The Keevil Apple Press: the story and the question
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In 2015, the Keevil Society was closed, and its funds went to village initiatives on which the members bid, one of which was around £650 for an apple press. The equipment purchased consists of a small hand operated ‘scratter’ to turn apples into ‘mash’, and a screw press to squeeze the juice from the mash.
In 2016 and 2017, the Village Hall was used on an October Saturday for a gathering of villagers to turn their apples into juice, and they were very sociable occasions, memorable particularly for Geoff West’s bacon butties as well as the general fun of a get-together doing something useful. Leaving the social aspects aside, however, some lessons were learned from the experience of turning apples into juice:
- The apples need to be quartered and cored before scratting.
- It’s very labour intensive – turning the handle of the scratter and the screw of the press is hard work!
- It’s quite messy – you can’t avoid a certain amount of apple detritus going everywhere.
- There’s a lot of compressed ‘mash’ to dispose of – although it’s good for the compost heap!
- You have to store the kit for the other 364 days of the year.
When the 2018 season approached, apple trees were laden with a record harvest and the Village Hall had its shiny new floor. Heads were being scratched! So I volunteered to host a session in my garage. Coincidentally, our son had also been squeezing apples with some kit borrowed from a mate. The equipment was more robust and efficient than ours; and Tim suggested we borrow it.
Apple pressing Saturday dawned cold and wet: a few villagers arrived with bags of apples so we set to with the loaned kit. Some real advantages soon became apparent:
- The scratter has an electric motor: you just chuck whole rinsed fruit into its hopper – no need to slice or core them. This makes for fast and easy work producing the mash!
- The press is powered by mains water pressure. Once you have filled it with the mash, you just turn on the hose and watch the juice pour out. (You still get some mess, water leaking from hose joints etc.)
- The mains-powered pressure extracts far more juice than hand-wound pressure, and the compressed mash waste is much drier and better for the compost heap
- The whole process is quicker, more productive and less labour intensive – despite the cold and rain (and lack of bacon butties) we had some fun!
We had soon exhausted the initial apple supply so Ian Simpson drove around to apple tree owners and came back loaded. The problem then was that not many people wanted the juice back, so by lunchtime everyone had enough juice and we were ready to quit. I ended up with around 15 gallons of it in every available container I could find.
The juice was tasty but without pasteurisation has a short shelf life so I made most of it into cider which is ok but not fizzy.
So what of the future?
Those of us who have used both scratters and presses feel that the original kit is not suitable for sustained use as a village press; it is too labour intensive, inefficient, and has already had to be repaired at a cost of £75. It’s in good condition currently and we could probably sell it for around £400. But as it’s a village asset, we couldn’t do so without an ‘ok’ from villagers.
New kit would be expensive to buy – around £1,500. It’s bigger to store, but not much. The ones we borrowed are currently stored with me, and the likelihood is that we could hang on to them for next season. We may be able to purchase them second hand but Tim’s mate is currently asking around £1,300.
The much bigger question is whether Keevil still wants an apple press? Judging by this years’ experience, there’s not a great demand for apple juice although people are very happy to see their apples being used rather than rot. And where do we use it and store it? The Village Hall with its new floor is not a good place to press apples.
Other villages that run apple-pressing days seem to have a group such as a cider club that organise the event – currently there is no group in Keevil that has such responsibility.
Please let us know what you think about these questions:
- Should Keevil have an apple press?
- Are you happy for the old press to be sold? If so, what should we do with the money?
- Should we upgrade to better kit? If so, where do we get the money?
- How do you think we could best organise/share responsibility for apple pressing and ongoing maintenance of the equipment in the future?
- Would you be able to help? Eg by hosting an apple pressing day, storing the kit, helping organise events?
Please let us have your thoughts by contacting me directly, or completing the short questionnaire in the Parish Magazine, or follow this link to complete online.
Thank you! Paul Lenaerts: 5 Strongs Close – firstname.lastname@example.org
Apple Pressing Day 2018: Saturday 6th October
It has been a good year for apples in Keevil!
Paul Lenaerts will be hosting the apple press in his front garden at 5 Strongs Close (or in the garage if it’s raining) next Saturday from 9.30am – 2pm
Please feel free to come around with your apples, and don’t forget containers to take away your juice! 🙂
Apple Pressing Day 2017
Bacon butties, bucket loads of apples, willing hopper operators and apple choppers all made this October’s apple pressing a whole lot of fun and plenty of juice for us all to take home.
Pictures by Sarah J Dow