Tag Archives: apple pressing

Community Apple Pressing and an Apple Gadget

Since the intervention of the AA the car hasn’t missed a beat and, in the way of intermittent faults, if the fault won’t show itself the garage can’t correct it. At the moment I’m driving round trusting to luck and hoping this faultless performance continues until I can get back to the garage on Tuesday. It may be more sensible to leave it in the garage until then but the reality is that at £10 each on the bus, or £30 in a taxi, it makes economic sense to drive to work.

It was Community Apple Pressing Day today again, and we had a variety of people discussing apples, neighbours, juicing, pigs, compost, rugby and recycling containers. That’s Community for you – always plenty to talk about.


By the end we had 55 big bottles and 45 small ones. I make that 52 litres. It isn’t much compared tothe 90 gallon capability claimed for the large press but allowing time for talking and pasteurising it too plenty of time. Producing juice, it must be said, is the easiest bit of the process with an industrial size scratter. Cleaning, sorting, washing equipment, sterilising bottles and pasteurising all seem to be endless tasks compared to the simple act of tipping apples into a machine and pressing the juice from the pulp.


Juklia bought me an Apple Master – it peels, cores and makes the apple into a spiral all at the same time. I’m not sure what its practical use is but it’s great for engaging people. She is a wonderful woman and I’m lucky to have her. (That’s a voluntary statement – she didn’t tell me to say it!)


Me, impersonating a hamster

Well, we’ve bitten the bullet and announced the shed will be open every Friday from 10.30 until 12.30. Let’s see if the initial enthusiasm translates into a a viable membership.

I used to use a lathe with my grandfather when I was in my early teens and I wish I’d carried on with it, but I didn’t and I’m going to have to relearn the skills again. It’s just one of a range of handicraft skills I let lapse over the years. I’m also going to have a crack at making wooden toys. It’s another thing that runs in the blood – the same grandfather made so many black market toys from scrap wood during the war he was able to buy a bath. A proper bath, that is, rolled top and all, not a hip bath.

He was a very industrious man, my grandfather. He joined up twice and his employers made the RAF cough him up twice because they couldn’t do without him. He spent all day as a quarry foreman at a cement company (they need a lot of cement in wartime, what with runways and pill boxes and such) and all night as a fireman, serving in Manchester and Liverpool during the blitz. I’m not quite sure where his spare time came from but he didn’t let it go to waste.

As I sit here, frittering my time with inconsequential chat on a blog I’m not sure he’d be pleased to see the way I turned out.

In group terms the day started badly when the taxi turned up with only three people. They said they’d told the driver he’d missed a pick-up but we’re not sure, as they aren’t keen on the new arrangement where there are four of them in the taxi.

It was all sorted by a quick call to the taxi company, but it wasn’t a great start.

It’s also an example of what happens when cost-cutting leads to the use of cheaper and less efficient taxi companies, though some would call me cynical.

It was a rainy day and though we rewove some willow hedge, potted herbs for the Ploughing Match and polished off a number of odd jobs, it didn’t seem like we did much as it was all in bits and bats.

Apple pressing again tomorrow – they sold so much at the weekend we need another pressing just to restock the cafe. That’s good, but it also puts me in mind of a hamster constantly circling in his wheel.



Men in Sheds – our first meeting!

We had the first meeting of the Screveton Shed this morning and have agreed to go ahead with the project. We also had a go with the kid’s stuff from Project Molish and had sausage and mash for lunch. Obviously we did other things too, but those are the main points.

We covered finance, mental health, the ethos of sheds, Health and Safety, possible projects, First Aid, apple pressing, cider making and many other topics. We also agreed to admit all men regardless of age, on account of the fact that passing down knowledge would be tricky without young people to pass it down to.


Chilling out


Making towers from spaghetti and marshmallows

Someone with experience in another shed told us that they’d had two people taken off in ambulances in the last three years so we could also do with some youngsters to carry stretchers.

For the moment we are ignoring the subject of women. I know it’s not politically correct but I don’t feel guilty about this because the Women’s Institute refused me membership on the grounds of me being a man. What goes around comes around.

The other point is that it’s supposed to be a forum for men to talk about their health. Now, speaking as a man, it isn’t going to happen. I believe I talk for most men when I say this. Men in Sheds is supposed to make us open up about health and save our lives but speaking personally, it isn’t my habit to discuss ongoing medical problems with anyone. I don’t even discuss most of them with my doctor.


Candidate for Health and Safety rep


A discussion with apple juice in hand

Last time I discussed anything serious with my doctor I ended up with a prostate exam and camera in my bladder, and that camera was not inserted along a route that a sane man would consider, I promise you. Is it any wonder we don’t talk about health?

Anyway, when you deduct speakers and miscellaneous visitors it looks like there could be about nine people to start the shed, probably a few more after we’ve employed subtle pressure. That’s a good number, and something to work with. We now consider nine the lower end for the bread group but it’s taken a few years to build up to that. I can still remember when we thought nine was a good turnout.


And finally, lunch…

If you want to come along drop me a line at office@farmeco.co.uk and I’ll let you know when the next meeting is.

There’s no free meal next time, but as the poet said: “The days of sausage and potatoes, they are not long”.

(Apologies to Ernest Dowson)

Community Apple Pressing and a Tale of Accidental Cider

It was the first Community Apple Pressing Day of the season today (a day important enough to justify capital letters even if I wasn’t a Member of the Society for Unnecessary Capitalisation).

The rain came, though it was meant to stay away and the Community stayed away although it was meant to come. (When I say the Community, I mean the people with apples to press).

Sometimes life is like that. However I did give away some free samples, sold a bottle straight from the press, arranged a community visit and was offered free apples. I’ve also arranged for people to come to the next day (26th September if you’re around).

We were all tooled up to produce a hundred gallons but with the apples we had available we only managed five. Looking on the bright side, if we’d pressed 100 gallons I’d be pasteurising through the night.

Not feeling terribly wordy just now, and my shoulders are aching from the press (another reason I’m glad I didn’t do the 100 gallons!).so I’ll leave the photos to do the talking.

Meanwhile the unpasteurised juice we bottled on Wednesday has already started to ferment and has a nice crisp cider taste to it. Knowing my luck the accidental cider from that batch will probably be the best I manage…









A Feast of Lemons

If life gives you lemons, they say, you should make lemonade (though I actually spent the afternoon making apple juice in our newly delivered 250ml bottles).

They don’t tell you what to do to the person who actually hands you the fruit, but if you’ve read my posts before and have a reasonably active imagination I’m sure you can work out that I won’t be handing them over on a silver salver.


In short, our growing area has been repossessed by the farmer who has decided that he can make a better job of running it than we can. He waited until we went away for a few days then moved in to “clean up” – a process that included felling most of the cape gooseberries (currently selling at around £10/kilo) and some of the tomatoes.

To be fair, he’s not wrong, it wasn’t a traditionally tidy allotment, but you need weeds for wildlife and foraging and you need nettles for nettle soup. We haven’t had the time to work it properly this year and since becoming enthused by vegetables, the farm has been able to put a lot of labour into tidying their half of the plot, making ours look even worse.

He’s a personable sort, prey to sudden enthusiasms and difficult to fall out with, but when you come back to find useable crops dumped on the compost heap it’s hard not to think bad thoughts..

However, I’m not going to waste time, energy or health worrying about it. We still have our own polytunnel and “vertical veg” just became my main interest.

Second lemon – the Forest Schools have stripped all the blackberry bushes between us and them. There are, as I always tell people, very few rules of foraging. One, in order of importance, is only put it in your mouth if you know what it is. Two, almost as important, is never to strip a plant – leave some for other foragers and for the wild creatures who rely on it for food. It’s  a question of manners for us – a question of life or death for the animals.

The third is about never picking below three feet high in a dog walking area.

Next year I’m going to go down early in the picking season and pick what we need. I’m then going to film myself applying copious amounts of personal liquid waste (as Bob Flowerdew calls it) to the brambles. Hopefully I’ll be able to provide my own after my current problem is sorted out. If not I have access to gallons of urine each week from the separator toilets.

After they’ve stripped the bushes I’m going to blog on the subject, provide them with a link to the film clip and sit back smiling.

Making Apple Juice

We bolted the new scratter and apple press together today for a test run. I lost the first batch of apples to the pigs last week (there’s always competition for apples but I console myself with the thought that what goes to the pigs as food comes back to the garden as compost).

As things turned out it was all for the good, as we were able to pick a couple of buckets of Lord Derby . This, according to the notes, is a heavy-cropping Victorian variety, suitable for juicing and with a sharp taste. That all seems accurate – it definitely has a sharp taste. It didn’t yield as much juice as I would have hoped, though I’d have put it back through the press if we’d had more apples to work with. What it did yield was brown and had a lot of sediment in it.

A scratter, in this context, is a device for pulping apples. In the picture it is the hopper and handles that fit on top of the press. There’s a formidable assortment of toothed wheels in the bottom of the hopper, all set to dismember apples and is driven by the handle on the side. You can get electric ones, but they defeat some of the object of community involvement. Having said that, for large numbers, you can’t beat electric. They have no soul but they are quick!

It should not be confused with the current slang for a person of low social status! I ddin’t even know there were two definitions until I looked for a link. You live and learn!


Working the scratter

We’ve definitely pressed better apples over the years – though we often don’t know what variety they are, even the ones growing on the farm. I think we must have had some of these before because the taste and sediment (and time of year) are the same as the first apples I ever pressed. Unfortunately I can’t recall where they came from; they definitely weren’t from the tree we cropped today as it wasn’t planted at that time.

That’s the problem with old varieties – they fell out of favour for a reason. That reason can be that retailers wanted better keeping qualities and didn’t value flavour, but it can also be that they just weren’t very good.

We’ll have to see with Lord Derby – it isn’t really fair to condemn a cooking apple without cooking it, but on the other hand we come from the county that gave us the Bramley so the chances of me telling you that a superior coking apples exists are practically nil.

It doesn’t really matter in the end anyway because the fun is in the pressing and drinking something that you’ve made, not in producing a clone of the juice you can buy from a shop.


Enjoying the results!

For any of you who are local, we will be holding community apple pressing days on Saturday 12th and 26th September and 10th and 24th October from 10.00 – 3.00, though we can be flexible on that. There will be a charge, but I’m still working it out.

Bottles and the art of Business management

The damsons are nearly ready and the plums won’t be far behind. Indeed we have had some plums on the anonymous tree that produces yellow plums, though only two. One is still in the tree and one was on the floor been eaten by wasps until I shifted them. The remaining parts were very juicy, though if the best it can do is two plums it will be having an appointment with a wood-burning stove in the next few years. I’m sure that I can encourage it to fruit in the next couple of years as it’s been neglected recently.

I’m doing the pruning this year, and with the old orchard, the new orchard, the agroforestry trees and the odds and ends it’s over 500 trees, so I’m going to have plenty to do.

We need 250 ml drinks bottles because we’re going to try selling more of the apple juice through the cafe this year, and we need 1 lb jam jars for the jam because people haven’t been bringing old jars in fast enough this year. We are still allowed to reuse jars, despite various scare stories in the press, but we just can’t get enough. It won’t be a surprise to anyone in the UK that the situation is so ambiguous, because we’re used to it. After all, if you read the last paragraph you will see I am buying bottles and jars in two different measuring systems.

Now, each seller has their own idea of what numbers to sell in, whether to include lids, what to charge for shipping and what to stock. The jars from one, for instance, were far cheaper than anyone else but they don’t sell 1 lb jars. Their shipping is so high that if you aren’t buying the jars that we ended up buying slightly more costly bottles from a company with lower shipping costs. One of the companies sells in dozens, one in 25s, 50s, and 100s. The calculator on my phone is a bit fiddly in the area of the small button/big finger interface but fortunately I had long division beaten into me as a kid so I was equal to the challenge.

As an aside, did you realise that long division is In “a standard division algorithm suitable for dividing multidigit numbers”.Strange stuff this long division, I’ve been doing it all my life but I hardly recognise it when I have to read the definition!

I suppose this is the definition of management – when you spend more time buying the bottles than making the juice.