When the Fall season comes around lots of people think about picking apples, making apple pie and that crisp taste of fresh squeezed apple juice. For the last couple of years my brother has been gathering our family to come together to make apple juice. The entire operation centers around a vintage apple press that is borrowed from my Uncle. Although I know it is much cheaper to buy a jug of apple cider there is just nothing that compares to a family apple pressing party.
The apple pressing is just the first part of the process, the rest includes straining, pasteurizing the juice, straining the juice again and then sealing in jars and processing in a water bath. Let’s walk through the process.
My family collects apples in the months leading up to October from our apple orchards and we store them in the walk in cooler that my parents have. Before they are pressed the apples go through a brief water bath in a large cooler. This is just to help get off any debris and bugs that may be hanging on.
From the water bath they get thrown whole into the “hopper” of the apple press. The apples are then crushed by cranking the fly wheel on the side and then the cut pieces fall into a wood basin below, once this is full the basin will slide over under the “press.” There is a wood lid that is applied and wood blocks placed on top and then the crank is turned to press down the apples and the juice will flow out the bottom. We use stainless steel bowls to catch the juice.
Once the juice is full in the bowl it is poured into a sterilized bucket that has a cheesecloth liner to catch any debris that may have found it’s way into the juice. The liner fits over the sides of the bucket so it just has to be lifted out and moved to the next bucket when full. As a side note you will have a LOT of apple peals as scrap, my Dad feeds some to his chickens and cows and then the rest gets composted in the garden.
When a bucket is full we take it into our stove area and it is poured into large stainless steel pots to be heated to between 165 and 170 degrees. We want to make sure it doesn’t come to a full boil. Once at this temperature it is then brought over to be poured into jars. This process helps to pasteurize the juice to remove any bacteria.
Before pouring into the jars any film that has formed on the top of the pot is skimmed off and discarded. (It looks gross so it’s a good thing to discard it, just a note though it won’t hurt you if you don’t get it all off the top).
Once again the juice will go through a strainer before being poured into the half-gallon jars. The “strainer” that we use is a cheesecloth folded up and then clipped onto a large mouth funnel with clothespins. It works great!
Leaving some headspace in the jar, the lids are boiled, the rims of the jars are wiped to remove any spills that may interfere with the seal and then the lids and rings are placed on top.
From here the jars go into a water bath canner over propane heat. Once the water is boiling they are processed for 10 minutes. Then they are removed and left to cool.
Once cooled we now have shelf stable apple juice/cider to enjoy in the winter months! After we were done we ended up with 69 gallon jars of juice and about a dozen plastic containers that we had recycled to have fresh juice (not pasteurized) to drink right away and store refrigerated.
Supplies Used in Apple Pressing
- Vintage apple press (not necessary but fun to use, you can find more inexpensive versions online)
- Food grade buckets
- Cheesecloths for buckets
- Stainless steel pots (large stock pots are best when doing a large amount of juice)
- Liquid thermometer (this one that clips to the side of pots is the best)
- Fine mesh strainer (for straining off the brown foam layer on top)
- Half gallon glass jars for canning
- Rings and lids for canning
- Canning supply starter kit