Apples & Cider & Pears, Oh My!

Okay,  that may be a bit cheezy, but I don’t care. Fall has finally arrived in southern South Carolina! Fall is my favorite time of year not only because of the gorgeous fall colors, but also for the wonderful variety of fresh produce coming into season. The farmers markets are filled with beautiful pumpkins, root vegetables, greens, apples, and pears. I had never pressed apples or pears before, but I’ve been dying to try it.  A friend recently made me an apple press, so last weekend I decided to take it for a spin (pun intended).

Homemade Apple Press
Homemade Apple Press

 

Apples in Mesh Bag
Apples in Mesh Bag

I washed my apples under running water and ground them up in my food processor. Then I scooped them into a mesh straining bag and placed it in the press’s tub. Luckily a friend was visiting because it took three of us to wrestle that darned machine to barely squeeze a quart of juice out of nine pounds of apples! I took the pulp and cooked it down into apple butter, so it wasn’t a complete waste. I took my little bit of juice and let it ferment on its own with wild yeast. It took nearly a week before I saw the first bit of activity, but it seems to be fermenting well now. I’m anxious to see how it tastes with wild yeast instead of using commercially produced yeast.

 

A couple of days after our failed experiment I came across this awesome idea on YouTube.  I decided to try making pear cider, also known as perry.  I first tried perry many years ago in Sweden. It is light and refreshing and luscious! There’s nothing quite like a good perry. I’ve not really found anything comparable here in the States. I figured I would try making it myself.

In the video, the gentleman has some kind of hard plastic boards with slots cut out that he stacks in between his wrapped packages of apple pulp. I know I’ve seen those kinds of boards before, but for the life of me I can’t remember where or even what they are really called. That’s okay, I do well at improvising. I bought a package of thin, yet sturdy, plastic cutting boards (3 boards were in the package). Two of the boards I drilled large holes in to allow the juice to flow during the pressing process. The guy in the video also has built a sturdy frame in which he layers several packages of wrapped pulp. Since I wanted to try this process out without going to a lot of expense or effort, I used what I had on hand – my deck.

The deck has built in benches that are just high enough to work. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on the bench boards themselves, so I decided to use the supporting studs under the bench. I also decided to modify one of my good baking sheets, rather than trying to find a new cheap one. I don’t think I’ve ever made anything runny in this pan so I punched a couple of holes in one corner for the pear juice to run out. With everything scavenged or modified from around my house, it was time to try this new experiment.

Ground Pears
Ground Pears

 

I started by grinding up about 15 lbs of pears. I had gotten  a small bag of pears at the farmers market. The a friend (the same lady who helped wrestle the apple press) was given a large amount of pears by a neighbor and she in turn gave me a large bag of the fruit. It took a little while, but I got them all ground down. It was enough to fill two very large stainless steel bowls.

 

Filling Pan with Pear Pulp
Filling Pan with Pear Pulp

 

Next, I filled a small pan with the pear pulp. I lined the bottom of the pan with parchment paper to make sure the pulp would come out easily. I don’t know if it actually made any difference, but the pears did come out easily.

 

Pear Pulp Turned Out Fine
Pear Pulp Turned Out Fine

 

Then I positioned my pan, a bucket to catch the juice, and an unbleached linen napkin (cotton muslin would work as well, but commercial cheesecloth is not sturdy enough), and then flipped the pear pulp onto the center of the napkin.

 

 

Fold Fabric Tightly Around Pulp
Fold Fabric Tightly Around Pulp

 

 

 

Next, I wrapped the fabric tightly around the pear pulp, creating a little rectangular packet.

 

 

Second Layer
Second Layer

 

 

Then I stacked another drilled cutting board, napkin, and fruit pulp to make a second layer. You can keep going higher, but I only had two of those drilled cutting boards, plus my “frame” wasn’t tall enough for more than that.

 

 

Top With Whole Cutting Board and Car Jack
Top With Cutting Board and Car Jack

 

 

 

Next, just top the layers off with a whole cutting board and a small car jack.

 

 

 

Pressing Cider
Pressing Cider

 

Finally, you just pump up the jack to press the juice from the fruit. Soooooo much more efficient than that old fashioned press! I had about 15 lbs of pear pulp, so I had to do this a few times.  I ended up with a gallon and a half  of juice! The pulp was darn near dry – too dry to cook down, so my chickens were very happy to eat the dehydrated pulp.

Okay, so the set up is a little more involved, but honestly it was a lot better all the way round. I don’t mind a bit more work upfront if it has better results.

I strained the juice into a  gallon glass carboy and a 32 oz growler, added a smidge of yeast nutrient to each,  added about a tsp of cider yeast to the one gallon carboy and 1/2 tsp of cider yeast to the growler, and topped them both off with a bung and an airlock. I’m happy to report that my perry is bubbling away next to the small amount of apple cider fermenting with wild yeast. I’m so anxious to try them both, the wild cider and the perry! I sure hope my perry will taste as amazing as the Swedish perry I drank all those years ago….

 

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