The hulking forty-eight inch cider press towered above us and the wind whistled through the open barn doors. It was bone chilling cold inside Mr B.L. Rhodes cider mill and my six and eight year-old siblings’ teeth were chattering despite being bundled up in wool plaid jackets. I was cold too, but as the oldest I was supposed to be helping my father as he arranged for our apples to be pressed, so it wouldn’t do to shiver like the little ones.
We had spent all morning crouched down searching through the abandoned apple orchard across from our house in Northeast Ohio for undamaged fruit among the windfall. The trees yielded a plentiful harvest of Red Delicious apples but many were worm eaten or starting to rot so we had to search carefully. We stepped gingerly among the fall leaves seeking unblemished apples so that we had good fruit to take to Mr Rhodes.
The mill sat along the railroad tracks in the nearby town of Chardon, Ohio. When we arrived, the dusty parking lot was lined with cars and station wagons loaded with apples. We watched with rapt attention as bushel after bushel were hosed down, crushed and then pushed into the yawning press. When every last drop of juice had been squeezed out the pulp was pushed aside and a new batch loaded. Everyone’s juice went into a huge tank right beside the press.
While we had brought Red Delicious, others had Macintosh, Stayman and Jonathan varieties. They say that the flavor of cider depends on the blending of juices from different apple varieties. We couldn’t predict the outcome from blending the sweet, tart and aromatic flavors that were thus comingled but we knew it would be tangy and crisp. The freshly squeezed cider gushed from hoses into our waiting glass jugs. Unfiltered, the juice was swimming with solids.
For every bushel we brought we got three gallons of cider and the house kept one – quite a bargain as there was no other fee. My father intended to make hard cider from some of the haul, his big project for that winter. The rest we put outside on the porch to drink later.
While apple cider still conjures up images of pressing our own apples and fresh from the orchard juice, today all cider is pasteurized and mills like Mr Rhodes’ are long gone. Here in Delaware we enjoy cider made by the folks at Zieglers from local apples. Pasteurized yes, but no additives or preservatives, so close to the cider of memory.
There’s really nothing better than a glass of icy cold cider served with a slice of apple pie smothered in ice cream. While I’ve enjoyed many a gourmet apple pie or tart over the years, my favorite is still my mother’s traditional double crust pie seasoned simply with a sugar cinnamon mix. This week, inspired by my first taste of this season’s cider, I stopped by our CSA, picked out a bunch of Gala apples and made that pie. There’s still nothing like it.
Traditional Double Crust Apple Pie
Pie Crust Dough
Use your favorite dough recipe or try this butter-based dough made in a food processor.
2 cups flour
1 stick cold butter cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon sugar
5-6 tablespoons ice water
Combine dry ingredients and butter in bowl of a food processor. Process for 30 seconds to 1 minute till butter is combined. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time till dough starts to come together. Turn out onto wax paper and gently consolidate dough. Cut into 2 halves and wrap each in wax paper. Form into disk shape and refrigerate for at least one hour.
5-6 apples peeled, cored and sliced. Select firm flesh apples.
¾ to 1 cup sugar depending on tartness of apples
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ tablespoon butter cut into small pieces
1 beaten egg
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Remove dough from refrigerator ~15 minutes before rolling crust
Roll bottom crust, working from the center to the outer edges. Place in pie pan, letting excess hang over the edge.
Place apple slices in the pie pan and pour sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg mixture over them. Place butter pieces on top of the apple slices around the pie pan.
Roll top crust and place on top of the apples. Trim edges of dough to 1 inch. Fold top crust around the bottom crust all around the pie plate. Crimp dough using both middle fingers.
Brush top crust with egg wash.
Place pie in hot oven and bake for 10 minutes. Turn heat down to 350 degrees and bake for another ~45 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Remove and cool on the counter. Serve with ice cream.
For those who love to sip a hot cider, here is a recipe that will warm your toes.
Hot Cider Toddy
6-8 ounces boiling cider, heated in microwave or in a saucepan
2 ounces dark rum or flavored vodka
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 slice lemon
Dash grated nutmeg
One cinnamon stick
Combine ingredients and insert cinnamon stick. Sip slowly and enjoy!
This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging #408, started by Haalo and an ongoing tradition in English and Italian.