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Friday Afternoon Cider

Tina Hartell

As anyone who lives in the area knows, this has been an extraordinary year for apple production. It started back in glorious May where there were weeks of dry, warm weather and the apple blossoms stayed on the trees longer than anyone could remember. Trees were humming with pollination. Then there was a month of rain in June which allowed the fruit to set, followed by two months of heat. A “perfect storm” of apple-ness. 

By late-September hundreds and even thousands of fruit were perched in each tree. Branches were drooping - literally breaking - with the weight. 

One medium-sized apple is approximately 95 calories of energy. If one tree has even 500 apples (low-ball estimate on the big trees for sure), then it has around 47,500 calories available to humans, turkeys, bears, coyotes, deer, squirrels, mice, blue jays, and people: what a gift! Sugar is especially needed during a time of year when everything in the area is hoping to get fat immediately. 

Two weeks ago, the Bobo’s crew went on a cider mission. It was time. First, we gathered every large container we could find and then joined forces with Skye’s sister, Carrie, who runs Quoyburray Farm in Weston. She has a number of mature apple trees. Our method was simple: drive up to a tree with the truck, climb the tree, shake the tree like a bear, collect the apples that fall on the ground, load apples into truck. We did this to four or five trees on her farm and collected, what appeared to us, to be around 30 bushels of apples. Not a bad morning’s work.

I found out that a bushel of apples weighs 42 lbs and contains approximately 84 large apples or 168 small apples. If we take the average of the two, we collected about 3800 apples or 1250 lbs. 

A few days later, we took our weighted-down truck over to the Saturday Nite Cider Company in Andover (the next town over). Saturday Nite is run by Jim and Randi Keith who aren’t yet themselves old-timers but are old enough to know how to do things right. Over the years they put together an amazing cider press that is pure Vermont: smart systems made with ingenuity, thrift, and flair. 

The cider press at Saturday Nite Cider Company

The cider press at Saturday Nite Cider Company

There, we pressed those 3800 apples into 106 gallons of delicious cider in 4.5 hours. Split between two families, this will keep us in drinking cider for a year plus extra to make into apple cider vinegar and some that will “go bad” on our counter then bottled. 

The beginning of the press where apples are sorted and washed.

The beginning of the press where apples are sorted and washed.

The apples go down the shoot into this shopper where they then travel up the conveyer belt

The apples go down the shoot into this shopper where they then travel up the conveyer belt

After traveling the conveyer belt, the apples end up in the grinder and get turned into a mash. The mash drops down onto a stainless steel table, wrapped in burlap/canvas. and put into a stack of four with wooden slats in between. Then a hydraulic pump presses a steel plate down onto the stack of mash juicing it. The juice drains through a filter into a 15 gallon holding tank.

After traveling the conveyer belt, the apples end up in the grinder and get turned into a mash. The mash drops down onto a stainless steel table, wrapped in burlap/canvas. and put into a stack of four with wooden slats in between. Then a hydraulic pump presses a steel plate down onto the stack of mash juicing it. The juice drains through a filter into a 15 gallon holding tank.

Finally a small pump transfers the cider to a canner where we bottle (and drink) it.

Finally a small pump transfers the cider to a canner where we bottle (and drink) it.

The final product!

The final product!