Harvest is in Full Swing
As evidenced by the number of flat bed trucks hauling apples and bins up and down Ridge Rd and Rt 104, harvest is in full swing. To date, we have picked Gala, McIntosh, Cortland and Empire dessert varieties, as well as two of our favorite English cider varieties (Yarlington Mill and Chisel Jersey) on 5 year old trees. Each week decisions are made as what varieties are ready to pick and to which buyer they should go. The day before empty bins are trucked to the orchards from the bin barn, and using either a smaller orchard tractor or “bin buggy”, bins are dispersed into the orchard. Picking crews are shuttled to and fro, and after the full bins are pulled out the orchard, they are loaded onto an eighteen wheeler and hauled down the road, well that is except for those reserved for the cider press.
It’s exciting to have our inventory of apples growing in the new cold storage building! Some apples are going into the big room at 32 degrees F, while others will spend a couple weeks sweating in the 50 degree F room. The sweating process is crucial for maximizing the potential flavors and overall cider quality in some of our varieties. As we make final electric and plumbing connections to the press, we are getting even more excited to start tipping bins the week of October 4th.
The growing season was no less than ideal in 2021. Plenty of sun and warm weather coupled with the occasional drenching rains throughout the season has led to some very wonderful looking apples. My initial read is that sugar levels will be down slightly this year due to the overall size of the apples, but that flavor is exceptional. Only time will tell whether that translates through to the cider. We always rely on the quality of the fruit to yield the finest award winning ciders.
Image 1: We use an iodine solution developed at Cornell University specifically for use on apples. The iodine reacts with carbohydrates and turns the apple flesh dark. As cider makers, our goal is to press and ferment the apples when no carbohydrates remain, as they have all been converted to fermentable sugars and the apples are at peak ripeness!
Image 2: The first bin of apples harvested contained Kingston Black from two and three year old trees. This apple is considered of vintage quality and has an acid, sugar and tannin balance suitable for a single varietal cider. Expect a very special small release next year!
Image 3: Our first load of Rhode Island Greenings makes it to the barn! One of first harvests of the season is the Rhode Island Greening. For those Mr. and Mrs. Green fans, expect our first fermentations of these single variety ciders very soon!
Image 4: Our barn has three cold rooms. This allows us to dedicate one or two of them as sweating rooms. The process of sweating involves keeping the harvested apples at 50 degrees F for a couple of weeks to allow them to completely ripen off the tree. This is an ideal treatment especially for some varieties that ripen unevenly throughout the orchard.
Image 6: Empty bins are deployed into the orchard in preparation for the harvest crews to arrive.
Image 7: A bin trailer is used to get the apples from the orchard to the cider barn or to a place where the big truck can be loaded.
Image 8: When 56 bins are ready, the truck gets loaded. The crew will pick and truck up to 300 twenty bushel bins per day, each carrying approximately 840 pounds of apples.