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Thursday, November 4, 2010

From Orchard to Cider at Eat'n Park - The Journey of the Apple, Part 2

Last month, I told you about my visit to Carolyn and Scott McQuiston of Dawson’s Orchards in Enon Valley, PA. Dawson’s provides some of the apples that are used to make the local apple cider that we’re now featuring in our restaurants. Scott and Carolyn gave me a tour of their orchards, and enlightened me on how the apples are grown and harvested (click here to read that post).

However, to see how they’re processed into apple cider, I had to visit Hays Cider Mill in nearby Columbiana, OH. Hays processes Dawson’s apples, as well as apples from several other local orchards.

The apples arrive at Hays in large wooden crates containing 18 bushels of apples each. From one crate of apples, Hays will produce about 70 gallons of cider, or roughly 4 gallons per bushel. There’s no one variety of apple that makes the best cider – the best flavor comes from a mix of different varieties of sweet, tart, and aromatic apples.

Numerous varieties of crated apples await processing

The apples are fed into the press, which when full, can produce 300 gallons of cider. As the apples come through the press, the juice is strained through clean cloths to keep any solid particles out.

The cider press

Remnants of pressed apples. What a mess!

The juice is then transported into a pasteurizer, while the remnants of the pressed apples ride a conveyor belt out into a dump truck. They’re then used as feed for cattle or fertilizer for fields. As you can see in the photo above, making cider is messy business. For every 6 hours the press is in operation, there are 3 hours of cleanup needed afterward.

The round stainless steel vessel below is the pasteurizer. Hays (and all other cider producers) are required to pasteurize their product any time they sell it through a third party (like Eat’n Park). The cider is heated in the pasteurizer, which kills any bacteria that may be present. Pasteurized cider also lasts longer.

The pasteurizer

Pasteurizer control panel

Finally, the pasteurized cider is bottled. The bottling line at Hays is pictured below, and you can see the empty bottles being fed onto the turn table where they’re filled, capped, labeled, and moved on toward the packing line. Packed cider will be picked up by our distributor and delivered to each Eat’n Park location for our guests to enjoy.

Cider on the bottling line

So there you have it: the journey of the apple from orchard to cider to Eat’n Park. Now that you’ve gotten a behind-the-scenes look, I hope you’ll stop in to try some of this delicious cider firsthand.

Until next time,

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