ALBION, Maine — This fall, red, rosy and yellow-tinged apples seem to be everywhere you look, and Rick Lawrence of the Albion Cider Mill would like to help you transform them into something even sweeter — fresh-pressed apple cider.
People bring him their apples — at least six bushels but preferably 10 bushels — and go home with jugs of cider and good memories, he said, at a cost of just $2.50 per gallon and $1.75 per half-gallon.
“The people who come are almost entirely enthusiastic and enjoyable,” the retired educator said this week. “They pitch right in, and of course they should, because it’s their apples.”
Although Lawrence, 70, really loves apple cider, he and his family came by the cider press and business in a roundabout way. The family has 30 apple trees and for years took their harvest to Brian Croft of Maplecroft Farm in Burnham to be pressed into cider. But when new regulations required Croft, who also pressed cider for commercial orchards, to purchase pasteurization equipment, he stopped making cider for both commercial and private customers. So the cider press went still.
Five years ago, Lawrence decided to purchase it and start pressing cider for private use again.
“I’m glad Rick’s doing it. I’m tickled pink he wanted to buy it,” Croft said. “This way, a regular person can bring apples in and make cider. There really aren’t a lot of people doing that anymore. Back in the old days, everyone pressed cider.”
Lawrence, who is required to notify his customers that the cider has not been pasteurized and therefore could pose a health risk, said the business has grown. Customers have to call ahead to schedule a visit to the cider press, and when they arrive, their bushels of apples are washed and prepared for the powerful grinder.
“It chops the apples so thin they are just turned into sauce,” Lawrence said. “The cider starts to just drip out of them.”
Then, the ground-up apples are squeezed by the press with the force of 1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch. The machine produces three times as much cider as a hand press can.
“It squeezes every bit of juice from that pulp,” Lawrence said.
The cider, which freezes well, is stored in sterile, food-grade jugs, and the “dry biscuit” — what’s left of the apple pulp — becomes a treat for his neighbor’s cows. Lawrence said this year’s cider-pressing season has just started and will last until Oct. 21.
“It’s an astounding year for apples,” he said.
For more information or to schedule a cider-press appointment at the Albion Cider Mill, please call 453-2092 or 877-4492.
— Do pick apples at the proper stage of maturity, before they drop.
— Do pick apples when they are dry.
— Don’t allow animals to feed in the orchard.
— Don’t use animal waste as fertilizer.
— Don’t allow apples to begin to spoil on the ground.
— Don’t use apple drops to produce cider.