View our Main Site »

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Crushing/pressing on the back forty - Week 2 recap

A chilly morning gives way to a perfect afternoon for making wine.

Raw cider
By Steve Siciliano

Light from the early morning sun splashed upon the autumn-colored leaves on the tops of the tall trees surrounding the store’s back parking lot. It was cold, so cold that I zipped an old windbreaker up over a hooded sweatshirt and considered grabbing a pair of gloves from the back of my Blazer. After we hauled the equipment out of the warehouse I sat down with a steaming cup of coffee, lit my pipe, and waited for the next round of wine and cider makers.

Former Siciliano’s staffer Wes Eaton was the first to show up. Wes, who is currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology at Michigan State, was accompanied by one of his professors who wanted to learn how to make cider. Four big plastic bags of apples were unloaded, and while I listened to Wes instructing his instructor on the use the fruit crusher and the ratchet press, I thought how this was an interesting twist on the traditional practice of a student placing an apple on a teacher’s desk.

Before long the parking lot was full of cars and pick-ups loaded with more grapes that had to be run through the crusher/de-stemmer. More instructions were given to novice winemakers and there were more gravity tests and ph readings. Those folks who had crushed grapes on the previous Saturday returned with their plastic fermenters filled with fermented must and we helped them squeeze the grape skins, collect the runnings, and fill up their carboys.

Pressed apples

As the sun continued to climb in a cloudless sky, the temperature warmed and the bees showed up. There are always a lot of bees around when you’re working with sweet juice. It can be disconcerting at first, but if you want to be a winemaker you have to learn to ignore them. Eventually you realize that they’re simply after that sweet juice, that they're just doing what their instincts are telling them to do, and unless you flail at them wildly, they will simply leave you alone. It’s a good lesson in learning to live and let live.

During a brief lull in the activity Barb and I crushed, de-stemmed and took gravity and ph readings on the grapes that we had picked up at Taylor Ridge. There was a little less sugar in the juice than I would have liked and the acidity was a tad too high. We adjusted the sugar, but after I tasted the juice I decided that I would ignore the ph reading, rely on what my taste buds were telling me, and leave the acidity alone. Wine making, after all, is just as much an art as it is a science.

Remember, all interested wine & cider makers are invited to use our crushers, de-stemmers, and basket presses free of charge for the next three Saturdays (Oct. 8, 15, 22). Please contact us with any questions regarding this offer specifically or wine/cider making in general.

Pre-pressed apples

No comments:

Post a Comment