It's the first day of pressing at Virtue Farm! This is like the holidays for us, as we finally get to break into the early season apples to start pressing our juice that we'll ferment over the next few months for our cider. It's like opening the very best present that will become even more amazing over time.
Today we’re pressing mixed blend of Jonagold, Macintosh, and Paula Reds from three of our local farmers, Seedling Fruit, Overhiser Orchards, and Gold Coast Farms. The first press of the season is alway one of the most anticipated.
We can talk to our farmers and do some sampling of fruit, but we won’t really know what to expect from these apples until we smash that first bin. When the apples arrive, we sample the fruit by simply tasting a slice of apple. We can also assess the firmness and juiciness by feel. Typically early season apples tends to be less intense in flavor, but they can make for great cider to blend with.
Next, we use a refractometer to test the Brix, or sugar content, of the cider. This gives us an indication of the fermentable sugars in the fruit, which in simple terms means whether these apples are good for cidermaking. Apples that we tested last week were right on target (we aim for apples that register 10 Brix or above).
This season is looking really promising. Early season fruit is usually pretty low in sugar content, and this season we’re starting considerably higher than were we’ve started the last few years.
This first press is going to go several different directions over the course of the next week. First, we’ll be pulling fresh juice into the yeast propagation system to start our first batch of yeast for season. In about a week we’ll have enough yeast to pitch into three separate tanks. Secondly, we’ll be using some of this juice to blend into our next batch of Michigan Cherry, and the remainder will be blended with juice pressed later this week, to start our first large batch fermentation for the season.
You can learn more about our cidermaking process during one of our production tours, or visit us any day of the week. We'll also have more cider season fun at our 2nd Annual Apple Fest from Sept. 28-Oct. 1, when we'll release Percheron, have apple-themed games, food for purchase, and live music from regional acts. We'd love for you to join us!