even more cider.
for the third year and a row now, we made cider. in case you're wondering (and really, who isn't) here's how it goes down...
step one: buy one hundred seventy pounds of apples. preferably from a curmudgeonly old farmer who gets suspicious of you wanting to buy his cider apples. every year the conversation goes something like this:
jon: 'do you have any cider apples for sale'
farmer, mumbly: 'i don't know if i want to sell those. i make cider myself, you know. why would i just sell you the apples.'
farmer: 'how much do you want anyway?'
jon: 'around four bushels'
farmer: 'oh, that's all. ok. i don't have any boxes to give you though.'
roughly the same conversation happens every year. his suspicion lessens when he realizes that we don't want to buy enough apples to put him out of the cider making business. the part about the boxes is why last year we ended up with a trunk full of apples. this year we got smart and brought our own container.
we got a bushel each of gala, rome, red delicious and granny smith.
step two: pre-smash the apples into submission. this is important, because step three involves a garbage disposal. we learned last year that a good pre-smashing with a four-by-four keeps the garbage disposal from overheating. evidently garbage disposals weren't made to smash a hundred and seventy pounds of apples. who knew?
step three: smash the pre-smashed apples.this involves passing them through a garbage disposal. do so while wearing an absurd amount of clothing (it was cold that day, yo).
this step is essential to getting a good press later on. it makes a sort of apple mush that very readily gives up its delicious juices.
here's an action shot, because i like to share.
step four: take a break, you earned it. pre-smashing and then smashing that many apples is hard work. spend this time enjoying the last bottle of last year's cider. it's kind of poetic.
one hundred seventy pounds of apples equals four five gallon buckets (or twenty gallons...yay math!) full of apple mush. at this point you could still somewhat see the progression of the oxidation of the mush. the bucket on the left was the last one smashed, so it's still light in color. the apples quickly turn brown after being mushed, the same way an apple you've bitten into turns brown if you let it sit out. this oxidation of the apple solids is what gives cider its yummy color.
step five: place the apple mush in the press. to do this, we use large pieces of cotton cloth to wrap the apple mush in and create what are called 'cheeses' (i guess because of the similarity to the cheese making process). multiple cheeses are made and stacked on the press, with wooden frames between each cheese to try to minimize the slipping (this was only marginally successful).
* please forgive the blurry photos. at this point in the process it started raining and we had to move into the garage.
step six: press! we accomplish this with a bottle jack. below you can see the cheeses getting smashed between the wooden frames. they're already a little cattywampus in this picture. you really want things to be nice and even across the press for the best press. alas, something to be improved upon next year.
despite the imperfections, out flows delicious juice! the two step smashing process really makes the pressing forgiving.
after all is pressed this is what remains. less than ten gallons of fairly dry apple gunk. at this point, you'll be tempted to try some. it'll not be delicious. stick to drinking the cider.
step seven: drink up! in the end we got eleven gallons out of our apples. some of it we drank straight, the way it cames out of the press. some of it we gave away. what was left is currently being fermented into hard cider. of the hard cider, some of it will stay as dry cider and get bottled and some of it will get back sweetened and kegged (there are some perks to having a kegging system in the dining room).
saddly, while we were making the cider, i actually took no pictures of the finished product (bad blogger).
these pictures were actually taken maybe two weeks later. we were down to the last bit of our 'drinking cider', and i made jon wait to drink it until there was good light in the house.
i love how serious he looks in this one, with his glass of cider and his lumberjack shirt.
most of the pictures looked more like this. jon's a somewhat reluctant cider model.
so, that's how cider gets made (at least at the sharp house). a recap by the numbers--
one hundred seventy pounds of apples.
twenty gallons of apple mush.
less than ten gallons of appley by product.
eleven gallons of delicious cider.