Squish the fruit, make the Drink

Perry, I think we’re ready. You know why? Because I can feel it… in here.
Walter, where are you pointing to?

That’s right- we’re trying our hand at making Perry-Cider.

Harvest began with the pear trees on our Hillstead in late September and continued through October. Grandma and Pap came over and we had a real blast! We’re not really sure what varieties we have, but the larger and more abundant seem like they may be a variety of Forelle or Green Anjou, and the smaller ones may be some kind of Anjou (but they seem to be a lot smaller than normal). In any case, this year we learned that pears won’t really ripen on the tree, but rather require being picked when mature (or gathered once dropped) and allowed to hang out for a bit. Once they start to become just a little soft around the stem, they seem to be nicely sweet without too much “grittyness.”

When ripe, both varieties that we have on the property taste great, even if the yield is fairly low and the fruits themselves are pretty small. We ended up with about 30lbs- I suppose that’s not too bad for 2 never-maintained trees. If anyone can positively identify the variety, I think that would be terrific.

A fresh-washed batch of some of the nicer-looking pears.

Once winter is in full swing, I plant to prune the pear trees fairly heavily (moreso than last year) to hopefully increase yield and make more of the pears reachable. The larger of the two trees is over 30 feet tall!

We don’t have any apple trees on the property, and despite visiting several local nurseries, we weren’t even able find any saplings to plant. Hopefully we can find some next year (I’d like to find a peach and a few cherrys as well!), now that Pasture #4 is just about clear and we have the space to plant and access them.

Who knows things about germinating apple seeds? There is a lone roadside tree along a local country route that grows plenty of fruit that no one picks…..we snagged one during one of our walks and it was about one of the most delicious apples we’ve ever had. It sure would be great to grow some of them!

Blessed we are, and our lovely neighbors have several apple trees with great yields- far more than what they want for themselves. On top of what they gifted us, they also invited us to come up to their hilltop property and pick as much as we liked. Fun family activities, hooray!

In total, we ended up with around 100lbs of fruit total to squish. I let them sit in the garage for a bit to ripen a little further, then bagged them all up and stuck them in the chest freezer in the basement. There they sat for…..longer than intended. I wanted them to freeze up to make crushing them easier, since we don’t have an appropriate grinder.

Well, I let them sit for several weeks- and now it’s too cold for open-air fermentation. They have softened up quite a bit, and I suppose an added bonus has been that there weren’t any yellowjackets left to disturb us for the juicing process.

100lbs of fruit really isn’t very much at all for squeezins, so to invest in a ready-made crusher/grinder and press would be a bit extravagant for us right now. We have plenty of buckets though, so with a minimum investment in reinforcement zip ties, this very simple press came together in about 15 minutes.

The final step was simply to drill some holes for the juice to run out. Press completed, it was time to smash up some apples for juice extraction.

Our first iteration occurred outside, just after Charlie got home from school. It involved a cement block and much bucket-sitting for a first squeeze. Too soon however, it started to get dark, and we moved production into the garage where additional squishing apparatus might be employed.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and if we were to have the full batch completely pressed before daybreak, we needed some mechanical advantage….in the form of hydraulic pressure.

Thankfully, a 6-ton bottle jack, a few chunks of 2×4, and a nice chestnut shelf board worked in tandem with the garage ceiling joist to provide all the pressure needed.

Without a crusher/grinder, I thought maybe we’d get a few gallons if we were lucky….but I was surprised so find that after the second press, we had a little over 6 gallons of apple/pear juice!

And just look at those apple/pear husks! They look like raisins! Let it be known- for small batches, freezing and pressing fruit works amazingly well, no crushing/grinding necessary!

Post-squeeze, we filtered the juice through some fine nylon mesh and started putting it into containers. We reserved about a gallon and a half to drink fresh and give out to pals. Not really knowing what to do with the fruit-husks, I grabbed a small pile of them and submerged them in about a half gallon of the juice and placed them atop the fridge to make apple cider vinegar.

The remaining 5ish gallons went right back into a bucket. I haven’t brewed any beverages in at least a decade, so this will be my first shot in a while. Since the fruit was completely frozen for several weeks, I can’t count on any natural yeast living through the ordeal. It’s also too cold to brew outside or in the garage anymore. So I dumped some yeast in, gave it a stir, and capped it with an air-tight lid and a check valve (compression fit with a PVC fitting on the underside). I imagine fermentation will be slow, if it happens at all, but giving it a seat next to the fireplace is the most warmth I can offer.

Updates will be forthcoming after a few weeks. In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions about what to do with a large pile of fruit husks, please leave me a comment about it. If all else fails, I suppose I could toss them in the Pasture #3 garden plot to rot in the Spring- if the deer don’t get to them first!

About Xaq

Just living life as free and open as can be in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania!
This entry was posted in Hillstead Foods and Feeds, Outsidey Stuff and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Squish the fruit, make the Drink

  1. Maggi Davidson says:

    Fascinating! Looking forward to future news of just how much you can squeeze out of a pear. More, I’ll bet, than what you can squeeze from a turnip. This reminds me of my mother’s pear tree (at Miss Havisham’s, now sadly bulldozed to a better place). She made pear jam and pear sauce, cutting away the wormy parts, with what we couldn’t finish, fresh. Clarke got fancy and cooked up brandied pears for desert. One of our Las Cruces friends shares his dried pear slices – heavenly!

    • Xaq says:

      Pears > Turnips for the squeezins 🙂 I do love me some candied pears! I simmer them peeled but whole in sweet syrup with beet juice and wine, slice them thin, and they always turn out beautiful! I intend to prune the pear trees pretty hard this year- if they survive they’ll produce a little better, and the pears will be more easy to reach!

      • Maggi Davidson says:

        Stop! You’re making me hungry – and just two weeks away from bloodtests for my semi-annual checkup – how cruel is that? I intend to try your candied pear recipe immediately after.

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