Not every apple in the orchard is picture perfect, but every apple is tasty. Apples with any type of damage, like scars and holes, are "graded out" when sorting the apples that are picked. Other common flaws in apples are scab and other fungi and mold-related diseases. These are completely harmless to us, but these fungi attack the apple and cause an imperfect finish. And finally, some apples are just mishandled in picking and are bruised or damaged, and thus unsellable.
What to do with all these "seconds?" Turn them into apple cider. The flavor of apple cider, as a result, changes throughout the season based on what is being picked. In early season, like July and August, cider isn't generally pressed because the varieties being picked are quite tart - like
. Now, in the heart of apple season, the sweeter varieties like
are coming off of the trees. Fortunately for us,
bruise very easily, so there will be quite a bit of that in this week's cider.
The process for making apple cider is quite simple. Brian Geig at Geig Orchards in Seville gets extra apple seconds from Eshleman's in Clyde. The apples are loaded into a hopper, 20 bushel at a time, by forklift. The hopper feeds the apples onto a conveyor belt that takes them through a chlorinated wash, then into a rinse, and into a grinder that turns the apples into a mush. The ground up apples are then pumped into mesh baskets on a cider press - a hydraulic machine that looks a lot like a big accordion, minus the polka music. Brian can process about 7 bins - 140 bushels - of apples per hour, producing about 350 gallons of cider. He gets about 2.5 gallons of cider per bushel of apples.
The cider is then pumped into a chill tank where it is chilled to safe temperatures, then it undergoes a UV pasteurization process that kills any harmful bacteria before being bottled.
Apple cider is a delicious drink on its own but it's also a great ingredient: try it in place of water when braising a pork shoulder or when making glazed carrots. It can be used in smoothies, or mixed with something brown at your home bar for a "warm" Fall cocktail.