You know it’s fall when good friends Jeff and Denise invite you to their annual cider-making celebration. It might be one of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday afternoon. (Jeff was my advisor in graduate school; I love that he lives near by and we are good friends.)
First, you pick apples. Apples and apples and apples. Apples that have not been sprayed or treated in any way except to prune them in their early years, and then let nature take its course. They don’t look like the apples you buy in the store; their skins are covered in blemishes and their size varies greatly, even from the same tree. Some are tiny, the size of walnuts. Some are huge and round and look, well, fat. The tiny, red ones are super sweet, with just the right amount of tang. The fat, green ones are richer, more acidic–probably not apples I’d eat a lot on their own. Others are deliciously crunchy and taste a little like honey.
After you lug the apples up the hill to the house, bucket by bucketful, the apples are washed in a water tank.
Then they are chipped up by something that acts like a massive cheese grater, and takes some serious muscle to turn. Jim spent most of our time there turning the crank; bless his strong shoulders.
After that the apple chips are poured into the top of a century-old cider press, which–oh the circle of life!–came from the family of another of Jeff’s graduate students and my partner when we started Dog’s Best Friend thirty years ago, Nancy Rafetto.
Did you notice the pail on the left with the cheese cloth on top? After some serious physical labor to turn the crank, the apple juice pours into the pail, filtered by the cheese cloth, and ends up being the best apple cider you’ve ever had in your life.
We’re not the only ones who are happy. I filled a huge bucket full of apples for the sheep. Only the older sheep who have been here for years are eating them now. Apparently apples are an acquired taste, sheep usually prefer bitter over sweet. But I used to have dozens of wild apple trees, and the older resident sheep used to run from tree to tree when I shook the branches. Apparently there’s nothing like the power of sugar, even if you have hooves.
However, it’s not easy eating apples if you have incisors on only one jaw. Here’s Solo looking like a kid at a “dunking for apples” party. I’m not sure if her closed eyes are an example of ovine bliss, or she’s just concentrating on the challenge of gumming an apple.
And you? Any special rituals that make you love fall too?