A writer / adventurer who loves an awesome weekend.
Published June 3rd 2013
240 kilos of apples a day keeps the doctor away
I have always been a bit jealous of the Italian families that come together to process tomatoes, share a meal and create memories. Nothing in my own family or social circle really comes close. So this year I decided to do something about it with some apples gleaned from a local orchard. I hope that my experience gives you a bit of inspiration and some planning suggestions to bring your own food experience to life. This is a general article on community food processing days, if you are interested in each of the steps involved with our day please send me a message or continue your research elsewhere online.
1. What produce is available and what can I use it for?
Making pasta sauce in late Summer is a grand idea – pasta sauce can be used in many different meals from the glut of tomatoes (and maybe garlic and basil) available in late Summer. In my case, I had access to apples from a local orchard. I love apple crumble and pies, possibly too much, so I wanted to think of another use. I also like cider and have friends with brewing experience, so we decided to make alcoholic cider together. Once I had interest from about 5 friends, I decided it was worthwhile going ahead and organising a group food-processing day.
2. What equipment is needed? Having to buy specialist equipment can be expensive – and there's always the risk that there'll be a few experiments before you hit on the food experience that will become your tradition. I'd suggest doing some research on what you need, then see how you can wing it by borrowing and re-purposing. To process the apples we needed to crush and press them. We borrowed a small mulcher for a crusher; once clean it was perfect for shredding the apples. I researched a lot on line for an apple press, with very little luck. Searching for a "fruit press" got more results, but even still I was considering making one myself. I asked everyone I know and was very lucky to be able to borrow a press from a friend of a friend. We had enough brew equipment from with in the group to make about 140 litres of cider.
People are so busy, they don't want to go to a food processing day and then wait for 4 hours for the fruit to arrive or get frustrated because there aren't enough sharp knives for everyone to use or watch people work out how to use the equipment. By planning ahead and managing the day as you would an important event, your food-processing day will be remembered for all the positive reasons. I found out when the apples would be ready and negotiated the best time for our volunteer pickers to go to the orchard. I organised equipment to be to picked up before the processing day so it could be explored before the troops arrived. I made a big batch of soup and asked people to bring food and drinks to share for lunch – food, as always, is a great way to raise moral as you work. Organising your army will depend on how your friends communicate best- group emails, a facebook page or text messages are useful. Think about how you can make it fun as well as providing information.
4. Know your limits and ask for help You don't have to be the expert in everything; so don't feel as though you have to research all aspects of the day. By asking others for help, you give them ownership of the day too, which is a handy way of getting them just as excited about the day as you are. I organised the apples, equipment and work force, while others used their brewing knowledge or were able to reverse with a trailer or were happy to quarter apples all afternoon.
5. Don't forget to adequately compensate for the produce and borrowed equipment - with cash, produce or a nice bottle of wine. If you are hoping to make this an ongoing tradition, this is especially important!
As a result of our apple-processing day, we made 124 Litres of juice. We are yet to finalise the fermentation, but even before we taste the end product, it feels like it could be a new tradition for our friends. It was a great day with everyone involved in crushing, pressing, eating and cleaning. We got to experience the cider making process first hand, taste apple juice fresh from the press, hang out with friends and find a use for apples that would have otherwise been wasted.
As someone who sees food going to waste, I think your idea is commendable.
I'd like to do something about the large amount of olives and mandarins that go to waste on peoples trees in the city and suburbs, but I don't know what is required to press olives for oil - and the mandarins are nearly always riddled with Mediterranean fruit fly.