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.