Apple Picking Day & Homemade Apple Juice
It’s Apple Picking Time, and last weekend I had my first experience picking apples. My good friend, Mrs. Addy, called me Saturday, and told me that they were picking apples and invited me to come join in. I was so excited! Me and Jada jumped in the van and went to meet them at her Father-in-law’s house. He has over 100 apple trees, all ripe and ready to be harvested!
When we got there, Addy and her family, plus a friend, were already busy picking up the apples. I had never picked apples from a tree before, but I imagined that we would just walk around under the tree and pick ripe apples from it’s limbs. I was surprised when Addy’s husband climbed a ladder beside one of the trees, reached over to one of the higher branches, and gave it a really good shake! The apples all came falling down to the ground with a hail-storm like thudding! We all made sure to get out of the way when we saw he was about to shake again.
Once the trees were empty, and the apples covered the grass below, we all swooped in to gather the beautiful fruit. We had “good” buckets, and “bad” buckets. The buckets that we filled with the bad apples were fed to the cows, and probably the pig too. I thought we would just pick out the good ones, but we got them all up, which made sense as we were able to weed the good from the bad easier. Plus picking the bad apples up instead of just leaving them to rot kept the place tidy.
I wasn’t sure what classified an apple as “bad” though. Some had spots on them where an insect had clearly eaten some of it, but most of the apple still looked good. Addy told me that the bad apples were the ones that looked like something had really eaten down into it. So, if there were minor blemishes, they were fine. I quickly learned to distinguish good from truly bad.
We had no problem filling bucket after bucket with really nice apples. Once the buckets were full, we emptied them into a big trailer that they were pulling behind a 4-wheeler. We picked apples for about 4 hours. I really enjoyed the whole gathering process, and especially the fellowship with friends.
The only thing that was somewhat bothersome was that there were tons of bees, yellow jackets, and hornets all over the fallen apples. At first I was extremely cautious around them, but after a while of them not seeming to mind us, I relaxed a little and got used to them being there. But about halfway through the picking process, I must have grabbed an apple with a bee on it, ’cause out of nowhere I felt a really sharp prick in the thumb, and unexpectedly let out a loud “Oww”! I stood up and looked at my throbbing thumb to find the stinger still in it, pulsating into my skin.
Mrs. Addy’s friend helped me scrape it off, so as not to break the poison sack at the end of the stinger. One of the children immediately ran off to fetch some Plantain to ease the pain. They told me to chew the plant up good, then spit out the slimy greenness onto my thumb, and let the juices sit there for a minute. I did… not so great! But, it did help a little. I think I rubbed it off too quickly though.
Anyways, after picking from a dozen or so trees, the trailer was full! The others were trying to guess how many bushels full the trailer was. After they gave their guesses, they asked me, “Hey Kendra, how many bushels do you think that is?” Bushels? What’s a bushel? I laughed and said, “I don’t even have any idea how much a bushel is! I’m still trying to figure out where “yonder” is!” They laughed at me. I was so out of my element… but loving every minute of it.
We decided it was time for the fun part, making apple juice, so we loaded up to go back to Addy’s house. The trailer was so full of apples, that the 4-wheeler could not pull it! They had to hook it up to a big tractor in order to get it back down the road. Once we got there, Addy’s husband positioned the trailer beside the Cider Press that was sitting in the shade, all ready to go to work. Here is an idea of what their press looks like, this one is very similar to theirs:
Photo Credit: Progressive Pioneer
The apples went from the trailer, into a wash basin to be rinsed. Then each whole apple was fed into the top of the press, where a grinder inside broke the apple into tiny pieces, which then fell into the bucket below. We would then slide that bucket down to the press part, which had a handle that would turn and press a round board down into the bucket, in order to squeeze the apple pieces and cause the juice to run out of the bottom of the bucket to the draining part. There we would catch the juice running out, in a container.
We were all anxious to try the first of the fresh juice, which they call “cider”. We each filled a cup and drank away. Oh, how delicious it was! The best way to describe it was just as Addy had said, that it tastes just like biting into an apple. I realize that sounds funny, as you would already assume that apple juice would taste like apples. But after tasting this, I understand now. Store bought, processed Apple Juice will never taste as good again. There is nothing like the taste of freshly pressed, nothing-added-to-it, completely natural apple juice. I gave Jada a cup full, and we all laughed as she guzzled it all down without taking a single breath!
We worked till after dark; washing, pressing, filling containers. At around 8:30, Jada began to melt down in her exhaustion from such a long day (though all she had done was run around and play the entire time). So, I decided it was time for us to head home. I wanted to stay longer; I wanted to stay and help until they were done. At least they had another friend there to help them. They sent me home with about 6 gallons of fresh pressed apple juice (that was all I had room for!). I took them home and froze some, shared some with family and friends, and refrigerated the rest. They ended up making over 80 gallons of apple “cider”, with still more apples left. Addy told me that she canned a bunch for apple pie filling.
She also shared with me a neat trick: she told me that you can use the fresh apple juice to make apple jelly. Just put as much apple juice as you would put apples, and add the Sure-gel. It’s that simple! I love her ways of doing things. I think I’ll make some for Christmas presents, like she does.
I learned a lot on my first apple picking day. Oh how it makes my soul yearn to have apple trees of my own one day… and a cider press. But for now, I thank the Lord for bringing Addy into my life, and for her teaching me so many things I never knew anything about before. I feel I still have so much more to learn. I’m so eager to know everything right now, and to be able to put it to use.
Patience Kendra, patience.