This winter sucked. Ask anyone from the PNW. It was colder, snowier, and blowier than most of the old timers ever remember for this region. We’re finally getting some glimpses of spring. Our grass is growing, nights are staying above freezing.
You know what I liked about winter? I liked that I left for work in the dark and came home in the dark, and that severely limited the amount of farm work I could do, and vastly increased the amount of rest and downtime. I read books. I watched Seasons 1-4 of Star Trek Next Generation. I drank homemade hard cider.
Since we have ten apple trees, we decided that the best way to preserve them is by making cider–both fresh and hard. Last fall I bought a cider press for Josh’s birthday. It was the cheapest grinder/press combo I could find on the Internet, and I bought it in spite of an average 2.5 star review. We used it three times and pressed 10 gallons of cider, after which it fell apart. Happy birthday, sweetie.
Fortunately, I was able to send it back. Unfortunately, we had other financial priorities and couldn’t drop a grand on a new apple press. My dad–who can build anything–suggested that we might be better off buying the metal parts as a kit and just building it ourselves. I hemmed and hawed until my parents (lovely people, you should meet them) offered to gift us the hardware kit and my dad would walk us through the press design and construction.
We got the iron and steel components from Pleasant Hill Grain, and we were able to get most of the lumber (primarily oak) from our local building salvage store. It took most of December to build and finish, but it was below freezing outside so all of our digging projects were on hold anyway.
The result is an heirloom quality piece of equipment.
We designed the press to fit the grinder on the back side, so we could grind the apples then slide the basket to the front for pressing.
It works beautifully. We had 5 crates of apples stored in our shop during the winter. They had frozen, thawed, and frozen about 3 times, and by the time we pressed them their juice was syrup sweet. So not only did we have freshly pressed apple cider in January, but the batch of hard cider I began in October was bottled and aged and was ready to drink, and it’s wonderful. Crisp, dry, fruity, and lightly oaked. I can’t wait to do it again next year with our new press!
Cider made winter tolerable. But still, I can hardly wait for spring.