cider pressing in da hood

IMG_8915 The Friendly neighborhood was the recipient of a Eugene neighborhood grant for fruit tree gleaning, processing, and educating this year, thanks to Matt Lutter and his partner, Jessica Jackowski, who also organizes work days for the exemplary Common Ground Garden, a neighborhood community garden staffed by volunteers. The Friendly Fruit Tree Project has spent the last month harvesting neighborhood trees and plants like crazy: blackberries, plums, apples, pears, etc., etc.

IMG_8912Last week, it was apples.  Amber gold.  Oregon T.  They managed to source an unused cider press in someone’s shed, and we all pitched in and took home some great cider to share! Using the press was much easier than I had expected; it’s a relatively simple operation, with a motorized rotor on one end to grind the apples and a hand-powered press to crank down the juice.  Apple bits got composted.  No waste, very little muss, very little fuss.

And of course, it was a brilliant way to connect with likeminded urban homesteading folks in the ‘hood: we shared cider recipes, taste-tested beet kvasses and hippie cookies, grumbled about grapes (ok, that was me), and watched apple-cheeked kids running around like monkeys.  What a wonderful paradise we live in.

See the full album here, and if you’re interested in taking part or spreading the word about the project, comment and I’ll make sure Matt gets your info.  It would be wonderful if other Eugene neighborhoods could get in on the gleaning action, since it’s such a service to those with unused fruit and to those who want to do the labor to share in the harvest.

The project was also the source of my prune plums for my recent lekvar undertaking, coming soon to a blog post near you.

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lane county apple cider

One of the things I missed most in California was decent apple cider.  When we moved to Oregon, it was time to rejoice!  There doesn’t seem to be as much cider in markets as one would think, so when you find a source, hang on and don’t let go.

Or, make some fresh apple cider jelly, and you can have it all year ’round!

I get my cider at River Bend Farm, lately made famous by an appearance on KLCC’s Food for Thought radio program (listen to the .mp3 archive here).  The farm, just outside Pleasant Hill beyond the south Eugene hills, is primarily an orchard, and apples are plentiful.  This weekend, Annette set me up with the crispest, juiciest Empires, Liberties, and Mutsus for my apple-picky husband.  He approved of the crispiness factor, so I wholeheartedly recommend these apples.

One of the best parts of cider at River Bend Farm is experiencing the turn of the season.  They use different apples throughout autumn, and you can taste it in the cider, which sweetens up and transforms as the weather gets cooler.

In Lane County, cider is also available at Detering’s Orchard and Thistledown Farm.

Where do you get your cider?

apple cider donuts

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Post Secret:  I still pine for Michigan in the fall.

No, these cider donuts are not even vaguely comparable to the freshly fried cider donuts at the Franklin Cider Mill in Franklin, Michigan, one of the most glorious places of my childhood (and dare I say all NW suburban Detroit childhoods for over a century?).  Those cinnamon donuts, slicked with grease and perfuming the air all the way up to heaven, are a national treasure. But these Oregon ones are pretty good, and they are better than anything similar I’ve tasted anywhere.  I give you two views of my Saturday purchase:  one regular snapshot, and one via donut cam.

The cider is, well, still early.  The light color means they’re using early-season apples, which aren’t nearly as sweet and tart and wonderful as the mid-season ones.  The Franklin Cider Mill uses Honey Crisp apples.  In Oregon, we use whatever we have.  There is no real cider mill tradition here at all, but cider presses seem to pop up here and there in the fall, and if you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself next to one at a festival or fair.  I make trips up to Corvallis or out to Thistledown Farm in Junction City to buy apple cider that has been UV-treated instead of pasteurized (which kills the fresh, wild taste of apple cider in season).  Beggars can’t be choosers.  But they can shop wisely.