Friday, October 21, 2011

A Cider Press and a Night Ride

Over Columbus Weekend we learned how to press apples into cider, using an old time machine. As a Vermonter, I am no stranger to fresh cider, but somehow I had never made my own. A neighboring camp owner was having a harvest party. I was stopped on my bike as I was pedaling the last few yards to our place at the end of the road, and invited for the festivities: complete with everything apples, and a live band.

Photo credit: Old Timey Dave
The cast-iron cider press was 100 years old. One person turns the crank (two hands work best), while people throw in one apple at a time into the hopper. Kids were lined up for this part, some children so short only a hand holding an apple periodically appeared above the machine. The crowd had contributed bags of apples: beautiful Macintosh, yellow something or other, and gnarly spotted ones from two trees located near the group of camps. Anything goes when it comes to pressing; nothing is wasted.

Photo credit: Whizbang Cider
Bees hovered around - a nuisance more than a threat. My husband shifted the bucket of apple mulch a few inches to beneath the screw press and slowly turned as the cider seeped out and drained through a screen into a 5-gallon bucket. Someone lifted the full container and carefully poured into a funnel suspended over plastic jugs held by another helper. In this manner, we worked for over an hour. 

Our children liked the cranking and tossing apples. Our youngest boy also loved to heave the used mulch into a wheelbarrow. It's a sticky and chaotic process: kids are running around, adults are drinking beer, everyone tests the cider, and someone regularly pours cider in a kettle on a gas grill for those wanting something hot. The only rule is: don't touch anything "black" - warning the little ones about the dangerous gears on the press. Meanwhile, people are inside baking apple pies, bringing out or d'oeuvres, and a band is on the lawn playing funky, fusion jazz - at least that's what I think it was.
Photo credit: Happy Valley Ranch

I've discovered that you can still buy this exact type of cider press. The design proved so efficient that it's still being sold today. It's not cheap and, at 840.00, might be better purchased and used by multiple families.

Later that afternoon our family pedaled into town to watch a free showing of Cars 2. Afterwards, in the glow of the university streetlamps, I attached lights to each of my sons' bikes. I always carry extra ones because - well they're boys and - they never remember to bring their own (if they even know where they are). The green duct tape came in handy. I also gave my erratic pedaler my special one: a blinking wheel light.
Photo credit: GetOutdoors
This was a fabulous find at Toys R Us (I perused the bike section on one of those days when my son took forever to decide on something). It is rubberized and fits any bike. It wedges into the spokes with grooves to keep it in place. It has three modes: continually glowing, flashing, and off. It's very effective and I need to get another one or four. They were only 7.00 each. This brand is Nite Ize, but I know there are similar types on the market.

Photo credit: Pack Your Bags Travel Store
Our ride back to camp was on a beautifully warm evening. Crazy son rode up and down peoples' front lawns and split off from safe son and me for a diversion with his father through a parking lot. We met on the other end where my husband told us how the wild one hit the curb (couldn't see it), went over the handlebars, but came out unscathed. I'm always relieved when we get somewhere safely. And, after all that, the wheel light still works.

When we got to the waterfront path, expecting pitch darkness, I was surprised to discover the almost full moon lighting the asphalt. For the next four miles we didn't meet any other cyclers, though a few people were out walking dogs. What a treat.


  1. The cider pressing sounds great fun!

  2. A wonderful post and lovely way to spend time together as a family. I can't seem to get my youngest on the bike lately. Will have to work on that.

  3. I had no idea such things were sold at Toys R Us! I'll have to stop by. I like the idea that you can turn them off and on - I have coloured motion lights that screw into the tire valve, but once in and you move, they stay on. Your's are a better idea.

  4. Sue - My kids get excited about pedaling in the dark. Maybe you can entice them with a night ride to a movie or to a dinner out. I'm not sure of the safety in your area but, of course, that is paramount.


Due to increased Spam, I am moderating comments. Thank you for your patience.