Eco-Saturday: Jury-rigged cider press

Fresh apple cider is easy to make yourself.
Fresh apple cider is easy to make yourself.

I’ve wanted a cider press ever since last fall, when I remembered that Cape is about a 30-minute drive from some great Southern Illinois orchards, but most of the plans I found required a bigger investment of time, money and storage space than I was willing to put into something I’m going to use once a year. After looking at various ideas, I jury-rigged something together that worked better than I’d anticipated. Bonus: You can store it under your bed when you’re not using it, which makes this a fairly apartment-friendly project.

You will need:
A cast-iron griddle (the kind you lay across two burners to heat)
A sturdy plastic cutting board roughly the same size as the griddle
At least two 4-inch C-clamps
A plastic storage box big enough to hold the griddle and cutting board when they’re clamped together
Apples (6 lbs. will yield about 3 pints of cider)
Food processor
Apple wedger (trust me: This will make the project much easier)
Canning jars

After cleaning all your equipment thoroughly, wash the apples, core and slice them with the wedger, and use the food processor to grind them to a coarse pulp. A standard food processor should handle about two pounds of apples at a time.

Cut a piece of cheesecloth about twice the size of the cutting board. Put the cutting board in the bottom of the storage box, lay the cheesecloth on top, and scoop two to four pounds of pulp onto it.

C-clamps provide the pressure in this simple cider press.
Yeah, I know. You can take the hippie out of Red Fork, but….

Wrap the cheesecloth around the pulp, lay the griddle on top, smooth side down, and carefully clamp the griddle and cutting board together with the pulp in between. (I used two clamps, but I think it would have worked better with three or four.) Tighten the clamps as much as possible to press the juice out of the apple pulp.

Remove the clamps, pour the juice into jars, and either compost the pulp or save it for another project, such as apple butter.

It took me less than an hour to assemble the press and process six pounds of apples into three pints of cider — and that includes 10 or 15 minutes I wasted searching the garage for some extra clamps I am pretty sure we accidentally left behind when we moved.