Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cider Making ... and Serious Philosophical Thinking

No, we did not do cider pressing over Thanksgiving. We actually did it in late October, but I am typically slow at doing a blog post about it! The press actually belongs to Scott and his aunt and cousins (technically, also to his brother, his sister, and his mother -- but they don't live close enough to be involved most years). We call it the Big Green Machine, and you'll never see another one just like it. That's because it was basically built from scratch by Scott's paternal grandfather and his friend. It has a hydraulic press, and although I have never used a manual cider press, I understand that it is approximately 67,000 times easier to use a hydraulic one.

Here is the gorgeous thing. The chute is where you dump in the apples; the two barrel-looking things collect the cut-up apples from the chute. The hydraulic press is the silver pole you can see in the mid-left of the picture.
The above-mentioned Big Green Machine, as staffed by Scott and our friend Jeff Adams, without whom we could not possibly do the small farming we do. He's a Real Farmer, you see--as in, he knows how to do EVERYTHING.

In order to make cider, we go buy about a million pounds of apples, and (because we are cowards) wash them. Then we stand around in a bitingly cold wind and cut them into quarters (so they are small enough that the cider press can chop them up for better juice extraction). Above you see my mother, Jeff, and Andrea Adams (his wife, you know) doing the cutting. Their hands will freeze into solid chunks of ice shortly. What I find extremely amusing about the picture is that, although we definitely did not buy our apples from Iran, the box seems to be from there. It had some writing on it about "Persian apples." And a boy in a cute little hat. Rather odd, as we knew the farmer we bought them from, and he is not: a) growing his apples in Iran, or b) Iranian. Or shipping them to Iran, although I can't say I know that for sure, now that I think about it!

Then, if the machine doesn't jam (which happens at least four times), you have this divine liquid pouring out of the press (it's being strained through cheesecloth into the bucket). You can't imagine how good it is. And, oddly, it's never better than when you shove a communal cup under the stream coming off the press and drink it right there, sharing swigs with all the other people you're working with. It's so good. 

We freeze ours in gallon milk containers. Scott's family used to can it, as they didn't have the freezer space. The word is that unpasteurized and uncanned apple cider is not even from the same planet as the other stuff.

I'm in the midst of reading Shannon Hayes' book Radical Homemakers. It's entirely different than anything I've ever read before -- a defense of/exhortation for both women and men to spend more time at home. A discussion of the benefits of producing as much of your own product as possible -- for the sake of your own creativity and satisfaction, for the increased quality, and for the ability it gives you to circumvent at least part of an economy that really only benefits the most wealthy and elite in our society. She urges readers to see even "small" changes and products made this way as really not small at all. Every thing one does that is not that of the "typical consumer" -- every sweater I knit instead of buy. Every time I knit it with yarn the local mechanic's wife spins, for that matter. Every time I make something for dinner instead of giving in to take-out. Every time I can or freeze local produce so we eat "our own" spaghetti sauce, applesauce, peaches, pears. Every new skill I learn, like making my own butter, or sauerkraut. Every time we raise our own meat chickens. Every time we eat the eggs from our own laying hens. Every time I make my own bread. They are important steps in restoring health, dignity, and satisfaction to our lives.

This cider making seems to me to be a perfect example of that sort of action. Instead of buying cider from, say, two states away at the store (which I wouldn't, because it's too expensive), we made it ourselves, surrounded by friends and family. When we divied up the cost, it worked out to $2.50/gallon. We laughed and visited while we worked. When we were done, we went inside and had a potluck lunch and then divided the spoils. The food miles for the cider were ... uh, let's see ... three. Every time we drink the cider during the fall and winter, I remember the fun we had and the way the sun shone. In the past, I always enjoyed cider making, but I would never have thought of it as a significant step in changing a lifestyle and moving toward a world I like even better than this one.

love, kristin


  1. Great to see your Mom again! She is looking good and this looks like just her kind of activity - food, family, fun ;-]! How is your dad doing?

    1. Ok, here we go with 'secret' comments Blogger doesn't want me to know about again! Sorry!

      Mom is doing well, in fact. She had a bad cold the day of the cider-making, but was in the middle of it anyhow! Dad was there, too, but inside reading. :) He's doing quite well; in fact, he has decided he needs to join a gym so he can go exercise. His legs need strengthening, and his cardiologist thinks it would help him feel better generally. He and Mom both are still very helpful to me with the children -- in fact, just this morning he took them to school as I had a final test to give from 8-10:00 a.m. It's a great help to me that they are so close.