Dad planted our front yard to an orchard in 1971. I remember the year well because it was one year after I was married in that same front yard. The siblings were all a bit disappointed to lose the football field. There are about 100 fruit trees out there and, although there have been minor changes, I have the original "graph paper" map that my mom created to track the location and type of each tree. This year I am getting an up-close and personal introduction to each of the apple types and their general preferred use.
Apple production depends on many factors including age of the tree, health, pruning habits, water, sun, soil nutrients and pollination. We are working with trees that have some age and have not been pruned for some years. I will talk about this more in an upcoming blog about pruning and bringing an older orchard back into production. Due to the drier year, the apples are smaller and many apples are dropping. Hence we are juicing earlier than normal.
Here at Green’s Organic Farm and Apiary, my dad has been juicing (pressing) apples for years. The apple press that he uses is one that was built in the late 1920s from the information on the press. Dad is about the same age as the press. It was originally a hand crank machine, and Dad later added a motor to help with the crushing of the apples. The press is a two-step process. The apples are washed and then loaded at the top of the press and feed into a grinder. The chopped apples are collected below in a container and, when there is sufficient amount, they are moved from the collection container to the wooden stave style barrel that is ringed with metal.
The press is turned by hand until it becomes too difficult to turn, and then we use a lever or a cheater as we would call it. As you turn the press the juice begins to flow. It is interesting just how much juice is in an apple and, yes, it does vary based on the type of apple. We filter the juice and put into containers of varying shapes and sizes.
Dad likes to use a variety of apples for juicing as it rounds out the flavor. The press that we did today included Early Blaze, McIntosh, Wolf River, Ozark Gold, and a few Crab apples. My brother and his wife came down to help, and we did about 31 gallons of juice. There were customers, neighbors and friends. Many are regulars buying produce, honey and juice. It is my hope that we will make this an annual event.