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 onto 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.
Because 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.