Sunday was a beautifully warm day (in the 50's), sunny and still. it was a perfect day for the task at hand - pressing cider! My landlords have a beautiful apple press complete with a big ol' grinder. If you've never pressed cider, I really recommend it. We pressed 2 bushels, which gave us 3 1/2 gallons of cider.
I bought a bushel and a half of apple seconds (less-than perfect apples) from my favorite farmstand, and my friends brought over another half bushel. I paid $12 for my apples - a good price in exchange for complete devotion for the past 4 seasons. They're pretty far from me now, but I'm devoted to my farmstand, because they're good to me, because I've come to know them, and because they have wonderful fruit and are lovely people.
The press is in the icehouse (above my sleeping winter vegetables), out of the wind. The three of us women stayed in, quartering the apples, while our one male fellow-presser went out to clean the cider press. There's very little I love more than women gathering over a traditional task. It's easy to talk, hands are occupied, the sun streams in, and it's hard to imagine something more peaceful than performing the basic tasks of sustenance with friends.
When we were done we loaded the apples (in trash bags) into a wheel barrow, brought it to the icehouse, and ran them through the grinder, then moved the bucket over and pressed the juice out of the milled apples. We got the hang of it the second time around. 4 people was the perfect number - one to monitor the flow and keep things steady, one to turn the mechanism, then two to turn once it gets hard (with a much larger stick for leverage) and one person to keep the press steady, since it's not bolted down. With switching and plenty of tasting and standing around it was wonderful. Remember towels (it's messy and wet and hands will get cold!) and gloves for the workers (to ward off blisters, or for heat - make sure they're work gloves. they'll get dirty).
When we were done and the dry apples were in the compost I said goodbye to my friends and took apart the press and washed it in the stream, since I don't know where the hose is, and it was a readily available source of water. It's very easy to wash wood in the deep, dammed up stream, since the water is still and the wood floats, so it's just a matter of dunking and running a rag over everything. The water was terribly cold, but with the sun starting to set (at 4!!) over the catskills and a good day of work and friends to think over, it was a lovely way to put to rest the first part of my day.
I strained the cider through cheesecloth and hung the pulp to drip over the cider so as not to waste anything. The I poured 2 1/2 gallons into a home brewing bucket for hard cider, and reserved a gallon of sweet cider to bring to the family for thanksgiving.
Hard Cider Recipe on the way.