No fall is complete without a good old-fashioned cider pressing. This tradition started for me in college, when the Horticulture Club gathered up boxes and boxes of apples from the school orchard to press in our huge, industrial sized cider press. I think the gallons of cider we produced ended up in the hundreds, and I always had some in my fridge this time of year. Hot mulled cider became an integral part of my winter experience. Over the years since, we found orchards that had cider presses, and last year borrowed one from a friend for a pressing party. Recently, I noticed a sign on a nearby road that read "Cider Press Lane." I kept wondering what that was all about, and my husband came home one day telling me that a man on the bus told him that the famous Correll cider presses are made in our very neighborhood, and the craftsman rents them out for the day at a very reasonable price. This was some very exciting news. Our two old apple trees , in spite of our pruning, produce some mighty buggy apples that seem to be good for nothing other than cider, and getting a press from right down the road sounded like a great idea.
We gathered up all our apples and picked more from two of our neighbor's unused trees. Even with the winter pruning this year, there were still a lot of apples to pick. My husband and son went to pick up the press the night before, and they got to meet the old man who makes them and see his workshop. We drove the press into town in the morning to press cider with our children's class, and then I took it home to keep on pressing. A friend came over with her kids and the apples she had gleaned around town, and we pressed all afternoon.
We each ended up with about 9 gallons. With the help of our wonderful Valley Vintner and Brewer store, I got everything I needed to get my very first batch of hard cider going! With that bubbling away in the bathroom in a 5-gallon carboy, I also canned 6 two-quart jars to save for mulling this winter. We still had over two gallons left to drink fresh, and I plan to savor every last drop!
With all that mashed apple left over, even the chickens got to join in on the treats!