This is the ‘it’s fun when it is nice weather’ bit.
Cider apples have a long season and depending on the variety will be ripe and ready to use from the end of August (e.g. Morgan Sweet) until late November (the latest we have collected has actually been the 8th December with Chisel Jersey). This long season is really helpful – fortunately the apple varieties are not all ready at once which means we can spread out the pressing season.
Until recently we collected the apples by hand, we now have an ancient apple collecting machine which on its first outing at the end of 2020 went so fast we could not empty the baskets quickly enough; it saved many hours of kneeling picking up apples!
Washing & Squashing
This is the wet bit.
A thorough clean by spraying then dunking in a container of water ensures all those nasty bits get washed off. We remove all twigs, leaves, grass and the occasional hungry slug and this process reduces the risk of bacterial infection which can mess up fermentation and create nasty off flavours. We also remove any mouldy or rotten apples to leave us with clean healthy fruit full of sugar and flavour. The slugs get rehomed on the left-over apple pulp so they end up happy too.
Apples are quite hard and before pressing must be milled. For this we use my favourite toy, an electric Speidel mill, this happily chews up 1 tonne of apples per hour.