Where does apple juice come from?

Type that question into your search engine of choice and you will come up with an unappetising mix of results featuring mechanical harvesting, industrial-scale stainless steel processes, enzymes, apple concentrate from China, more enzymes… nanometer-scale filtering…

… and an end result very low on appeal.

There is another way.

And now that the autumn evenings are closing in and the last of the fruit presses are shutting down for another year, I have time for the keyboard again by way of a change from apple picking.

All of our apples are picked by hand. Each and every apple passes through our fingers, into the basket, and then into the sacks.

The apples on the ground are the windfalls waiting for the sheep to come and enjoy them.

Nine to ten sacks (about 300 kg in total) make up one press run with our home press. Once we have a batch – or at the height of the season, two batches (about 20 sacks) picked, its off to the apple press.

In the garage.

Where our all-in-one stand alone home press processes some 3 tonnes of apples for us in any good “apple year”. The apple years tend to be alternating but it is Father Frost who has the ultimate say in around April of every year- a single night of frost when the trees are in blossom can wipe out the whole year’s harvest.

Assuming this has not been the case, though, its back to the home press in the garage:

The apples go into the masher…
And come out mashed.
The mashed apple is layered in nets
to create a “tower”. The hydraulic jack then comes into play, exerting up to 16 tonnes of pressure to squeeze the juice out of the mash.
The juice then runs from the stainless steel basin into the pipe which feeds it into
the stainless steel tanks in the cellar, 2 x 200l plus 1 x 50l as the back-up tank. The juice is pasteurised in the tanks using an immersion heater.

Pressing one batch of up to 300 kg apples takes about 4 1/2 hours.

Each sack of apples produces about 20l of juice, depending on apple variety and what stage of the harvest we are at. The apples get juicier as they ripen further into the season.

The pasteurised juice is then bagged and boxed, with a smaller contingent being bottled.

Further facts for fans:

An insulated 200l tank takes about 5 hours to reach 80°C, at which point the apple juice is then filled into bags (Bag-in-Box) or bottles. It takes about 1 hour to empty the tank into bags / bottles.

At the end of the season we fill the tanks with the last of the press runs, pasteurise the juice and it then stays in the tanks, preserved via the floating lid and oil technique: a floating lid is placed on top of the pasteurised juice. Food grade vaseline oil is then poured around the lid to ensure that the pasteurised juice has no air contact at all. The juice stays fresh for months and is drawn off from the tanks via a silicon tube “tap” at the base of the tank.

The pomace – that’s the mash left over after the juice has been pressed out of it – is placed in these barrels which are then collected by the local forestry commission. They use it for winter feed for the deer in the forests, and also as “bait” for their deer culling activities. Doesn’t sound as appealing but facts are facts.

Our apple harvest starts around the middle of August and lasts through to around mid-October.

By the end of the season in a good apple year we will have pressed around 3 tonnes of apples, producing some 1600l of juice (and around 1400 kg of pomace for the foresters).

Word of mouth sales account for just a small proportion of our harvest which keeps us in apple juice for about a year.

Requiem for a Kaiser

Just days after our “Ode to Summer” came the first of the autumn storms, and the Kaiser was down:

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Of the variety “Kaiser Wilhelm”, a chance discovery on an estate in Germany in 1864 and named after the German Kaiser Wilhelm 1, this was one of our three “Kaiser Wilhems” and one of the most prominent trees in our orchard.

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A prevailing feature in our orchard landscape whatever the season:

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He was also one of our high performance trees – 360 kg of apples in any given year was the norm, as was the case this year in what was to be his last harvest, and despite his age:

A variety known for its longevity, we estimate that our fallen Kaiser was heading for a hundred years old when the Beaufort 10, 11 and 12 gales on the evening of 23 September 2018 proved too much, and down he went:

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The changed view with the fallen Kaiser will take some getting used to and for now he lies in peace where he fell, letting himself be explored by young hands and feet clambering over his now fallen heights: the future running its young hands over his otherwise lofty leaves and lichens.

A part of the circle of life he will remain, as his wood goes on to house and feed the myriad of other little beings that lived alongside him in the orchard.

And yes, you can get very attached to a tree 🙂

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A Summer of Superlatives

That’s what we got this year in answer to our springtime ponderings:

April warm, Mai kühl, Juni nass, füllt dem Bauer Scheuer und Fass

April warm, May cool, June wet, fills the farmer’s barn and barrel.

https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2018/04/30/blossoms-bees-barns-barrels/

April was warm and frost free, May was not particularly cool and June was certainly not wet, neither was July, or August, or September… it was just hot, very hot, and very dry, for very long…

Yet the fruit harvest in Franconia’s orchards is a recordbreaker this year (and about three weeks ahead of “normal” ripening times).

But what does that actually mean in these times of far removed mass plastic food production? Who can picture what a “record harvest” might look like?

Let’s have a go.

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Here in Bavaria’s main plum growing area it means : 400 tonnes more plums than usual.

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Here in our district the fruit presses have stopped taking apple deliveries because they are overloaded…

Narrowing it down to facts and figures based on our 2 hectare traditional (i.e. non-plantation) orchard:

8kg redcurrants, 10 kg sour cherries, 10kg nectarines, 11kg mirabelle plums, 26kg blackberries, 57 kg cherry plums, 70 kg grapes, 85 kg Switzen plums…

All of which is in fact the upper end of normal,

and then we get to the apples:

3200 kg to date with about another 1000 kg still to come off the trees. The previous record over a period of six years was 1500 kg.

Still to come are the pears and the quinces, both looking like weighing in at the upper end of normal too.

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So its the apples that have done it: more or less three times their previous record harvest!

We invested in our own stand alone fruit press this year – and not a minute too soon!

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18_08_2018 sacks filling up 18_08_18

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18_08_ waiting for the apple express

Hand-picked, processed and pasteurised by ourselves:

that takes us right back to the origins of where food – and drink – come from!

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Fruit and Spice

…and all things nice is what this winter fruit cake is all about.

Actually, it is more like your classic Anglo-Saxon gingerbread in texture, made with pureed fruit (apples, pears, quinces or plums), preserved in the autumn and full of mellow fruitfulness. The fruit puree is what makes the cake wonderfully light and moist.

And the glazed walnuts on the top are reason enough on their own to make it!

Those lucky enough to live in my vicinity will find it in my (German language) pop-up shop this winter, the rest of you will have to make it yourself – here’s the recipe:

Winter Fruit and Spice Cake

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Pureed fruit

(apples or pears or quince or plum all work well)            300g

All-purpose flour                                                                        300g

Baking powder                                                                              2 tsp

Salt                                                                                                   1 tsp  

Cinnamon                                                                                       1 1/2tsp

Ground cardamom                                                                       1 1/4tsp 

Unsalted butter, softened                                                          120g

Rapeseed oil                                                                                   120ml

Light brown sugar                                                                         300g

Large eggs                                                                                        

Crème fraîche                                                                                 80ml

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C and butter and flour a ring tin (26 cm).
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together in a bowl.
  3. Beat the butter, oil, and brown sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well in between each egg. Add the crème fraîche and fruit puree, stirring to combine. Fold in the flour mixture.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared ring tin. Bake the cake until golden and cooked through, 55 to 65 minutes. Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.
  5. Allow to cool before glazing, if desired.

For the glazed walnuts and browned butter glaze:

Walnuts                                                      about 12 whole walnuts

Unsalted butter, soft                              6 Tbsp

Icing sugar                                                  150g

Milk                                                                2 to 3 Tbsp

Pinch of salt

  1. Place the butter in a small saucepan over a medium to low heat. Let the butter melt completely and begin bubbling. Add the walnuts, turning them to cover them on all sides in butter. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes until the walnuts are lightly browned and the butter begins to smell nutty and darkens in color. Remove the walnuts and set aside. Remove the butter from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Beat in the icing sugar and a pinch of salt followed by enough milk to make a smooth, pourable glaze. If the glaze breaks or curdles, add a bit of warm water to help it re-emulsify. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake, arrange the walnuts on top and allow to harden slightly before slicing

 

Candied Quince with Ginger

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Based on what was my autumnal revelation last year:

 Mustard Apple Pickle from Mantua

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With origins going back to the 14thcentury at least, this is essentially candied fruit made with quinces as much as with apples and this year, with the quince season upon us here north of the Alps, I am using the same principle, a tad more sugar for the quinces and ground ginger instead of mustard to make:

Candied Quince with Ginger

Prep. Time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 5 minutes each time over three days

Makes: about 1 kg

Quinces         1 kg

Sugar           500 g

Ground ginger      1 Tbsp (or more according to taste)

  1. Wash, peel and core the quinces before cutting them into bite-sized pieces (save the debris, place in a pan, just cover with water, boil until the quince leftovers have softened, strain through a muslin cloth and use to make wonderfully fragrant Quince Jelly using the same method as for Apple Jelly – you will be glad you did!). IMG_3714 (1)
  2. Place the quince pieces in a bowl, sprinkle with the sugar, cover and leave to marinate for 48 hours.
  3. Strain the quince pieces over a saucepan. Place the strained pieces back in the bowl and bring the juice in the pan to the boil. Simmer for 4 minutes and then pour the hot syrup over the pieces in the bowl. Cover and leave to marinate for 24 hours.
  4. Repeat this process another two times of the next two days.
  5. The next day, bring the quince pieces and the juice to the boil in a saucepan, simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the ground ginger and pot in sterilised jars.
  6. Stored in a cool, dark place the candied quince will keep for many months. Serve as an accompaniment to meat and cheese (in Northern Italy they also use it as a tortellini filling) or else with toast and croissants, or a fragrant addition to apple pies and other bakes.

Toffee Apple Time

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This Toffee Apple recipe is the real thing and it really works – promise!

To make 8 toffee apples you will need:

Sugar    400 g

Golden syrup 4 tbsp

Vinegar 1 tsp

Wooden skewers

and this is what you do:

  1. Wash your apples in warm water to remove any waxy coating they might have – this helps to ensure that the caramel sticks to the surface of the apples.

  2. Stab a wooden skewer into the top of each apple deep enough to give a firm hold.

  3. Place the sugar in a pan with 100 ml of water over a low heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

  4. Add the vinegar and the syrup, increase the heat and bring to the boil. Boil, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes until the caramel reaches “hard crack” stage which you test by dropping some of the caramel from a spoon into a cup of cold water. If the drops become hard and brittle immediately upon entering the water, your caramel is ready. If it is still elastic and stringy, keep boiling and repeat the test.

  5. Once your caramel is at the “hard crack” stage, dip each apple into the caramel, swirling it around to give a good covering of caramel. Place on a sheet of baking paper to harden. You can give the apples a second coat if you still have caramel left over, or else use it to make caramel decorations for cakes, etc by drizzling it over a separate sheet of baking paper and leaving it to harden.

  6. Toffee apples can be made up to 2 days in advance if stored in a dry place.

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Autumn is Apples

Gallery

This gallery contains 10 photos.

The Autumn Equinox is upon us and we have our main apple harvest behind us:    One and a half tonnes of apples yielded 850 litres of apple juice, and that’s not all:   https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/apple-jelly/ https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/mustard-apple-pickle-from-mantua-la-mostarda-mantovana/ https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/nurnberger-apfelkuchen-nuremberg-apple-cake/ https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/apple-rings-remember-them/ https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/orchard-magic-for-christmas/ https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/toffee-apple-cake/

Toffee Apple Cake

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A combination of two English classics: toffee apples and sticky toffee pudding.

Toffee Apple Cake

Butter                             50 g

Sugar                              180 g

Dates                              180 g

Water                              250 ml

Eggs                               2

Bicarbonate of soda           1 tsp

Self-raising flour               180 g

Pinch of salt

Vanilla essence                  to taste

Apple                              1

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  1. Start by finely chopping the dates – or blitz them in a blender, you want them as fine as possible to avoid date lumps in the sponge. Combine the chopped dates with the 250 ml of water and bring to the boil for about 10 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, cream the butter and the sugar together, add the vanilla essence to taste and then beat in the eggs one by one.
  3. Remove the boiled dates from the heat and set aside for a moment.
  4. Peel and core the apple, slice into rings and then slice the rings to produce slithers.
  5. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the boiled dates (it will froth).
  6. Combine the flour with the pinch of salt and beat into the egg and sugar mixture alternately with the boiled dates. The mixture will be fairly runny, but fear not, it will bake!
  7. Pour the cake mixture into a buttered round cake tin, ideally loose-bottomed, and arrange the apple slithers in concentric circles on the top.
  8. Bake at 180°C for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how deep your cake tin is.
  9. Remove from the tin to cool and either serve as is

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or, if you need an added toffee touch, I can recommend a topping I have been using since I was about 8 years old:

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In my Make & Bake book it was the topping for chocolate brownies to which it is not suited and I have a much better brownie recipe now –but the topping has stayed with me, on and off, for a good few decades!

September Season

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Mustard Apple Pickle from Mantua: 

https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/mustard-apple-pickle-from-mantua-la-mostarda-mantovana/

22_07_2012 Nürnberger Apfelkuchen

Nuremburg Apple Cake: 

https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/nurnberger-apfelkuchen-nuremberg-apple-cake/

Pontack

Pontack, Ye Olde Englishe Elderberry Sauce:

 https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/pontack-ye-olde-englishe-elderberry-sauce/

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Ginger Pears Swedish Style: 

https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/ginger-pears-swedish-style/

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Apple Rings: 

https://anediblelandscape.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/apple-rings-remember-them/

Snap, Crackle and Jelly

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The season of lightning strikes and unseasonally high winds has been upon us here in Central Europe, which has meant an early start to the apple harvest in our orchard:

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Green apples are perfect for making apple jelly:

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apple jelly plain,

apple jelly with orange,

apple jelly with ginger,

apple jelly with vanilla…

… and coming up at the weekend: apple and blackberry jelly.

Waste not, want not!