To start with, we wash the bottles a day or two in advance but we sterilise them on the day, in a bath with water and Milton. Once you have sterilised them you need to fill them quickly otherwise they are not sterile anymore and you risk your juice to spoil. We transport the bottles to the place of bottling, using a clean wheelbarrow or we use a clean sheet in the wheelbarrow (once the bottles are sterilised do not put in a dirty wheelbarrow!).
I broke the process up in what I called work stations to make it simpler to explain.
Work station 1 Picking Apples
You’ll need: a couple of stepladders, boxes, buckets, 2 canes to bring branches lower, tarpaulins to shake trees, bags to collect apples.
Get a big team of people staring on the apples as soon as possible. Kids love this stage, we encourage them to climb to reach the most difficult ones and we sample each tree to see which apples are the sweetest. Make sure you mix your cookers with your eaters otherwise you will get some really sweet bottles and some really sharp. We prefer to mix them because none of us likes the sharp apple juice.
If you also pick your storing apples the same day, place them in boxes gently so they don’t bruise. If they bruise, they won’t last. If you only pick for juicing you can be more brutal with the picking, you can shake trees too, whatever is faster.
Work station 2 Washing Apples and pulping – team of 2-3 people, kidz enjoy helping washing apples.
We use a hose connected to the tap to fill up a couple of big plastic tubs with water. Once the apples are picked we wash them all, in these tubs, mainly to take the grass off them or any contamination that might spoil our juice and give us a bad tummy.
Once the apples are washed we take them out on a large clean tarpaulin ready to be pulped with the scratter.
The scratter needs electricity so we use an extension cable to take electricity from the house. Once you have a big quantity of apples washed and ready you can start the scratter. The scratter needs to be turned on before starting to throw apples in it. Have a couple of clean truggs ready to catch the pulp coming out of the scratter.
Work station 3– pressing
We work with a team of 2 people to press the pulp and kidz also enjoy helping because you need to be strong and big!
Now that you have the pulp, that will go into a ‘cheese’ that comes with the press. Once the cheese is full, you place it between the two wood plates and start pressing manually. Have two, three tall 10 litter jugs ready to catch the juice.
Work station 4 Bottling-team of 3 people
Set up a couple of tables and a some clean big sheet for the sterilised bottles next to your bottling station. Keep bottles clean by covering them with your sheet to keep away flies and grass.
We use three funnels, three jugs, kitchen towel, vitamin C (100g), a couple of tea spoons, 1 tea strainer (to strain accidental debris from the juice).
As the juice is brought over from the press add 1 tea spoon of vit. C to stop the juice from oxidating. Then pour in bottles using the jugs and funnels. Fill bottles right up to the top.
We designate a couple of people to carry the bottles to the kitchen, to the next workstation, for pasteurising and topping. Children love helping but make sure the path is clear with no tripping hazards, as they will be carrying glass bottles.
Remember to have a big jug and glasses handy on a tray for everyone to sample the fresh juice!
Work station 5 Pasteurizing and topping-team of 3
We pasteurised so far on the hob, by placing the bottles with the apple juice in big pots of boiling water and simmering them at a constant temperature of 70 degrees C for 20 min. Bottles need to be in boiling water up to the neck. Take out with a kitchen towel (they’ll be hot), flick the foam that formed on the top, top up with pasteurised juice and apply lid.
We use a team of three at this station and we bring in a new team after a couple of hours, as it’s a physically demanding task.
Cleaning the equipment
We wash the equipment straight away after use, ready to return next day. We hose them down and then dry with a kitchen towel.
We finish the day sharing food, drinks, songs and stories by the bonfire. It’s a fantastic day, really rewarding, great fun because we do it all with our lovely friends and family, children absolutely love it! And each year we have something to look forward to for the next autumn!
Are you making your own apple juice? How do YOU do it?