Friends Dave and Ruth have a 125 year-old family cider press that Dave lugged back from Vermont. I am lucky to be included in their annual ritual of gathering apples from abandoned trees and bringing friends together for pressing them into cider. Every fall, I look forward to this centuries-old American rural tradition that Dave and Ruth have kind of urbanized, setting up the press in a small parking lot behind some buildings near Shilshole.
The apples are washed in tubs full of water and then set on a high table. Kids, dogs, skaters and skateboarders maneuver in and out of the six or eight people taking turns cutting apples, …
…dumping cut apples into the hopper,
turning the crank to grind the apples…
and turning the screw on the press.
The apples came from an old tree on neglected city property. They weren’t pretty, just pretty sweet. We quartered them, leaving the skins and seeds and keeping an eye out for coddling moth “worms” of which we found a good number. When the hopper is empty, it is filled again and the crank is passed to one with strong arms and shoulders. Cider making is a workout if you handle the crank. Strong shoulders are also needed for turning the press.
Bright, fresh, amber cider coming right out of the spout is a pretty sight. Even prettier is seeing happy kids, toddlers to teenagers, putting their cups under the spout for refill after refill. Childhood memories in the making.
There is ongoing flow of cider as long as there are apples to grind and press. Friends stop by all afternoon to socialize and have a cup of cider. If they pitch in, they leave with a gallon of cider.
After cleaning up, those who stayed feasted on bbq’ed coho salmon, corn and oyster chowder, salad and homemade glazed apple cake.
Everyone takes home a jug of cider. I put mine on the back porch opening the lid a few turns. When it turns spritzy in a few days to a week, it can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks. A nice seasonal beverage and wonderful to steam mussels in. The Mediterranean mussels grown by Taylor Shellfish down on Totten Inlet are plump sweet and perky during the fall cider season.
Old-fashioned getting people together to keep a hands on tradition alive is refreshing in this age where so much time is spend sitting on our butts in front of a computer.