Juicing Apples By Freeze – Thawing

Can you process apples at home without a lot of work or expensive equipment? That’s what I tried to find out when I sealed my small harvest in Ziploc bags and put them in the freezer. They went in whole, no peeling, coring or chopping. I thawed them in sealed bags, treated with sulfite, and pressed them by hand (well, by sanitized spatula anyway).  I wrote about my plans last fall and my hopes of finding a quick cheap and easy way to process apples. Here I’ll talk about the results and the details of what I did and why.

No peeling, coring, or chopping

The first detail is that I froze the apples whole. That’s because I was dealing with about 8 lb (3700 g) of apples and I was looking for a method I could use on 20 or 30 lb – too many to chop, peel, or core.  They are ready to process as soon as they are frozen solid, but can be left in the freezer for a convenient time. When it came time to thaw, I opened the bags and treated them with sulfite.

Sulfite, pectic enzyme, and keep the air out

To guard against oxidation, I treated the apples with sulfite while they were still frozen. As a further precaution, I expelled most of the air by partially submerging the Ziploc bag – only the mouth of the bag was above water. They thawed like this, sulfited and with almost no air contact, overnight. The thawed apples were still whole, and the next morning I crushed them by hand (the apples stayed in the bags, so my hands never touched the fruit) and added pectic enzyme. I expelled the air as before and let the pectic enzyme work for about eight hours.

Pressing: Maybe I shouldn’t have used a spatula

That’s when I strained/pressed them in my three-bucket press. With only eight pounds of apples, I couldn’t use the press like I normally would. That’s because the buckets don’t fit together snugly and the small amount of apples fit in the gap between the buckets. Such a press is only effective with 30 lb or more fruit, so I used a sanitized spatula.

I ended up with 1320 ml of juice from my 3.7 kg of apples, which is only 36% juice yield. You can expect double that or more with a conventional crusher/press, and the yield is even lower if you consider only settled juice. I poured the 1320 ml of juice into a 2 liter cylinder and sealed it with an inverted sanitized Ziploc bag that I filled with water.

A DIY settling tank

I wanted to seal the 2 liter cylinder (these rock, by the way – I never knew how much I’d use one until I got it) with little or no air space. I didn’t have a stopper that would fit and it was only about 2/3 full anyway. Imagine in inflating a balloon inside the cylinder. As you inflate it, it presses against the top of the liquid and sides of the cylinder. With enough height, it should form a good seal. I used a Ziploc (sanitized then inverted so that the sanitized surface was in contact with the juice) filled with water instead of a balloon filled with air. At any rate, I siphoned off 1240 ml of clear settled juice the next day (using this, my yield is now only 34%):

SG: 1.048, pH: 3.2, TA: 7 g/L (tartaric).

Keep in mind that time spent thawing, straining, and settling is time that all sorts of microcritters can attack. Use sulfite (about 1 campden tablet or equivilent for every 6 lb/2.7 kg of fruit), minimize air contact, and be careful about cleanliness and sanitation.

A partial success

Oh, one thing I’m really patting myself on the back about is that the apples never browned – not even a little. In the past, I relied on sulfite to reverse the inevitable browning – this does work, but it’s better to prevent it altogether.

So how about my opening question? Well, I did process the apples without expensive equipment, but my juice yield was very low. What happened is that the freeze/thawing/hand crushing worked pretty well to crush the apples but I still needed a good way to press them. My sanitized spatula didn’t cut it. I think that means more fruit so I can use my 3-bucket press or building/buying a small press.



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11 thoughts on “Juicing Apples By Freeze – Thawing

  1. John Hance

    Erroll,

    As always, kudos on a well thought out concept. I can’t help but wonder, though: why go through all the trouble of crushing the fruit? My parents own a fairly decent juicer which I have considered borrowing to juice fruits for wines before, but I’ve never ventured out to ask them for it. I’m wondering if using their juicer would produce similar or better results than pressing or freeze/crushing them. What are your thoughts? Is there a good reason to squishing the juice out rather than using a machine to do the “dirty” work?

  2. Erroll Post author

    Hi John,

    I’ve used a juicer for my store-bought grape wine and an apple wine. It did the job but I had to chop the apples first so they would fit in the chute and the filter screen had to be cleaned repeatedly (it clogged). So I don’t think it would scale up very well. The point of this article was looking for an alternative that home winemakers could use on 20 or 30 lb of fruit.

    Juicers can handle a small amount of fruit really well. For large amounts, you’ll need a crusher (or grinder) and a press. I think there’s a place in the middle where you can’t really justify the cost of a crusher/press, but where a juicer wouldn’t work well. I find myself in the middle ground (or wanting to be!) and that’s what I’m trying to find a solution for.

    Maybe you have a better juicer than I do, one that doesn’t clog as much and accepts whole apples. Or maybe the amount of fruit you use is small enough that chopping and/or cleaning the filter screen doesn’t get in your way. Try out your parents’ juicer and see.

    Erroll

  3. John Hance

    Ah! Okay. I get it now. No; my parents’ juicer won’t be any different. It clogs…er, more like the “pulp spill-out bucket” (for lack of the proper term) gets full… quickly and requires emptying, and the fruit would need to be chopped prior to juicing. Doing 20 or 30 lbs of fruit would indeed be time and labor intensive. My brain wasn’t focusing on the right part of your post. I was thinking along the line of it being possible to obtain more juice through the use of a press or the freeze/crush method than a juicer and that being your reasoning. I’d like to be in the position where I’m in that middle ground, too! Guess for now I’ll just have to stick with what works for me at the one-gallon-at-a-time level. Still taking baby steps toward that winery, though… I sure have a long row to hoe there!

    Keep the great, thought-provoking, and inspiring posts coming, my friend!

    – John

  4. Valerie

    I’m hoping to try apples this season. I like the idea of freezing to break down the cell structure, I’ve done that with stone fruits too.. Hubby promised he’d make me a press (we have great plans), but it hasn’t materialized yet.

    As a kitchen gadget addict, my direction would be to process the apples with an apple peeler-corer-slicer and toss them into a sulfite solution as they are processed to prevent browning. I’ve had my slicer gadget for years and see them all the time at garage sales for a few bucks.

    I wouldn’t do hundreds of pounds with one, but 20-30, no problem.

  5. Erroll Post author

    Thanks Valerie,

    I tried a corer once. It was a cylinder that you were supposed to place over the apple lined up with the core, then press down. After that, I’d chop the apple with a knife. It worked, but it was really tedious. It sounds like these peeler-corer-slicer gadgets are much better – you’re still doing one apple at a time, though, right?

    Erroll

  6. Steve

    Erroll,
    First time bloger and winemaker. Great sight you have here! I’ve made 5 gals. of apple wine 4 weeks ago. It had its first racking a week ago. It’s pretty good, if you like dry wine or the apple jack taste, which I do. Problem arises with the better half. She prefers the sweeter wines like Manischewitz. I’d like to find a happy medium by adding apple juice concentrate. Question is, when to add, and will it turn the finish product vinegar-y after bottling? Or, would you use 4 oz. of L.D. Carlson fruit flavoring and sugar?

  7. Erroll Post author

    Hello Steve,

    Most important thing about sweetening is to stabilize the wine to prevent renewed fermentation. The best way to do that is use sulfite and sorbate on a clear, still wine. Another important thing is not to overdo it. In the same way the barber will take off a little and see how you like it, because he can always take more off but can’t put cut hair back on, you should sweeten a little and see how you or your better half likes it. Here’s an example of how I sweeten wine with sugar. Sweetening with something else (honey, concentrate, or whatever you like) will be similar.

    Hope this helps and that you create a wine that you both love!

    Erroll

  8. Steve

    Thanks Erroll! I missed that section. You have so much great info. it’s hard to find it all. That section just answered all my questions.

  9. janet

    my apples froze have so many don’t want to throw them out. so making wine guess somewhat ice wine but do I have to keep outside during fermentation or can I put in basement.

  10. Erroll Post author

    Hi Janet, I would ferment indoors. Also, make sure the temperature is right for the yeast you are using – if you don’t know, try to keep it between 60F and 70F.

  11. J I

    I’m really glad I found this page! I have more apples to process than I have time and space for. This freezing method, and the three bucket press, will probably buy me some time so I can process my ‘extra’ apples later in the season! I’m usually processing 60 – 90lbs at a time, and in our very small house, there’s only floor space for about three brew buckets at a time. I do have room on my porch for my small chest freezer, so we’ll try this out. Thanks for posting! I can’t wait to read your other posts. 🙂

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