Cider just like grandma used to make

Teagan Drayer, 11, volunteers at the cider-making area of the Cross Orchards farm. Cross Orchards Historic Site hosted a Fall Day on the Farm on Saturday, featuring apple-cider pressing, bluegrass music, a classic car show and historic demonstrations.  See photo gallery at

It starts, as so many things do, with good soil. Good soil grows good trees, and good trees produce good apples. And these, of course, make good cider — $7 a gallon, fresh off the tree.

However, as simple as it seems, there are several steps between crispy apple and glass of amber-gold. Visitors to Fall Day on the Farm at Cross Orchards on Saturday got to watch the process, unchanged in more than 100 years, said Dan Rosenbaum, site supervisor at the Museum of Western Colorado’s Cross Orchards Historic Site.

“All the apples we’re using come from the orchards here,” he said. There are nine different varieties grown at Cross Orchards and Saturday’s cider mix included Winesap, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Jonathan.

In fact, Rosenbaum explained, it’s that mix of varieties that marks the difference between cider and juice: “Apple juice is made from one variety of sweet apple — it could be different sweet varieties, but it’s just a single one in each batch — and cider is a combination of sweet and tart apple varieties,” he explained.

So, orchard volunteers picked the apples and loaded them into huge bins. Saturday, children in period costume tossed them into an enormous tub of water treated with antibacterial soap, then into a second tub for a rinse. Teagan Drayer, 11, whose mother, Angel, volunteers at the orchard demonstrating handcrafts, wielded a pitchfork, transferring apples from the cleansing bath to the rinse.

Occasionally, he was spelled by Connor Martin, 16, a longtime orchard volunteer who scooped apples from the rinse into wooden boxes and hefted them to the side of an apple hopper. It takes about 11 to 12 pounds of apples to make one gallon of cider, Rosenbaum said.

With its 100 metal peg teeth, the hopper chewed the apples against a grinder plate and sent them into a wooden bucket beneath.

But in keeping with period accuracy, the hopper is old and had to be turned by hand. Adam Gallegos, 17, Sam Stansberry, 22, and other volunteers took turns.

Then it was into the 111-year-old press, a hand-twist number that exerts 600 pounds of pressure per square inch, and then the liquid was poured through three different filters and into plastic gallon jugs — a job for volunteer Paul Schock ­­— and sold for $7 a gallon.

“This is the exact same process they used in the early part of the 1900s,” Rosenbaum said. “And the cider’s still good.”


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