The 1816 cider press hailed from Springfield, Ohio leapt into action this fall, propelled by muscle strength. It’s quite fascinating imagining how this press landed so close by, in a small community along the Missouri River. The press was likely loaded into a wagon making its way to a boat on the Ohio River, once afloat it traveled up to Cairo and caught the Mississippi River up to St. Louis, then headed west up the Missouri River, finally received by one of the community elders. Fortunately, many years ago, the press was given to my friend who breathes life back into the relic. How did that press recently come alive?
Last winter, a friend told me he had acquired an apple orchard, the very orchard I frequented as a child. He lamented very few apples were picked last year, such a waste. Fortunately, this fall I pursued those apples. I was extremely excited since his dormant orchard hadn’t been sprayed with pesticides for years. After confirming the splotches on the apples weren’t a problem, we leapt into action, and invited some friends. With many tubs, buckets, and ladders in hand, we hit the orchard. Once the easy apples were picked, we carefully repositioned our ladders and stretched and stretched, determined to reach the elusive ones, many just barely within our grasp. This is better than yoga! Once our capacity was filled with early Fuji and Jonathan apples, we scrounged for empty jugs and hauled everything to the press.
After we washed our assorted apparatus, our group of seven got organized. The huge pile of apples was daunting! We were glad to share our bounty with this particular group of friends, as they have a long-standing cider-pressing tradition and hadn’t found apples this year. Their labor force is three generations deep! We sorted, cut out bad spots, triple washed, then filled the hopper; those were the easier jobs. Next we pulverized the apples with sheer muscle strength, cranking the press handle around and around until our bodies said no more! Then our strength was again challenged as we pressed out the juice, turning a wheel around and around. Once exhausted, we called in supports, handing the task over to a new set of muscles and energy.
To re-energize, we shared a communal cup sampling various apple combinations along the way, such sweet and delightful nectar! Free flowing juice was captured, strained thru a sieve, then poured into our welcoming jugs – 41 gallons!
All along the way camaraderie abounded making for a wonderful day. With kindred spirits we shared stories and laughter while bringing in the harvest. We stashed our cider in the freezer and in a brave attempt to make vinegar, set aside one gallon in the closet. Now we pull from our freezer from time to time, such sweetness, rationing ourselves in anticipation of hot spiced cider this winter. As for the vinegar, it was a success!