Our old farm has a fun history. From the reseach I’ve been conducting on the property, here’s what I’ve found: The original farm was started by the Gaige family pre-Revolutionary War (the Gaige family can be traced to our area since the 1730s). The house across the street was built in the early 1800s by Isaac Gaige and our house was added to the property in 1886. The farm grew apples, and the owners tranported their apples on pallets by rail (the train runs just behind our property) to New York City for sale. The Gaige family has left us lots of great mementos from their time here (creepily, this includes headstones on the side of our house… pretty sure we have dead bodies in our yard), but by far, my favorites are the apple trees.
We have about 35 apple trees (plus another half-dozen seckle pear trees) on our farm that range from Ben Davis to McIntosh to Cortland to Golden Delicious. Many of the trees are well over 100 years old. The McNitt family (Howard and Esther bought the house in 1932 and raised their two sons here. They remained in the house until the early 2000s) took wonderful care of the orchard, but Hurricane Irene knocked out many of the trees this year. The trees that remain have beared unbelievable fruit, though. Besides the pints upon pints of apple sauce, apple butter, apple jelly, and apple relish I make each year, we also make cider! We use my family’s 100+ year old cider press and grinders to make some of the tastiest cider I’ve ever sipped (if I do say so myself).
You don’t need a bunch of big fancy equipment to make cider, though! Here are some easy at-home methods for making your own cider.
DIY APPLE CIDER
1. Gather apples. A good rule of thumb is one bushel of apples makes one gallon of cider. A mix of apples will make the best cider (we combine apples from all different tree varieties to get the best flavor).
2. Cut-up apples. The smaller apples are cut, the more easily they can be juiced. Our grinder cuts the apples into 1″ by .5″ pieces. Cores, stems and seeds can all be pressed into cider.
3. Prep and press. We put our apple “mash” in old organic cotton pillow cases to press and filter. You can use a similar system, or try an old dishtowel or flour sack (just don’t overfill! You’ll pop the seams). Use a heavy weight (like a cider block or free weights) to press the cider from the mash. Press in a colander inside a same-sized or larger bowl.
4. Filter and mix. If you do more than one batch of pressing, you’ll want to mix your batches of cider for the best flavor and consistency. Filter through a large cotton filter (or slowly through a coffee filter). Store in a food safe container (like a used juice container or mason jars). Keep refrigerated. Cider also keeps well in the freezer, just be sure to leave room in your container for expansion.
Now that you have your cider, how about some tasty ways to drink it? First up, a tasty spin on a margarita I call The Chapman (as in the guy who was known in folklore as Johnny Appleseed. I’ve seen a similar recipe elsewhere called an Adirondack Margarita):
Makes one cocktail
1/2 cup Apple Cider
1 jigger (3 tbsp) Tequila
1/2 jigger Orange Juice
1/2 jigger Triple Sec
Squeeze of Lime
In a Boston shaker combine all ingredients but the sugar. Shake to combine. Dip the rim of a martini glass in water (or in leftover apple cider), then roll the edge in the sugar. Fill with cocktail mixture. If desired, garnish with an apple slice.
And next, a classic Mulled Cider recipe:
1/2 gallon Apple Cider
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1 Orange, sliced
2 Allspice Berries
2 Whole Cloves
2 Cardamom Pods
Make a spice bag of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and cardamom with cheesecloth and kitchen twine (just place the spices in the center of a cheesecloth square, then tied tightly with twine). In a large pot or in a Crockpot, combine cider, orange slices and spice bag. Cook until warmed and steaming for 10-15 minutes (keep warm in the Crockpot). Pour into individual mugs and garnish with orange slice and cinnamon stick.
I’ll be experimenting this year with hard cider, so stay tuned for updates on my results!