Sunday 9th October saw an early start for ‘Loafers for what was for most of us, our first ever apple pressing. Set up in the orchard at Macreddin, the chopper and press were supplied by local hero David Wilcoxin, who stood by and tutored us all on the how’s and why’s, his knowledge, patience and enthusiasm were inspiring.
Over the course of the event the crowd swelled to 60+ as the most convivial of atmospheres Slowly enveloped the sylvan setting.
Many brought their own supplies, and the heritage varieties brought by Mike & Suzie to taste that would make an event on their own! Watch this space…
Children were sent into the trees to retrieve more apples and the production began in earnest. We rinsed, and cut the apples into quarters, and then tipped our fruit into the chopper hopper. A vigorous five to ten minutes at the handle saw bucket by bucket the entire bounty chopped and then bucket by bucket they were brought over to the press. At times the odd chicken popped over for a look, and more often than not pinched some of our mashed fruits.
We then loaded the mash into the cylinder, and started the wind down. Initially the going was easy, but when the plunger head started squashing, the upper body workout started biting in. That said, there was a most satisfying feeling when enough pressure bore down and the fruit yielded its goodness in a surprising flush of various shades for the various apple varieties we had. These were then tasted, sipped and discussed by all around (as the poor presser went purple in the face gleaning the last few drops out of the mash). Varieties were compared, and sorted for juice or cider according to taste. These were bottled directly after another pass through the sieve, or decanted into demi-johns for further attention later, depending on the hoped-for outcome.
While all of this was going on, another act involving wild Sloes and Gin was playing out on several of the tables. Evan had been out hedgerow harvesting and had a whopping 6 Kgs of these fantastic fruits of the Blackthorn for all to take and start their Christmas tipple with. The sloes were pricked with forks by hand first to allow for better infusion. Sugar was poured into jars with the fruit on top and then the clear astringent gin poured in. This will be shaken and not stirred, over the course of the next three months, to make incredible “pink gin” liquor. It is a matter of life and death that when this is strained later in the year that the fruits are not discarded, but used for stuffings, cakes and biscuits… no waste here!
Nearly all of the other “waste” apple cake was streamed directly into the hotels bio-energy stream and it will be lighting a bulb near you soon. (Judging by the interest shown by the resident poultry, it was deemed worth taking a few pounds of it onwards to feed other Sugarloaf fowl.)
Kudos as ever to the Hotel Crew on the day who facilitated, “fixed”, and the fantabulous finger ‘freshments they provided!
David, the man of the day and super hero, we thank you!