How to press (almost) free apple juice

Stuart Anderson
Friday, 26th August 2011

It's that time of year when we think about harvesting our apples... but what to do with them all? There's home made cider, perhaps a slice of good old tarte tatin, why not have a go at grinding up your own apple juice?

We've been buying organic apple juice from our nearest wholefood store for around £3 a litre: delicious, healthy but very pricey. We have apple trees of our own and many in gardens around us, including holiday homes that are vacant when the apples ripen. With permission, we've been harvesting these free apples by the barrow-load to feed to our pigs.

Crushing, pressing and pasteurising equipment

By investing in crushing, pressing and pasteurising equipment, we've now connected our problem (too expensive apple juice) with the solution (free apples all around us). We now get two outputs from our gleaned apples: bottling our own juice and the remaining pulp keeping the porkers happy.

Where to buy an apple crusher and preserving cooker

We bought a small stainless steel apple crusher, a 20 litre basket press and a stainless steel automatic preserving cooker / pasteuriser (which will be useful for preserving many other things in Kilner jars). Our total outlay was about £600, which is quite an investment. Suppliers: www.wineworks.co.uk and www.vigopresses.co.uk

All the components are simple, sturdy and solidly built, so I'm confident that they'll outlast us, i.e., this is a one off expense, thankfully. What I find amazing is that this relates to 200 litres of shop bought organic apple juice. After we've picked, crushed, pressed, bottled and pasteurised just 200 bottles, we've broken even and our apple juice thereafter will be free.

Sharing the apple juicing equipment

We tried unsuccessfully to encourage a group of friends to share the cost but a neighbourly fruit co-op would definitely be a way of reducing the personal investment. We will share the equipment with other friends and drink, share, swap and sell (to holidaymakers in our gite) the juice.

That's the economics out of the way, now comes the fun part: making apple juice. The process is simple, child's play, in fact:

1. First, pick your apples, Camille shows us how

2. Wash, quarter and remove any damaged bits. We did this with our neighbour and some friends visiting from Brighton

3. Put the apples in a crusher, here's ours, hard at work

4. Fill the press with crushed apples, here, we placed it inside straining bags to give a clearer end product

5. Test your juice, then give the pulp residue to the pigs. That way, nothing goes to waste and ours enjoyed it immensely!

The first few glassfuls don't touch the sides but to preserve the juice, it either needs to be frozen or pasteurised. We pasteurise ours by placing the bottles into a water bath and heated until the contents reach 70ºC, then kept at this temperature for a further 20 minutes, before removing, screwing the lids down firmly and leaving to cool. Our automatic preserving cooker / pasteuriser takes care of this: we set the temperature and minutes and leave it to do its thing. 

Inspired by permaculture and a love of French life, Stuart and Gabrielle moved from Brighton to Brittany some five years ago, living and learning on their three-acre smallholding. They grow fruit, vegetables and firewood, raise sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks and rabbits and rent out their holiday cottage. Then they write about it all on their blog! www.permacultureinbrittany.com 

Useful resources

Book: Craft cider making

Article: Heavenly food - Autumn in the permaculture garden

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