My neighbor is pressing cider this week, hauling in dozens of wooden crates filled with apples from his orchards. He uses this press now, a smallish unit which is modern but still pumped by hand. He’s a huge supporter of traditional knowledge and farming practices, and takes the press around to local schools so the kids can see how cider gets made before it gets into a bottle at the supermarket.
When we first moved here many years ago, however, the family used a different cider press – this one:
The main press stone is from the mid-19th century, from a masonry that used to exist two villages away from us in the Jura mountains. It’s massive, and I wonder how many horses it took to haul this behemoth down the mountainside and into this farmhouse.
It was operated by hand, as well – or rather, several hands. When we moved here, we were still witness to the annual cider days, when the whole family would gather and take turns at the giant pulley system, visible here only as the tree-trunk post used for turning. There was a cartwheel-sized circular pressing slab attached to the old system that would crush apples added from the top (via a wooden chute), sending cascades of juice and pulp out through the bottom.
The flat stone surface is marked by deep grooves on all sides – cut over decades by the acidic juices as they flowed into the catchment channel and were directed to the front spout.
I feel very lucky to have seen this old system in action – and even luckier to profiter from our proximity, because we are the fortunate recipients of a yearly gift of apple cider, fresh off the presses.