The Cider House Rules



Once they’re inside, they go through a grinder.  Nothing is separated out–the entire apple is ground into a kind of a thick paste, which is then spread onto a tray, wrapped in cloth, and stacked on the press.


Here’s the press.  They hit a button and that white tray at the bottom starts to move up, crushing the apples (which are inside the brown cloths you see layered here) and causing juice to run out on all sides into the bottom of the tray, where it feeds into a hose and goes straight into a bottle. Then the fun begins.


‘Pink Pearl’ is a popular apple in Humboldt County for its bright pink flesh.  These are two jars of ‘Pink Pearl’ cider, one a darker red than the other because he used a different yeast.  The rest are all more of a typical golden apple cider color.


Apple vomit!  Actually, this is the dry, crushed remains of the apples after they’ve been through the press. It gets dumped in the orchard to become compost.

The fresh juice is fabulous–floral, complex, and not at all like that stuff you get at the supermarket.  He has no idea what the cider will be like after its fermentation, since this is the first year to experiment with all these toys. He’s not adding an extra sugar this year, which may keep the alcohol content down, but will also let the flavor of the apples come through.

It’s an amazing operation to watch, and a glorious fall ritual. I am seriously tempted to plant another apple tree this winter, if only I can decide what to evict from the garden to make room.


  1. Thanks, Amy. I’m very curious about cider-making. At my country place, we have at least a dozen cow-apple trees that produce tons of tart little apples. We eat some, we made a little apple sauce, but most of them wind up rotting on the ground. The Fedco Trees catalog includes instructions for cider making of a more primitive sort: throw the apples in a wheelbarrow, chop up with a spade.

  2. We pressed fresh cider from native apples out at the Brushwood Folklore Center this year–it was delicious! Some folks took the unpasteurized cider to make fermented hard cider. None of these apples are sprayed so that was nice.

    Your friend (bless him!) may enjoy checking out Cider Days at some point–one of the biggest ones is in Franklin County, MA, first weekend in November. (

    My husband and I are planning to try our hands at making apple wine this winter. A local orchard and winery is selling fresh unpasteurized cider which can be used for this. I am sure these apples are sprayed, however. But crushing the fresh apples ourselves is a lot of work and apparently need special equipment like what your friend has.

  3. I see some plums in those apple crates. Is that part of the flavor? Sounds fabulous.

    You don’t have to make much room for any deciduous fruit tree. Just commit yourself to pruning that MF hard.

    The cider house rules. Sorry, someone had to say that.

  4. The best hard cider I ever had was made with a champagne yeast by my neighbor who harvested apples from some overgrown trees in our yard. That stuff did not last long at all, it was too delicious to resist!

  5. Interesting that he is mostly into hard-cider making. Is any of it used fresh? My folks have 68 trees on their suburban Seattle lot and did 3 pressings this year with a much smaller, hand-cranked press. All of it is used fresh or frozen for later thawing, plus some for apple butter.

  6. I remember a cross country drive years ago with my elderly father and an aunt and uncle, when I pulled over to stop at cider press/fruit stand (selling the nonalcoholic fresh pressed juice as cider). They complained. I explained, when you’re in apple country in the fall you are required to buy cider, it’s the law. My uncle mumbled something about how you can buy apple cider in the grocery store back home and he didn’t understand why I would even consider stopping at such a tourist trap (I really stopped because their sign said that they also pressed molassus, but we were a month too late). I stood in line to select my juice, it came in gallons or half gallons, in one type or a mixture and you could buy it already frozen if you wanted. Everyone else in my party was standing in a different line where they gave out free samples. I got yelled at by each of them that they couldn’t understand how I could buy something without tasting it first. After each of them took their first taste they raced over to get into my line. We filled the trunk with frozen jugs of apple cider that day. Sometimes the youngun teaches the old timers a trick or two. They learned that just because something is available at the grocery store doesn’t make it a superior product. I learned that I will always wish to live where I can grow apples and press cider.

  7. Amy, have you ever cut off a long, upright watersprout branch from an apple tree, impaled a firm windfall apple on the tip end and using a flinging motion, cast the apple skyward? The apple will travel a quite a distance. A fun activity for kids.

    Nice write-up! Nothing better than a doughnut and a glass of freshly pressed cider.

  8. We are making hard cider for the first time this year, from unpasteurized cider we bought from an orchard. I can’t wait to taste how it comes out. I will add “cider press” to my wishlist!

  9. made five gallons of hard cider awhile back with the wonderful additions of blackberry brandy and honey…………….

    talk about gardening while intoxicated…..

    The (johnny apple seed) TROLL

  10. Okay, that’s my secret fantasy, too! When I was in France last year I discovered “real” apple cider (as opposed to the sugary chemically crap we used to drink in high school). Wow! I’d love to make a supply of the real stuff.

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