Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Cider Adventures Part Three - Juicing a Ton of Apples in One Day

Problems:

1. We had 10 totes of apples to juice
2. They needed to be done soon
3. Home juicers weren't the answer
4. We didn't have enough jugs to store the juice

Solution: Coffee.



Ok so coffee didn't specifically solve the problem but coffee is always good and definitely helped while we searched the internets for solutions. Wine. Wine would have also been good but it was morning. Oh well. Back to the net. And lo, solutions appeared.

Christine found an apple press for rent on Kijiji (Not on UsedVictoria, what?). It was in high demand but we managed to get it on a cancellation for the weekend. The cost was $25.00 plus 2 liters of juice per day of rental. Seemed reasonable.




We called some package and container places on the island but their juice jug cost seemed too high. I was heading back to Vancouver for the week so we checked into Vancouver companies. We found some reasonably priced juice jugs from Richards Packaging which were 1/5th the price of the ones in Victoria, yay!

On the big day, the family brought over all their juicers and (after coffee) we went to work washing, sanitizing, chopping, slicing, scratting (love that word), pressing, straining juice and filling jugs. Below is the press in action. The apple slices were fed into the scratter and the pulp/pomace came out the bottom into a clean and sanitized tote. The pomace was scooped into the press and the juice was slowly squeezed out into another clean and sanitized tote. Wet pomace from the juicers (they didn't do as good of a job as the Omega) was also added to this tote to recover the maximum amount of juice.

Pressing pomace for juice
Scratting



Slowly being the operative word. The scratter worked like a dream but pressing the pulp to get the juice was the rate limiting step. It couldn't be rushed or the pomace just escaped around the pressing plate. Also, the juice yield was far less than what could we got from the juicers. Still it was far faster than juicers alone and we didn't have to worry about burning out the motors.

                Check out this awesome little video that Marcus made showing us all at work.





Even with all of us working together we didn't quite finish in the better part of a day. I finished the last totes of cider apples over the next couple of days with the Omega. It got a much higher proportion of juice out than the apple press or any of the other juicers. Fantastic little machine.

We ended up with about 160 liters of apple juice about 40 of which I set aside for cider.

We froze all the juice so I could take a break and research how to make cider and get the equipment.



However, we are still wondering about next year. Would an investment in a small commercial grade juicer be worth it? There were obviously many other people in need of a press who would be willing to rent it (as we did) so it would potentially pay for itself over time. But good ones are not insignificant amount of money. Hmmm. Luckily we have a year to think about it.

For now, I'm just going to have fun learning about how to make the best cider ever! If it turns out well it will be one more reason to invest in our own super-awesome press.

Next up, cider making!


Thursday, 26 January 2017

Cider Adventures Part Two - One Person Juicing a Freakload of Apples at Home

We stared at the 12 totes full of apples and debated what to do. How to get the juice out of the apples? We considered whether this would be an ongoing problem for us or whether it was a one-time thing. We thought about the other person who had come by the juicing place with her car full of apples at the same time we were there. She also left disappointed and wondering what to do. Was there a market for juicing here? Should we invest in a commercial scale juicer? Time for research!

I read through some cidermaking websites to see what kind of juicers they recommended. Marcus scrolled through UsedVictoria (Victoria's version of craigslist - Victoria has never gotten into craigslist, don't ask me why) for juicers. We found one convergence: this little beauty. The Omega J8006 Nutrition Center Juicer. What a name!

I have to admit, I was skeptical. I didn't want to spend money on a juicer that was obviously not going to get us through this volume of apples. However, Marcus rightly argued that it would get us started while we figured out how to deal with the rest. One of the cider making websites mentioned that someone had done up to 3 US gallons (about 11 litres) of juice with this machine. Plus it was a hella deal. These babies run $300.00 - $400.00 new and we got it for $100.00. If you can't find one used, check them out on Amazon.ca or Amazon.com. (If you buy this juicer after clicking this link there is no additional charge to you but we get a teeny tiny amount of commission. Yay! Thanks for your support!)


The Omega did a fantastic job. If anyone is wondering about a home juicer, I'd highly recommend this one. Its a workhorse, powerful and well built. Its a low rotation, masticating one so the juice isn't heated from friction (no degradation of vitamins and the juice tastes super fresh) and the amount of juice this baby got from the apples was astounding. Downsides were that it worked best with small cubes of apple (so lots of chopping) and I had to stop and clean out the (extremely!) dry fiber fairly often. This wouldn't have been an issue if I wasn't juicing hundreds of pounds of apples in a  hurry :-/ .

However, after a week of chopping and juicing apples, I had sore wrists, sore feet, and was going to scream from tedium. I'd listened to who knows how many podcasts and playlists but only managed to work my way through 1 of the totes...  I was so done. Plus another problem had arisen - I'd filled almost all the empty jugs we had. If the juice harvest continued at the same rate we were going to need about 80 more jugs! As well, the apples were starting to soften so they needed attention soon.
20 liters of juice for the first batch of cider

On the upside, I had tons of juice for cider! 22 liters already and there were 2 more totes of cider apples to go.

So, the family got together and decided we were going to kill the remaining apples in one afternoon. Spoiler alert, we did it! Next post on how.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Great Cider Adventure

Cider making! Yay! This has turned into such a fun little project that I've decided to blog about it. Here's hoping that it will help other cider newbies avoid making the same mistakes that I have already made, and will inevitably still make, as the adventure goes on. Lets go back to late September... apple picking time.

Marcus' Dad has a great little bit of land on which five old apples trees grow. I'm talking really old, at least 60-70 years old. They are so old no one even knows what kind some of them are. Despite their age, every year they produce a shwackload (highly technical term for a lot) of apples. We eat some of them but the vast majority are usually sent to a local farm for juicing. The jugs of fresh juice are frozen and apple juice is enjoyed throughout the year. It was a great crop again this year and the family banded together and picked the apples in one afternoon.





Now as delicious (not to mention organic) as this juice is, apple juice of any kind doesn't really fit into my paleo/primal mindset and to me, it isn't good enough to be a cheat item. However, apple cider, now you're talking! Not the sickly sweet stuff in a can though; give me something crisp and dry, sparkling and refreshing on a summer day while sitting on the deck in the afternoon sun - I'll use that for a cheat anytime.

So when we drove up to the juicing place, truck loaded with bins of apples, only to find that he wasn't doing any more juicing for the season, it seemed fate was telling me I had to try making apple cider.


We have a wedding coming up and this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to learn something new (I love having a project or three on the go), and potentially have something delicious in time for the wedding.

We have a few really good cideries in the area. My favourite is Sea Cider and their diversity in flavours is inspirational. If I can make anything close to what they make I'll be very excited. I decided to just go with the straightforward cider brewing recipe for this first batch. If that goes well then down the road I'll try experimenting with different flavours and techniques.



The picture below shows about 2/3 of the apples we picked. These are Golden Delicious apples and were destined for straight juice. I've tasted cider from Golden Delicious and its pretty unimpressive. Tastes like a whole lot of alcoholic nothing. But...we also picked 6 more bins from the trees in the back field and these are the ones that I hoarded for cider juice. Guesses are that they are Winesaps or Cox Pippins. Whatever they are, they have a whole lot more tartness and complex flavour than the Golden Delicious. I'm really hoping that their fuller body will translate into some delicious cider.


So now we've got the apples but how to get the juice out of them - all 15 totes full! Next up, how to juice hundreds of apples at home...