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History

November 17, 2013

HISTORICAL TREASURE: It’s autumn and time for apple cider

TERRE HAUTE — When I was looking through the many items on display in the museum I came across one item that is still being used today: an apple cider press.

This machine is on display in the tool room; it was donated to the museum in 1978. The making of apple cider has become an American tradition, for it brings to mind the sights and sounds of autumn: farmers harvesting their crops; leaves turning yellow, red and brown; and fresh, juicy apples being picked from trees.

No one knows when the first cider press was made, but it was brought to America by colonists from Europe. The colonists, however, had to write letters back to Europe begging for apple seeds, as no apple trees were found growing here. When the seeds finally arrived, new apple orchards were planted, a practice that continued as new colonists moved further and further west.

Any variety of apples can be pressed for cider. The apples are fed into a hopper that sits over the top of three separated cylinders lined with teeth. The teeth chop and shred the apples. A slotted wooden bucket sits below these cylinders to catch the fruit pulp. Once the bucket is full it is moved to the front of the press to the screw. A press plate is placed on top of the bucket. A short wooden pole is used at the top to give extra leverage while the screw is being turned. It presses the plate tight against the fruit, causing the juice to flow out of the bucket into a container. The juice is then strained to remove any remaining seeds or stems. The leftover fruit pulp is thrown away.

Those who visit the museum this autumn can pay a visit to the apple cider press; perhaps they will be able to imagine themselves drinking some fresh apple cider.

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