— by Dwight Bradley
Lauren and I made five pressings of cider this Fall in Peters Creek, from Alaska-grown apples. The best cider was made from the leftovers from the Sept. 22 apple tasting. There were at least fifteen varieties, and even though half of them underripe, the result was still superb. Nearly as good was a batch of cider made from two varieties described in the next article: the Eighth and M Mystery apple (~ 80%) and the Koenigar Transparent (~20%). The apples were supplied by James Gorton and Mary Koenigar. About 60 third- and fourth graders “helped” make this batch. The third-best cider was made from Rescue. Alan and Gert Lynn of Palmer graciously gave us about 50 gallons of surplus Rescues, along with at least as many Dolgo crabs, from their twenty-year-old trees. The Rescue cider was excellent when fresh: dark brown, tart, very flavorful, and sweet enough. Its only drawback was that it took on a molasseslike taste after only a day in the refrigerator. The best thing about the Dolgo cider was its appearance — it was the color of blush wine, and clear! It was too tart to drink straight up but made a good base for hot mulled cider (sweetened with brown sugar and spiced with cloves and cinnamon). We also pressed a small batch of Novosibirski Sweet, supplied by Tom Marshall. This is an extraordinarily sweet crab that totally lacks tartness. According to Tom it is already sweet well before it ripens. It not much to look at, being covered with brownish russet and stains that look almost like bruises over a drab green background. The cider was too sweet for the adults who tried it, but our kids guzzled it. A blend of Dolgo and Novosibirsk Sweet would probably be very good.
A few additional notes on cider making and its potential here in Alaska. The press we used appears to be a handmade affair that holds somewhere between 5 and 10 gallons of pomace. From what I’ve been told, it was originally donated to the Club, back when we were a chapter of NAFEX, by a woman from Southeast Alaska. Jay Dearborn has been keeping the press on his farm in Palmer, and had some repairs made on it. What’s lacking is a grinder — you hardly get any juice out of an apple if you press it without first grinding it. In place of a conventional grinder, we ended up pounding a layer of apples to a pulp in the bottom of a 5 gallon pail, using the end of a 3” by 5’ log. This got old real fast! Next time we go back to New England, we’re going to find an old grinder in Maine and ship it up. We didn’t pay close attention to exactly how many apples were needed to make a gallon of cider, but a 5-gallon pail of apples yielded somewhere between one and two gallons.