My friend John makes cider every fall, and I’ve had the opportunity to taste some of his vintages over the past couple of years. I asked if he could help me make cider this year, and he kindly obliged. I went south last Friday to grind crabapples and press some cider.
Crabapples are an important part of cider making, they contribute a nice apple flavor as well as tannins. They come along early in the fall, which is why they were pressed first.
The first step was to wash the apples, and then to grind them. John took inspiration from a post on homebrewtalk.com where a press was made using a garbage disposal and hydraulic bottle jack. As we laid out the apples to prepare for grinding, we sorted the apples and composted any mushy apples in the nearby woods.
The resulting pulp ejected by the garbage disposal was collected in a 5-gallon bucket.
Once all the apples were ground up, we took the resulting pulp and poured it into a clean pillowcase, using a wooden frame to help shape the form. This bag is placed onto a plastic mesh that was made by routing out a cutting board.
Once all the pulp was bagged and shaped, a large block was placed on top of the pulp in a level fashion, the hydraulic bottle jack was set up, and the pressing began.
From 30 lbs of crabapples, we pressed just over 2 gallons of cider with a gravity of 1.064
Fermentis (Red Star)’s Côte des Blancs dry yeast was pitched, and the cider will be racked to secondary in a few weeks. This will age for roughly a year to clarify and mature, and will be blended with a second batch of cider made from a blend of other apples.