Friday, August 09, 2013

Cider Making and the Phenomenal Apple Crop of 2013

The fruit crop this summer is staggering. Apple trees are weighed down with fat ones in such numbers that they boggle the mind. This is one wild tree up in the pasture...there are several of them. 

Others, where we have rarely seen apples before, have crops that rival tame and tended orchards. Trees that might in a normal year have a handful of wizened fruit that drop early to be eaten by chipmunks and turkeys and deer, are hung like Christmas trees decorated by a kid gone wild with enthusiasm and way too many ornaments.

I wish we were still in the cider business. We used to pick up "drops" from under wild trees all over the place and make maybe a hundred and fifty gallons or more. I remember falling asleep after days of picking up truck-loads of fallen apples and picking up tons more in my dreams. Apples all day and all night.......(Chopping corn for the silo is the same way....after a day of watching the stalks jiggling into the cutter head on the chopper, you will do the same all night.... The harvest is an all-consuming kind of thing.)

Cider making was a rite of fall that was special to us, bringing memories of doing it as kids on a family member's farm and the wonder of the alchemy of it all. Dim and dented fruit that you might not find too tempting, turned into delicious stuff that we made ourselves sick drinking every fall.

We sold some each year, back before the process was so stringently government-regulated, and froze the rest to enjoy all winter long. If you dump a little out of the top of a plastic gallon jug to make room for the expansion of freezing, fresh apple cider will store nicely for months.

These days I don't even know where there is a cider press that is open to the public. I also believe that you have to pasteurize it before you can sell it. We are certainly not equipped for that process.

Used to love to watch them grind and press our apples though. The thunderous roar of them tumbling into the grinder, the speedy folding of the heavy brown cloth over the pulp, the fantastic smell of them, as the clear, sweet juice flowed out, when the press cranked down. Lazy yellow jackets tumbling around the bottom of the press, sipping stray juices until they were drunk with the sweetness.....

The worry over whether we had enough cash to pay for the pressing and bottling....always a concern to the young and impoverished.

It was such a wonder to experience the bounty of the wild, untended trees. Such largess. Such tangy deliciousness.

This year I will maybe trudge up back where the wild ones grow and pick enough for jelly. With a little added cinnamon, apple jelly can taste almost as good as fresh cider, and I can make it right here in my kitchen. 

It won't be too long before they start to get ripe, and it sure will taste good, come winter. 


Cathy said...

Poetry. Pure poetry.
Just love the imagery of the yellow jackets.
You almost make me long for fall :)

CDH said...

Beautiful apples. We had such a late frost that it froze the blossoms. We have no apples, well 1 and we are already fighting over it! No raspberries nothing. Been a wet cold spring. :(

12Paws said...

Love your word pictures! If I were braver & more able I'd sneak into your jelly making kitchen & hide under the chair like a little mouse & pretend I was back in time in my Gramma's kitchen--cooking down the apple juice on her 100 yr old wood stove. Thanks for deja vu!

threecollie said...

Cathy, thank you. We had a lot of fun as kids and had no idea at all that we were doing anything different from the norm.

CDH, so sorry to read that. We have had it happen a few times in recent years, but this spring we really got lucky.

12Paws, thanks! Wouldn't it be fun if you could! My grandma made grape jelly every year when we were kids and it sure smelled good.