Picking Gravenstein Apples
September 29, 2010
There are a few apples that are ripe before Gravensteins do, but Gravensteins are probably the best know and the first heirloom apple to ripen in late August/early September. And heirloom apples make for decent cider.
With my new five-gallon carboys, I wanted to ferment in one of them and have a little left over for topping off and/or backsweetening when it was all done. As I posted before, 1 bushel = 45 lbs = 2-3 gallons, so I decided I wanted 100 lbs of Gravensteins to meet my goals.
I found on Craigslist an older couple with a few acres who had Gravensteins they sold after you picked them. My husband and I went out there one morning, all set to get my 100 lbs. While they were imperfect in ways that doesn’t matter to cider – small and scabby – I grew quite disgusted with how green they were. They had given us a “picking cane” to use, a cane that was about six feet long. I was having a hard time getting apples to come down when I wrapped the cane around the stem and pulled down. She came along and told me I had to hit the apple in a downward motion to get it down. In my book, no matter what kind of fruit, ripe ones will come off with very little effort, and green ones have to be forced like she was doing. She told us they were ripe and that one man had already picked 200 lbs of them. However, these people were probably using the apples for sauce, and could compensate for the greenness with sugar, where as the greenness would only taste horrible as cider. She would have no troubles selling her remaining apples to other people, but we stopped picking after 50 lbs.
Disappointed, my husband and I drove to a discount produce stand to get the remaining apples. I knew it would cost me twice as much, but I figured they would be riper apples, though maybe still not as ripe as I would like. The store was happy to sell to us, and in fact reduced the price by a dime per pound. I now had my 100 lbs.
The results of the different apples became obvious. The u-pick apples were hard, while the store apples were softer and easier to cut up. The sugar differences were evident, too, as a blend of the two kinds of apples’ juices resulted in 1.040 SG, where as the store bought apples’ juice alone was 1.050 SG. While it was more expensive, the store bought apples were definitely the riper apples and worth the extra money.
I should note that since then, I have been able to find free apples that are of good quality and are ripe.