What is Real Apple Cider?
By our standards it is the fresh pressed juice from apples in which its composition has not been altered by chemical, thermal, or spectral treatments. It is never from concentrate, there can be no added sugar, and no preservatives. The only acceptable processing of true cider could be physical filtration, which does not alter its complex flavor.

How do we do it?
Our process begins with using only local hand-picked apples. From there they are inspected and washed to remove any unfit apples. In every batch of our cider there is always at least 2 and sometimes up to 4 varieties of apples, this blending of tart and sweet allows us to create the right mix of flavors that you will surely love. After grading they
are raised on an elevator to the grinder which turns them into a juicy pulp. We then pump the apple pulp into nylon press cloths between plastic racks. Each blanket holds 4 bushels of apples, with 10 blankets for a total of 40 bushels per press. Depending how juicy the apples are we usually get around 3 gallons of cider per bushel of apples.  After the blankets are full we roll the stack of racks under our century old screw press and begin pressing.

Our mill is run off a 5 horse power electric motor but has the ability to be run off of steam or petroleum powered engine. We press the apples and begin filtering the cider which takes about an hour. It is pumped into our refrigerated stainless steel tanks where it is then quickly jugged into gallons, halves, or quarts. It is kept refrigerated to prevent fermentation. But that is the easy part, the thorough cleanup and sanitization we perform takes up to 3 hours.  So from beginning to end the entire process can take up to 4-5 hours for a single pressing even with an experienced crew of 2 people.

We do not recommend leaving our cider in your refrigerator for more than two weeks and consuming it thereafter.  Because we have not destroyed the natural yeasts in our cider by pasteurization, over weeks to months it may ferment into an effervescent alcoholic drink. This would be similar to the type of cider that our forefathers drank throughout the winter, when barrels of cider were pressed out each fall from the apples on their farm, and left at cellar temperature throughout the fall and winter to undergo the natural process of fermentation.

Unpasteurized with Pride

Traditional cider was once made with apples that farmers grew themselves. In addition to hand-picked apples, many farmers used drops, which were the apples that had fallen from the tree. Apples were sorted and washed to remove the unfit apples and pressed locally by either a mill or at the farm. It was filtered and placed unpasteurized into barrels in a cold cellar to provide a clean drinking source throughout the winter, where through slow natural fermentation it would turn into its legendary delicious effervescent alcoholic drink. During the 19nth century as many as 15,000 varieties of apples were cultivated for the use of making hard cider, which served as clean source of water and cheap alcohol. As the United States embraced Prohibition cider became a target of prohibitionist and orchards were cut down. Farmers were faced with rebranded the American cider apple from a major sugar source for home alcohol production to a healthy nutritious product, henceforth “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Over the years after prohibition the popularity of hard cider never recovered, likely a combination of reasons such as fewer farms and orchards, fewer cold cellars as refrigeration became more popular, and the destruction of local food chains by industrial food producers.  Further decline came when the USDA supported growth of only a few varieties of apples, so as to alleviate confusion at the market and simplify choice. Orchards that had numerous varieties that had been developed over the last century for pest resistance were replaced with single varieties of apples that required greater pesticide use. A large portion of our agricultural history and identity were forever lost. The outcomes of this narrow view can be seen today with an entire generation of American children that have never tasted a Roxbury Russet. Not surprisingly they prefer other unhealthy snacks as their only experience is with a flavorless Red Delicious, picked in Washington and freighted a thousand miles to the market, while fresh local apples rot on the tree.

In the 1990’s an industrial cider producer (Odwalla) pastured cattle on an orchard. This is a common practice in England even today as the grazing nature of animals can be used to reduce fuel cost of mowing the orchards. However in England they remove the animals from the orchard 3 months prior to harvest to ensure that the manure is thoroughly decomposed before collecting their drop apples. Other outbreaks of E. coli occurred throughout the country, and again the source was livestock or deer feces coming in contact with the cider apples. Additionally the apples were not washed before the cider was made, thus they were using dirty infected apples. Our founding fathers drank cider specifically because it was safer than water, and now it was no longer safe, and the reason was clear, the apples were contaminated with feces. This should’ve been an easy fix,
remove the cattle, fence out the deer, don’t use drops, and wash the apples.  However over the following years the FDA acted quickly to seal the fate of true cider. All apples had to be hand-picked, all wholesale had to be pasteurized, all cider had to be labeled with expiration dates, and all unpasteurized cider had to carry a warning label that it could carry harmful bacteria that could cause serious illness in children, elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.  Industrial solutions to industrial problems were applied to safe responsible local producers, and the result was devastating. Small producers could not afford the expensive pasteurization equipment, especially in the setting of the food scare, and were forced to close. As most of our customers were families, applying a label to our product saying it could contain harmful bacteria did not go over well. School tours were cancelled, sales dropped, and we had our worst years ever. But we stood behind our product. We knew that our apples were clean, because we knew where they came from and we wash them.  We knew our equipment is safe, because we thoroughly clean it.  The apple you pick off the tree and eat, is the same apple we press. So why would we have to pasteurize it? We start with a clean product, and we finish with a clean product.  Pasteurization denatures soluble proteins, isomerizes and polymerizes sugars, alters phytochemicals, and kills natural occurring non harmful microorganisms such as yeast.  These reactions result in significant changes to the delicate and complex flavor resulting in juice, not cider. One can hardly argue that Mott’s apple juice is cider, though many producers are trying. They produce a turbid product to sell to an undiscerning market of poor souls who have never tasted anything better than the slurry available at their grocery store. We agree that changes can be made to improve food safety, and we embrace those changes at our mill, but when the proposed changes destroy what was pure and good about the product, then one must re-examine the facts.
 

Drink your apple a day!