Last year marked the first year in which we made our own cider. We had inherited an old Jaffrey cider press from our grandfather. My brother tore the press down to its bits and refurbished it, complete with a new paint job. We bought about a dozen bushels of Macs and Cortland apples, plastic jugs, and caps from the Patch's at Walhowdon Farm (Lebanon, NH). After that, it was pretty easy.

The press has a hand cranked grinder which grinds the whole apples into a wet sawdust like consistency. This is called the pommace. The pommace falls into a cheese cloth suspended in a slatted bucket sitting below the grinder. Once we had ground up all the apples (or enough to fill our cloth), we slid the slatted bucket under the press. 

The press is operated by another hand crank. This crank drives a screw press that slowly drives a thick hardwood piece of wood onto the pommace. The pommace was already "leaky" even before we had pressed it, but once we started to compress the pommace, there was a river of cider. 

The cider is filtered through the cheesecloth and from there is collected in the large tray that holds the slatted bucket. The tray is slightly slanted and the freshly squeezed cider flows out hole in the tray. We had made a neat little faucet / filter device, but found that the 1 1/4" tubing and filter simply clogged up with apple bits. The amount of these bits you want in your cider is up to you; if you wanted a clearer cider, you could add something as simple as a kitchen colander underneath your hole that would work sufficiently. Either way, just hold a collection jug underneath the cider flow until its full. Cap and repeat. 

We found that we got about 3 gallons of cider per bushel (about 45-48lbs). That would be a little bit more than 50% (if cider weighs about the same as milk). Industrial size cider presses do better. They average about 4.5 gallons per bushel, or about 75%. 

After the pommace has been pressed, we were left with a slightly damp sawdust like mash. Professional presses will leave a dry, crumbly, cake like substance that breaks apart in your hand. We're not there yet. We fed the leftover to our pigs who were glad for the consideration. 

For the second batch, Nate brought and installed a food disposal unit (what you would find under your kitchen sink). We found this makes a much finer pommace, but can get bogged down if you feed it apples too eagerly. We have plans in the works to upgrade our processing capabilities. I'm sure we'll have more to add in a separate post. 

We drank most of that batch as sweet cider throughout the fall, and made some more sweet cider for Thanksgiving with the whole family. Led by Nate, we also tried our hand at making some hard cider. Typically, hard cider is not made from the same apples used to make sweet cider. Sweet cider comes from table apples, whereas table cider comes from specific cider apples found to have the correct qualities when fermented and blended. For our hard cider, we pretty much ignored any of the recipes and just went with what we had. We made about 5 gallons of hard cider which is sitting in Nate's basement. The fermentation process has since stopped and the cider is resting but should be ready shortly. We'll keep you posted with our results.
Earlier this summer, my cousin Nate brought home a 10' Red Duchess apple and planted her securely in our orchard. The tree had come from a local nursery (E.C. Browns in Thetford Center, VT) but needed pruning. Nate found advice from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension which recommended branch training (via weights) over selective pruning. I am not the trusting sort and am ambivalent towards "academia". I reached out to my good friend Jon H. (an arborist with 20+ years experience, an overall tree expert, and a trusted friend) for some hands on advice about the question of training and pruning. This is what Jon had to say: 

"Training young trees using weights or bracing sticks to create 90 degree angles is ideal. I use concrete weights that were created using Dixie cups for molds and old house electrical wiring. The wire works well so you can wrap it around a branch that needs training and then easily undo it and use it else where. I have different sized weights (different sized Dixie cup molds). Bracing sticks I do not use but, years ago farmers did. They consist of 1x1" wood 4 to 8" long with double sided nails at both ends that can be placed in a branch crotch to spread the crotch.
Hang the weights on branch that you want to bring down to create the 90. When you first hang the weight make sure to check on the branch / tree the next day, you may need to move the weight back towards the trunk as the branch may be hanging to low. Another benefit of training apple trees is that the trees will bear fruit earlier (at a younger age). It tricks the tree into thinking it is older than it is. Tree limbs naturally bend down or become more horizontal as they grow in length & diameter (becoming heavier)"

With that sort of an answer from an experienced arborist, I feel much more comfortable about the idea of training a tree. I am of the opinion that pruning is still a mandatory exercise, as training a tree to grow at 90 degree angles does not wholly prevent inward facing or misbehaving shoots. It does seem however, that through training, a grower can reclaim what would have been pruned stock and in so doing, make for a healthier tree that bears fruit earlier. 

Nate, well done, and carry on kind sir. 


    The authors of this blog are Luke Shipman, Jer Shipman, Nate Piper, and occasionally Phil and Emilie Shipman (though less frequently). We represent the man behind the curtain. 


    January 2012
    November 2011
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    Tree Care

    Being Thayer - A blournal written by my our, Ben.

    Thoughts on trees, boats, wood dirt, and a few other things. 


    Some interesting orchard information from Five Islands, ME.