Picture the scene. It’s about eight o’clock and the dog starts barking at the front door. He won’t stop and in the end I give in and open the door so he can run out and see for himself that there is nothing there. I follow him out there and sit down on the wall listening to the distance roar of traffic, is that the A507 or the M1 that I can here? I never can tell. Sitting there in the relative quiet of the evening I realise that I’m bushed. My back aches, my fingers are tingling, my eyelids are heavy but at least the weather is quite nice and I can enjoy the starry skies while the dog investigates a plant pot under the hedge.

This is my world right now because I’ve spent the day pressing apples.

bag of apples

This is half a sack of apples

The saga started the other day when my neighbour, knowing what I’m like, said that I could have what I wanted from his apple tree. That in itself was a challenge. Most of the best apples are still on the tree right now because I just couldn’t get at them. Never the less I still managed to fill three sacks full of apples. I also got half a sack from the pear tree in my own garden.

Today’s task was to press the fruit. I had gotten all the bugs worked out of the system by pressing the pears yesterday. Todays was the main event. My new scratter and fruit press would get to show how much they were worth.

Now, for those who don’t know, the idea is that you take apples from the tree, cut out any rotten bits, cut it into halves or quarters and then place in the scratter. The scratter then pulverises the apples into much smaller chunks which makes the job of pressing easier and more efficient, therefore getting more juice and in the long run, more cider.

The Scratter

The Scratting bucket – I know it looks foul, but this is what it takes, I hope.

My scratter was £27.50 from The Happy Brewer, my local homebrew shop (incidentally a great place to drop into and have a chat with the guy if your unsure, he is a homebrewing genius and what he doesn’t know isn’t worth knowing). It’s a simple design, two blades which rotate inside a bucket, being turned by a drill, which isn’t included. Now I thought at best it would dice the apples into small cubes but it did so much more. It basically turned it into a cold thick apple soup! It was so ready for pressing that once it was spooned into the press it began to fall out of the other end as juice.

The press was a christmas present so I’m not sure from where or how much it was (although I can guess it was somewhere around the £150 mark). This may seem like a lot but I wasn’t expecting too much from the press considering what you can spend on a really expensive press. Nevertheless I pressed my first batch of pulp and was astonished by just how much juice I got and also by just how dry the remaining cake of dried apple pulp was. In all it was a very efficient juicing method, at least much more efficient than I was expecting.

press juicing

The press in action

Now this all seems like a lot of fun and you can’t see why I’m complaining about my back at the beginning, right? Well what I described there was about 40 minutes work when you include all the dicing of apples into the scratter. I was at it for hours. After a while the novelty starts to wear off a bit, only bringing back a little bit of hope every time the press is turned and the sight of a river of juice flowing again showing you why it’s all worth it. Cutting my fingers on the knife and then getting apple juice in the cut was probably the worst part though, like I said, my fingers still hurt.

The bit which probably hurts the most is that I know I’ve got to get up and do it all again tomorrow because I only got  through half the apples. Still, I’ve taken some hydrometer readings and all going to plan I should have 5 litres of perry, 5 litres of pyder and 10 gallons of cider when it’s all done, all around 6%.

As a final point I’d like to say one thing. I’m not a cider maker. I have only tried making cider once before and that was with juice that I bought from Tesco. I have no idea if I’m doing it right or wrong and I’m not saying that this is how it should be done. Please don’t follow in my footsteps and then blame me when it all goes pete tong (although I hope it doesn’t).

Apple Juice

The finished product – a pint of apple juice