Making Apple Cider

Apple cider and fall – is there a better drink on a cool fall evening than a cup of warm apple cider flavored with cinnamon?

My husband’s family has a long tradition of making apple cider each fall.  His aunt and uncle have apple trees.  This year, they picked 11 bushels of apples which made 20 gallons of cider deliciousness.

img_8104

This is the cider making operation.  The two on the left are my husband’s aunt and uncle AKA Extraordinaire Apple Cider Makers!

Once the apples are picked, they must be washed and any bad spots are cut out.  These side by side tubs worked great to put sweet apples on one side and tart on the other.  The water was changed out every couple of batches.

img_8085

My mother-in-law preparing the apples to be made into cider.  The sweet apples were in the tub on the left and the tart apples on the right.  We used 2 sweet apples and 1 tart apple for just the right flavor.

14390735_10103922847459209_7587246527921922045_n

Little ones are good at cleaning apples 🙂

img_8106

Any guesses on how many apples got eaten?

The mixture is two sweet apples with one tart apple – that’s it!  The tart apples are Jonathan and the sweet apples are Red and Yellow Delicious.

After being washed, the entire apple goes in to be shredded – seeds, stems, peel, and all.  Once there are enough apples, a lid is put on and the apple mash is pressed for the cider to run out.  As the liquid flows out, the mash can be pressed down further.  It takes a little time to release the juice.  We got about one gallon of cider per batch of pressed apples.

img_8099

Pressing the apple mash

img_8080

There’s a net bag inside the bucket that keeps the apple mash contained.  Once all the juices flow out, the mash was removed, and we’d start a new batch.

img_8086

The apple mash was fed to the cattle.

img_8096

Apple cider flowing

As the cider flowed from the apple mash, we would alternate pitchers to collect the cider.  Then the cider is strained through a thin fabric, such as a tea towel. The straining collects any small chucks of apple that came through the press.

img_8117

We yielded 20 gallons of cider from 11 bushels of apples.  It took 4 hours, lots of laughter and precious family time.

The cider is good for 2-3 weeks stored in the refrigerator or can be frozen to enjoy later.

This year making apple cider was bittersweet.  My hubby’s grandma always enjoyed making cider.  She passed away last winter so it was the first year without her there to strain the cider.  Our family gathered in the evening to enjoy supper together.

img_3449

 

Advertisements

Fall Harvest – Corn or Soybeans First?

On our farm, we raise corn and soybeans. Both crops are harvested in the fall.  Did you know that in some areas corn is harvested first and other areas soybeans are harvested first?

IMG_5521

Corn being harvested. The corn is “fed” into the header on the combine where the corn kernals separate from the leaves and stalks. The leaves and stalks become compost for the soil.

On our farm in Northeast Kansas, we always start harvesting corn first.  Our corn is ready anytime from late August to mid-September depending on when the corn was planted and the weather Mother Nature provided throughout the growing season.  Some years we can be completely done harvesting corn prior to starting soybeans.  Other years, we’ll harvest corn for a few weeks then switch over to soybeans.

Once soybeans have lost their leaves, they need to be harvested ASAP. As the soybean pod dries down, the beans can “shatter” by splitting the pods open, and allowing the individual soybeans to fall to the ground. The soybeans can’t be picked up off the ground – they literally fall on top of the ground and there isn’t a machine that’s able to pick them up.

Fall Harvest canvaOn the flipside, typically, corn will “stand” in the field, and we can go back to harvest after the soybeans are done.

THIS is where we have a challenge this year.  The corn stalk quality is not very good this year which means that the corn can blow over or fall down easily the longer it’s in the field.  Heaven forbid a big wind storm or rain come through and be further detrimental to the corn falling over.

Did you know that areas that are north of us harvest their soybeans before corn?  Each area grows varieties that work well in their area, and the ones in the north mature earlier. Partially this is because soybeans are light dependent, and the days are shorter farther north.  Likewise for our area in Kansas, the days are getting shorter, and the soybean plants are all maturing quickly.  The northern half of Nebraska and north into the Dakotas and Minnesota harvest soybeans first then switch to corn.  The southern part of Nebraska and south into Kansas and Missouri harvest corn first then switch to soybeans.  You could draw a line across the United States – north would harvest soybeans first and south would generally harvest corn first.

So what are we going to do on our farm?  We will switch from corn to soybean harvest as soon as the soybeans are ready.  We know that the longer mature soybeans stay in the field the more will shatter and the less there will be to harvest.  Hopefully, the corn will continue to stand. A few years ago when the corn was down, we invested in a corn reel for the combine which makes it easier to pick up corn that’s fallen over.

Like many other farmers, we will continue to work long hours to bring the harvest in.  It can be a stressful time of year, but it’s also very rewarding to bring in the harvest.  We grow crops, now we’re harvesting.