Transforming apples into cider

October 16, 2009 Whether you serve it warm with cinnamon sticks, or just cold, straight from the container, there are few pleasures in the fall as simple as pure apple cider. I've been noticing one name frequently at local farmer's markets and on restaurant menus. So I went straight to the source, to see how they transform Michigan's apple harvest into sweet nectar.

The Lincoln Square farmer's market is home to a number of regulars. One of them is Seedling Fruit, which offers not only apples and peaches, but also cider. Owner Peter Klein happily pours samples for anyone who'll stop; he typically offers a range of ciders, some with pear or cinnamon, others from just one apple, such as Jonagold or Mutsu. I was curious to see where, and how, exactly, Klein created these ciders so I drove around the Lake to South Haven, Michigan..where he and his team of workers have been pressing cider by the truckfull over the past few weeks.

"It's not a particularly hard process, it's just a lot of moving parts and we think part of the beauty of the cider is growing the fruit right; it's really all about the fruit," said Klein.

Among rows of crunchy Senchus and milder Golden Delicious, Klein and his workers select a number of different apples to go into their standard, original apple cider recipe.

"One of the secrets is we use, with the classic cider that we make as many apples as we can, which gives it a complexity and a real depth of flavor," Klein said.

The picked apples are dumped into a giant hopper; a worker picks out leaves and any damaged apples before they're quickly washed and then sent up a conveyor belt to the top of the cider press. They drop into an eviscerator or sorts, which completely obliterates the apple, separating the peel from the juice. The remainder of the apple is pressed between the belts, squeezing every last bit of juice possible out of them. From a collection chamber, the juice is sent through a filter, then through a series of two more filters, but Klein says no pasteurization is necessary.

"We think it tastes like really old-fashioned cider because we never heat it, but it does go through a series of ultra-violet light, which makes sure that it's perfectly safe for everyone to drink," said Klein.

Every bottle is filled and sealed by hand, then put on a truck bound for Chicago. Klein says working around all of these apples - and their delicious byproduct - is one of the greatest pleasures of the season.

"I don't know if it's a childhood memory, its just the Fall, its smells and tastes, it's all about Fall," Klein said.

Seedling cider is available at Whole Foods in the Midwest.

Seedling Fruit
6717 111th Ave
South Haven, MI 49090

Lincoln Square Market
Lincoln & Leland
7:00am - 1:30pm

Chicago's Green City Market
Lincoln Park (Between Clark & Stockton)
7:00am - 1:30pm

West Side Market
Zingerman's Roadhouse, Ann Arbor Michigan
3:00pm - 7:00pm

Evanston Farmers Market
University Place & Oak Avenue
7:30am - 1:00pm

Wicker Park Market
Wicker Park & Damen
7:00am - 1:00pm

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