Making cider or apple juice is absolutely feasible in the home, now that small presses are available for sale. Read on to find out more about cider and apple juice, both of which represent an excellent way of using apples that you are unable to eat because of excess production.
While all types of apple juice can be fermented, a good cider needs the acidity and tannins of specific cider varieties (Camalot or Camelot, Ellis Bitter, Dabinett, Kingston Black, Hereford Redstreak, Tom Putt) to give the resulting cider its depth of flavour and complexity. Cider apples are so tannic and acid that they are inedible as dessert apples.
As you progress from year to year, you will want to try blending the juice from these varieties with some juice from dessert or cooking apples. Soon you will be making your own super vintages! There are many online guides to the cider-making process. We recommend the book “REAL CIDER MAKING on a small scale,” by Michael Pooley & John Lomax. In brief, the apples have to be pulped, pressed, fermented and bottled. Equipment can be home-made or purchased, as you prefer..
The story of apple juice
Believe it or not, up to the late 1970s, apple juice was available, but compared to orange juice, it was a minor article. The quality was nothing to write home about. It was re-constituted juice made from concentrates,from various countries, to which water was added. It was a factory process and the taste was very bland and of no comparison with the freshly-made juice produced direct on farms.
There were no problems in the supply of apples for juice. At that time there were large surpluses of apples, due to the over-supply of French Golden Delicious. As the French growers were encouraged to export these apples to the UK in a green and totally immature state, they were neither golden nor delicious! And so the juice had no taste either. A great pity as a proper ripened Golden Delicious is indeed a very tasty crisp apple.
Today’s freshly pressed apple juice is a wonderful and tasty product. Healthwise, it is far better for humans than any juice made from concentrates. These industrial juices are still available,as cheap items in supermarkets, all over the world. However you can now make real quality freshly pressed juice from your own surplus apples. This ensures that all this goodness does not go to waste, rotting underneath the tree(s). After all, there is a limit to what you can eat fresh before the apples become over-ripe.
There is now very reasonably-priced equipment available, ideal for garden-scale production rather than complete orchards. Furthermore many people share the cost and the use of a small fruit press, achieving excellent results. Again there is a limit to the volume of juice that you can use immediately. But that does not need to be a problem. Even unpasteurized juice keeps very well as long as it has been put in plastic bottles and put in the freezer as soon as you have pressed the fresh apples.
You can shake the tree and let the apples drop on the ground. However once on the ground the apples must be used on that day. If not, the apples begin to deteriorate very quickly in taste and flavour, and various fungi such as brown rot will destroy your fruit. Obviously you can pasteurize the juice. In that case no freezer is needed and the juice will keep in good condition in glass bottles for a year or two depending on the variety used.
There is quite a selection of tools and equipment available for the gardener or the allotment holder. Second-hand equipment is available from older people who are no longer physically able to carry out the various tasks to achieve the desired end result of a really good tasting juice, made from surplus apples in your own garden, during the late summer months.