Dateline: 31 October 2013
|Does anyone know what kind of apple this might be?|
This has been the best apple year I can remember, and my Whizbang cider-making equipment has gotten a real workout. Well over 150 gallons of fresh apple cider has been processed so far this fall with my grinder and press.
After loaning the equipment out to several neighbors, Marlene and I made 16 gallons of cider the weekend before last with Ken and Mary, two friends from high school (way back). Then, last weekend we made cider with our friends, Tim & Rose (from Finger Lakes Dexter Creamery), Ron (from Digging into Freedom's True Meaning), and Sandy (who doesn't have a blog or web site). It took us three hours on the back patio to press out 36 gallons, and it was a fun time. If you are looking for a way to make great family memories and have a good time with friends, I recommend Whizbang cider making It's a great community activity.
I'll be loaning the equipment to another friend next weekend so he can make cider with his family. But, before that, I needed to make cider with the rest of the apples we had. The apples were all free, either given to us or picked at a friend's place. In the pictures that follow I will show you how the Whizbang cidermaking system works. I was working alone for this final pressing, but that was fun too. The sun was shining and the temperatures were mild. I love to make cider!
Click on any of the following pictures
to see an enlarged view
The picture above shows the apples I used to make cider. There were at least four different varieties. A blend of different varieties makes for a better cider. The apples have been washed. That's the most tedious part of this whole procedure. The apples will be fed into the motorized Whizbang apple grinder. The apple mash will flow out and into the plastic pails.
The picture above shows the Whizbang cider press, which I designed and tell how to make in my book, Anyone Can Build a Whizbang Apple Grinder & Cider Press. That press may not have the charm of a traditional-looking cider press, but it is much more efficient at making cider, as you will see.
The above picture shows buckets of apple mash. You can see how the mash is white when it first comes out of the grinder, and soon oxidizes brown. The mash from all the apples I had filled five buckets, though I had to top them all off more than shown here in order to make it all fit.
The top of the Whizbang apple grinder has an apple corral around it, so you can fill the corral up and quickly feed the apples into the grinding mechanism. If the apples are big, you have to cut them so they fit into the 2-7/8" diameter opening. Cut apples self-grind in the chamber. If the apples are whole, you will need to use the "persuader" to push them down into the spinning mechanism. If the apples are big and whole, you may have to pound them down with the persuader. I didn't cut a single apple when I made cider for these pictures. I pushed and pounded them all and filled the five buckets in short time (I didn't keep track but I'm sure it took less than half an hour). Grinding apples with the Whizbang apple grinder is exciting.
The picture above requires some explanation. What you are looking at is a large stainless steel bowl on the seat of a patio chair. A "mash form" made from the bottom 3" of a plastic bucket is inside the bowl. I layer a 30" x 30" piece of cider pressing fabric over the form and bowl. Then I fill the form with mash. The corners of the fabric are gathered up and tied with string. This creates a mash bag....
The picture above shows a mash bag in the pressing tub. The white "pressing disc" will go into the tub on top of the bag. My Whizbang cidermaking system is different from every other home-scale cidermaking system in that I recommend making a stack of mash-filled bags separated by pressing discs. This is a more traditional approach to pressing cider. It is also an extremely efficient way to extract juice from the finely-ground apple mash. It is far more efficient that just filling a tub with mash and putting pressure to the top.
Please note in the above picture that a lot of juice is flowing into the catch-pan even before pressure is applied. It's not unusual to get more than a gallon of juice before even putting pressure to the tub.
There (above) you can see the tub all set up for pressing. In the tub are five bags of mash and four pressing discs, with a pressure plate on the top. I figure the tub will hold the mash from a bushel of apples.
When the 6-ton jack is fully extended (as shown in the picture above), I place two screwdrivers in the pressing shaft holes, under the cross beam, as you can see above. This holds the pressing shaft down while I release pressure on the jack and position some blocking under it, as you can see in this next picture...
There you can see that I placed three blocks under the jack and am reapplying pressure to the stack. A hydraulic jack is a wonderful tool for applying pressure. It's much faster to use than a traditional ACME screw. If the old-timers had hydraulic jacks, they would have used them. I should make it clear that a lot of pressure is not needed to press juice out of mash that is in bags, stacked between discs. Furthermore, when pressing bags of mash as shown here (and explained in my book), there is very little outside pressure on the tub. That means the tub doesn't have to be built with iron hoops and heavy wood slats.
My plan book tells how to make a traditional-style, wood-slat pressing tub but the tub shown in these pictures is simply a piece of 1/8" HDPE plastic. I made it last year to see how it would work, and it works just fine.
Seeing as I was making cider by myself, I didn't want to take the time to fill jugs, so I filled plastic pails. Most plastic pails you buy in a hardware store are made with food-grade plastic. You can tell by the triangle symbol, with a 2 in the center.
The pail above shows the amount of cider I got from a single pressing. It is at least 4 gallons, and that is typical when using the Whizbang apple grinder and pressing system. I've used other apple grinders (the turn-by-hand kind) and pressed tubs of the coarse mash (instead of layered bags full of fine mash) and the juice yield is not nearly as much.
The picture above shows the apple pomace (pomace is squeezed-out apple mash). You can see that it has been squashed flat and has very little juice in it.
The five pails of apple mash made three pails of cider, as you can see in the above picture. I covered them with plastic wrap and left them outside overnight. The next day I dipped out and poured the cider into plastic jugs for the freezer (filled part way to allow for expansion when freezing). Putting the cider in 5-gallon pails for awhile before transferring to smaller containers allows some sediment to settle.
In addition to freezing many gallons of cider, we are drinking cider every day, and we have seven gallon jars of cider vinegar fermenting. CLICK HERE to see and learn how we make cider vinegar.
I think the ideal situation for having apple cider to drink for several months out of the year would be to keep a supply of apples in cold storage, then simply press a bushel or two every couple of weeks. This would be better than pressing and trying to freeze a lot. In the winter months, jugs of cider will keep just fine outdoors.
Someday, Lord willing, I would like to build a retirement home for Marlene and I. It will have a full basement (something we don't have now) with a walk-out entrance. One section of the basement will be dedicated to year-round cider pressing. If the equipment is all set up, ready to use, out of the weather and cold, making cider would be no more work than, say, making an apple pie.