Q&A with Scott Miller, Pietree Orchardist Extraordinaire
Q: What is the basic process of pressing cider?
A: We use primarily tree picked fruit, which is kept in optimal conditions. The apples are washed, ground-up, and pressed. Once pressed, the cider is run through Ultra Violet light, which prevents bacteria from growing. This treatment does not affect the flavor of the cider and keeps it safe. It is then stored in a cold tank until bottled. After UV treatment, the cider needs to be refrigerated; otherwise it will eventually become fizzy. When refrigerated, it will last for at least two weeks. We do not use preservatives.
It is important to note, we use the ripest fruit available. Green fruit is not used. At it’s ripest, the fruit has the best sugar content and is at the peak of flavor. This time of year (late fall), all of the fruit stored in our cooler is ripe enough for delicious cider. Earlier in the season, more of a selection process is required to ensure the best possible flavor. Early apples are used at the very beginning of the season, and in recent years, first pressings have been incredibly good.
Q: How do you determine the blend of apples to press each week?
A: There is definitely an art to it. Mac apples make a great base. Plain macintosh cider is pretty good. 1-2 weekends a year, we will have just a mac cider. From there, we tweak it, adding different varieties. The flavor is slightly different with each pressing. We go through the available apples each week to choose. Keeping great cider apples aside is part of the thought process all season in the orchard.
Q: Do you have any personal favorite apple varieties to add flavor to the cider?
A: I enjoy Baldwins, Cox’s Orange Pippins, Pinovas…. Adding just a small percentage of any of these will improve the cider’s base flavor. Macouns also make a great cider at certain points in the season.
Q: How many apples are required for a cider pressing?
A: A bushel of apples yields 2.5 gallons of cider. Depending on the cider demand of the week (we typically press on Fridays) we dedicate 3/4 of a day up to a full day for the cider pressing process. A lot of cleaning is involved in this time frame; it is vital for everything to be sanitized.