We live in an area where a lot of apples are grown. Our new facility is right on the border of Henderson County, which is the seventh largest apple producing county in the United States. While there are a lot of apples grown here most are dessert or culinary apples, true cider apple are a challenge to find. There are several varieties that are known to make good cider. Then there are a bunch of varieties that are complete unknowns. So we are doing a lot of test batches and have found some great apples and some that are not worth using. We are having fun discovering the apples around us.
Today we pressed our first apples in our new facility. It was a small pressing of a bushel of apples but it gave us a chance to test out our newly purchased and build equipment. I’m very happy to say everything worked really well. It was just enough to give us 2 ½ gallons. The half-gallon we drank (yum) and the rest will be test batches.
In the UK and Europe there are quite a few cider press makers. Unfortunately in the US there are not many options for mid-priced rack and cloth presses so we decided to build our own. It is based on a 20 ton arbor press and has room for 2 press trays. So while one stack of cheeses is being pressed the next stack can be constructed. The design is inspired by a press built by Reverend Nat of Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider, who was kind enough to give us some pointers based on his experience.
Our apple grinder has arrived and is an impressive piece of machinery. We did a fair amount of research before ordering and ended up buying an Italian made Zambelli MuliMAX. It’s rated for 3000-4000 pounds per hour so it should be plenty for our first few years. http://www.zambellienotech.it/eng/altri_mulimix.htm
Apples, apples, everywhere! I don’t know if I’m just noticing apples more because I’m paying attention, but it seems as if there are apple stories everywhere. Here are two of my (Joanna) recent favorites:
NPR: Not the most positive story for a budding hard cider company to hear, NPR recently did a story on Michigan state’s short supply of apples. It does end on a positive note. (And makes us thankful that we are finding apples in NC for our cider!)
Martha Stewart Living: There’s a great apple story in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living about Super Chilly Farm in Palermo, Maine. The photographic story highlights how pomologist (that’s an apple scientist) John Bunker is cultivating more than 200 varieties of heirloom apples, some of which are derived from varieties that are over 200 years old. Super Chilly Farm is in its third year of an apple CSA. How cool! Noble Cider is planning a field trip…
What apple stories have you seen lately? Please share with us here or email me joanna (at) noblecider (dot) com.
Lief and I cut down our HDPE sheets to make the press plates that go between the ‘cheese’ layers. We decided to cut grooves in both directions to allow juice to flow easier, as well as adding texture for the cloth to grip. Apples coming next week! Let the games begin. . .
We’ve been having fun making gallon batches of cider. The Rhode Island Greening is pretty awesome–too bad there aren’t enough around here. I just picked up some Cortland and Jonathon to make another tasty blend, which are varieties that we can get in quantity here in NC. Thanks to Sky Top Orchard of Flat Rock, NC! Cheers to a long-term and fruitful relationship!
And long live Noble Cider!!! Well, I pushed ‘send’ on our Winery permit for the Feds. Bond payment will be in the mail right behind it. Good lord, what have we done. . . . .
I feel like we need to christen the occasion by smashing a bottle of cider across the bow of our apple press—the proverbial ‘smack-on-the-butt’ to ease this thing out into deeper water. Let’s steer this puppy out of the port already. Three sheets to the wind!
Now we wait. And then wait some more.