Cider Time on Muddy Creek
(Page 3 of 3)
This big mill also cooked down large batches of the peeled fruit into apple butter using the fresh-squeezed cider as a base.
I well remember riding over there on a load of apples: The wagon, drawn by the mules, Kate and Jack; that distinctive smell of fresh apples, some a bit past ripe, following us down the road; hundreds of honey bees buzzing and feeding on the sweet, squashed apple juice, too busy to give us humans a mind.
This mill was a horse-powered one, as were most in those days. A docile team of horses walked round and round in a circle pulling a long wooden sweep that, in turn, spun the cylinders in the mill. As the apples were fed into the hopper, they were crushed and fell into huge, slatted containers that held perhaps two bushel or so of pulverized fruit. When the containers were full, the horses stopped to rest and a flat block of wood was inserted on top of the crushed mass. A two-inch-thick steel screw press was then turned down, forcing the sweet apple juice out of the mass.
A tin cup hung on a nail driven into a post nearby. This was for sampling and all participants did so quite liberally, some to their regret, for sweet cider may cause what is commonly called "the barnyard trots."
The juice ran through pipes into a wood barrel or a huge, tin tank. A cider barrel holds 55 gallons of juice and has a three-inch hole on the side so that it can be filled. When each of them were full, the bung was driven into place and the full barrel was rolled onto the wagon for the trip home.
Fresh cider will stay fresh and sweet for several days, but will progressively get harder, and harder, and harder. The flavor is distinctive, and as the kick gets stronger, it gets even more flavor as it ferments and fruit sugar turns into alcohol, and then into acetic acid, until it reaches the ultimate product: Apple cider vinegar. FC
The late Perry Piper was a newspaper columnist in Indiana and Illinois for more than 12 years. His columns, reprinted here from his memoirs, appear in Farm Collector with the permission of his family.
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