Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pressing Apple Cider

Last year we had enough apples on our trees to make ONE apple pie, this year we had more apples than the past ten years combined! What better thing to do with an over abundance of apples than make cider! We borrowed a cider press from a friend and spent three evenings pressing cider. In the end we ended up with around 25 gallons of cider. If you're in the market for a good cider press, click here. This is the one we've used for a few years, it's quick and easy to use. Be sure to get the motor, it's well worth it.

First step, while you set up the pressing "station" have your kids pick lots of apples. It's more fun to pick the ones up high. :)

Once your tote is full give them a good rise. The apples Amelia is washing are Yellow Delicious, our personal favorite for making cider. We've also used, Red Delicious, Minnesota Jonathon, Jonathon and Granny Smith???. The Yellow Delicious are the sweetest. If you like a nice mix of sweet and tart try mixing Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious and Jonathons.

Next step is to grind the apples for pressing. We toss them in as fast as we can and this motorized grinder keeps up. I suggest waiting until the end of the season when the apples are sweetest and juiciest. Make you pies early with the apples are a little on the tart side and more crisp. 

When the basket is about 3/4 full, pop on the lid and start pressing. If you don't have an abundance of apples press in small amounts you'll be able to get more juice. (We use a mesh pressing bag inside the wooden tub, it saves a lot apple chunks from getting in the cider.)

The juice starts to flow, now is the time for the first sample of cider! This is Yellow Delicious cider, it starts out very light in color but quickly turns darker. The variety of apple makes a difference in what color the cider ends up being. 

Next we strain out any bits of apple that made it through the press. You can get nice, fine strainers at Brew Supply stores which will keep out all the foam and apple bits much better. We we didn't have that and ended up using our regular kitchen strainer this time, it worked fine. 

Finally, sit by the heater and enjoy and fresh cup of cider.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Living History Farms Field Trip

Last month I joined Ethan's class on a field trip to Living History Farms in Des Moines. I remember going there when I was in 5th grade and enjoyed another trip 25 years later with my son. We had beautiful weather and learned a lot. I would recommend going if you have the chance. We only had time for a few of the many exhibits they have.

Ethan's fifth grade class. 

Our first stop was the 1700's. At this time in history Native American's were living in Iowa in homes like this. It's made out of cat tail leaves which were stitched together. They had two homes, a winter one and summer one. The winter one ;'was tucked within the trees at the bottom of a hill to protect from cold weather. Their summer home was on top of a hill and more open to let a cool breeze in during the warm months. They mainly ate corn and beans which they dried and made soup out of for winter meals. They also hunted and gathered berries.  

Next stop, fast forward 100 years to the 1800's. This picture is of a pig pen. It's basically a pit in the ground with a few logs as walls. A far cry from today's modern climate controlled sheds!

No offense, but these were the ugliest hogs I've ever seen! They were homely, long haired and looked like  wild hogs.

This was a typical barn in the early 1800's unlike the Native Americans the pioneers kept livestock. 

Next was 1850. (She was making fried green tomatoes). Settlers had small homes with a loft which doubled as the children's bedroom and storage room. Land in Iowa at that time cost around $1.75 per acre (if I remember correctly) and windows were $1.25 per pane. Now I realize why a glass window was such a big deal in an episode of Little House on the Prairie. :)  

Next was the 1900 House. By this time they were canning fruits and vegetables to eat during the long winter months. I think this is the point in time that I could actually live in. Earlier in history where they just ate dried food all the time just wouldn't work for me. :) 

Another picture of the 1900 farm. This is the chicken shed and windmill.

A small section of the big red barn had a shop in it. These were some of his tools. 

Ethan and his friend checking out the hogs from the 1900 farm and comparing them to those of the 1800 farm. (They looked much better!)

Ethan riding Corey the Combine.

Our group, color coordinated in blaze orange.

We had a short time after lunch to visit the drug store and blacksmith. Above is a picture of the ingredients they kept on hand to make medicines. Every wall in the building was lined with rows of ingredients to make medicine.

This gal is showing the kids how they made pills. 

Last stop was the blacksmith. He showed us how they used hot coals to heat the metal so it could be bent however in needed. Blacksmiths spent much of their time fixing plows and horse shoes. 

We didn't make it to church, but I thought it was pretty so I took a picture.