It's fall, and nothing says fall like cider (yeah, you heard us right—pumpkins and turning leaves: nothing). But if you've ever had the real stuff, you know that store-bought cider just can't compare. Here, then, is what you'll need in order to press your own cider.
- An apple tree, with apples
- Some hard cider, which you yourself pressed the year before and fermented (this is for drinking, and reminding you why you're spending your afternoon picking apples)
- Some beer (this is only necessary if you're a first-time presser and unable to procure hard cider)
- Something to put the apples in (we used a pick-up truck)
- A cider press
- A container for your cider (in theory, the bed of a pick-up truck would work for this too, but we found empty water jugs work best)
The picking of the apples can be deathly boring if you do not go about it in the proper way. The best way, we found, is to send a willing participant up into the apple tree. That person, the "shaker," is then responsible for getting all of the apples off of the tree and onto the ground. An added level of enjoyment will be had by all when your shaker comes tumbling down (as ours did on one occasion) after stepping on loose and/or weak branches.
The non-shakers, also known as the "gatherers," will then take the fallen apples and put them into the apple receptacle. Again, it's the way you do this that will make or break your level of fun. Do not—repeat DO NOT—simply place the apples into the receptacle. Instead (and here is where having a pick-up truck is beneficial), park or place your receptacle at a reasonable distance from the gathering area and throw your apples into it. The more gatherers you have, the more interesting this will be, as you'll have to avoid them in addition to properly aiming your apples. Obviously, your level of success with this method will vary based on your skill and experience with the picking up and throwing of things.
Before you know it, one of two things will happen: You'll either pick all of the apples you'll need, or you'll become bored to tears and not want to pick up another damned apple ever again. Whichever happens first, now is your time to drive or carry your receptacle to your cider press—you're almost done!
Most presses we've seen have an old-world charm, and the hundred-year-old model at the Knauer farm is no exception. After rinsing your apples, simply place a few at a time into the opening on top of the cider press, and begin to crush them by turning the crank. When you have enough pulp, move it to the actual press, and turn that crank to extract all of the wonderful juice. If you have two truck-beds' worth of apples (as we did), this simple task shouldn't take longer than a quick four or five hours. We found that the best way to make this task fun is to sort of avoid it altogether and let as many other people join in the cranking as possible.
(We'd be remiss if we didn't mention here that you could filter your cider and turn it into fresh apple juice, or if it's chilly you could make mulled cider. But, really, what's the point?)
There are no words to describe the sense of accomplishment you'll feel with each sip of the cider you've just pressed, or the sense of soreness you'll have in your arms after hours and hours of cranking a cider press. Either way, drink up—you've earned it!