Juicing for Beginners

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Perfect autumn weather this weekend; so we went down to the community orchard yesterday morning, and gathered in a big pile of apples – lots of varieties, and we didn’t even have to pick them off the trees as last week’s winds had shaken them right down onDSCN3374 (2)to our path. They were just lying there waiting to be chosen. I’d helped friends recently and they’d shown me how to work the scratter and press, so this was my second juicing session this year – which is to say, my second juicing session in 62 years.

There’s a certain amount of prep you have to do if you’re planning to juice, so let me just tell you something which should be obvious but wasn’t to me: start collecting your empty wine bottles, with screwtop lids, now (or preferably six months ago). Scrub the labels off them (I’ve just been told off for not taking a Brillo pad to the leftover label glue so, depending on how much your juicing partner nags you, you might wish to be more thorough than I was). Then sterilise them. I used Milton fluid which is usually used for babies’ milk bottles – I wouldn’t know as the Wunderkind was fed on draught, and one’s boobs don’t need sterilising. You just put a capful of Milton in a sinkful of water, and soak your bottles and lids for 15 minutes.

IMG_0135Because I live in an orchard town, we have a community-use scratter and press. A scratter is basically a big chopper – you feed the apples in the top and they go through a couple of blades, reappearing in a bin below as not-quite-mush. You empty the NQ Mush into the press, which is round and wooden with slatted sides, lower the bar and turn the handle, and beautiful amber juice flows out into your bucket, over which you have placed an old net curtain to catch any bits of escaping flesh. You have also added a teaspoonful of citric acid, or vitamin C, to the bucket, to preserve the juice and prevent it browning. Today we juiced three boxes of apples and got about 24 bottles of juice – so that one teaspoonful of citric acid is the only thing in the entire batch that isn’t apple. It’s an incredibly pure product, and tastes wonderful. So sweet and fresh!

Finally, assuming you aren’t going to drink all that juice in the next 72 hours or so, you can pasteurise the bottles – either in a custom-build pasteuriser which is just like a big boiler with a thermostat, or just in your biggest pot on top of the stove. Our pasteuriser fused today, so I brought mine home and went stove-top. It only took an hour, and I believe the juice will now last up to a year.

I had been thinking I might try making cider but I found this really informative article by George Monbiot in the Guardian which gives further detail on how to juice your own apples – and was very entertained by the cautionary tale about the risk of turning your gorgeous juice into Toilet Duck. It seems that cider making is a special skill all of its own. So I’ll just stick with gorgeous juice, and buy my cider (and Toilet Duck) from the Co-Op as usual.



6 thoughts on “Juicing for Beginners

  1. Hi. I’m at the other end of Fife – in Limekilns – and I’ve been making cider for years and it’s not so difficult and since you already have a pasteuriser, you’re very well placed to make nice sweetened cider. Happy to discuss if you want to have a try.

      1. Hi. There’s a couple of blog posts about it that I wrote some years ago. One on the basics of making cider here – posted in 2013: https://wp.me/przyc-T.

        When you ferment apple juice, all the sugars get fermented leaving you with a very dry cider. Some people like it. I found it almost undrinkable. Then I learned about sweetening it. This post explains: https://wp.me/przyc-1U.

        The only thing I do differently now is sweeten with sugar rather than apple juice. I found the apple juice created a slightly scummy film on the top of the cider after pasteurisation. Now I use sugar boiled in water – 12g of sugar per litre of cider. You can adjust the sweetness by adding more or less sugar.

  2. Hi Helen, it’s lovely to read about your fruit based activities. We’re also juicing apples here in the east neuk. We bought a wee apple press. Instead of using a scratter (that was a new word to me) we have been bashing them in a big clean bucket using a big clean fence post. Fun for all the family! Some of the juice we’re making into cider, and some we have bottled and put in the freezer. And of course, drinking it fresh. Beautiful! I’ve also been making jelly with some of the many crab apples. 20 jars so far and there are still lots lying around. Busy time, but very satisfying.

    1. Great to hear from you, Alison. Hope your cider works out well! I haven’t yet taken that plunge. The apple trees are amazingly productive, aren’t they? I’m away to try apple syrup and, from the leftover mush, ‘apple cheese’. Like you say, very satisfying.

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