Apple Hard Cider

My friend Michael got the apple hard cider bug a few years ago, and made his first batch in 2011. There were no apples last year due to drought. This autumn, he invited a group of us to join him in a cooperative effort. Our area of New York State is covered in wild apple trees, which are often ignored as a fruit source, as the apples tend to be small and scarred, but it is actually these apples that make the very best hard cider. I collected 10 bushels of apples from 5 different trees on my land, and last weekend, we all went to the Hubbell Homestead Cider press, a multi-generational family business, in the hamlet of Kelly Corners in Delaware County. In total we brought 32 bushels of apples to be pressed.

Our mixed collection of apples before mashing

Our mixed collection of apples before pressing

mixture of apples

mixture of apples

Several members of the Hubbell family manages the immense, 150-year-old cider press, which is located on three floors of a huge red barn, and is available for private apple pressing, of batches of four bushels or more.

A few weeks before we pressed, Michael had a gathering for our new cooperative endeavor and we tasted at least a dozen French, English and American hard ciders. The ciders were as varied as the apples we also tasted, from each others trees. It turns out, that the cider made from a single variety of apple, was much less interesting than the ones made from a mixture of varieties. I preferred the ciders that were not too sweet, but with good tannin, crisp, and not too fizzy.

It was a sunny autumn day when we drove over several Catskill mountain ranges to the Hubbell farm, a large complex with many barns and out buildings. We were met by members of the Hubbell family who are all incredibly friendly and showed us where to drop off our apples near the press.  The apples are first washed, and then travel down a wooden conveyer belt to the hopper, where they are mashed. The mashed apples go down to a lower level of the barn through a chute that pours the crushed pulp into large frames, which are then wrapped in heavy felt. Additional frames are added for each layer of mashed apples, and eventually the whole thing is pressed by a thousand pounds of weight. The fresh apple juice flows down to a holding tank on the ground floor and is then fed through a hose into 5 gallon containers. Our 32 bushels produced 2 gallons a bushel and we ended up with 64 gallons of beautiful fresh cider juice.

apples being washed

apples being washed

Apples going down chute after being washed into the hopper for mashing

Apples going down chute after being washed into the hopper for mashing

apples travel down chute to lower level for pressing

Mashed apples travel down chute to lower level for pressing

apple mash placed in frames and wrapped with felt before pressing

apple mash placed in frames and wrapped with felt before pressing

Apple mash being pressed

Apple mash being pressed

Freshly pressed apple juice put into our containers

Freshly pressed apple juice put into our containers

 When we got back to Michael’s place, we carried the 5 gallon containers into his basement and siphoned off the juice into glass carboy containers. We added English cider yeast to the juice, and plastic tubing was placed in each container to carry off the foam and froth that will come off the juice in the next few weeks, as the yeast breaks down. In three weeks time, we use the racking cane to transfer into a secondary fermentation bucket, and let the cider ferment for at least 3 months. We will bottle some then, but let others sit longer, maybe up to 9 months.

Fresh apple juice in glass carboys for fermenting

Fresh apple juice in glass carboys for fermenting

 Needless to say, I have high hopes of producing some very fine hard cider.

Gallery | This entry was posted in Autumn, Food Recipes, Fruit and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Apple Hard Cider

  1. Anna West says:

    Thanks so much for the writing and pictures. Very interesting.

  2. Brian in Roxbury says:

    The cider mill is just down the road from us in Roxbury. We have an old apple tree in the yard that has more apples this year than ever. We have made no cider from the apples but plenty of apple pies and apple sauce. The tree is biennial–every other year we get few if any blossoms or apples. One of our two crab apple trees is also biennial. I recently looked up information about apples and found out which varieties are prone to being biennial. From that I deduced that our apple tree is probably a Grimes Golden, an ancestor of the Yellow Delicious.

    • Don Statham says:

      Hi Brian,
      Most folks make fresh cider and freeze it for the winter months. There is a chap in Charlotte Valley that makes some delicious Apple Jack- apple brandy. I have the biennial apple tree Northern Spy but the wild apples produced way more this year than the spy. Someone was telling me about hard cider jelly that is suppose to be delicious.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s