Monday, October 30, 2006
You'd be surprised at the little outposts of agriculture that can find their way into a big city. On Friday, I went down to the dirt-heaped pavements of Added Value Farm, in Red Hook, to demonstrate how the cider gets out of the apple. About 40 shrieking first graders from the Brooklyn New School elementary showed up, paper nametags roped around their necks, to run around the pumpkin patch (stocked, actually, with pumpkins and a few squash from the Park Slope Food Co-Op, since the farm's own pumpkin harvest was sold out at the previous weekend's harvest fair), play King of the Hay Bales, commune with the compost's wiggly worms, eat flowers (as part of a raw, made-on-the-spot "veggie burrito" that showcased every part of the plant--carrot roots, kale leaves, seed-filled tomatoes, and edible calendula flowers), and yes, grind, press, and drink apple cider.
The beautiful hand-powered wood and cast-iron press came from the fine folks over at Wyckoff House, and it was remarkably easy to use. With a Macintosh, Gala or Crispin from upstate's Red Jacket Orchards bulging in each hand, the kids lined up to feed their fruit into the iron hopper. As each kid took his or her turn spinning the big side wheel, a wooden spool marked off with rows of sharp metal teeth spun around inside, chewing the apples into pulp. Once the mesh-lined bucket below was filled, we topped it with a thick wooden lid, and the kids took turns winding the crank that pressed down onto the lid, squeezing the juice out of the apples, through the slats of the bucket, and down into a waiting tub.
It was russet-brown and frothy, and just about every kid loved it, asking for seconds and thirds and even fourths. I got hoarse and sticky, some yellow jackets met sweet and untimely ends by drowning in the cider bucket, and a great time was had by all.