Recently, I helped a friend make apple cider from fruit he grew on his property. What a delightful time I had.
First, we had to collect apples that had fallen from the trees. He hadn't done it in a while, so there were a lot. Many were too rotten, so it took a long time to sort those out.
Next, we needed to clean up the press that hadn't been used since last year. The caked-on apples did not want to be removed easily from the trays, grinder and press.
The motor of the cider press allows the apples to be mashed. The separators to the right allow the juice to pour into the bucket.
Photo by Ann Beebe
Finally, we were ready to press the apples. My work began by placing the apples onto sorting trays and then rinsing the dirt and grass off of them. Then, I carried the trays to the sorting table in the barn. Some of the apples needed to have rot trimmed out. Finally, I helped my friend fill a hopper where the apples were ground up into a mashed concoction.
The concoction then fell into a bucket. When the bucket was full, the ground apples were placed on loosely woven material and wrapped. Those were placed onto plastic separators with grooves that looked like mazes. The separator boards were stacked slanting down on the press. That allowed the juice to fall from each tray to the one below it. Occasionally, my friend needed to jack up the separators, so that the fruit was continually squeezed. Finally, the juice from the bottom tray fell into a bucket.
Voila! We had apple cider. This is a raw product that has not been pasteurized like apple juice. It will stay fresh in the refrigerator for about one week or can be frozen for a long time.
This refreshment is very good for you and not high in calories. A six-ounce glass has about 90 calories. There is no sugar added. No cholesterol is involved. In fact, tests have shown that the pectin in the cider does help to keep cholesterol down.
Polyphenols in apples lessen the absorption of glucose in the digestive system and stimulate the pancreas to secrete insulin. Recent research has shown that apple polyphenols can help prevent spikes in blood sugar. Flavonoids found in apples can inhibit enzymes. Those enzymes help break down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars. Consequently, your blood sugar has less work to do.
My friend's apples are special, because they're heirlooms. The only apples that are native to our country are crab apples. Those were here before Europeans arrived. The pilgrims first brought them to the Massachusetts Bay Colony from Europe. How about that?
However, heirlooms have been around for a long time. Annie Berthold-Bond, in her book ''Seeds of Life,'' states that people all over the world use just 20 varieties of plants for most (90 percent) of their food. There are years when a particular crop doesn't do well. This problem could be attributed to bad weather or insect invasions. A larger variety of plants need to be available in such disasters.
Now, I want to name a few of the heirlooms that my friend raises. Ida Reds are recommended for applesauce. If you use the skins, too, the sauce will be a pretty pink. This apple was developed in Idaho from two New York state old-time apples, Jonathan and Wagoner. They were developed in Penn Yan.
The Virginia Winesap, developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, was mostly for cooking, juice and cider. The Russet was developed in Upstate New York in the 18th century. It might be derived from the English Russet. The Black Oxford was from Maine. An original tree from 1790 was still standing in 1907. The Arkansas Black was from you-know-where in 1870.
I would be remiss if I didn't talk about Johnny Appleseed, originally John Chapman. From Massachusetts, in the 1700s, he was a missionary. In his travels, he planted hundreds of acres of apple trees. The seeds were from Pennsylvania and he traipsed all over the Midwest to plant them. Maybe he even traveled through my town, Clymer. After all, I'm not too far from Pennyslvania.