BOTTLING APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
BUSHELS AND BUSHELS
CIDER HOUSE RULES
Something we've learned along this trip is that farmers in general usually do a fine job selling their goods. But almost all could make more money by selling added value products. With their hectic lifestyles, most farmers don't have much free time on their hands, and definitely not enough time for processing the foods they harvest into sauces, jams, ciders, pies, dried fruits, or dressings for sale. One can sell tomatoes for three dollars a pound if you're lucky, but one can sell a jar of tomato sauce for much more. Here, you can buy "second" apples for 75 cents a pound (ones that have fallen off the tree and might be slightly damaged). Or you could buy a half gallon of apple cider
(made exclusively from seconds) for $4.50. Hugh and Hannah are not fools, and they are taking the time to add value to their product, and make lots and lots of cider.
Today we spent the morning doing just that. With hundreds of pounds of apples in bags, we first washed, then picked through them, discarding the rotten ones. Next we sent them through a machine that chopped them up into pumice. The pumice then went into a press, which extracted the liquid from the skin, pulp, and seeds. Lastly, we funneled it into half gallon plastic bottles for storage. The press they use can hold a maximum of 10 bushels of crushed apples. Once filled with the chopped up apples, an expanding bladder in the core of the machine fills with water and presses the juice out of the apples and down through a spout at the bottom. We managed to fill over 400 half gallon jugs with delicious cider. And this was only one of the five or six cider pressings that will happen here this season. Each batch tastes different, because different varieties of apples are collected and and all mixed together. But no matter how many tastes we had, they were all uniquely delicious.
By the end of the day, we all had sticky hands, and miraculously managed to escape the wasps. The yellow jackets swarmed every where, especially during the bottling. Whoever poured the liquid through the screen, through the filter, and into the bottle had at all times no less than 10 wasps swarming around their eyes, ears, mouths, hands, and the bottle lids. Some of us smushed them dead. Others swatted them with shoos. Some even threatened: "Wasp, if you sip but one drop of this here cider, we'll punish you by making you drink all 400 plus bottles of cider! Don't test me!"
Now we are just left with one unanswered question: what is the difference between apple juice and apple cider anyway?