November 3, 2013 |  by

This year, Edith and I decided to try our hands at pressing our own apple cider.  While we both really enjoyed visits to “our” hidden apple cider press run by Old Order Amish friends of ours, we wanted to do it “Eric Sloane style” and broaden our own sense of awareness by doing for ourselves.

Earlier this summer we purchased this mid-19th century “Improved Buckeye” press.  It is an interesting contraption.  It needed some work, as some parts needed to be fabricated and some

parts were present, but not attached correctly.  In the photograph, Edith has her hand upon the flywheel for the apple crusher.  As the wheel is turned, the apples are crushed into a kind of applesauce, something Eric Sloane said the old timers referred to as “cheese”.  This cheese is then moved to under the press, which is located to the right of the crusher.  Obscured by the vertical timber, the hand wheel above the press utilizes a screw mechanism to transfer the rotational movement of the wheel into downward or upward movement/force.  A large iron plate at the bottom of the screw pushes down on the cheese.  As the hand wheel is cranked, the pressure upon the cheese becomes greater and greater, pushing out the juice of the apples.  The juice is collected in a stainless steel tray (we had one custom made) with a spigot on the end.  The cider flows off the tray and into whatever container you want to use.

An Amish friend of mine taught me to use a number of different types of apples to make cider, and a few bushels of pears for good measure.  The resulting cider tasted fresh and delicious.  I understand better Eric Sloane’s illustrations of cider presses of old, in which great levers or beams were used to apply even greater force to the cheese.  The more force, of course, the more juice.  However, I wonder if the pressing one is able to affect using only the hand crank of a machine like our “Improved Buckeye” is somehow lighter and of better quality.

I’d like to the ink that Eric Sloane himself would advocate for small localized presses such as these.  Organically grown apples and other fruits, recipes created and perfected by families, all hand-pressed, resulting in tours and tastings to experience the different grades and flavors.  What a wonderful way that would be to experience apple cider…

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