BEAVERBROOK, NY — Cold winds and cloudy skies did not deter several dozen people from visiting the home of Hans Kung in Beaverbrook on Sunday, October 16. Some loaded down with apples picked from their own properties, members of the Upper Delaware chapter of Slow Food and other food aficionados came to participate in the process of making homemade cider, and to bring home a few gallons of their own to enjoy.
The Slow Food Upper Delaware River Chapter formed about four years ago, through the efforts of Trina Polinaro, Anne Hart and others concerned with buying local and eating healthy food, joyfully prepared. Part of the efforts of the Slow Food movement is education, and the Upper Delaware participates in that process as members share their knowledge and their own special passions.
The sprawling acreage of the Kung homestead fosters a number of old apple trees. Folks at the gathering discussed what a great year it has been for apples. The apples on Kung’s trees were large and numerous, ranging in color from red to red-gold to gold. Participants marched up the hillside to shake apples from a tree into a large ground cloth, and pick others by hand.
These apples, and those brought by the visitors, went through a simple but effective process that turned them into delicious sweet cider in the span of about half an hour per batch. The apples are first juiced into an apparatus that works as a large blender. The blended apples with their skins are then brought to a machine with a large thick rubber “balloon” that, when fed water from a simple garden hose, expands into a shape that presses the apples against the side of the holding tank and extracts the juice, which is collected into buckets. From here, it is strained and collected into smaller containers. The end product, called apple mash, is used for compost or animal feed, or left to ferment and made, traditionally, into apple schnapps.
“A variety of apples, mixed together, makes for better tasting cider,” said Kung, and according to apple cider experts, the smaller pippins and other wild apples are better for cider than the larger, softer, sweeter commercial apples.
Kung, who grew up in Switzerland, has been pressing and drinking sweet cider all his life. “We had a room in the basement that was full of pasteurized sweet cider,” he said.
“And then we also made hard cider, you know. Quite a bit.”
Kung still makes his own version of hard cider, a flask of which he brought out to the group for sampling. “You’ll get warmer with a swallow or two,” said one Slow Food member with a smile.
The group also shared homemade bread, cheeses, roasted garlic and end-of-the-summer vegetables.
Of the cider he got to drink that day, the youngest participant, three-year-old Max Blumenthal, said, “It tastes like real apples.”