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Naked Punch

by Bee Mohn

Mmmm... bubbling, just-baked hot apple pie, warm and fuzzy cider donuts, ice-cold crisp autumn tonic to strengthen the wild fibers in all of us. Healthful lunch, naked punch... at Windy Brow Farms in Newton, New Jersey.

In big wooden crates, apples from all races await transformation into autumn's elixir, apple cider. Culled from the picked and chosen on display in the store for sale, they may have aged a little quicker or are a bit too small for a spender's taste.

Whisked from baskets of at least five varieties, they fill a 20-bushel crate, weigh nearly 700 pounds, and will become 50 to 60 gallons of cider. Multiply this by seven and that's a day's job once a week for orchard manager Michael Decker.

At Windy Brow, owner Jim Hunt, with his wife Linda, insists on cider au natural. Not because it's healthier than its preserved and pasteurized counterpart; it's just personal.

“Windy Brow has been here for a long time," Hunt says. “We have a lot of customers who prefer not to have their cider pasteurized. That's the nice reason.

“The real reason is I don't want to deal with the government and all the regulations. Plus the cost. It would cost $12,000 to get set up with a UV system to pasteurize the cider."

Hunt says some people's concern about unpasteurized cider is the presence of E-coli. But he says, “We feel confident that we do everything right, so that's not an issue, whereas, pasteurization can be a cover-up for sloppy practices.

Here's how Windy Brow makes apple cider:

Decker picks up the 700-pound crate with a forklift and tips it on its side. The apples roll onto a belt that brings them through a water bath. They drop onto another chute and ride an elevator up into a grinder and emerge as apple pulp, a.k.a. pomace. Decker hoses the pomace onto a many-layered “rack and cloth" system (plastic trays alternate with heavy duty cheesecloth), which he then squeezes like a car crusher in a junkyard at 2,300 pounds of pressure. The juice is piped up to a 500 gallon storage tank on the barn's second floor. The desiccated pomace is diverted into a bin.

An opened jug of naked cider lasts 1˝ to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Windy Brow Farms, Newton, New Jersey
Open for apple-picking until mid-November and the shop is open till Christmas.

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published October 21, 2005

Photos to enlarge

Dumped from crate

Into the wash

Spreading the pomace

Squeezing the rack and cloth

Separating layers

The pomace heap

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