I thought we’d have a change this month, and instead of something book related, celebrate the autumn apple harvest. Indeed, the bumper apple harvest this year has eaten into my writing time with a vengeance. I hate to see waste, so the fruit crops of autumn tend to distract me until they are dealt with.
This year we were unavoidably late going down to Herefordshire, and the autumn fruit season seems to have come early, so when we arrived we found that we had already lost the entire damson and crabapple crop for this year. I’m fairly well supplied with crabapple jelly from previous years, but we usually get 22 to 25 pounds of damsons from the one tree, which provide a lot of winter puddings, so that’s quite a loss. It was covered with blossom in the spring.
The house in Herefordshire was built by my parents-in-law for their retirement in an old orchard in a lovely black and white village, rich in medieval houses, but gradually most of the old trees of the orchard have died, except for one prolific and delicious cooking apple tree. Our Victorian house in Scotland had three apple trees when we bought it (not as old as the house), and we have planted a plum, a rather skimpy damson, and a couple of rather useless pears. Oh, and a cherry, which the local pigeons strip of every cherry while they are still green. Our usual damsons look like this:
The plum tree produced a reasonable crop, providing one freezer drawer of frozen plums:
Despite the loss of the damsons, this year has produced a huge apple harvest. I have spent ages stewing and freezing the windfalls and damaged apples from the cooking apple tree, while the perfect ones have been stored for baking. The stewed apple has filled two entire drawers in the freezer:
As for the three eating apple trees – well, you can only eat so many apples while they are fresh, can’t you? And then, there were all those windfalls . . . What to do?
A few years ago, when we had another large crop, I read an article about making your own apple juice and we bought an inexpensive crusher and a small press. It was not a success. This was the crusher:
Don’t waste your money on one of these, they’re useless. The press worked, up to a point, but the juice was full of bits and rapidly turned a nasty dark brown colour, so we abandoned the practice.
Till this year.
There were so many bags and buckets of windfalls, it seemed terribly wasteful just to dump them all on the compost. Here are a few:
I decided to have another go at juicing, but did some research on the internet first. I discovered that if you added ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to the juice, it would retard the browning of the colour. I found some ascorbic acid powder on you-know-whose website, and it came with a tiny scoop which measured 0.5g – exactly what you need for one litre of juice. Another improvement (from the same source) was a net bag which fits inside the press and filters out all those tiny bits.
As we had found the chopper-in-a-bucket useless, and as I didn’t want to spend a fortune buying a large one, I decided to use my food processor. First, you quarter the apples, including cores and skins, having removed any really bad bits – small blemishes don’t matter. As you can see, I halved the quarters, to speed things up:
Then they were chopped in the food processor. I have one of the larger Kenwood Chefs, the Major, and its food processor is very hefty. Possibly a smaller one might not work so well, if your apple harvest includes very hard apples. Mine did the job perfectly:
The chopped apples were then tipped into the press, already lined with the net bag, until it was full, the top of the bag folded over, and the top fitted:
We had found before that the top didn’t screw down far enough until David made an extra block of wood, to add to those provided. With a jug under the lip, we soon had juice pouring out. I measured it, and added the ascorbic acid.
I’d read a useful tip – remove the top of a commercial juice carton, insert a freezer bag, fill with juice, fasten and freeze:
When it’s frozen, you can remove a one litre block of frozen apple juice:
Unfortunately, it meant cutting up the boxes to remove the blocks of juice (I only had two), so I had to resort to a variety of other containers, some quite small:
So, we’ve now made about ten litres of pure freshly pressed apple juice, free of bits and a clear golden colour. Quite a lot of work, but so much better than seeing all those windfalls go to waste. There is still more of the apple harvest – the windfalls from one remaining tree – but we now have the process down to a system. One of us washes the apples then I cut them up, David puts them through the processor and the press. Once the juice has drained through, I measure it, add the ascorbic acid, and freeze it.
The net bag makes it much easier to remove the pulp from the press:
and then take it to the compost:
However, I feel the one thing lacking from our apple harvest is a pig to eat all that lovely apple pulp! How much does a pig cost?
Maybe another year we’ll try making cider from our apple harvest. Watch this space.
Writing this, I’m reminded of how I wrote about the apple harvest in Flood:
Till next time, and more literary matters,