by Gary Mount
I have come full circle in my attempts to make the best apple cider that I can at Terhune Orchards. Make those two full circles. Ideas that I tried when I first started, then abandoned, then tried again in a different way are now either back in or back out. What I have found over the years is that there is not just one way to make apple cider. But, just keep to the basics and you’ll be all right.
I had a call today from a tenth grader who was doing a report–“How do you make cider?”, she asked. That part is actually pretty simple. There is only one ingredient–apples. We inspect the apples, then wash them and grind them into “pomace”. We then squeeze the juice out of the pomace, strain or screen filter the cider, pasteurize it and then cool it. Simple, right?–so long as you keep to the basics.
What are the basics? tart with sound, ripe apples. Keep everything as clean as you can. Don’t use just one variety of apples. Look for a blend of different types.
Still pretty simple, right? Well, it is, although getting it wrong is not that hard. One of the most common mistakes in cider making is using immature apples. Maturity in an apple means the starches in the fruit have mostly changed to sugar. Eating a starchy apple will bring out adjectives like woody, tasteless, green or mealy.
And just what is a sound apple? I tell the cider makers here at Terhune Orchards that if they would not eat the apple, then don’t let it go into the cider press.No decay, no major bruises. Just that simple, but it makes a big difference.
Keeping everything as clean as possible is critical as well. It’s a lot of work. Sometimes, when we are only making four or five hundred gallons, it takes longer to clean up afterwards than to press the cider! Items to be cleaned: Bin dumper, sorting rollers, apple washer, bucket elevator, apple grinder, pomace (ground up apple) tank, pomace pump, the cider press itself, press cloths, cider pumps, cider filter, storage tanks, pasteurizer, and jug filler. Using a pressure washer at 1000 psi does the trick for most items.
Finally there is cooling. Each of our four hundred gallon storage tanks has its own two horsepower cooling system. Good quality cider is made without preservatives. At warm temperatures, fermentation starts quickly. Refrigeration (as close to 32 degrees as possible) is essential.
That’s about it except for the actual blend of varieties that we use. Each cider maker has a preference. The exact mix usually changes over the season and is not often divulged. Asking is like asking a Maine lobsterman where he catches his lobsters.
The latest aspect of making cider is that it is what we use to make apple wine which is sold in Terhune’s new winery. After our first apple wine sold out very quickly, my son-in-law, Mike and I made another batch. I had an idea that a particular apple that I grow, Goldrush, would make good wine.It is very sweet and very acid at the same time. We made the cider out of 100% Goldrush apples. Since I never make sweet cider out of just one apple, I should not have been surprised that the resulting wine was not very flavorful. In fact it had no taste at all!Â We had to use it to blend with peach and with blueberry to make two new wines. We then made more cider to make apple wine, this time sticking to basics.