Apfel Saft

Trip Start Jul 20, 2012
Trip End Jun 28, 2013

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Flag of Germany  , Lower Saxony,
Monday, October 15, 2012

 It was a brisk autumn night. The background noise was a symphony of bottles as we made our way across the countryside. My host father and I were going to a farm with an apple press just 15 minutes away. The last few days the whole family had been picking all the apples we could manage from our nine apple trees. Some big, some small; all chock-full of apples. This, as I was told, was a great year for these apple trees. Apparently every two years is a good year, and this was by far the best year for apples yet.

My host family has their own pressing system, complete with shredder, press, and all. We had already made about 75 liters of juice, but with the pressing, pasteurization and canning processes this took three days. Dodging more days of this tedious process we took the rest of the apples to an Apple-Presser-Man (trust me, it sounds better in German).

After picking the last apples we could find, we loaded up the trailer. It was filled to the brim with apples in every sort of box, crate and basket imaginable. To avoid being misleading, let me clarify something. Trailers in Germany are a bit different than back home. In essence they are made so a Fiat could pull them. Nonetheless, quite a good sum of apples if I might say so myself. With the trailer full of apples and the car full of bottles, we embarked on our journey. It is incredibly typical in Germany for secondary roads to be 'Kopfsteinpflaster' or cobble stone. So even though the bottles were in milk crates, they simply could not resist putting on a great concert.

After finding the way to the farm we found a place to park the car. I step out and look around. Here in the middle of fields and woods was a beautiful farmhouse, well over a hundred years old. Cobblestone driveways, masonry architecture, old barns; the list goes on. It was almost like a scene from a storybook. After I finished ‘taking it all in’, we unloaded the apples set them in the barn next to what looked like metal washbasin, and would be the starting place for our apples on this night.  Once all the apples were in a pile, I had a little time to look around. There were three people running this operation; a young girl responsible for filling and capping the bottles, an older woman responsible for working with the pulp and pressing, and a man responsible for paperwork and lending a hand wherever needed. This was quite the operation! Also in this barn there was a ceramics room; pots, mugs, things of all shapes and sizes. The older woman who works with the pulp and press is also a ‘ceramist’. In another room was where one could buy juices, all locally pressed. There was every juice imaginable; apple, elderberry, red/blackcurrant, carrot, quince, strawberry, beet, blackberry, pear, etc.

It was then time to begin. The man fired up the grinding machine and we dumped, basket after basket into this metal basin. The engineering behind this system was very practical, but genius. There was a metal tube going from this metal basin, and in this tube was a screw to take the apples to the grinder. At the top of this pipe, there was a great grinding machine. It ground the apples with hardly any effort at all. Then after going through the grinder, the pulp was shot into the next room over the wall. It then makes its way into a great funnel, eagerly waiting to spread onto trays. Under this funnel/holding tank there was a platform. The layering went like so; metal base, mesh cloth, apple pulp, plastic plate, mesh cloth, apple pulp, and so forth until the platform was ready to be switched. There are two identical platforms on opposing sides of a pivot point. This makes it incredibly easy to move the platform laden with the apple pulp from under the funnel to the press. Once under the press the lady flips the switch and the press… well, it begins pressing. I am not sure what the pressure is, but I can tell you it in immense. Once all of the moisture is extracted, the press is turned off, and the resulting juice flows into a large basin under the rotating platform. From here it is pumped into one of two large holding tanks above the bottling station. Then it goes to the heater/pasteurizer. It is quickly heated to 77C, and then pumped into the bottles. The bottles are capped; then the whole milk crate is put into a dip to wash off any apple juice that didn't make it in the bottle.

In the end we had 216 liters of apple juice, and how long did this take? Well, we were in and out in two hours. Like I’ve said before, quite an impressive little operation. Then we loaded up the crates into the trailer and headed home. Since it was late, we didn't take the crates of apple juice into the basement; we just stacked them in the hall. The neat thing is that the juice retained a lot of the heat from the pasteurization, so all night none of the heaters were on. After all the crates were stacked, we headed into the kitchen for the most rewarding part; tasting the fruits of our labor. Still warm, the juice was like the ever-sought-after ‘Nectar of the Gods’.
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Lynn on

Great blog, Brandon. Please keep it up.

Lynn on

I read this for the first time this morning and cried. I'm really glad that I hadn't read it during fair, though. Glad that you're happy with your new family.

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