|Sep. 26th, 2004 @ 05:59 pm Stream Trains and Cider Presses|
Busy weekend! We spent today at an apple-pressing party. We have had a bumper crop of apples (we only have three trees, but they were loaded this year), and I couldn't do any canning since we had no kitchen. But one of the master gardeners invited us to an BYOA apple-pressing party, and since we routinely buy apple juice, it seemed a good use of our apples.
There were two presses, both with an attached grinder (one driven by an electric motor and the other by elbow power). The ground apples were then pressed and the runoff strained to provide a pulp-free but non-clarified raw cider--unbelievably delicious! It tasted like fresh apples, but some of the batches were blends and more complex a flavor than any single apple.
There were probably 20 people there, and we pressed about a ton (literally) of apples in about six hours. Our family brought home 10 gallons of juice. We simply froze what we won't drink before it goes bad, but the host makes traditional hard cider. I took a tiny little taste--what a shocker! I thought hard cider was slightly fermented apple juice, but it's got a serious kick! I had a discussion with Lou about how all foods have a specific amount of fermentation they can reach before all the natural sugar is depleted, and how grapes have the highest percentage of sugar, but I swear that hard cider was zippier than any wine I've ever tasted. I told the host, "Don't give any of that to my husband...or my son!" ;-)
Our little kids loved the apple juice. They both drank about three glasses--for which we are now paying. My teenage son ran the grinder and the press, both feeding it and providing power at different times. He had grumbled about having to go, but halfway through he says, "Mom! Next year, let's ask all the people we know for their apples too." I spent most of the time watching my little children play in the barn, but I also had a small task (keeping the gang supplied with empty jugs).
We were surrounded by piles of bright apples--burnished red, golden-yellow, vivid green--in five-gallon buckets. The juice, not thin like storebought apple juice but robust and vibrant with health, poured in a rich brown stream from bucket to jug, occasionally interrupted mid-stream to fill a glass, passed around and discussed ("That last batch was a little tart, but this one's just right"). The mash (pomace, as it's called) was dumped from the bottomless wooden bucket into a damp pulpy mass that steamed with the smell of fresh apples. People called back and forth as they cranked the grinder or the presses, laughter mingling with the scent, the flavor, the moment. At our back loomed an ancient barn, so long in its place that it had become a natural part of the landscape like a boulder or a great oak.
Speaking of the barn...it was two stories with a vast roof. The center area was open to the roofline, but a haymow circled the edges. Under the haymow was a series of small storerooms filled with gardening supplies and tools, stacked with firewood, littered with the occasional fat chain or odd, unnamed iron piece. The floor, which sloped away from the door, was made of wide boards (12 inches at least), and they were pitted and wavy from age, and deep cracks opened between them. Between the thick board walls, weathered silver and black, were tiny gaps of sunlight.
Yesterday, our family rode a steam train with other parents of special needs children. That was SOOO cool. I don't think I've ever heard, in real life, that chugga-chugga that is so familiar from childhood (though personally I'd describe it as a whuff-whuff). The route wandered through light forest and farmland, and at one point, I saw a hill in the distance with a cleared area backed by evergreen forest, and the deciduous trees along the edge of the clearing were just starting to turn, and a huge, ancient barn loomed in the background. It was such a picturesque scene that I watched it the entire time it was in sight, turning around to watch behind me even, and then looking for it on the way back and doing the same thing.
Then, today, as we were pressing apples, I heard the steam train whistle, looked around and realized I was standing on that enchanted hillside in front of that old barn. It was a magical moment.
You know...come to think of it...this apple pressing is something my character, Rita, might do with her sister Anne.
BTW, my husband went out with our contractor yesterday and looked at our cabinets. He said they are exquisite. The guy who is building them is retired from a different career and isn't making nearly as much as he is worth for the craftsmanship he puts into them. And the tile is finished and beautiful. I'm feeling much better about the kitchen.