We made cider. Windfall apples, picked from all over Bright and Wandiligong when we visited during Easter, combined with Granny Smiths and Pink Ladies from our own trees, formed the base. We came back to our house with boxes of the stuff, which we poured out onto the lounge room floor, making them go every which way and get under the table and under cats' and chickens' and visitors' feet while they mellowed (read: a good quarter of them went mouldy and the other three quarters went from looking rather dubious to looking exceedingly dubious over the course of a week or so). This mellowing is an extremely important part of the process, as all good cider makers will tell you. Otherwise, there won't be any opportunity for one person to say, "when are you going to make cider?" and the other person to say, "I can't make cider yet, the apples are mellowing!" and the first person to say "if they were any more mellow they'd be rotten" and the other person to say "don't be ridiculous!", and so on.
To make cider, you're going to need a mill to load the apples into and crush them into chunks, and a press to squash the juice out of those chunks, and a partner to whinge at every time something gets stuck and won't press or squash any further. Well, no, you don't really need all those things, but it really is incredibly therapeutic to have someone to moan at when things look like they're going wrong. Last year we didn't have a mill and we ended up just breaking up the apples into a pulp in the blender before squeezing the juice out of them in the press, which is just about as much fun and lasts even longer than breaking up the apples into a pulp in the blender before squeezing the juice out of them in the press sounds.
So, in full on industrial mode this year, we piled all the apples into our freshly bought mill. I ended up with a gigantic pot full of apple chunks, which I took scoops out of and loaded into the press. While I was in the middle of crushing one bunch of apple chunks, Pamela the Chook happened to wander through the house, as she likes to do from time to time. As soon as she saw the pot full of apple chunks, she made an incredibly excited cluck, as if to say: "I can't believe my luck!" She was in the middle of ogling the pot up when I and a tasty looking pot of yoghurt intervened.
Crushing all those apples is hot work. I took my jumper off and rolled up my sleeves and then rolled down my sleeves again and took off my shirt and wiped a calloused hand over my shining brow as the relentless sun beat down on the fields full of toil-weary peasants and saw, far off, in the hills, a vision of Julie Andrews singing and dancing and then knew I was hallucinating again. But, you know, it is pretty hard work. And if you haven't pressed apple cider in your underpants you haven't lived (though, on the plus side, you may not need to get a new pair of underpants after all).
At the end of all that - the collecting boxes of apples, the milling, the crushing, the collecting of the juice - I ended up with.... about four litres of juice.
Yeah, but when we taste our scrumpy when it's finished fermenting and been bottled and aged it will be worth it. In another ten months or so....
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