If you have your own apple trees of any reasonable size you will know that despite your best intentions the only journey many of the apples make is when they fall to the ground. And stay there. You may also have noticed there are plenty of unattended trees around the place where all the apples go to waste. So, what to do about this? Make your own juice!
If you are feeling a bit daring you might want to try making your own cider but be warned:
“Most of the people I know who press apples use them to make cider. It seldom works. Cider making is a fine art, which may involve a dead rat (the nitrogen it contains assists fermentation), plenty of swearing, a fair bit of magic and even more luck. Mostly it involves turning several hundred gallons of delicious juice into homemade Toilet Duck. My advice is to stick to the juice”. George Monboit, The Guardian.
There are two main types of traditional apple press; the spindle and cross beam press. The spindle press features a spindle running down the center of the press while the cross beam has a support either side of the press and a cross beam supporting the central screw.
The spindle press is the older design but regarded by some as being capable of applying more pressure, especially with larger presses. The advantage of the cross beam (pictured) is the spindle can be swung away from the press making it easier to fill; the crusher can be placed directly on top allowing the pulp to fall directly into the drum.
With regard to home juicing it is really a matter of personal choice, I’m not sure you will notice the extra ml of juice you might get from the spindle version. I personally like the cross beam as it’s a bit easier to clean.
Before pressing the apples need to be pulped. Chopping into small pieces won’t work as the fruit needs to be a mushy pulp to allow the juice to be extracted. You can use a budget model ‘pulpmaster’ which attaches to a household drill, it works but can be tricky (and a bit violent) to use. If you think you will be pressing every year it is well worth investing in proper crusher featuring a hopper and hand turned blades, this is much more effective and pleasant to use.
Pressing the juice is simple, just fire it into the drum and tighten the screw. Once finished make sure you thoroughly wash the press as apple juice is acidic and can corrode if left on metal parts for long periods.
If storing juice in sealed bottles you must make sure you sterilize and pasteurise or you are making an apple flavoured bomb. If the juice ferments the pressure in the bottles can reach up to 400psi before they finally explode which, as you can imagine, is extremely dangerous. It is not a complicated process to pasteurise but it is essential.
You can easily avoid blowing up your shed by freezing your juice, it will happily store for up to 6 months with no deterioration in flavour. A handy tip is to put a freezer bag in a plastic sandwich box and fill with juice. Tie the bag and place in the freezer removing the bag from the box when frozen. The result is a handy apple brick which can be easily stored.