Clarke South Norwalk Showroom Consultant Uschi Samaritano is a wealth of knowledge about Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances, but when she isn't talking cooking, baking and kitchen design, she is tending to her large garden and apple orchard, as well as beekeeping (more on that in another blog post.) Uschi lives on a property that was previously part of a large apple orchard and currently has 9 apple trees. She isn't sure what variety they are, as they are very old and weren't cared for over the years. Every year she prunes them a bit more to bring them back to health.
In 2015, she had a "bumper crop," an unusually high yield of apples, and decided that instead of trying to keep up with baking apple tarts and making apple jelly, she would invest in a cider press. When the press arrived, all the pieces had to be stained three times in a clear coat so it wouldn't deteriorate. Once that was done, she never looked back. Here are some of her tips for pressing your own apple juice and making cider...
- Only use healthy-looking fruit or cut out pieces that are bruised or over-ripe. Small blemishes are fine, but if they are starting to spoil, they will cloud the cider.
- It's tempting to collect all the fallen apples, but it is wiser to pick the fruit off the trees. You may want to use an "apple picker" to reach higher-hanging apples.
- Wash the apples in clear water to get rid of dust, small insects or any treatment spray that might have settle on the fruit.
- Toss the apples in the "wooden hopper" and turn the handle that engages the grinder of the press. The easiest way to do this is to invite a strong friend to help!
- The press turns the apples into a pulp that is collected in the apple tub, which you line with a pressing/filter bag. Since the tub is made of wooden slats, the bag allows the juice to seep out and the pulp to stay in the tub.
- Once the tub is filled with crushed apples, you cover it with a heavy wooden lid, then you turn the press (a cast iron contraption) so it presses the wooden lid onto the crushed apples and the sap will just ooze out. Again, have your strong friend help here.
- The apple juice is then collected onto the catch board underneath, which has a little opening in the front of its frame. Through this opening the apple juice can now freely flow into the catch bucket, which is placed beneath.
- The remaining crushed apple pulp can go straight onto your compost heap.
- Apple juice processed in this manner lasts for about a week in the refrigerator and every batch tastes different, which makes the whole process that much more interesting and enjoyable.
- You can enjoy fresh "regular apple cider" or "sweet cider" this way and you can even freeze some for later.
- Most of your fresh pressed cider will be stored in large (sterilized) glass bottles. These bottles are topped with an "airlock topper," which allows the bubbles, which rise through the fermentation process, to escape. With a regular solid cap, the pressure builds up and the bottle explodes (Uschi says she learned this the hard way.)
- After a couple of days, you can see the sediment settle to the bottom of the bottle. You can "rack" the cider at this point, which means separating the clear cider from the sediment. This produces a mild cider.
- To make hard cider, you let the process continue. After more time passes, you will see froth rising to the top of the bottle. This is the fermentation, when the sugar from the apples turns to alcohol.
- You can experiment with adding English yeast, pear concentrate or straight sugar at this point. These will prolong the fermentation process and will make your cider dryer (or "harder".) You'll need to play with the proportions to get the taste you like.
- Once the whole fermentation process comes to a halt, you siphon the cider from this bottle into a bottling jug (a bottle with a spigot at the bottom.)
- You can bottle it in whatever type of bottles you'd like. Uschi uses brown glass bottles with cute metal caps. The capping is a chore by itself, so you'll want to purchase a bottle capper too.
As you can see, quite a lot goes into the process, yet those who love the freshest food and drink know how rewarding and delicious it is to truly go from farm to table. So, even if you don't own an apple orchard, you can turn your locally picked apples into cider to given as gifts and enjoy for months to come.
The team at Clarke, New England's Official Sub-Zero & Wolf Showroom and Test Kitchen in South Norwalk, is passionate about all things food and drink. To tap into their cooking and design expertise, make an appointment to meet them and tour dozens of inspiring kitchens today.