Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Appleknocker Knocking Apples (Homemade Cider)

There is no prettier sight.

I said the following on the tweeters the other day-

I stand by this statement. The past few days have been absolutely perfect examples of early fall weather in New York. As it was Mr. Dave v4.0's second b-day we decided to do a bit of family apple picking over at Indian Ladder Farms. Indian Ladder is not my ancestral apple orchard (that would be Altamont Orchards) but I have adopted it wholeheartedly.

I was pleasantly surprised by young Giblet's
apple picking acumen. Only the best. 

We parked the truck in the empty car corrals (it was Monday morning so the place was a ghost town) and paid our 16 dollars for a half-bushel. The whole "apple picking experience" is a bit more commercialized then I remember as a child. It is a sort of amusement park version of the affair if you will. But I have been trying to stop railing against these sorts of changes as I often appear as a lunatic at the beach shouting at the tide coming in. We had a grand time a-pickin'. What a good time to go! We were basically alone and got to run through the rows like maniacs.

Afterwards, (of course) we went inside for some cider donuts and whatnot. I was pleased when the kind lady serving the donuts whispered with no small amount of pride, "they're still so warm!" when I ordered my half-dozen. 

They had a plate of small sample donuts out to entice those who are somehow uninitiated into the glories of the genre. Mr. Dave Jr. issued fourth a torrent of, "Me, Me, Mes" upon sighting the pile of mini-donuts. Remembering that this was (I think) the first occasion on which my young man might sample a cider donut I snapped a picture. This is now one of my favorite pictures (even if it is a bit blurry).

I do believe this is lil' David's 1st cider donut.
We had a couple donuts immediately outside as we all know cider donuts have a small window of sublime until they degrade into merely very good. These were pretty perfect. Warm with the crumb coalescing between your teeth before ending between your chompers with a bit of chew as the crusts meet and then the pleasant grit of sugar... Oh yes. Yes, yes.

As an aside, remember last year when I created the "Cider Slider" (burger on a cider donut)? I think Indian Ladder even seized on the idea and served a breakfast sandwich version afterwards... I still stand by the cider donut as a sandwich vehicle. I know this is a bit food-fabulist and cliche in light of the "Luther Burger" and all of that, but I have simplified the concept a bit. Take a warm cider donunt, slice it, and insert a few slices of good bacon. That is the rub right there. It is not a foreign concept when you think about it. Pork/Apples, Sweet/Savory, and Soft/Crunchy are all tasty standards. Give it a whirl, Mr. Dave wouldn't lead you astray.
Now isn't that a sight?
In any event, it was a very good time. But what to do with all the apples? As an avowed Appleknocker and an Upstate NY fellar born and bred I feel that I have been remiss in experimenting with our apples. So I decided to try to celebrate the apple with a tentative poke at home cider production with an eye at making it some sort of family tradition. I.e., actually purchase some equipment, find a way to get lots of apples cheaply, invite friends over for a fall "cidering." But first, I wanted to see what I could do with the tools I had on hand.

They are like nature's scented candle!

A couple tart 'uns for a bit of acid.
To grind the apples I used my meat grinder. This actually turned out to be a perfectly acceptable manner of dealing with the small amount of apples I dedicated to this experiment (5 pounds).

I had to quarter the apples to get them to fit down the shoot. Everything goes in- pips, stems, and skins.
Looks like a flock of fluttering butterbugs, doesn't it?
And there you have the juicy pulp. Oxidation occurs almost immediately.

I thought using my cheese press might work to squish all the juice out. This turned out to not be an ideal method.

Most of the juice didn't come out of the spout, it seeped through the air lock thingy on the follower of the press. No matter, I just poured it out. If I make a small batch like this again and haven't purchased/constructed an apple press yet, I would just put the stuff in cheese cloth/bag and press it with weights in a colander.

In any event, I was left with nigh a half-gallon of a decidedly cider-y substance at the end of it all! I am chalking this up as a success.

I brought the stuff up to 160 for 10 seconds as a precaution. I know pasteurizing cider from very fresh apples that have been washed and aren't field apples is not absolutely necessary, but this is my first go. I will have to read up on the issue.

There you have it. Cider. Delicious cider handmade from apples my family picked from the orchard down the way... I don't think it gets much better than that.

I didn't stop there though. I had some spare brewing yeast around so I cooled the stuff off, pitched the yeast, and popped on an airlock.

It will be a while, but I will be sure to update you on the resulting hard cider. Hopefully it is good.

Anyway, it is a glorious time of year. Make sure you get out and enjoy some crisp fall air. It is good for your lungs and you might catch a whiff of someones wood burning stove which should make you smile a little.


  1. I am 100% behind this cidering thing... I've been contemplating this very thing. Meat grinder and all.

    And then the whole hard cider bit..

    if you intend on shoving some hard cider in the freezer for apple jack, I have a feeling you are my mirror universe twin.

    1. Ha! Highlander fight with swords!!! There can be only one!


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