August 30, 2023

A pressing engagement with apples

A pressing engagement with apples

In this article extract taken from the September issue of The Country Smallholder magazine,  Lorraine Turnbull, an experienced award-winning smallholder and author describes how to press your apples and make delicious juice and cider.

One of the joys of the harvest from the orchard isn’t biting into a fresh apple – here in the UK we can do this at any time from the end of August through until mid-December, but when we have an abundance of apples of every variety and type means juicing time and the start of cider making. I’m sharing the secrets and an easy-to-follow guide to making your own apple juice or cider in this article.

Cider can be made from almost any type of apple. However, you will get a more complex flavour if you use a mix of apple types– dessert, cookers and cider apples. Apples can be divided into groups according to tastes –sweets, sharp, bittersweets and bittersharp. The last two are found in cider apples because of the high concentration of tannin. If you don’t have access to cider apples, try adding some crab apples to supply the tannins, and some Russets to give a bit more body. You can even stew a couple of tea bags in a litre of hot water and add this to increase the tannin levels.

Apples are ripe when the pips are brown, the skin ‘gives’ slightly when pressed with a thumb and the skin has a waxy appearance (obviously not for russets).

You need ripe apples to get the high sugar levels necessary for fermentation, and can ripen apples by storing for a few days. Don’t use mouldy fruit for juice or cider. For juicing apples must be free from any cuts/damage/mould. Basically if you wouldn’t take a bite out of it – chuck it away.

If you want to make over 100 litres I’d suggest hiring a Speidel mill or fruit shark, but small quantities of apples can be processed with a food processor in the kitchen. Whatever you use, thorough cleaning afterwards is essential to prevent the acid eating into the metal blades. The resulting pulp will soon discolour. When making juice (not cider) you can add Ascorbic acid powder (Vitamin C) at 5g per 10L of juice whilst pulping and mix it in to prevent juice going brown.

Don’t add this if you are making cider as it will prevent the fermentation.We use a rack and cloth press, but you could use a small barrel press. See my article on building a wooden rack and cloth press. The juice is collected in food safe containers and transferred to fermentation vessels; these could be demijohns or large plastic barrels with an opening to fit a bung and airlock. The amount of juice depends on the variety of apples; russets for example always give less juice than dessert apples, but you can look at 25kg producing around 16-18 litres of juice.If you are making juice only jump the next stage and go to pasteurisation and storage.

We take the traditional routein cider making. We don’t add sugar to bump up the alcohol, but we don’t just let the juice sit with no help. So initially, we let the juice sit overnight and this allows a small amount of wild yeast to begin working. At this stage I take a pH reading to establish how acid the juice is.

Narrow range ‘pH papers’(e.g. pH 2.8 to 4.2) are now available cheaply from some home brewing suppliers. A desirable juice pH range for cider-making is say 3.2 – 3.8. I record this on a batch sheet; you could just note it in your diary.

This article extract was taken from the September 2023 edition of The Country Smallholder. To carry on reading it you can buy the issue here.

To receive regular copies of The Country Smallholder magazine featuring more articles like this, subscribe here.

For FREE updates from the world of smallholding, sign up for The Country Smallholder newsletter here.

by The Country Smallholder

The Country Smallholder is aimed at the ever-increasing UK audience interested in living a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable way of life. From people already living on a smallholding, to allotment owners; from those with a couple of acres of land, to those aspiring to get more out of their garden or even window box. With 73% of UK residents claiming to want to live more sustainably post Covid, The Country Smallholder has something for everyone.

More From This Author

Never miss an issue... SUBSCRIBE TODAY!