Geneva is early ripening and they were falling off the tree. I squeeze them and freeze for blending later. They might make an interesting single variety cider, but they are pretty tart. I’ll be squeezing Gala and Golden Delicious later, along with whatever I have enough of. I have about 30 varieties, but most of my trees are young and still only making very few apples so far. However, I’ll have a few Gold Rush, Liberty, Enterprise and Arkansas Black which may go in the mix if there are any left over from other uses. I also have a Whitney crab that produces gallons of small fruits every year, and that also adds “character” to my cider blends. Wickson and Virginia/Hewes crabs will be coming in in a couple of years, and the few apples I get from them this year may also get thrown into the pot.
I thought there might be some interest in my set up, though I have already seen what looked like better cider squeezing enterprises here. I was planning to build an apple scratter from scratch, using an oak cylinder from some wood I had on hand, with stainless steel screws as the teeth. There are several designs for those on the web, and a friend was willing to turn the cylinder for me on his lathe, but the chunk of wood I was planning to use split. Then time got tight and I decided to just buy a grinder from Pleasant Hills. It seems to work rather well. Here are some pics of the process:
The throat of the grinder will allow at least a three inch apple. You can get a hopper to mount on top to feed the apples, but I opted for this really neat bin made from a drawer I had laying around. Since the apples sometimes get hung up if more than one hits that narrow opening, I think my “design” might actually be better. The crank is fairly easy to turn and grinds the apples decently, though the last bit of most apples goes through as a patch of skin up to an inch or more in diameter. That is thin, however, and the attached flesh is well macerated, so I don’t think that is a real problem. My press is a Harbor Freight 20 ton, with a homemade press base I glued together using two pieces of 3/4" plywood. The catch pan is 18x22" stainless with a one inch lip and a 3/4 " copper down pipe soldered in. The press boards are 15x20" HDPE cutting boards from Walmart that I grooved and drilled a central hole in. The top plate is more plywood, but it doesn’t touch the juice because I use one of the HDPE boards on top of the last part of the cheese. The mold to make the cheese sections is just 1.5" PVC. The press cloth is actually just some nylon curtain material, which works fine except that it is a bit stiff and slows down the folding process somewhat.
I got about ten gallons of pulp from each basket of apples, and if I set up the cheese using four sections I can easily press a full ten gallons in on run. I managed to set the base plate too high this time, so I was just using a three layer cheese. I only got a bit more than eight gallons of juice, but as I said, these are not juicy apples. The spent pomace was pretty dry and compacted so I think both the grinder and the press worked decently.
Now just have to wait for some more apples to come ripe!