Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pressing Asian Pear Cider

With the Asian pears on our trees ripening a little earlier this year, we found ourselves with many full baskets and the question of what to do with them. This is one tree fruit that doesn't keep well in our cellar, you can only eat so many fresh, and I dried enough last year so that we still have plenty. We really enjoyed making different kinds of hard apple cider last fall, and this presented a good opportunity to branch out into different fruit ciders.

With all of the fruit picked off one of the trees, we set aside a weekend morning for pressing.

A friend of ours up the river offered to lend us his "old hippie cider press" which we were glad to use in lieu of an extra trip into town for a rental at the homebrew supply shop. There was nothing fancy about this one, but it was sturdy and would do the job we needed. I found myself enjoying the low-tech qualities of the press, with a hand cranked grinder for the fruit rather than the motorized one on the Correll presses we have rented in years past. It really wasn't that much more work, and allowed for a more peaceful, almost meditative experience.

Once we got into the rhythm of grinding fruit and pressing fruit, the morning flew by, measured out in empty baskets and gallon pans.

When it was all said and done, we had squeezed the rich brown juices out of five baskets of fruit and filled a five gallon carboy and gallon jug for fermenting. There was one particularly delicious Asian pear cider I tried at some point during the year with a distinct fruit character, so I picked out an English ale yeast that promised to be delicate with the flavor.

As we cleaned up from pressing, so did the chickens. Cider pressing is a good time for everyone around here, with the first batch of pressed fruit pulp emptied down by the chicken coop for a fine feast. The rest makes for some lovely layers of compost.

It feels like early fall around here with jugs of cider fermenting in the kitchen, and the rhythmic sound of the air locks bubbling away. We have one more Asian pear tree to pick and press, and then the old homestead apple trees along the driveway. Little by little, the cellar shelves are filling up with bottles and jars, storage crops for the winter and the visible results of earnest labor. When I stand back and look at it, I see the ongoing work of art that is our life, and feel rich in ways that cannot be measured.