We live in one of the most apple-rich areas of the country. The back roads are lined with abandoned apple trees and the state forests often have old orchards where apples are free for the picking. Bruce and I put in a small orchard 8 years ago and our own trees have begun to bear fruit too, so it seemed only sensible to add an apple press to our wish list of tools and equipment. But alas, the price seemed beyond us for a sturdy one that included an apple crusher as well as a heavy duty press.
Eventually, we teamed up with three other families and bought a press to share. It has turned out to be a wonderful experience for all concerned. Because we have the sheltering summer kitchen with electricity and running water, the cider press is there year-round, ready to go.
There is no schedule beyond a phone call to be sure the time is convenient but there is never a conflict. Three bushels of apples can be pressed in well under an hour if there are enough hands and we all enjoy the process so much that we’re anxious to lend each other a hand.
The apples keep coming, though. Friends stop by with the beds of their pick-up trucks completely filled with apples. We are happy to swap some of the bounty with them in exchange for the use of the apple press but it’s hard to keep up!
I found another sack of grapes in the vegetable bin that I forgot about so I tossed those into the juicer too. The resulting grape-apple juice is a lovely color. I was going to make jelly out of it but I decided to can it as juice. We have jelly overload here and one family can only eat so much.
It’s in doing apples that I most appreciate my helpful gadgets. The Apple Express Clamp-On peeler peels, cores and slices, making mighty quick work of the apple slices destined for the dehydrator.
When I make applesauce I have found it easier to use just the corer/ slicer option, as I like the color of my sauce when the peels are left on.
The apples are always a mix that makes for a rich and unique blend. The apple pulp is abundant. It feeds chickens and pigs, compost pile and worms. Some of us use the pulp to make our own vinegar too.
Not one thing goes to waste. My personal goal of 50 jars of sauce, 20 jars of juice and 2 gallons of dried apples is well within reach. I smell a bit like cinnamon and applesauce but there are worse things to smell like. (Do you really want a whiff after I’ve cleaned out the pigpen?)
Music and laughter make the time fly as we process apples. The youngest children play on the swings and the rest unload apples from the back of pick-up trucks. Pots of soup and loaves of bread appear like magic and sometimes a wheel of cheddar is sliced. I keep the crockpot going with hot, mulled cider or we drink it cold, depending on the weather.
I hear so much talk about “creating community.” There’s a falseness in those words that bothers me. Community cannot be created by any artificial means. Community grows in the warmth of shared laughter and the beauty of shared labor. Today I lift a glass of cider to the power of true community.