Archive for category Cider & Apples
These days, it seems difficult to begin any article without pointing out that spring is at our door. Yet as I write this, today, it snows and snows and snows. Just 24 hours ago, the ground was nearly bare and we could be walking on grass again by Friday. Everything is possible.
Maybe stating that spring is here is a personal reminder for all of us. We do this instinctively, as if we could hear our internal clock urging us to get busy. So many projects await in the garden shed, in the yard and the kitchen. Here in the northeast, gardens are merely a thought at this time, yet we are already planning canning projects. Apple season is even further down the road, but the arrival of spring brings fresh energy and we will be busy preparing, repairing and cleaning equipment so that all is in order well before it is needed.
Yesterday, I shared a great picture of an antique cider press on our Facebook page. This reminded me that preparing the cider press for the new season will be on many to-do lists this spring, so I thought I’d review a few frequently asked questions about cider and fruit presses.
1- Why is there a grinder? Won’t the press itself do the grinding? The press alone compresses the fruit to extract its juices. The grinder’s purpose is to turn your fruit to the right consistency for maximum juice with minimum effort, because small pieces mean there is less resistance to compression. It makes the pressing process efficient and fast. Chopped fruit offers more exposed flesh, which increases juice flow. Without a grinder, you would have to pre-chop your apples (or other fruit) for optimal results. Can you imagine doing that, bushel after bushel?
2- What is the best way to clean a cider press thoroughly? As with any tool, appliance or implement that is used to process food, proper cleaning is vital. A dirty cider press puts you at risk for food-borne illness. To clean your press adequately, you will need a hose, hot water, a clean sponge, mild soap and chlorine bleach. First, rinse the cider press down with the hose. This will remove any food particles. After this, you must still clean the cider press thoroughly with warm water and soap. Water pressure alone will not suffice.
Disassemble the cider press and thoroughly wash each component by hand with hot, soapy water. This will discourage bacterial growth. When this is done, rinse all parts with the hose. Next, rinse again, using a sanitizing solution made of 2 ounces of chlorine bleach and 10 gallons of water. When this is done, rinse twice with the hose, to ensure all sanitizing solution is removed. Allow to dry completely before re-assembling.
Disassembling your fruit or cider press to clean it thoroughly also gives you an opportunity to inspect all of its components and make sure everything is in good order. Cider presses are extremely well built pieces of equipment, but they have moving parts and this means normal wear and tear over time.
3- Are pressing bags really necessary? Pressing bags allow you to get more juice out of your fruit. They help contain the pulp within the pressing barrel while allowing juices to flow out.
If you are not yet familiar with cider presses, the pressing bag is inserted in the barrel with its opening folded over the sides. Apples (or other fruit) fall into the barrel from the grinder. When the barrel is filled to desired volume, a plug (pressing cover) is fitted to the mechanism above it. As pressure is applied, pulp, seeds and skins remain in the barrel, within the pressing bag, and the juice filters through in perfect drinking consistency. Without the pressing bags, you would get very chunky cider and pressing would be inefficient since the pieces of fruit could escape through the slats of the barrel. Pressing bags are reusable, of course.
4- Do I have to seal the wood on my cider press? How do I do this so it does not end up in the cider? The barrel and all wooden parts of your cider or wine-press should be sealed so that moisture does not damage the wood. This also prevents mold from forming. To this end, be sure to use a non-toxic, food-grade polyurethane. We have used and recommended the EZ-DO Polyurethane Gel for many years with all of our fruit and wine presses. It is an FDA approved, food safe product. Ordinary lacquer or varnish seal wood, but are not food safe and do not have the durability of a specifically designed product like the EZ-DO gel.
The next question is for you to answer: What wonderful wine or cider concoction will you be making this year?
Why do we love cookbooks?
Because the photographs make us dream. Cookbooks also give us hope that we can produce chef-quality dishes without being an expert. They give us confidence. They help us learn. They take us by the hand and show the way long enough so that we gain assurance and eventually walk our own path, perhaps like the child who learns the way home from school on her own until she no longer needs to hold a guiding hand.
Like this child, also, as we become familiar with the road to take, we also become curious about the many paths encountered along the way. The urge to explore further is irresistible. We want to discover new territory, new fragrances. We reach for a hand again. Time for new instructions; a new cookbook. We are more advanced explorers now, able to tackle increasingly challenging terrain.
Inevitably, like explorers, even as our forefathers came to this land, arriving first on its shores and pressing forward inland, curious to know what they might find, so can we not resist further exploration once we begin the expand the map of our culinary knowledge. This expansion begins the moment we lay eyes on the first page of the first recipe book we ever own. The imagination is swept away in that instant, and the senses awakened, every one of them: sight, touch, taste, smell, even hearing, for is not the sound of softly simmering stew exquisite?
Like hiking gear that is used year after year in all sorts of weather and terrain conditions, the cookbook shows the wear of time, but never fails to provide the comfort we seek. It is reliable, always, even with ravaged page corners and stains. The well-worn cookbook tells a story of exploration; even self-discovery.
The cookbook, then, is the ultimate guide. It teaches us how to turn edibles into sustenance that feeds body, soul and imagination. The cookbook is a road map and cooking is a journey on a path that never ceases to delight. Even once we know a recipe by heart, there is immense pleasure in repeating the process over and over. Opening the cookbook, is a sacred ritual.
Since today is National Pancake Day, it is only fitting to conclude with a batch of Pancakes.
Apple Pancakes with Cider Syrup
For this easy recipe, us any pancake mix of your choice. I like the Hodgson Mill Buckwheat Pancake mix.
Ingredients for 12 pancakes
2 cups pancake mix of your choice
1 1/2 cup water
3/4 cup grated apple
1 apple, thinly sliced
Ingredients for cider syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup cider
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine pancake ingredients (except the sliced apple) and pour 1/4 cup of combined ingredients onto griddle or in pan (depending on your preferred method). Begin making the pancakes as the syrup cooks, or make them after it is done.
For the cider syrup: In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Stir in cider until smooth. Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, stirring frequently (approx. 10 min). Reduce heat to low. Continue cooking 3 to 5 more minutes, stirring a couple of times. Stir in butter and lemon juice. Ready. Serve warm over pancakes. Garnish with sliced apple.