... and more apples.
Back in October, we made our annual trek over the mountains to Wenatchee, to fill our car with 500 pounds of apples. They came from Feil Orchards, an orchard over one hundred years old that specializes in heirloom varieties, particularly cidering apples. Most apples on the market these days are sweet, juicy, and one-note. Not the old types. Tart and tannic, these apples make for a complex, well-structured cider.
Most of the boxes were grade B's - a mix up of cider varieties, all a bit knobbly and russetted, but ripe and ready for pressing. We also bought a couple boxes (not all heirlooms) for cooking and eating, and to taste by name. Above: Baldwin, Stayman, Karmijn de Sonnaville, Spitzenburg, Arkansas Black, Mutsu/Crispin, and Tsugaru. Plus the pears: Abate Fetel, Flemish Beauty, Harrow Delight. All these apples varieties were found in the cider mix, plus dozens of unidentifiable varieties. Feil Orchards grows over 60 varieties of heirloom apples, and just as many commercial/new varieties. Of the massive quantities of apples we tasted that day, the Karmijn stood out again and again to me. It had a 'sparkle' to it - sweet but very acidic in just the right balance - like Champagne, it had the ability to make your mouth feel more alive.
Grinding the apples.
'Stomping' the apples in the bucket (right) after grinding.
This releases more juice.
The homemade cider press. Juice collects in the pot.
Now envision pouring the fresh cider into 5 gallon glass carboys, adding yeast and apple blossom honey (for more alcohol) and letting them ferment for several months. We filled three carboys - one batch pure Wenatchee apple, one Wenatchee and Vashon, and the third contained pear, apple, and crab apple juice. Many more gallons went home with all of the helpers to be drunk fresh.
Ten weeks later...
The cider is siphoned off, leaving the apple residue at the bottom. More sugar is stirred in to provide for carbonation.
Filling and capping the bottles.
Just some of the newly filled bottles.
And finally, a toast to the trees and the fruit, and to many more years of cidering!