Local Motion - New Brunswick

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October 22, 2009

Local Motion - Gets Sticky

Apples on the Branch in Corn Hill

I've been kept busy lately with a blur of indoor and outdoor activity. Despite a lack of blogging there's been no shortage of things to write about.

Getting outside during a rainy month like we've had can be tough. But harvesting food provides a real motivation to get outside, get muddy, and make hours in the warm kitchen so much more valuable. With this post, I'm going to straddle the line between outside and inside with 100% local content.

Here's my story,

Come October, there's almost never a shortage of apples around my folks place in Corn Hill. The orchards around the farm are a mix of old gnarly varieties and modern grafts. There's the rough skinned Russets, the snappy Novamacs, unusually purple Tanglewines, and some others ones we just call Candy Apples. Walking through the orchards in October is enough to give you a stomach-ache.

With thousands of calories on a branch, the questions arises - What are you we going to do with all this fruit?

Cider. That's the traditional response and a practical one too.

For a number of years our family has pressed our orchard's apples with a neighbor's Cider Press. The Pressing Day in October has become a celebration of abundance; sticky, delicious abundance. We fill jugs and jugs with that sweet dark juice. Then its off to the deep freeze to be enjoyed throughout the winter.

This year, we watched the apple trees become heavy with fruit. For me it was especially exciting to see the bounty. I've been out of the province for the past few years and have missed the harvest. With a bumper crop predicted my mind couldn't keep itself from drifting back to apples. What can we do with the harvest?

Hard Cider. That is to say Alcoholic Apple Cider. That's the traditional choice if say you're a New Englander living in the 1800's.

Hard cider may remain low-key in Canada but it once was a going concern. In New England, settlers from the British Isles brought apple seeds and an appetite for hard cider. The Temperance movement and later Prohibition knocked the wind out of hard apple cider. By the time alcohol was acceptable again other drinks saturated the market. Though today in Great Britain hard cider is still a popular drink.


If there is any year to experiment with apples its this one. And if the hard cider fails I'll try to turn it into Apple Cider Vinegar. But hopefully I'll be enjoying a clean dry cider come wintertime. I convinced my Mom the food guru and wine maker to help me out. She always keen to experiment with foods and fermentations (raspberry wine and mead to name few examples) so it's great to have her involved. The rest of my family chipped in with strong backs and nimble hands to help pick the apples.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend my family raided the apple orchard with baskets and ladders. Baskets brimmed with crunchy fruit as we drove our harvest to our neighbours for pressing.

Things got sticky pretty fast but soon everyone had a job on the assembly line and juice started flowing. Neigbours dropped by to chat, some friends who are also experimenting with hard cider this year stopped by and provided some excellent brewing tips that we would go on to use.

The 200 pounds or so of apples turned into 15 Gallons of sweet cider! (that's roughly 50 Liters). More than we were expecting and almost more than we knew what to do with!

The Apple Press. A brilliant contraption with modern
touches like an electric motor and hydraulic press.

My Dad in front of the apple hopper.

Stick hands and elbows are mandatory. My sister shows off her apple stained hands.

The Good Stuff! Dark and Rich.

The next day we started brewing. The Champagne yeast was proofed the night before in a separate jar and ready to go when we loaded the 5 Gallon glass carboy. We decided to forgo the meta-bi-sulfite preservative and trust the primed Champagne yeast to work its magic. The remaining 10 gallons found its way into the freezer to be enjoyed throughout the winter.

The 5 Gallon Carboy is ready to go. Next we slap on
the air lock and put it someplace dark.

After a couple days, the carboy started bubbling and I'm crossing my fingers that it becomes delicious hard cider. I'll let you know how it turns out in a few weeks!

Having a reason to spend a rainy day outside makes all the difference at this time of year. And what better reason to get active and get outside than harvesting local foods.

Cheers to that!

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