Every autumn when I was a child, my family would chose a Saturday to pile in the car and drive at least an hour north from our home in Westchester to pick apples and buy cider. We always returned with huge bags of tangy, crisp fruit far better than anything you could buy in the supermarket. We ate as many as we could and then my mom would make the rest into apple sauce.The years of memories are hard to differentiate in my head – they have all melted together into one collection of happy fruit-picking nostalgia.
When we moved to England, and I found myself surrounded by more apples than you could possibly pick come September, the abundance quickly weighed heavily upon me. Yes we picked them. And I made a pie or a crumble, and then as much apple sauce as I could possibly make. But that didn’t even touch the surface of making the most of our apple supply. And while the kids would help me pick the fruit, they would abandon the operation as soon as we got into the kitchen, neither of them being huge fans of cooking. I thought that maybe I had to drive somewhere far away to a place that wasn’t mine in order to appreciate autumn’s apple abundance and recreate those memories from my childhood.
Then last Christmas I received a present from my in-laws that would transform my apple guilt into a renewed feeling of apple pleasure: a juice press. One Sunday this September Zach and I carried it out of its waiting place in the barn, and placed it on the porch of my office shed. We picked a basket of apples from the orchard and began chopping the fruit into quarters and placing it in the crusher. The crusher is incredibly satisfying; you pile it up with chopped fruit and then turn the wheel and watch as the apple chunks break down as they are churned by metal cogs and then disappear into the hopper. Zach quickly decided he preferred that chore, and I was happy to continue chopping. Once the fruit piled up, we placed the wooden top over the hopper and began to turn the press, watching it lower over the crushed fruit. Already juice was starting to stream out the bottom, and we rushed to put a pitcher in place under the spout. Zach thought it was fun to turn the pressing handle, so I managed the sudden and abundant rush of juice – quickly changing bottles and managing overflow. The whole process took about an hour in which both Zach and I were entirely engaged and excited. On top of that we were left with four bottles of glorious juice. The whole experience was a total win.
Since then we’ve been pressing juice nearly every weekend. Coco joins in – yes, even the teenager! – when she comes home on the weekends and has found it equally fun and rewarding. And we’ve experimented with all combinations of eating apples, cooking apples, and pears. My favourite juice is made from cooking apples mixed with pears – both tart and sweet. While the kids practically chug the fresh juice, I prefer it thinned out with fizzy water and a few ice cubes.
The apples and pears are mostly all gone now, and I am finally ready for a break from juice pressing. But I am also looking forward to our new family tradition of apple picking coming around again next year.