Back in the old country, my family had an orchard right next to our circa 1600 Bauernhaus (farm house) on the outskirts of our small farming village. We had plums, apricots, pears, cherries and apples. While we preserved much of that fruit for our own use, we took many of our apples to the apple mill in the city. We would drop off bushels of apples and return home with glass bottles of fresh pressed apple cider*.
Memories of those trips came flooding back as I packed up the kids for our own journey to Apple Junction just East of Landmark, Manitoba. We were excited to turn our bruised and dented apples from our tree shaking experience from last week, into fresh, delicious apple cider.
Apple Junction is a family run operation that, in addition to making their own brand of apple cider for sale, offers to custom press apples for the public one day a week (call ahead for an appointment at 204-355-9288). Tony and Debbie Unger along with their seven daughters are amazing to watch. While some of the girls are busy baking in “Mum’s Country Bakery” attached to the apple room, others are helping their dad handle the apple pressing.
When we arrived, we were met by 10 year old Melissa Unger who was handling a pallet jack and 50 lb boxes of apples as if it were nothing. She was strong, confident and at ease with customers who looked on in awe. Inside the press room, things weren’t going as smoothly. A glitch in the machinery temporarily halted operations. The first break down of the season didn’t stop the girls – they simply switched tasks cleaning the floor, emptying the pulp bin, loading apples and helping in the bakery.
As Tony worked to get the machine back in operation, we took a stroll around the farm and went to the bakery for some homemade cookies. After finishing every last crumb, we decided to leave our apples and pick up our juice at another time. We left Apple Junction without our juice, but with a heaping load of admiration for the work of the Unger family.
While we didn’t get to see the juice pressing live, we did watch this video to see the whole process as explained by Tony himself.
Since then, we’ve picked up our 104 litres of apple cider and are enjoying every sip. Because our cider didn’t go through the pasteurizing process mentioned in the video, we froze our cider to enjoy all year long – good thing we have a big freezer!
*A quick note about cider. Apple cider is commonly used as a term for unfiltered, unsweetened, unprocessed, fresh pressed juice from apples. It is opaque and darker than store bought apple juice because of minuscule bits of apples suspended in the liquid. It has a short shelf life unless frozen or heat sealed. Hard apple cider is cider that has been fermented and turned into an alcoholic beverage. Although, beware, for some people, cider always refers to the alcoholic version so be careful what you ask for!