Pulping Apples for cider the simple way - with a fence post
There were, at last count, 9 demijohns plus a barrel of apple juice bubbling away in our kitchen. We pressed all the apples ourselves and, before that, the apples needed to be pulped.
When you have a juice press, the bad news is you can't just add the apples and get a lot of juice out of them. You first need to cut them up, then (effectively) smash them to pulp. Pulping the apples allows you to get maximum juice out of them. And when you've smashed up your beautiful apples, they're ready to press into beautiful juice. So what's the best way to do this?
Should a garden shredder be used for apple pulping?
Some people use a garden shredder, or wood chipper, for this task. The logic is that a garden shredder breaks up most things into tiny pieces. We have one in our garden and use it all the time for shredding branches, newspaper and cardboard for the compost bins.
But wood chippers are almost impossible to clean. These pieces of equipment are not food grade, and our garden shredder been used for non food shredding for years. This did not seem like a particularly appealing (or hygienic) solution.
Some people keep a special shredder specifically for pulping their apples. Even if we had the space for 2 shredders, which we don't, I am now very familiar with the smell of rotting apple pulp. I can tell you: it's not pleasant. I don't fancy trying to get apple bits and juice out of a dedicated garden shredder for the rest of time.
So as always with these things, there are a variety gadgets out there to help you to pulp your apples. They're known by all sorts of names: scratters, shredders, chippers, apple mills... They're designed for a task which most people are only likely to undertake a few times a year, and they can be pretty expensive.
The reality is we're only producing cider for ourselves, it isn't a commercial operation. So we'll never get a payback on an expensive piece of equipment for pulping apples which is, after all, only one part of the process. So this is our favourite solution. Warning: it is a bit agricultural. But it's cheap, and it works.
You will need
- One fence post, thoroughly cleaned.
- One large bucket, thoroughly washed. We use a fermenting bucket usually, because it seems appropriate. In reality, any bucket or trug will do.
- One large dose of brute strength.
Wash your apples and roughly chop them into quarters or six pieces, depending on the size.
Cut out any rotten bits and put those on the compost heap. Throw apple pieces into your washed bucket.
Bash apple pieces in the bucket with the fence post repeatedly until you're exhausted. Have a cup of tea, repeat.
Pulverise Your Apples
The idea is to get the apples as pulverised as you can. The smaller the apple pieces become, the more juice they are likely to give you. What we have discovered is that filling the apple bucket quite full is the way to go, because the pressure on the apples at the top of the bucket as you bash helps to smash the ones underneath. If that makes sense.
When you've finished, pop them into the press and away you go. A useful tip we picked up somewhere is to keep your trusty bucket and fence post nearby when you put the pulp into the fruit press. If you notice any larger pieces you missed the first time, fish them out and bash them some more. Then return them to the press and carry on.
Wonderful for frustration, great exercise and very, very cheap. Here is my lovely assistant demonstrating the highly technical fence post method...