Happy Valley Ranch - Cider Presses

Fascinating Ideas Corner

MAKING APPLE CIDER IS EASY AND FUN
HOW TO SELECT APPLES

The quality of cider you produce will depend on several things, some are variable and unpredictable, some are controllable elements, and an important one, is cleanliness. All materials and equipment must be clean and sanitary. You should clean your press thoroughly after each use. A good rinse before using will help keep the juice clean and free of germs. Make sure the area, should it be indoors, is clean and sanitary. If you are pressing outdoors it would be ideal if the weather was not blowing dust or raining. The easiest way to ruin cider is to allow it to become contaminated with dirt, undesirable bacteria or insects.

There are numerous theories about which kinds of apples make the best cider. Lots of folks have their own particular favorites, but again that is dictated by how they like their cider to taste and is often controlled by the varieties of apple trees that grow in their locality. Cider can have many subtle and delicious differences in flavor from quite sweet to rather tart and everyone has an opinion what real “old fashioned” cider should be.

Cider makers agree that a combination of at least two but preferable three or more varieties of apples gives the best result. When you use several varieties tighter you have more opportunity to balance the sweet and tart, smooth and astringent, and you can change the blend to suit your own taste requirements. Each variety contributes some necessary ingredient of taste and aroma to the finished product. You can certainly make cider using only one kind of apple but it will probably be a less interestingly flavored.

Varieties differ from one area to another, but the following groupings listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will give you a general idea of characteristics of some varieties you may want to blend:
SWEET – Baldwin, Hubbardston, Rome Beauty, Red Delicious, Russet Grimes, Cortland
MILDLY ACIDIC TO TART – Winesap, Jonathan, Stayman, Northern Spy, York Imperial, Wealthy, Newton Pippin, Greening
AROMATIC – Winter Banana, Ribston, Ben Davis, McIntosh, Golden Delicious
ASTRINGENT – Florence Hibernal, Red Siberian, Transcendent, Martha

A small quantity of crab-apples added to the mix will provide tannin and give you cider a desirable tang. You should not use crab-apples exclusively because they are too astringent.

If you happen to have only one or two varieties growing in your orchard, you might consider swapping some apples with a neighbor whom has a couple of different ones. That way you’ll both end up with a better cider. Generally speaking, the apples used for cider are those which are too small to be good eating apples or those which lack color or have superficial blemishes, rendering them unacceptable for market or storing. Dropped apples in good condition also make fine cider material. But you should not use drops that have been lying in the orchard for any length of time because they will give the cider a disagreeable earthy taste.

Do avoid unripe apples, as they will impart a starchy flavor. Many people in their enthusiasm to get on with the first pressing are tempted to use apples that are not quite mature. Although this may allow you to have early cider, it will also guarantee you inferior cider. It’s a good idea to gather the apples a couple of days before you are going to press them. Leave them to rest undisturbed and they will develop more juice and become slightly more flavorful. Discard wormy or decaying apples.

Never try to hurry when you are pressing cider, it is one of those processes best accomplished with patience and never improved with haste. With any home press you must strain the juice before bottling it in order to remove particles of apple and insure a clear and sparkling drink. The easiest way to strain is to use one of our nylon pressing bags. It will strain the juices as you are pressing keeping the dry pomace inside the bag. Just put one inside the tub and drape it over the sides. We also suggest you place on bag over the bucket or container you are using to give an even clearer and more sparkling cider. When your tubs is about three-quarters full fold the bag over the top of the pomace and insert the pressing block. Gradually tighten the Acme Screw. Allow the juice to flow and the pressure to release before further tightening of the screw. Remember to rinse the bag in clear water after using or it will become clogged with pomace. The pomace makes very good compost or good food for chickens, goats, cattle or other livestock.

As soon as the liquid begins to run from the press, you can start tasting and sampling. The cider will be at its best in a couple of days when it settles but is called that to distinguish it from hard or fermented cider, not as a description of its taste. The flavor should be crisp and tangy, with enough sweetness to give the cider a good body. The aroma should be distinctive and delightful, and is an important part of the finished product. In fact, the aroma is one of the best aspects of cider making right from the time you gather the apples to the moment you take the first sip.

METHODS OF STORING AND PRESERVING – Most glass or plastic containers will do and you can use sizes practical for you in terms of use and storage. If you bottle and refrigerate cider expect it to hold its flavor for about one to two weeks. Bet there are other ways to store and preserve cider for longer periods. Freezing is easily accomplished and is a reliable method if you have the space. When freezing it is recommended you leave the sear off until cider is frozen. The expansion of the cider causes the lids to blow off. Another way is to pasteurize the juice and keep it just about indefinitely. The traditional method is to sore the cider in oak barrels. It is a more complicated procedure but the time and effort are worthwhile because the result – delicious and natural cider – is so satisfying.

If you family prefers sweet cider and you do not have the capacity to freeze a large quantity, you can store a supply of apples in a cold place, above 30 degrees and below 40 degrees, if possible. Apples freeze at 20 degrees. When you want to press a new batch of cider you will have fresh apples. It is not a foolproof alternative, as the apples lose some flavor and deteriorate to some extent depending on the temperature change. It’s worth trying if you want to drink your won sweet cider most of the year.