Happy Autumn, it’s been awhile since the last post, in fact two months and a ridiculous amount of projects moved forward, life events, permaculture, and many thoughts, so in the next few weeks I’ll be posting what, where & how starting with what we’re up to right now and moving backwards through time to share the last two months.
We’re making cider! I know, good for us (sarc) ok what else you got? Uh, 600 pounds of apples. What kind? couldn’t tell you, best guess since the trees are ancient, red delicious. Big deal, I can buy all kinds of cider in several different varieties at the store and farmer’s market any day of the week. Good for you.
I love cider, apple pies, apple butter, vinegar and all things food and I’ve always wanted to make my own cider, should that chance ever occur…
One of the best memories of my life was way back in Jersey when a car load of us traveled upstate to the apple orchards where we could pick our own apples. We did. And sat together under the trees amongst* the autumn leaves and soft grasses, laughing, eating apples and drinking cider. That was heaven.
Then I found myself, by proxy (as in proxy war, proxy economic decline) living here amongst the dust, dirt, dry wind and a dying orchard. That was hell.
I am the place I revitalize, we are one. So it helps when starting out, to repeat this mantra: lower your expectations and declare victory.
so four years into revitalization of the orchard we see this:
which turned into this:
My brother stopped by and we toured the property while kicking around life themes and when we got to the apple trees I offered him one and he remarked ‘wow I don’t know much about apple trees but do they all grow like this, like grape clusters?”
And some of them are really big
When they started to appear we thought oh good, the blossoms took isn’t that great and figured we’d have a few to pick, eat and turn into apple pie mix. But they kept coming and growing and growing and growing. Holy Shit.
Ok Beevus what now? I’m not chopping that many apples.
The logical answer is to get a cider press. Get, as in buy one. Yeah ok. The History of the American Cider press is interesting and most of the museums and cider action is east of the Mississippi which makes finding and shipping a press expensive. Or we could go online and tour Ebay or Amazon and find Brand New poorly made toys not worth a shit, or pay huge amounts of gold for an ‘Antique’, which after using can be turned into a cute lawn ornament next to the fake well and fake hand pump. Wouldn’t that be fun!
Na, fuck that, too confusing, let’s just watch TV. I hear there’s a reality show about people who make cider in the Arctic.
So we hit craigslist and found this one for $350
yep, needs some work.
new parts too
Done, for now and works a lot like this one on Martha’s blog
We’re scientists so we have to approach this scientifically, first because we have no idea how many pounds we’re actually looking at, secondly we have no idea how much juice this particular cultivar will produce per dry pound weight of apples. Google.
80 – 120Kg = 32 litres (depending upon cultivar)
600#/2.2kg = 272kg = 64 liters (remember-roughly)
Convert kilograms to pounds (why are we the only retards still not using the metric system?).
64 liters = 16 Gallons
Two bags to gather apples, one scale to stand on to weigh each bag, the press, the funnel, the containers for measurement, and the assumption that one liquid cup of cider will be the same weight as water; a pint a pound the world around. he he
22# of apples becomes 14# of juice and 8 pounds of pulp. Yes the pounds per square inch force exerted on the apples does matter, is different depending upon the press (old, personal use vs commercial use). So for example if the holding container in this case were narrower the pressure (ppi) would increase, thus a bit more juice. We just got this thing and it needs a little kindness so we don’t need to kill it right out of the gate. The point is on the first run, does it work?
Three runs through using 22# each time, exact juice amounts each time, now we have a metric and now we have to stop because a bunch of other logistics has to happen before we make any more cider. Cart before the horse thing, and speaking of that; horses were used to extract cider https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit_press#Cider_press
we don’t have that many apples but if we get to that place I’m getting miniature donkeys like this one
So back to the logistics. It wouldn’t be helpful to continue to press the apples, which by our calculations would deliver at least 16 gallons of juice if we have no way to store the juice and the shelf life is only about 10 days max, who the hell can drink that much cider?, and who would want to? given the ahem…results, besides we want to experiment with making hard cider, and Calvados. We need to buy time. Freeze it.
The path of self reliance; choosing to consciously detach from the centralized economic system while regenerating a degraded property means you have many many systems in play when you’re starting out, and as each of those systems produce a plus+ sum outcome, you then go on to the next step; how to catch and store that surplus, cider being no exception. So suddenly finding ourselves in an apple surplus is a good thing and means we have to stop what ever other projects we’re working on to take care of this new ‘time’ dependent project. Back to logistics. One person heads to the Q-hut and retrieves the baskets from inside my unplugged (nearly new) surplus freezer while the other person heads to the Oil House and begins the organization required to clear a space for this second freezer.
Freezer baskets get cleaned and used in the in-house chest freezer to organize that food, three large 5 gallon plastic water bottles get commandeered, washed and capped, ready to be filled with cider. We will not be returning these empty bottles later in the day in exchange for 3 new bottles of water. The Oil House has an electrical outlet the second freezer will use and …yes…it’s time for the annual garbage dump run, so the garbage bags come out, loaded into the trailer (after one of the tires gets repaired ASAP), aluminum cans to their designated drop off point, cardboard gets broken down, and now the Oil House is cleared and clean.
And now, a word about garbage. We’ll be doing the run on Wednesday and I’ll have that weight recorded. We visit the dump once every 10 months. Oh My God! that’s disgusting! ALL THAT GARBAGE! Wrong. We do have a zero garbage goal to attain in the coming years, and in the mean time we produce 1/20th of what the average American throws out every day. Our garbage is unfortunately 90% plastic, which is the bane of the world and persons, like us, who are seeking a way to reverse or at least halt some of the damage we have done to the planet so far.
Of all the topics I try to write about this one is the most confounding, because it is experiential like meditation, solitude in the wilderness, financial crashing, addiction et. – In all things experiential – words are inadequate in conveying the totality of the event experienced. I would posit that more persons would be able to take up artisan pursuits were it not for the fact that we are all now tied to a big-ag dependent centralized financial system that has converted all of us to specialist ‘consumers’, formerly pragmatic skill sets to ‘hobby-ists’ and marginalized artists all together to the outside fringes of freaks or brilliance (depending upon the billionaire of the moment taking a fancy to your work).
It wasn’t always like this, and it doesn’t have to stay this way. We don’t have to view items as relics or pay way too much for some fucking antique – that used to actually serve a purpose – but now we just admire it in the corner. That’s not a relationship no matter how badly you want it to be, and that’s what leaves most people empty at the end of the day.
I am having a relationship to this busted up old piece of equipment, with it’s rusted bands, warped wood, rotted out original parts & pieces because it helps me see, touch, and experience how this simple mechanism works. It connects me to the apples and the apple trees because I need to understand how this all goes together and what it takes to keep the trees healthy, the fruit productive and the cider press in good condition. I’ve spent thousands of hours preparing meals, moving food around for catering, offloading and putting away food (FIFO) in commercial kitchens, food from around the world of every possible size, color and category and yet I did not know the steps required to make vinegar.
In a functional system that can be trusted to comply with the social contract me specialist, you trustworthy centralized system, that system is now in decline and hurdling towards dysfunction and the former system has left a giant vacuum where generalists (average person) were replaced so quickly and the information forgotten so entirely that now most of us who are trying to turn relics into resources are having to rely on Google instead of grandma.
Luckily there are more and more of us every day joining the free share information world and using the internet for all it’s worth while it lasts in its present form. We’re turning ourselves back into generalists (polymaths) as fast as we can, to help ourselves, and help one another. The more we learn the better we are at identifying what past technologies can be revived and put to use, and what ‘modern’ technologies can be altered to invent new retro technologies (there’s one in mind I’m keeping a secret for now for a future post). And the kicker is; they don’t fuck up the environment or other humans and non humans and in some cases they reverse the damage already done.
There is something so incredibly freeing about turning the crank as the apples drop in and you learn to finesse the movement to help the teeth grab the apples and turn out the product, not too fast, not too slow, just enough apples in the hopper for weight. The left over apple mash goes to the chickens, the red worms, the compost and more (once we learn what others are doing with their left overs). Nothing gets ‘thrown’ away, it stays on the property, full cycle, to give back more than we have taken. I gave the first gallon of cider to the owner of the store where we get our water and she asked me to wait, then ran to the back and came out with 6 empty glass gallon containers and asked if I wanted them – 🙂 of course I do, I’ve made 5 different batches of vinegar and needed more glassware so her excess became my abundance and vice versa. A gift for a gift, no money exchanges hands for the cider or the jars, just good relations.
*Yes I used ‘amongst’ because I can, see here: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2013/02/among-amongst/ and frankly English as a language sucks anyway so why do you care?