25 October 2013

Husband, Father, Pastor, Cider Maker

For years an old wooden apple press laid dormant in the shed at my house, for years I wanted to use that press so bad I couldn't stand it.  In Rhode Island I had big plans to use the press and make apple cider.  I cut a deal with my favorite apple man, loaded my truck (oh I how I miss my Ranger) with apples and prepared to make cider, after all I had a press!  Only one problem the apples have to be crushed before they can be pressed.  And a crusher I did not have.  So the apples went through the juicer, into pies and made fabulous applesauce.

Now reader you may want to ask: what is the difference between apple cider and apple juice?  That is a fine question.  Apple cider is a raw unfiltered juice whereas apple juice is a pasteurized and filtered juice.

Over the years I dreamt of ways to crush the apples: with a hammer, purchasing one from Lehmans, or building one myself.  Last year I saw on youtube (cannot find the video now) plans for a bicycle powered apple grinder/crusher.  This summer I spent way too much time developing and creating a bicycle powered apple grinder.  And this Fall, the press was awakened from its long slumber, and for the first time the kiddos and I made apple cider.

On the one hand you can say it is a non-efficient method.  One gallon of cider from a local orchard cost about $7.00.  Whereas the 1/3 bushel of apples to make one gallon of cider cost somewhere in the ballpark of $20.00!  Also, to purchase a gallon you just walk up to the fridge at the orchard barn, pick out your gallon, pay for it, go home and chug a lug.  To make the cider you have to obtain the apples (luckily I have found several sources for free local apples), wash them, cut them (they go through the crusher better), press them, and then pour the cider into to suitable containers.  One gallon takes about an hour to produce.

Efficient, nope; that is if you measure efficiency by less input = more output.  But thanks to this guy, I realized that the long/slow road of homemade apple cider may be the most efficient method of all!  How so you ask?  (full disclosure, Mike is also an amazing apple source)

Enjoyment, satisfaction, and appreciation of the trees that produced the apples.  Cider apples are really only good for cidering (not that appealing to the eye, plus apples with apple maggots - not as bad as it sounds - are only salvageable for cidering).  We are not wasting apples, we have a deeper appreciation of all the work it takes to make "market-ready" apple.  The kids are not as grossed/freaked out by an apple that has a bruise, a scuff, or insect damage.  Finally, we savor our apple cider.  When we would buy it from the store we would drink the gallon in a day or two.  Now, we all slowly drink it and enjoy its complexity.

We've wrapped up the cidering for this year.  This winter I will convert the bicycle powered apple grinder into a hand cranked apple grinder and replace the small (grape press) with a hydraulic automobile jack press.  We ought to then be able to crank out several gallons faster, save some for hard cider making, and maybe just maybe some apple jack (why not, I still have a valid tetanus shot, that prevents lock jaw...doesn't it?).


The crusher.  I built the crusher around a wooden cylinder, but i didnt have a wooden cylinder.  However, I knew someone who could possibly fashion me a cylinder, and get this a cylinder made out of a piece of apple wood.

Who is this someone?  This guy, one of the most talented artists I know!!!

After the cylinder was completed I screwed in a couple dozen stainless steel screws, but i did not screw them all the way in - they stuck up maybe a 1/4 inch.  Then I proceed to procure a couple of old bicycles, an extra bicycle gear, and some scraps of wood.  After several conceptual pictures in my mind I created this (note that I was a liberal arts major, I am not an engineer.  This set up works best when one kid stands on the feet of the crusher and another holds onto the handlebars and leans back).  

First I wash the apples (bad apples dont float)

then I quarter or halve them and put them in the grinder.
 the smaller the apple the better the grinder works.  

next someone from the family peddles while the apples are crushed.  the crushed apples or pomace fall into a bucket lined with an infusion bag (as suggested by the dude at this place, nice to have a home brewing place practically in my backyard).  Then the bag of pomace goes into the small press.  

the liquid flows out, drops into another bucket and cider is made!
 Allow me a few moments to reflect on how fascinating it is to press the pomace and hear the juice as it is released.  First silence, then a heavy sound similar to wringing out a sponge, then a loud sigh, followed by a loud swish, then the cider flows.
Making cider is worth it for nothing else then hearing that sound.  

We made about 2 gallons this year.  I'd hoped to give gallons to all who helped in the making of it, maybe pints.  But this is a long-term deal, the folk who helped (really invested by getting rid of unwanted stuff in their garages) will get cider for years to come.  

22 October 2013

World Series Post: Clergy Baseball Passes

I had big intentions this year to follow and keep track of all major league ball players who are my age or older.  But I did not complete this project. Why? Because I played ball myself this year.  Played ball?  Yelp, I played in a 35+ mens wooden bat league.  It was an amazing experience.  It was a perfect year: I got a hit my first time at bat and I got hit my last at bat.  Can you imagine any other way to bookend a year?  I realized why there are few, if any, 35+ year old catchers in the majors.  By the end of the season my knees had had it.  I couldn't fully participate in the playoffs and had to cut my season short.  Next year, who knows.  More than likely I will go back to my role as a watcher and coach of baseball rather than a player.  Which brings me to the impetus of this blog post.

This week I will fully unpack our television, we gave up tv a couple years back, and hook it up so the family and I can watch the World Series.  I think the World Series is really the only sporting event worth watching.  I hope this major development will continue my desire to develop and nurture a love of baseball with my kids (hauling the television up from the boxes in the basement may be even bigger than putting up the Christmas tree).  Why do I want this love to develop?  Because I love to go to baseball games and if my kids love baseball they too will want to go to games.  Reader: so you are just trying to manipulate your kids so they will love things you love thereby enabling you to do the things you love and make them think they love it too.  Yeah, pretty much.

But on a clergy persons salary?

There was a waxing time in American history when clergymen (historically accurate) were given passes by team owners (who were mainly Catholic) to many Major League Baseball parks.  This was the golden age of baseball.  That time has waned, I'm sure more people watch and love American football.  And with the waning has come the demise of the clergy passes.  Currently only two teams offer the clergy (men & women) passes to their games: Boston and St. Louis.  (And aint it bizarre those two teams are playing in the World Series!)

Don't believe me?
The Cardinals Program.
The Red Sox Program.  Their program is not as spelled out but trust me it is true!

Ever since I arrived in Minneapolis I have been clamoring to the Twins organization that they ought to consider a likely program.  After back-to-back-to-back 90 loss season certainly a couple hundred clergypeople with standing room only seats couldn't hurt the Twins.  I don't know if they will actually consider my proposal to launch such a program, but I can always hope and hope, sometimes, is all a baseball fan has.