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.