The metal wheel creaked and squealed with every turn, like a 100-year-old, seldom-used hand crank should. Its high-pitched antique sound muffled the crunch of the apples as they were ground into digested pieces of pomace. Students gathered around the apple press to watch the juicing mechanism at work last Monday during RSOP’s apple cider event behind the Oakland Apartments.
Soon enough, the wooden barrel below was brimming with apple guts and the cranking ceased. It was time to press the pomace.
Just moments later, a golden-brown liquid slowly dripped out of the timeworn machine into a metal bucket.
“Look! We have cider!” Brooke Wetmore, a sophomore, excitedly announced.
When the dripping stopped, students satisfied their taste buds. Some drank the cider immediately, and others waited for it to be heated over a portable stove.
Jokingly, Wetmore suggested a third way to drink the cider: in the form of what she called “farmer’s champagne,” or hard cider.
“You know, depending on how much time you guys have, we could, uh …” she said.
The process of fermenting apple cider into hard cider requires a few more steps and weeks to months more time.
After the first batch was poured and consumed, students continued to take turns cranking and pressing until both of the two grocery bags of apples were cider.
“It’s easy work,” said UMD senior Michael Hinz. “The apples are pretty squishy. You can almost squish them with your hands.”
In between their turns working the machine, attendees talked about apple goodies beyond cider: applesauce, apple crisp and apple pie.
“Whenever I make apple pie, I can never seem (to) get the apples to be soft enough on the inside,” a student said to one of the leaders, Annika Whitcomb. “They still are kind of crisp.”
To help solve the predicament, Whitcomb inquired: “Do you have to cook them? You know like cook them down ahead of time a little bit?”
“See, maybe that’s what I’m not doing since I’ve been told you don’t need to,” the student said.
“But, that might just be what I’m not doing.”
Others had more humorous conversations. One of the leaders, freshman Nick Wagner, shared his unusual way of enjoying apples: dipped in ketchup.
“Have you ever had that before?” he asked.
“Are you serious?” someone exclaimed, and then laughed.
By the end of the event, after all the pressing was done, the group wound up splitting and finishing about a gallon of the fresh cider. Not a drop was left.
Although RSOP won’t be hosting another apple cider pressing event for students until next fall, a similar scene can be found every once and a while throughout the fall at the Duluth’s Farmer’s Market on Third Street Saturday mornings.
BY ALOYSIA POWER firstname.lastname@example.org