"You know, you can buy apple cider at Walmart for about $2 a gallon," my dad said as he surveyed the piles and piles of apples waiting to be pressed.
"Yep," I responded, "But what fun would that be?"
At the same time my 13 year old was sulking in a corner because I told him he couldn't watch football. "You’re here on this extra weekend (he spends half his time with his dad and it was a scheduled dad weekend) because we are having a cider pressing party and we have guests. We’re doing this together. It’s going to be fun." After a minor meltdown and a little teenage drama he sat next to his grandma, grabbed a knife, and proceeded to take his anger out on the pile of apples. He checked the score for the game periodically on his tablet and it wasn’t long before he got over his frustration and started to have fun.
We've talked about doing this for years. With a small orchard and dozens of trees in the woods we have more than enough apples to make sauce, pies, butter, and cider for a small army! Last year Pops (Mark’s dad, Ed) surprised by making us an apple press but it was a bad year for apples last year so we didn’t get a chance to use it. This year we had a bumper crop. By the time of the pressing party I already had a good supply of dehydrated and frozen apples in storage and a few dozen jars of apple sauce and butter in the cellar. The apples were piling up and I didn’t want them to go to waste. We extended an invite to friends and family and I made a big batch of pulled beef for sandwiches to feed the crew.
Mark took the tractor out with his crew of pickers and they filled the bucket with apples from the woods - twice! Have you seen how big a tractor bucket is? We guess each bucket was 200+ lbs of apples.
This is in addition to the baskets and boxes I had filled in the previous week. Another team sat at a picnic table and cut apples. Another team worked in the summer kitchen running the cut apples through food processors. After grinding it up, Ed and "the boys" operated the press and from there we quick boiled the juice and bottled it up. We got the system running really smoothly just about the time we were finishing up the last batch.
It was a little chaotic and a more than a little mess. There was a little blood and more laughing than cursing. All in all, it was a perfect family gathering and, I hope, the beginning of a new tradition. 20 years from now my boy won’t remember sitting in my room watching a football game on TV but I’d bet a bucket of apples he’ll remember the days we spend pressing cider with friends and family at the farm.