Mmmm, this little New England snippet from Tara has me sniffing the air for that unmistakably rich cider smell. My first taste of the real stuff was a mere two years ago, warmed in a kettle and presented in little metal cups. Let this be your inspiration to go storm an orchard and make friends with a cider press! -Amy
The slight chill that calls for a sweater and the crimson and golden leaves that crunch under your feet: Autumn in New England, to me, is perfection. And nothing says autumn like apples.
I recently spent a slightly too-warm Saturday picking the seasonal fruit, along with what seemed like the entirety of eastern Massachusetts. The trees were a little too bare, and the farm stand egregiously ran out of cider donuts before I could get my hands on one. Though we had fun, it was not the relaxing harvest activity I was imagining.
However, cider pressing at the gorgeous Red Fire Farm was exactly what I needed to get my fall fix. I reserved two bushels of their dinged-up apple seconds that are just right for making cider. While we waited for our turns at the presses, my friends and I tasted squash and apple varieties. There were plenty of cider donuts.
As a cider pressing novice, I eagerly took in the scene. Hand-crank machines ground pre-cut apples and pressed all at once, while those with more apples to squeeze used the mechanical grinder and then pressed the mash separately. With two bushels, we were the latter. The ground was muddy and the pressing required some strength, but a little dirt and sweat made the results all the more rewarding. Strainers and funnels at the bottling station caught the stray bees, attracted by the sweet juice, that hedonistically dived into the buckets.
Unpasteurized and unprocessed, our pressed cider was pure, unadulterated apple-ness. With my share of the spoils, one gallon is slowly transforming into vinegar, another was sacrificed as a failed attempt at hard cider, and the third became my favorite fall spread, Mulled Cider Jelly.
I’ll gladly raise a glass (and a gallon!) again next year… though I selfishly hope cider pressing doesn’t catch on for a few more perfect, bucolic seasons.
Photos taken and styled by Tara Belluci.
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