September apple pressing
You may or may not have previously seen that we have a large apple tree in the back garden (Blossom and Easter Baking)
Since July we have been noticing early windfalls of the fruit, probably because it has been so dry this year.
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Some of the apples have been beyond saving and have become compost, however we have managed to keep a couple of crates full to make into Cider. We have also been having pies, crumbles and stewed fruit or puree with almost every meal!
The fruit itself looks like a Bramley variety, Malus domestica . The ripe fruit has a pinkish blush and in size ranges from a mans fist, right up to a Canteloupe melon. I am glad it's a Bramley-the fruit is not sweet enough to attract wasps and yet is so great for cooking with. It is also a true English apple cultivar, from what I have read we have been enjoying Bramley's for two hundred years.
What a handsome looking thing!
So Mr T and I decided to put an apple press together. We are not exactly in the market to spend three figures on a bought one, so wondered if we could make one with left over bits and bobs.
Where could we get the pressure needed? So I had a snout about for ideas on the old interweb and found loads of sites, blogs and images of people who had used a car jack. Brilliant! We have a 3ton bottle jack in the garage. Build a frame from the roofing timbers we had left over from the chicken house and find and old bucket. The strength of the timber was paramount, it would be subjected to up to 3 tons of pressure, so MDF wouldn't do!
Mr T works for a roofing company and happens to be a DIY legend and in the time it took me to pop out to buy the components of a full English, and make two cups of coffee, he had come up with a brain design and started to cut the wood required.
As well as making the all important bacon butties and hot drinks, I also got stuck in with a saw and burnt off a few calories! You can see from these pics how thick the wood is though.
So here is the wooden frame. The idea was to have a box/bucket to put the fruit into, which has drainage holes in the side for the juice. I have my fermenting bucket for making wine and alcoholic type beverages and as it was the only one I hadnot too keen to drill holes in it. So we sat, we drank tea and scratched our heads. "Does it have to be a bucket.or will a box do?" I said.. We have loads of surplus storage boxes after moving house in Februarymight as well use what we already have. So a blue plastic box gets drilled.
Well it got drilled after we removed the Cat .(what IS it with Cats and boxes?!?!?)
So the fruit is added to the mesh bag.(it is quartered in this shot for our first go). The board comes down under the weight of the bottle jack and..squish. Hmmm, yes, well it wasn't that simple in the end.
Here you can see what we ended up with. The purple box serves no real purpose, just to lessen the drippage.
Our first press did not exactly flow as we expected. The fruit was chunked into small cubes and we got about 10mls of juice! The wood along the top was also under enormous pressure and started to make cracking noises.so we took a break.
We decided that rather than chunks, we should try blitzing the pieces in a food processorthen less pressure would be needed. So a little production line was formed!
Quarter, core, de-gunk any "iffy" bits, wash and blitz
Guess what? The plan worked! I ended up with a blister from chopping, but by the end of the day, two crates of windfall apples had become 7litres of juice.
It was then strained through a muslin and sieve to get rid of any bits and mush. I left it overnight with a cling film cover as well as the lid..after all that work we had done I didn't want fruit flies getting in and wrecking it all.
The next day we have gorgeous, tongue clickingly tart-sweet apple juice.yummy! The juice can be kept bottled in the fridge and tastes great a week later. However this was just the litre-left-over! The other six litres are being turned into cider.
After sterilising a glass demi-john and airlock, the juice is added (carefully) through a muslin again. I then add 1 sachet of cider yeast to a small lemonade bottle with 50g sugar and 200mls hand hot water (think bread making, if the water is too hot for you, it is too hot for the yeast) it then gets shaken like mad and kept in my jumper pocket for an hour where it is nice and warm. Every few mins, I just release the bottle cap and hear the "fzzzzzz" which shows the yeast is doing it's thing. The mixture is then added to the demi-john, and within a few hours it is bubbling away and turning all the natural sugars to alcohol.
Fermentation is awesome!
In all seriousness, I would encourage anyone to have a go at home brewing. It is real fun! You have to be patient of course-it isn't a quick process and sometimes things go wrong, but that is how I am learningthis is only my second year and I have to keep ringing dad AKA the 'Brewmaster General" for lots of advice!
So the windfall cider is front right, we also have Mead, Gooseberry wine, Damson wine, Elderberry wine and the 'mystery' wine on the go there.
I think more demi-johns and finger plasters are in my future, because there is still the whole tree to pick.
Posted in Renovations Post Date 01/09/2017