October 23, 2012 |  by

Saturday was our annual journey to the “illicit” cider press hidden at the base of the mountain.  It isn’t really illicit – the kindly Amish family that runs it have been inspected and questioned so often by the USDA agent because they do not pasteurize the cider they press.  I can’t recommend unpasteurized cider for everyone.  Concerns over cleanliness of facilities and E Coli and other forms of bacteria are warranted and drinking unpasteurized cider can have health consequences, so I cannot recommend the consumption of unpasteurized cider.

What I love about our press is that they charge for the service of pressing the apples – you bring how much and whatever you want to have pressed.  Cider making of the 21st century differs markedly from cider making of the 18th for reasons that extend far beyond pasteurization.  18th century processes of cider pressing called for picking the absolute best examples of apples and never resorting to picking apples off the ground.  Several varieties were essential for the best flavor, chosen at the peak of their ripeness.  One of the most flavorful ciders I ever had pressed was one that I chose four different varieties of apples and included two bushels of pears to boot.  The result was a cider that would have appealed to the most discriminating wine connoisseur.

Edith Helps to Unload Apples at the Cider Press

Our Cider Press - Unfortunately, Few Remain Scattered Throughout Pennsylvania

The press equipment is decidedly 1930’s vintage, powered by a stationary diesel engine.  Apples are unloaded into a hopper, run through a washer, and conveyed to the ceiling of the press room.  Once at the top of the press room, the apples are conveyed into another hopper which leads them into a grinder.  The grinder grinds the entire apple – core, stem, skin, seeds, bugs, bacteria, et al – into “cheese”, which is what is actually pressed into cider (some people mistakenly believe that a press just presses whole apples, but the grinding process is an important step).  The press can use a variety of implements to bring force down upon the cheese – the press where we have our apples turned into cider uses a hydraulic cylinder powered by a stationary diesel engine to supply the force, but smaller presses sometimes use a cast iron plate that is screwed down by hand on top of the cheese.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, larger presses employed a beam press, which utilized a large timber that was quite long.  The timber was used as a lever to bring force down open the apples.

     The photo above shows the stationary diesel power plant used to power the press.  Belts transfer the power between the power unit and the press itself.  It can be pulled out by a team of horses and serviced or replaced as needed.

We enjoy cider as a beverage, but I especially like cooking with cider.  It is a delicious additive to pancakes (substitute for water or milk), and is the base for schnitz pie, a Pennsylvania German delight which combines apple butter, apple sauce, and dried apples into a baked pie.




Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.