Apple Press Update: May 2019

The survey responses gave us a clear indication of the view of the majority – sell the apple press and use the money for good causes in the village. I was just about to put it on Ebay when I had a call from our old friend Mark Newbery who was our village PC for many years. Mark and Helen are both enjoying retirement, still live in Hilperton and importantly, still get a copy of the Keeevil Parish Magazine where they read about the press. They are active members of an allotment/apple orchard group which is keen to try cider making. So the group purchased the press for £400.

At the last meeting of the Keevil Community Amenities Trust it was agreed to ‘divi’ up the £400 amongst the most popular suggestions from the survey. So, £114 each went to the Village Hall and the Keevil Community Shed, and £57 each to Village Website, “More Planting” and KCAT (who also got the final £1 for doing all the admin!)

So, if you’re reading this Mark, good luck with the press and we must get together again to compare experiences and maybe ciders !

We still have the borrowed press and scratter so I hope to be able to use it in the autumn. I have finally acquired the taste for ‘Scrumpy’ !

One final footnote – Geoff and Sarah have been doing the planting. If you haven’t been up there recently, take a walk to the Playing Field and check out the lavender and rosemary around the WI bench – give it a couple of years, it will be an amazing sensory border. Well done both!

Paul Lenaerts, 7th May 2019

Keevil Apple Press – 2019 Survey Results

Many thanks to all who completed the survey in January’s Parish Magazine and on the Village Website.

Although there were only 24 responders, the results were very clear – over 90% thought that Keevil should not have an apple press, 100% were happy for the current press to be sold, and nobody was prepared to store the kit!

There were various suggestions as to where the proceeds of the sale should go. The two most popular were the Village Hall and the ‘Shed’, with the Village Website, Keevil Community Amenities Trust (Marquee), and “more planting”, coming joint 2nd.

See a dashboard of results and comments here

So the bad news for those who have loads of apples and like the juice: there won’t be a village apple press any more. However, there is a possibility of good news – you may recall that the “super” press and scratter that we used last year was borrowed from our son Tim’s mate. This kit is still with us and there is a reasonable chance that he won’t be asking for it back anytime soon. So, I’m hoping that come October it will be available to use again, and if so, I would be happy to host another apple pressing day.

I’ll put the old press on eBay and when we know how much it goes for, my suggestion is that we “divi-up” the proceeds between the above 5 good causes.

Keep your eye on the Village Website for updates.

Paul Lenaerts, 5th March 2019

The Keevil Apple Press: the story and the question

The Story

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.

The Question

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:

  1. Should Keevil have an apple press?
  2. Are you happy for the old press to be sold? If so, what should we do with the money?
  3. Should we upgrade to better kit? If so, where do we get the money?
  4. How do you think we could best organise/share responsibility for apple pressing and ongoing maintenance of the equipment in the future?
  5. Would you be able to help? Eg by hosting an apple pressing day, storing the kit, helping organise events?

The survey is now closed

Thank you! Paul Lenaerts: 5 Strongs Close – lenaerts@waitrose.com


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