because I bought the carrots at a farmers’ market last weekend.