Dateline: 17 November 2008
(updated 20 September 2011)
We’re still making sweet apple cider here. This last weekend we pressed four more gallons of the delectable apple squeezin's. As usual, I ground the apples in my Whizbang Apple Grinder right in the kitchen. The grinder is now a household appliance—it will remain in the kitchen as long as the apple supply holds out.
Fresh cider is a daily drink for us nowadays. No chemical preservatives are added, as is the case with store-bought cider. And homemade cider doesn’t have a soapy flavor like some gallons I’ve gotten from the store in recent years. And we don’t pasteurize it. We don’t need to pasteurize our homemade cider because we took care choosing and washing the apples that went into it. This is cider that is safe and wholesome and full of stuff that’s good for a body.
Since the days and nights here in central New York state are now cold, we store our glass jars of cider outside the back door. It snowed today. So the jars are out there with little piles of snow on them. I guess that would be another definition of “the good life”.... jars of home-pressed cider out on the back stoop with snow caps on top.
This last cider pressing session gave me a chance to try out an idea I’ve been thinking about. Instead of using the nifty maple-slat pressing tub in my Whizbang Cider Press, I wondered if a cheap plastic pail would suffice for a pressing tub.
The pail I used is made of food-grade plastic. It once held ice cream ingredients. I paid a dollar each for a bunch of such buckets about ten years ago. They come in real handy here on our little homestead.
Of course, you can’t press cider out of a pail as it is. Holes need to be added. Or maybe I should say that holes needed to be taken away. Whatever the case, I drilled a bunch of holes in the bucket....
Those particular holes are 7/8” diameter. I used a Forstner drill bit to make them. It did a pretty good job but each hole had a lot of ragged plastic around it. So I had to clean up around every hole with a die grinder. A Dremel tool with a little grinder tip would have done the job too (if I were to make another bucket like this, I’d try a 1” hole saw or, better yet, a Unibit). All in all, it was a tedious process to perforate the bucket. But it was not hard to do. One bucket, an hour of work, and I had a cider pressing tub.
As noted in one of my previous cider essays, one pail of apple mash is equivalent to a bushel of apples. I ended up with a pail and maybe 1/3 of a pail more. We carried the mash out to my workshop where the press is. Here’s a picture of the bucket with a nylon pressing cloth in it and some mash.
The nylon pressing cloth is an absolute necessity when pressing apple mash that has been ground in the Whizbang Apple Grinder. That’s because the grind is so fine—much finer than any other grinder I’ve ever used. If the mash was not restrained inside the cloth, it would squirt right out the holes in the bucket. You can see in the above picture that, even without putting the pressure to it, a goodly amount of sweet cider is already streaming out of the bucket and into the collecting pan under the base of the press.
How do you press more than a bushel of apple mash in a 1-bushel-capacity bucket? Simple. You fill the bucket up, press it down some, then take the pressure up and refill the pail. That’s what I did.
Since the bucket is smaller around than my wood-slat pressing tub, I had to make a smaller pressing plate for this experiment. I outfitted it with a square receiver end to accommodate the end of the 2x6 pressing arm. But the bucket actually tapers; it is a different diameter at the bottom than the top. I cut my plate to the bottom diameter. That means it did not fit tight in the top. This next picture shows what I’m talking about...
I did not layer any pressing plates in with the mash (as shown and explained in this photo essay). I just pressed onto a solid pail full of ground up apples. As a result, it took longer to press the mash dry. But that was okay. I was only pressing one batch and was in no hurry.
The pail handled the pressure from a 6-ton hydraulic bottle jack on the mash just fine. And the juice seemed to flow out without any problem. The only difficulty I had was that the fabric tended to bulge up around and over the pressing plate when I put a lot of pressure on it. I had to take pressure off the plate, regather the loose fabric, and then retie a knot down tight to the mash. That pretty much solved the problem.
A pail-for-a-tub doesn’t look as nice as the traditional-style, wood-slat tub I usually use. And it doesn’t have the same mash capacity. But it serves the purpose very well. And the price is right. I would say the experiment was a success.
My book, Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Apple Grinder And Cider Press is now in print. you can get full details about the book and lots more information about homemade cider at www.Whizbang Cider.com