Farm Life in Oregon State: The Making of Apple Cider
Sitting amongst the green-capped, rolling hills of Oregon State is a small family farm. Each year a farmer and his family carry on a longtime family tradition of making homemade cider. They are in their seventh year. The tradition began with the farmer's maternal grandfather.
In the words of the farmer's wife, "My husband typically picks the apples up the Friday immediately before making cider and brings them back to unload in preparation for Saturday. Sometimes, as we did this year, we will do a trial run to see how the cider will turn out (or maybe just because we love apple cider...), clean it all up and start in earnest on Saturday morning. Breakfast includes the first offerings from the cider press. Always."
The 1922 farm home where the farmer and his family prepare to make homemade cider.
The early morning of apple cider pressing begins with scrambled eggs cooked in a cast iron skillet, placed on hot dog buns with a breakfast sausage and cheese, slathered in ketchup or hot sauce.
An "Alaskan chic" hat resting on the back porch suggests Alaskan roots in the family.
Everyone has the option of using gloves. The farmer's daughter places her work gloves in her pocket. They hang from her pocket almost the entire day.
Sisters stand amongst one of five crates filled with apples. Each crate weighs approximately 850 pounds. There are 4500 pounds of apples to be pressed.
Young helpers gather apples by filling a strainer, which is then transferred to a five gallon bucket. The crates hold a variety of apples: Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp and Jonagold. Each type of apple is within its own crate, with the fifth crate being a blend of all the varieties.
Dirty feet and flip flops wander throughout an almost empty apple crate.
The farmer's daughter looks at me as she climbs a nearby ladder.
Grandpa helps move the five gallon container to a black bin for rinsing of apples and adds an empty one for filling.
Before sending them to the press, Grandpa cuts away damaged areas found on the apples.
Signs of apples are everywhere, as evidenced by this unknown sticker hiding on the shirt of a cousin. The young girl carried dandelions around for most of the day.
Another daughter of the farmer overlooks the process of apple pressing as she waits for another five gallon bucket to fill.
Cousins take a minute from working to pose. Throughout the day they wrestle together, run up tree trucks as high as they can and torment the pigs. I gently scold them.
Apples sit in a tub of water for rinsing.
Each worker has their position. A cousin rinses the apples and gently tosses them into the top of the apple press.
The apples are then pushed into the press with a small stick. They are ground and juiced at the same time.
The oldest daughter of the farmer is the one responsible for pushing the apples into the press.
After the apples are pressed through the top, apple grounds are feed into a small wooden bucket sitting directly under the press. The juice flows from a tap located near the ground. A dollar store washtub, under the tap, collects the cider.
The farmer prepares to empty the cider tub. The entire pressing process takes many hands.
The cider is transferred to an outdoor canning kitchen. It is poured into a twenty-five gallon garbage can, purchased specifically for the making of cider.
The farmer checks the mesh lining covering the top of the garbage can, which filters bits of apple pulp.
After the cider is filtered, gallon containers are filled through a spigot and blue lids are added.
The farmer filling the gallon containers.
The farmer's wife told me, "In years past, we would siphon the cider with a hose. That was my job. I would suck on the end of the hose until the cider would flow, then fill each jug. By the end of the day I would be so sick of cider! Then, we discovered the magic of a spigot. And it has saved me. Now, the cider flows with the turn of a handle. Sometimes I miss the 'full of cider' feeling."
Taking a break to drink fresh cider.
After a while, the children lose interest in the large crates and apples. They watch pigs eat apple grounds.
Apple mash is fed to the hogs and cattle so nothing is wasted. The farmer's wife and I joke at the pigs possibly being drunk on mash.
The farmer's youngest daughter would run toward me, then away, then toward me, then away. I take several photographs of her running. This one is my favorite.
A cousin to the farmer's family eats one of the apples. I have a hard time capturing a photograph of her without an apple in her mouth.
The cousin's sister falls face first on the ground. I laugh as she scrunches her nose at me.
She giggles as I play peek-a-boo with her.
The farmer's daughter sways back and forth on her swing, using the tree trunk as leverage for her feet.
"Let me push you."
"No, I want Ingid to push me." She drops the "r" when saying my name.
The threat of a major storm coming in around one in the afternoon, hurries the pressing process along. All hands are called back to work. It becomes a race against Mother Nature.
The farmer's daughter waits to carry cider from the canning kitchen. She twirls her cousin's hair.
An outdoor table is set up for cider that has been purchased by friends and family.
Even the smallest of hands help carry the gallons outside to the table.
The farmer's only son claims three gallons of cider, by hugging them and saying, "Mine."
I drink my first cup of cider. It is a delectable, sweet product of fall and the roots of yesteryear.
The storm arrives and the children run outside in the first few drops of rain.
The ending of the cider process and the storm has tensions running a little high. There is a slight spat between cousins. It's time to clean up and rest inside. About 400 pounds of apples are left, with the extra being sold to other people for saucing. The family keeps 200 pounds for their own saucing.
After the press is cleaned, we gather inside for fresh soup and bread. Old Glory waves high in the farmer's yard and I am grateful for family, friends, plentiful food, warmth and the comforts of fall. I am grateful for America and the tradition of apple cider.