Orchards have been awakening this year with a plethora of red shiny orbs. An early crop for apples, all varieties, Macintosh, Paula Reds, Cortlands, Russets, Golden Delicious.
On Winchester Road in Waynedale, Ben Gilliom and his family are rekindling an old tradition. His wife, Marci, and their two children Bella, 3 and Micah, 9 have been producing apple cider ever since they purchased the beautiful 5-acre property five years ago. "It wasn't a pretty place back then," expressed Ben, who bought the apple orchard after drug dealers had pretty much destroyed it.
"There were 8 apple trees growing at the time. I add a couple more each year," said Ben. "We have varieties like Enterprise Freedom and Liberty." This year Ben has "cloned" his favorite apple tree, using the root-ball method, which he says so far, has been very successful.
On my visit, Ben and his family were engaged in making cider.
A bin of just-picked apples were tossed into a hopper by Micah. After they were chopped and chewed up, the apple pieces fell into a wooden bucket. Ben placed a wooden lid on the bucket. Micah then turns the wooden crank to squeeze out each juicy bit of apple juice into a bowl.
This is as fresh as it gets! Homemade cider. It is raw and has not undergone filtration to remove particles---"Just the bees," said Micah.
The tool to making cider is the cider press or mill. The press that the Gilliom's use is thought to be around 80 or 90 years old. It was acquired from a nearby neighbor, Mr. Paul Sills. The refurbished press used to be a hand-crank model but has, with the help of Ben's father, Russ, been converted to electric. They also replaced the dilapidated wood with new and gave the machine a fresh coat of red paint.
As Ben begins pouring a glass of freshly squeezed cider, everyone magically gathers around for a taste. This is not your typical apple juice. This is apple cider. It has body and a great flavor!
It has been a very good year for growing apples, and squeezin' the apples into cider. The Gilliom family has made over 96 gallons so far.
It is the height of the season at Gilliom's orchard. The press started running the first part of September and will end sometime in November.