Apple Cider Pressing Party

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What:  Apple Cider Pressing

Where:  Our house

When: October 21, 2014

Why:  Because we like apple cider

Who:  Bruce and me, our oldest daughter, various friends we’ve met in Oregon

After much anticipation and preparation the day finally arrived for our 2nd annual cider pressing party!  Last year was the first, but the previous owners actually did all the work and we just showed up for the fun.  This year there was a long list of things to do to prepare for the party:

1.  We had to decide when to press the apples, according to when we thought they would be ripe

2.  Pick all the apples and store them in the garage

3.  Find enough boxes to hold all the apples

4.  Invite people to come and help

5.  Get out the press and make sure it is clean

6.  Clean many, many plastic, gallon jugs

7.  Figure out how to get the juice from the press into the jugs

8.  Make a nice meal for everyone to enjoy afterwards

We were a bit worried that the apples wouldn’t be any good or wouldn’t ripen, but they all came through for us.  The apples actually looked much, much better than we had hoped for.  There was some scabbing on the outside of some, but we didn’t see any coddling moth.  The Golden Delicious and Melrose ripened about 2 weeks earlier than the Granny Smiths and Winesaps.  We thought for awhile that we would only have a two variety cider, but with 4 types of apples the juice was delicious. 

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Golden Delicious apples in the garage;  Melrose, Winesap and Granny Smiths on the porch

There were 10 people altogether at the pressing, and everyone found a job to do–cleaning and mixing the apples, carrying them to the press, grinding them up, pressing them to get the juice, dumping the leftover pressed apples into the wheelbarrow, carrying the juice bucket over to the jugs, putting the juice into the jugs,  dumping  the wheelbarrow full of pressed apples out in the backyard for the deer to eat, and taking photos–Thank you Barbara for the great photos!

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        Washing and mixing the apple varieties;  The cider press;  The lined bucket under the grinder

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              Ground up apples ready for pressing;  Closing the top of the bag;  Bruce pressing the apples (2013)

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Cider flowing into the bucket;  Pouring the cider into the juicer;  From the juicer into the jugs

We came up with a neat plan for filling the jugs.  We got out our steam juicer and lined the top with cheesecloth, poured the juice into the juicer and used the tube to fill the jugs.  It worked great!

We ended up with about 35 gallon jugs of cider, and everyone took home as much as they wanted.  We had a nice lunch afterwards, with a lovely cider-raisin bread from Ed, delicious Kimchi, sauerkraut, and  fermented pickles  from Dave and Paulette, and yummy cheesecake bars from Barbara!  Thanks everyone for all your help and the great food!

For dessert, I brought out the caramelized cider sauce I made from last year’s cider.  I had boiled 2 gallons of cider until it was thick and dark amber colored.  It developed an intense sweet/sour apple flavor that is great on ice cream.

Bruce and I ended up with many gallons of cider.  I boiled three gallons and ended up with a very dark, caramelized sauce that will be good as a component in meat sauces.  I boiled up another 1 1/2 gallons and got a lighter colored sauce that didn’t thicken but is great on ice cream.  We also canned an apple cider glaze, apple cider marmalade with thyme (it’s like a grown-up version of applesauce)  and many quarts of  juice.  And after all that, I went downstairs to the basement and found many more boxes of apples.  Maybe I should make some apple pie fillings.


Apple cider and caramelized cider sauce

As an extra bonus and because we have so much cider I decided to try a new recipe because it looked good and it was something I hadn’t ever tried before–caramels.  Only this recipe was for Apple Cider caramels!  It called for 4 cups of cider boiled down to 1/2 cup and since we already had that the recipe was easy to make.  I used the darker caramelized sauce that I thought was only good for meat dishes.  Boy, was I ever wrong!  We ended up making two batches.  The recipe called for 2 teaspoons of salt, which turned out to be too much for me.  The second time around we didn’t add any salt, but sprinkled some on top of the semi-hardened caramel.  That was much better.  And oh boy, they taste divine!  I put most of them in the freezer in hopes that they will last longer, but I think it won’t slow us down much.  I found the recipe here, http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/10/apple-cider-caramels-the-book-is-here/ ,on the Smitten Kitchen website.

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All in all, I’d say the Apple Cider Pressing Party was a success!


2014 Tomato Report

This is my first season growing tomatoes in southwestern Oregon and my first season gardening on this property.  From Google Earth, I know someone has been gardening on this plot since 1994.  The 1994 image of the garden seems to show a well-established garden plot so I am assuming the garden was established before 1985.  I had the soil tested in the spring of 2014.  The soil was a little too acidic and needed a little nitrogen.  I tilled in about 1/3 of the recommend lime, 4 to 5 wheelbarrow loads of mint compost, and no nitrogen.

The tomatoes were planted densely with 4 plants per 3-foot diameter cage.  The plants were planted in early May.  I started the seeds about 3 to 4 weeks too early so the plants were very leggy (2’ to 3’) at the time they were planted.  I planted them very deep with half to two thirds of the total plant into the soil.  I used two lines of T-Tape (Emitter Spacing: 6″, Flow Rate: 0.25 GPH) on a 20 PSI regulated line operating 45 min. 3 times a week for irrigation.

We had a warmer and drier than normal spring so the early planting worked out OK.  The plants that shook off transplanting shock started growing well and looked good throughout the growing season.  I got about 5% blossom end rot on all varieties and toward the end of the season there were noticeable levels of late blight effecting all varieties.  Other than blossom end rot and late blight there were no other notable issues.

Not knowing what would grow well here I went with a lot of variety to insure that I got something.  I grew 36 varieties of tomatoes.  We usually can mostly tomato sauce and soup base, so I grew 16 varieties of paste tomatoes, 16 varieties of classic/beefsteak tomatoes for eating fresh and canning, and 4 varieties of cherry tomatoes for early tomatoes and cooking.  All together I grew 82 tomato plants.

All varieties grew well, were equally affected by disease, and produced fruit that ripened well before the end of summer.  Our favorite classic tomatoes are Brandywine from Croatia, Kellogg’s Breakfast, and Virginia Sweet, they all grew and produced very well.  Our favorite paste tomatoes are Goldman’s Italian American Paste, Jeff’s Plum, Opalka, San Marzano, and super San Marzano.  They all produced very well. For cherry tomatoes our favorites are Black Cherry, Sun Gold, and Sweet 100.

As all varieties did well, I decided to judge the varieties on the size of the fruit and robustness of the vine.