All About Apples
These things start the same way, with an idea. When Anthony of Rowan Cider importers asked me if Bitter & Esters would like to do some sort of cider event for NYC cider week, I said of course! Some sort of cider event sounds great, but what kind? It was Anthony's brilliant idea to get me in touch with Joy and Jeremy, two friendly home cider makers who make awesome cider under the name Proper Cider. Proper Cider is cider made from fresh crushed and squeezed apples. No sulfites or additives. Just apple cider with yeast pitched. Joy and Jeremy make many batches with a different yeast in each and then blend the cider to taste. That's the proper way. It was Joy and Jeremy's idea to do a Community Apple Press day. They wanted to allow people to bring their apples to them and they would crush and press the apples into cider, for free! The thing that got me about this idea was the word Community. Bitter & Esters is all about fostering community. Joy and Jeremy graciously offered to bring their grinder (which is like a huge food processor) and their two-20 ton presses to our store. We only had ten slots throughout the day to actually grind and press (it's a time consuming process!) and they filled up quickly as folks were eager to try their hand at fresh pressed cider. It was a beautiful fall day and from noon on people brought their apples. We ground them outside and pressed them inside. Grinding is just like food processing, the idea is to get the apples ground down to small bits, but not too small. After grinding we brought the ground apples inside to be pressed. When you press you put about 3 quarts of the ground apples into a piece of mesh, fold it, put a grooved plastic plate on top and then add another mesh of apples. You can do about 8 layers per press. Joy and jeremy put everyone to work pressing their apples, this was a day of community after all. After the 8 or so layers are done, a large heavy slab of wood is put on top and the press comes down and squeezes the apples. Delicious juice flows out of a spigot into a bucket. Each bushel made around 3 gallons with the entire process taking around 45 minutes. What struck me was the incredible freshness of the juice. I could drink it all day. Once the apples were ground and pressed you took your cider home and added yeast. Primary fermentation is around one month and then you transfer to a secondary for about 5 months. The leftover apple stuff is called pumice. Andy from Aaron Burr cider took the pumice home to feed his cows! During the day, Andy and Joy and Jeremy poured samples of their delicious ciders for everyone to enjoy. It was a great day. A chance for New Yorkers to get the freshest cider possible, be involved with the grinding and crushing process and ask questions of three awesome cider makers. Thank you Joy and Jeremy, Andy and Anthony. It was such fun and a great community experience. Plus Joy and Jeremy got an amazing NY Post article out of it! I hope we get to do it again next year. It was a real highlight of the fall. The next step is to try everyone's cider! Hopefully in 6 months or so we can get everyone back together for a proper cider tasting. John P.S. Thanks to Carla Coria for all the wonderful photographs!