Page 1 of 1

Ripe enough for Cider?

Posted: Mon Jul 27, 2015 8:42 am
by mc1
Hello all. First post here. Thank you in advance and please excuse my inexperience.

I moved this year to a home that has 40-ish apple trees at different ages. I am new to the apple world and am very excited. I apparently have Lodi, Williams, Gravenstein, Delicioius (Starkey), Jonathan, and Stayman apples. I'd like to try my hand at cider, and have purchased the proper brewing materials and done a good amount of research.

I've performed no pest control on the trees. Some of the fruit is already going strong (it's late July and I'm in Pennsylvania, US), and I'm unsure how long I should wait before picking. For the fruit that's growing:

Ripe indicators:
1.) They look like fully grown apples
2.) They taste ripe (though some are a little tart)
3.) A good number are falling naturally
4.) The "twist and bend up" test works: They come off easily

Factors that make me think they're not ready:
1.) They're small--but could this simply be due to the fact that I'm not treating them?
2.) No dark seeds have grown in the core

I can provide photos if it helps...

I don't want to pick them prematurely, but I also don't want to miss my window. Furthermore, as I've never before made cider, I'm unsure if the optimal time for cider is the same as "eating" apples. I searched the web for a while and came up with no good advice. Thanks!

Re: Ripe enough for Cider?

Posted: Tue Aug 04, 2015 7:14 am
by Stephen Horsfall
If the seeds aren't dark, they're not fully ripe. According to my apple bible, 'The New Book of Apples' by Morgan and Richards, Lodi is early, and ready to pick in late July to mid August, so that one's about ready; Gravenstein is early September, so that wants a few more weeks; Jonathan is early October; Starking Delicious is mid-Oct; and Stayman's Winesap is mid-Oct. Those are British times; they may not be quite the same in Pennsylvania, but the times relative to each other will be the same. Lodi being very early probably won't store well, so best used straight away, in cooking. The rest should store for a few weeks at least, and apples for cider are best stored for a while before using, to get them as ripe as possible.

Re: Ripe enough for Cider?

Posted: Tue Aug 04, 2015 7:20 am
by Stephen Horsfall
It might be a good idea to bung in some wild crab apples, to give astrigency, otherwise the cider might be a bit bland, but don't overdo it, as I did last year, when my cider was too bitter: the textbooks say about 10% of the total by weight, so that's what I'm going by this year. I should add that I'm hardly an expert myself, but I do have some knowledge and experience!

Re: Ripe enough for Cider?

Posted: Tue Aug 04, 2015 12:25 pm
by Carl on Cape Cod
Stephen's reply about allowing them to continue to mature after picking reminds me of an article I read online back at the beginning of (web) time in the mid 90's. I did not print or save it, and efforts to find it online since have been futile for reasons that are obvious. In short, this was a recent (1992?) Cornell Ag Extension or USDA type brochure about cider production that explicitly recommended the use of sound windfalls for cider. Of course, that's completely taboo in the US since the late 90's, but it speaks to the value of letting the tree tell you when it can't put anything more into the apple and it is ready for the deer or whatever to eat it and carry the seeds away in their gut. This corresponds to what I noticed last year with an unknown early russet that I found locally - the quality of the apples improved very dramatically in the two or three weeks between when I first pulled one off of the tree in mid September and when they dropped by themselves in early October

I guess I'd favor picking later rather than earlier.

Re: Ripe enough for Cider?

Posted: Fri Aug 07, 2015 2:36 pm
by Greyt.Chase
Cut an apple in half. If the seeds are dark and free, it's ripe. If they aren't dark and are held into place pretty well, let them grow more.