Give me your tired, your poorly shaped, your pock-marked, your huddled masses of unused apples, yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse from your teeming trees. And, with them, make apple cider!
This past weekend, I did just that when I attended ‘Cider and Apple Juice Basics,’ a free class at my favorite neighborhood garden store, City People’s. The class covered which apples to use, the basics of pressing juice, making apple juice and then moving on to hard cider. Among other facts, we learned it takes between 14 to 16 pounds of apples (about 36 apples, depending on size) to make one gallon of cider.
Although everyone has an opinion about which apples make the tastiest cider, in general, a blend is best. Just like other beverages (wine and beer come to mind) you want to find a balance of four key qualities: sugar, acid, tannin and flavor. A typical “recipe” includes 30-60% sweet, 10-40% tart/acidic, 5-20% bitter/tannic, and 10-20% aromatic. A few examples of sweet apples: Cortland, Golden Delicious, Rome Beauty; tart apples: Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Pippin; tannic apples: Liberty, Northern Spy, crabapples; and, aromatic apples: McIntosh, Red Delicious. Together, they make beautiful music in the form of apple juice and cider!
After the class, we headed out to the nursery where City Fruit was hosting a Cider Press Event. They had a cider press set up, and volunteers to help cut, grind, and press the apples into juice. I brought a bag of not-so-perfect apples from our espaliered apple trees (purchased, by the way, at City People’s a few years ago) to donate to the cause. City Fruit helps urban folk understand that fruit trees in our midst are a valuable resource. Sadly, most urban fruit falls to the ground and is wasted. People don’t really know how (or have the time) to pick their trees, they’re not so keen on eating fruit that’s blemished or housing a pest or two. So City Fruit has taken up the mantle of harvesting, preserving and promoting the sharing of fruit, along with working to protect urban fruit trees.
Acquiring apples is the first step in juice or cider making. We had those thanks to generous donations and the hard work of City Fruit volunteers who help with residential harvests and Urban Orchard Stewards who harvest fruit from Seattle Parks. More than 30 Seattle parks have fruit trees, often the remnants of heritage orchards, and several parks and pea patches have planted mini-orchards as part of a community garden.
Step 2 is cleaning and cutting the apples for grinding. At the Cider Press Event, lots of hands (and knives) were used to cut out the bad spots and slice the apples into sections. Next, for Step 3, the apples were run through a fruit grinder. The end result looked like this: apple mash.
Then the apples are put inside a mesh bag and—Step 4—placed inside the press. I took my turn cranking the hand jack to press the apples through the mesh. It’s pretty easy at first and then puts up more of a fight.
And look! There it is, literally cold off the press. Delicious!
When you take a few (pounds) of less-than-pretty apples, and turn them into cider…
One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl.
If you’re a cider aficionado, check out City Fruit’s upcoming events, such as the 4th Annual Cider Fest, the Seattle Tree Fruit Society 2014 Fall Fruit Show, or the 3rd Annual Cider Press and Food Drive.
And if you want to learn more about gardening, City People’s offers some awesome free workshops.
Take the road less traveled, Beth Add a comment