Thursday, October 7

Apple Picking Day 23: Pressing Cider

For the past week were were in the midst of typical Ithaca weather -rain.  Several days last week were rained out and the first part of this week was not much different.  Usually we do not pick in the rain since the moisture makes the apples softer and easier to bruise.  It also makes the ladders treacherous and any slope becomes a little more challenging for a tractor hauling a half-ton bin of apples.
The sorting table
Last Thursday we enjoyed the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole which dumped upwards of five inches of rain on most the area.  With little work to be done outdoors, most of the crew found work in the shed sorting apples, making grape juice or pressing cider.  I was lucky enough to take part in the latter.
Apple on their way to the grinder
The cider room is a rather small room attached to the rest of the shed with a few not so complicated looking pieces of machinery.  It has a cement floor and every thing is washable with hoses, making for easy clean-up.  The apples are first dumped from a bin unto a conveyor belt where any rotten or bird-pecked apples are sorted out.  This was my task for most of the day and although it was nothing glorious, I found it very enjoyable and felt lucky to be dry on a such a day, even if it meant trading my picking bucket for a sticky apron and earplugs.
From the conveyor belt the apples go through a washer which gets off any grime, such as the remnants of the aforementioned rotten apples.  From there they go into a hopper where they are taken up a second conveyor and dropped into a grinder.  Once ground they are taken via a vacuum pump through a hose to the pressing table where the slury is deposited in layers.  Each later is wrapped in a poris cloth and separated by a sheet of plastic.  As soon as the layers start to grow cider begins to drip like sweet nectar out of the lower layers from the weight of the ones above.  The stack will continue to grow until it reaches about twenty layers, at which point it starts to sway a bit.  At this point it is rolled onto a hydraulic press and slowly squeezed.  The cider drips into troughs and then is pumped into a tanker truck outside.  Each stack contains roughly thirty-five bushels of apples and will yield around one hundred gallons of cider.

The stack before pressing
The stack after pressing
 After each stack is fully pressed, it is disassembled and the remnants of the ground apples, which are now almost bone dry are discarded.  The process is repeated over and over again becoming one deliciously sticky mess.  Not a bad way to spend a rainy day.

No comments:

Post a Comment