Cider weekend a success!

A bunch of folks joined us in Maine this last weekend for two days of cidering and fun. Holly, Becky, and Ultraviolet came of course, also Brandon and Sharon, Max, and Eric. Fall being a bit late in coming this year, the leaves were perfect, and the weather was pleasant and warm.

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I took the day off Friday to load up the truck with carboys and gear, and put the pedal-powered grinder and press in the Home Despot utility trailer, along with several hundred pounds of apples from Poverty Lane. At the last minute I stripped about 3 wheelbarrows full of apples (Cortlands?) off the neighbor’s untended tree, such that the trailer was loaded more or less to the gunwales with fruit. We made it to Georgetown around nine.

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Saturday morning we took apart the grinder box, removed the blades from the wooden drum, and shaved around 50 thousandths off of the flats to reduce the thickness of the chip that each blade took out of the apples, in an effort to increase yield. We then reassembled the grinder and transported the whole rig over to the other side, where we set it up west of the house, in view of the water and the young trees in the nursery bed. Everything went together smoothly, and before long we were washing, grinding, and pressing apples. Folks took turns pedaling the bicycle, feeding apples into the hopper, and loading the press. Ultraviolet, who is just now 1 year old, crawled around in the grass and played pattycake in the buckets of ground apple pulp. First we pressed the fresh Cortlands for sweet cider, then we switched over to cider apples and started filling carboys. Holly had a lot of Roxbury Russets, so we pressed out a carboy of them with an impressive gravity of about 1.068. The rest of the cider got mixed into 8 carboys, with a gravity of about 1.050.

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We managed well over half of the apples on Saturday, then quit for the day to enjoy the last of the ’06 hard cider along with a lasagna, salad, sweet cider, and sourdough bread. After dinner we walked down to the shore, sat on the dock in the moonlight, and marveled at the warm weather. Holly made a massive apple pie in a 12″ deep dish plate, and we ate heartily of it when we returned. He used a variety of apples including Redfield, which gave it a neat pinkish color. We also made up a pint starter of water, corn sugar, and champagne yeast with a dash of yeast nutrient, and started it bubbling.

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Pressing continued Sunday morning, and we finished around noon, with approximately 70 gallons of cider and about 65% yield. Max’s parents came down mid-morning to pick him up, and his folks and mine spent some time reminiscing about their very similar experiences as back-to-the-land homesteaders in Maine back in the 70s. Holly and Becky had to leave right after noon, so while folks were washing down the cider equipment we boiled 1.5 gallons of sweet cider and cooled it, split it into two gallon jugs, and pitched the starter on it.

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Holly loaded up four carboys and a starter into their Zipcar and they took off. The rest of us gathered up the pressing gear and cider and inspected the orchard site, where the rye and vetch are a couple of inches high. We then got some lunch and went to Reid Park for a walk on the beach before everyone left – bright sun, crashing waves, and a strong southerly breeze. All in all, a fantastic weekend, hopefully the first of many to come.

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2 Responses to “Cider weekend a success!”

  1. Darien Priestner Says:

    I enjoyed reading your essay about pressing the cider. We enjoy this time of year as well. I’ll share with you our “secret” recipe where we blend juice from our Stembridge Jersey apples (on the years when they produce enough to press) about 60% to 40% with the juice from Yellow Bartlett pears.

    We store this cider in a wooden cask (we usually put up about 20 gallons) in the cellar of the old house and draw it off until it starts to vinegar… then we bottle the vinegar for our own use.

    Anyway – you folks know more about cider making than we ever will – I just thought I’d share that bit.

    I also wanted to tell you about a song I heard on WVIA – FM here in Pennsylvania. The song was called, Moonlight & Cider, and it is a beautiful song – evocative of this most lovely time of year.

    I called the radio station to find out who the singer was – and it turns out it some guy from Canada named Lorne Clarke. My wife bought the CD and it really is pretty good – if you like the folk music.

    Anyway, thanks for a nice essay about my favorite subject.

  2. Tyler Peel Says:

    i drank too much wine and read your blog
    it makes me further long for the east coast life i have always wanted

    thanks
    new found cider lover

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