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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Claire Wolfe

Of apples and storms

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

We had a whomp of a storm blow through here yesterday. Oh, no Sandy or Katrina. Not even a Great Gale of Ought Seven. But a pretty good sample of winter weather.

Real estate signs and garbage cans cartwheeled through the streets. The smaller rivers all overflowed, leaving farmhouses sitting on grassy islands. Lots of limbs went flying. And two big pieces of sheet metal blew off my neighbor’s wood pile and into my yard while I was gathering the last of the apples, which the winds had kindly harvested for me.

Those airborne guillotine blades didn’t even come close to me, luckily. But the tremendous clatter and bang definitely made me jump.


The storm delivered another 20 or 25 pounds of apples (all the ones that had been too high or too awkwardly placed for me to get last month). These are all damaged — bird-pecked and cracked or bruised from smacking the earth. But I figure even after cutting away the bad stuff, I’ve got at least 16 pounds of seriously ripe apples.

And that’s enough for more cider!

I don’t have a press. And though both a Victorio food strainer and a Norpro peeler-slicer-corer are on their way from Amazon (thanks to a pair of lovely, so far unknown, people who visited my wish list), if they don’t arrive today this is going to be a hand-processing job. Those apples aren’t in good enough shape to last long. (And yes, I do know you don’t need to peel cider apples; advice varies on coring.)

So I looked up how to make cider without a press. Naturally the ‘Net is full of advice. And naturally all of it’s either contradictory or at least all over the place.

One site says to pound the apples into pulp with a 2×4. Or something like that.

Another says to cook apple slices (which I’d rather not do) and process them in a blender before squeezing the juice out.

Another says, “No, no! Not a blender!” Smash ’em with a meat tenderizer or a pint jar or a rolling pin.

Yet another advises mooshing them up with a hand-held electric blender.

And that’s even before you get to the actual squeezing-the-juice-out part. Ugh. It all sounds like a terrible mess — though I admit I rather like the picture of whaling away at ripe apples with a piece of structural lumber — as long as I’m wearing a space suit.

So … I’m asking the Living Freedom Commentariat. You’ve done this before. What works best for you?


In much more serious storm news, new commentor “art w,” another who just emerged from Sandy’s darkness, left this comment yesterday. I thought it needed to be brought forward since it contains serious food for thought on the matter of preps vs flooding (bolded by me). (I did some very “lite” editing.)

Just emerging from the effects of Sandy on the flooded south shore of Long Island, NY. Approximately 13 days — no electric, no cable for internet, no heat. Here the tidal surge and the wind effect on trees with leaves and evergreens further enhanced the damages to homes and power.

Thankfully there was no loss of life in my area but really extensive damage and losses in the nearby Rockaway peninsula. The storm surge was unprecedented in the area and ran through the streets invading homes through driveways and garages, flooding low areas of homes and basements, many of which had never been flooded before.

Imagine 4 to 5 feet of water in the streets. I believe cable and electric were turned off at the start of storm. Most cars left in the street were totaled by the salt water surge.

Some conclusions: Nothing could have prevented the ocean surge or protected from it. Items of preparation helped to survive in the 1800′s atmosphere. Campstoves, kerosene lamps, and wood fires for cooking helped keep morale up. Frozen 2-litre bottles of water kept food ok in coolers. But after nearly two weeks most fuel supplies were nearly gone. One might suggest a wood stove, but one gent lost 10 cords of wood — washed away in the surge. Gas generators were a mixed blessing, since people could run pumps and refrigerators, but the need for constant refueling a was a pain and the gas a safety hazard. Also I believe in certain areas gas hot water heaters tore loose, with fire and burn downs as a result.

Food on hand was great, as was stored water since the [emergency responders] were slow in coming as all had emergencies to deal with. The more you learned and prepared in advance the better you fared and the sooner you were able to help others around you who were in worse shape. Also cell phones don’t work if the power to the cell tower is interrupted.

Hope this helps others. Prepare so you are not helpless.

24 Responses to “Of apples and storms”

  1. Karen Says:

    PNW storm was front page news this morning when I logged on and you, Claire, were my first thought! Thanks so much for the update that you’re OK and not badly affected. Hope those apple cidering devices reach you in time to make light work of the fortuitous harvest that the storm brought.

    art w’s Sandy comment struck me in that no matter how prepared one is, there will always seem to be the unexpected and unimaginable. I try to envision 10 cords of firewood washing away. I might go out at first light and give my woodpile a grateful pat on the head. I guess it’s situations like that that prove the theory that two is one and one is none or that Murphy knew what he was talking about.

  2. Bear Says:

    Apples: I find it difficult to believe the apples really care what technique you use to macerate the tissue. Unless someone has definite info otherwise, I suspect the preference for “smash” over “blend” is “well, that’s how grandma always did it”. I think blending would release more juice than pounding (and I admit that I’ve always used a blender).

    If you do go the 2×4 route, look for something that isn’t pressure treated with anti-rot chemicals. You probably wouldn’t pick up enough of anything nasty with pressure treated, but if you have the option, why not avoid it?

    Straining: I have an improvised cheese press that I’ve used for straining pulp (of various sorts- enough used it to extract chlorophyll for homemade ink (I’ve been working on various medieval inks and pigments, details at my web site; interesting stuff for homeschoolers). You could use something like that for the apples. You’d be processing small amounts at a time, but you’d be doing that anyway wringing them out through muslin. And I think the press would be neater than hand-wringing.

    My little press is just a large coffee can with holes punched in the bottom (punch holes from inside). I have a waxed wooden disk that fits inside the can (and a plastic seal that goes between the pressed material and the wood disk to give a nice tight seal to the sides of the can so whey/juice/whatever is only squeezed out the bottom). Right now, I just weight the disk down with my anvil, but I scrounged a screw jack that I’ll be rigging as a real press.

    OTOH, you could just add a real apple press to your wishlist and see what happens. [grin] (And I’m jealous; I wish people would buy me all the stuff on my little wishlist. I shouldn’t complain though; I _did_ get that Kindle last year. Whoo hoo!)

  3. Bear Says:

    Speaking of generosity, as of yesterday I’m the owner of a new-to-me Ford Ranger pickup. The bulk of the money ended up coming from family, but a certain writer/blogger pretty much covered the registration. Thanks!

  4. Claire Says:

    Hey, Bear. Pretty good advice on the apple processing. I like your improvised press; now I wish I hadn’t tossed out those coffee cans. Glad you got that truck, too!

    Karen — That storm made the news in your part of the world? That’s a surprise. It definitely did some damage and caused several very dangerous incidents all up and down the PNW coast. But it was no unholy monster.

    The thing that threw me was that, on Sunday afternoon, the Weather service had us under multiple watches — flood, wind, storm. Then when I checked Sunday evening and Monday morning, most of them were gone. So off we went dog walking in the woods — which quickly got scary! Came back from dog walking, and there were multitudes of warnings again and the weather radar made it look as if the whole coast were obliterated.

    Though they say the worst is over (at least in the lowlands), it’s going to be wet and windy all week. So there could yet be more falling trees and mudslides just from the accumulation. Thanks for caring. :-)

  5. Jolly Says:

    Now you know the origin of the term “windfall.”

    Regarding cooking & fuel supplies. I’d suggest one of these stoves:

    They both use “trash wood” including sticks, twigs, rolled-up newspaper, almost anything burnable.

    Did you know you can buy tea-light candles for 5 cents each? They last about 4 hours, and they don’t give off a lot of light – but 10 of them going simultaneously can keep the darkness away in your living room.

    There are myriad tealight holders, but my favourite is:

    We get our candles at the local Michaels for $5 – $6 per bag of 100. Cheap cheap.

    All that said, two gallons of Coleman fuel will easily power a Coleman stove for 2-3 meals every day for a couple of weeks.


  6. Claire Says:

    Good suggestions, Jolly.

    BTW, my beloved EcoQue (formerly Pyromid) grill also works on charcoal (just nine pieces!) or pretty much anything combustible you can toss into it. Folds down, too. And costs less:

    Those UCO candle lanterns are great things!

    Thanks to MJR and last year’s Amazon wish list, I have one of the UCOs that holds full-sized emergency candles:

    And a reflector that really helps increase the light:

    But I second tea lights as a cheap and elegant backup. And you can get tea lights and their holders even cheaper if you haunt garage sales and thrift stores. I have a whole kitchen drawer full of the candles, and about five holders, which probably cost me less than $5 total — but of course took about two years to acquire.

  7. Ellendra Says:

    I once found a fondue set at a garage sale, never been opened, that used a tea candle as it’s heat source. I snatched it up as an emergency back-up-to-the-back-up stove. I figure it can heat up soup just as easily as it does chocolate.

    I’ve also cooked on a candle while camping before. It was pouring outside and I needed something warm, so I took an empty soup can from earlier that day, poked some holes in it, and used it to hold both the candle and the can I was using as a cooking pot. It worked so well I used it for most of that summer whenever cooking outside was impractical.
    (I did open the tent flap a little for ventilation every time.)

  8. EN Says:

    One thing that I see time and again is that you can prep all you want but if you live in a flood plain, on the banks of a river, ocean front, or below sea level, I’m guessin’ that other than a life boat no other preps are worth the trouble.

  9. Roger Says:

    For chopping up the apples we use a stainless steel spade and a large bucket. Then straight into cheeses in the press.

  10. AlanR Says:

    I like walking or mountain biking in the woods after a big storm. The 6 & 8 inch widowmakers standing upright in the ground under the redwoods are a little disconcerting, though.

  11. Claire Says:

    Roger — an apple spade? There’s such a thing as an apple spade? Who knew?

    AlanR — Yes, the day after a storm can be so calm and lovely, with all the sounds cushioned by fallen branches, leaves, and needles. But oh, those widowmakers!

    It wasn’t “widowmaker” bad when I accidentally went out in the woods yesterday morning (thinking all the watches had been called off). But as bits of trees started falling around me, I kept sounding like my mother: “That could put your eye out!” :-)

  12. Plinker Says:

    I have tried a few methods of making homemade wine and cider, and converting fruit into liquid has always been the labor-intensive part.

    This year, we got out hands on a Braun electric juicer, and used it to make wine from the too-hard-to-eat pears from our tree. I was happy with the results, and it was much, much easier than boiling or smashing.

  13. LarryA Says:

    “10 of them going simultaneously can keep the darkness away in your living room”

    Our eyes are really marvelous instruments, even as old as mine are.

    Start out with one candle, turn off the flashlights, and let your eyes adjust before you decide you need to light a bunch more. If you’re outdoors blow out the candle and see if starlight isn’t enough.

    Other than reading or sewing, etc. you really don’t need as much light as you think you do, if you give your eyes a chance.

  14. JP Says:

    A packet of Lalvin K1-V1116 will make a few gallons of regular cider extra tasty.

  15. Claire Says:

    Well, so much for that. :-(

    In a lifetime of less-than-brilliant kitchen experiences, this may have been the least brilliant of all. And certainly the messiest.

    I started out with just four apples to see how that would go. An hour later, after trying every form of mallet or chopper at hand, plus two blenders, dirtying two bowls, two pans, various cutting boards, a tee shirt, and a flour-sack towel (which may never see “white” again) … I ended up with 1-1/2 cups of something sort of drinkable, but that’s had so much handling I’m not sure I’d want to drink it.

    Now I look at the surface of my washer and dryer, still completely covered in ripe, damaged apples, and I wonder about their future.

    Plus I not only have to wash all those dishes, but must now wipe down the counters, the cabinets, and everything that was sitting on them. Sigh. (Apples do not pulp gracefully.)

  16. Kyle MacLachlan Says:

    Have you thought of making apple sauce (instead of cider) with your “windfall”, Claire?
    Even if they are somewhat bruised from being blown out of the tree, your apples should last until the food strainer arrives. Then all you have to do is quarter them, simmer in a little water until they soften up and run them through the strainer; no need for peeling and coring as the machine takes care of all that.
    I own the slightly more expensive version of the one you got coming and it does a great job for apple sauce.
    If you have too much to eat right away, you could can it or freeze it, both work equally well. If you like cinnamon in yours and want to go the freezer route, don’t add the cinnamon until you’re ready to eat it; the cinnamon flavor will mostly vanish while being frozen (garlic and a host of other spices do the same).

  17. Pat Says:

    I wonder if you could puree the apples, then drain them as you would in making Greek yogurt. Or would that just make apple juice?

  18. Claire Says:

    Pat — basically, you do drain them a lot like the Greek yogurt (only with pressure applied). It’s the pureeing that turned out to be killer. Neither my blender (an old, original Osterizer) nor my mixer was up to the job. I’m sure a modern food processor could have done it, but I don’t have one.

    Never fear, though. The cavalry has arrived! This afternoon brought both the Victorio strainer and the Norpro Apple-thingie. So tomorrow, I beat those apples into shape!

  19. Karen Says:

    Have a great fun day and stay safe with those dangfangled gadgets.

  20. roger Says:

    Hi Claire

    No we use a stainless steel garden spade, easy to clean. Makes very light work of chopping too.

  21. roger Says:

    And a big bucket. We use one of those big flexible tubs that builders use called gorilla tubs over here. That way you dont chop through the side either.

  22. Jolly Says:

    Um, throw them all into a big vat. Cover them, warm them to about 110F and wait a while.

    Ethanol is a wonderful invention.


  23. Ellendra Says:

    “One thing that I see time and again is that you can prep all you want but if you live in a flood plain, on the banks of a river, ocean front, or below sea level, I’m guessin’ that other than a life boat no other preps are worth the trouble.”

    @EN: After watching my grandfather dealing with floods 2 out of every 5 years, one of the dealbreakers when I was looking for my land was that it could not be in a flood plain. I turned down some nice-looking properties because of that, but I eventually found one that met all my criteria. Granted, it’s near-vertical in some places, but it will never, ever flood :)
    (Not unless we get a repeat of Noah’s story, that is.)

  24. zelda Says:

    Stainless steel garden tools – (except a few small hand tools) are not available where I live so I get them mail order from Lee Valley Tools – quality tools of all kinds that they stand behind. Grainger also sells them. Both have online catalogs. Stainless steel makes nice tools, but buy quality.

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