Cider Making 2011

We’ve been making cider for the last two weeks. Most of the cider-making has been helping friends make their apples into cider.

We pressed in the garage this year because most of the families ended up coming in the evening (after dar) to press. The garage has lights and we can shut the door to keep it a little warmer. We helped 6 families press cider this year, and did 6 or 7 bushel of our own.

Here are a few of the good ideas we came up with this year.

Free apples! Another 8 bushel came after I took this photo. We pressed about 30 bushels of apples Saturday afternoon.
Hubby cut a hole in his work bench so that the grinder would sit on top. It was a great height for anyone about 6′ tall. Some of us that are a little shorter had to stand on paint cans. 
The garbage bag was placed under the grinder to provide a chute for the apple pieces. It worked very well and we’ll be doing it again the next time we press. The plastic tote wasn’t the best idea, we ended up using one of the green oval tubs (you can see the tub in one of the later photos) instead. The one in the photo above ended up breaking at the handle because it wasn’t flexible and it wasn’t strong enough to hold a bushel of ground apples. 
Another shot of the grinder set-up this year. We also put some old towels under the grinder area to make clean up easier. An old tarp would have been better, but we didn’t have one handy. 
“I wanna try!” Yup! They all want to try the grinder! At least for a few minutes. It’s hard work and Vet2Be lasted the longest.
We borrowed Sheepy’s press, too (that’s the one on the left). Both presses were set up on opened feed bags to help with the clean up. The red bucket between the two presses is filled with hot water to rinse the bottles off after they are filled. Both presses have a vinyl hose attached so that the bottles can be filled easier. They also have a stainless steel food service pan to put the bottles in and catch any spills. That not only helps with clean up, it helps save cider! We also put the presses up on old 4″x4″ posts to raise them up just a bit. It makes it much easier to fill the bottles.
Prion on the left and Spunky on the right. Both here for Thanksgiving! The green tub in this photo is what we used to catch the apple pieces in after the clear tub handle broke. In this photo the green tub is full of hot water, some food safe disinfectant, and lots of apples. We soak the apples before they go through the grinder. The hot water saves our hands from getting too cold (no one wanted to use plastic gloves!) and I think it makes the apples release more juice. But that could be my imagination!
A screen added to the base caught any apple pieces that fell while we were filling the wooden pressing tubs. The tubs have a mesh bag in them, but sometimes when we are filling the bag apple pieces fall out. The screen keeps the apples from plugging the drain hole.
In this photo I’ve pulled the screen up and you can see the cider heading down the drain.
Yeay! Empty boxes from Saturday’s pressing! Not all of them are in the photo, some are already gone. It was alot of work!

On Saturday we filled every 2-liter bottle I had saved (3 garbage bags full), every 1/2 gallon jar I had (12), every extra gallon and 1/2 gallon plastic pitcher I had (15 or 16), every empty 1/2 gallon jar my friend had (???) and a soup pot!

We kept a few, but my friend took everything else home and is going to process it this week. I have no idea how she is going to process so much cider! We usually freeze what we can and drink (or sell) the rest. I processed 14 quart jars on Saturday night because I had sent all my freezable containers with my friend. We’ve never processed it before, so it will be a good experiment to find out how it tastes.

A view of part of the garden where we dumped rotting apples and all the peelings after pressing.

Over the last two weeks we helped 6 families press cider, plus make our own. I estimate that we pressed over 100 bushels of apples this year. We also ruined two car jacks (over zealous help!) and bent a truck jack.

Our List of Equipment for Cider Making

  • Good friends who don’t mind working beside you
  • Cider press (Whiz-bang style)
  • tarps or old feed bags for under the press(es) (unless you are making cider outside, then an old pallet is better)
  • hydraulic jack (that’s what we’ll be using next year) or a truck jack
  • mesh laundry bags (for putting into the pressing tub)
  • new window screen (for under the pressing tubs)
  • apple grinder (we borrow a Happy Valley Ranch grinder from our friends)
  • tarp under the grinder area for easier clean up (unless you are doing it outside, then an old pallet works better
  • a tub for soaking the apples in before grinding
  • a tub for catching the apple pieces after they are ground
  • plastic garbage bag to act as a chute for ground apples
  • lots of 2-liter soda bottles (or glass jars if you are going to process the cider)
  • bucket of hot water to rinse off the filled bottles
  • towels to dry off cold, wet hands and/or plastic gloves for working with the apples
  • garden wagon lined with an old feedbag or extra tubs to haul the dry pulp (pumace) to the garden after pressing
  • Frozen pizza or other fast food–you aren’t going to want to cook when you are so tired and there is still an hours worth of clean-up to do
Why to avoid compact car jacks on the cider press
The ‘totaled’ jacks. The one on the left has stripped threads, the one on the right is bent. We ended up using some big truck jacks, but next year we will use hydraulic jacks. And maybe encourage helpers to be less zealous when they are working the press!

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