It’s the time of the year when our fruit trees look bountiful and we are looking forward to harvesting the fruit from our orchards, as a reward for our hard work over the last year.
Apples, especially, always seem to be abundant. After the fruit bowls have been filled and the pies and crumbles baked, there is often a surplus. This is when I organise community juicing events with school groups.
There is never a shortage of schools willing to introduce their pupils to the art of apple pressing. Juicing apples is a perfect way to engage a group of children of any age in an enjoyable team building exercise. There are lots of different tasks such as harvesting, chopping, scratting, pressing and the best one – sampling the juice.
Explaining the process
Teachers tend to prefer a two hour session, usually in the morning so there isn’t too much disruption to the school day. The equipment is set up in readiness for the group’s arrival, although I do like to assemble the press with the children so that they can understand the process that happens inside.
Two large crates of apples are usually sufficient to press enough juice to drink a cup each. There is very rarely any surplus juice, but I do keep a couple of clean, sterilized bottles handy if they want to take some back to school. The ideal group size is 15 children, which is usually half a class.
I am fortunate to have access to a site close to a small orchard, with a sturdy table, water tap and hose for washing down the equipment. The nearby orchard is ideal, as the children are able to pick a few apples from the trees in order to experience the journey of the apple from the tree right through to pouring the juice into their cups.
The children pick only a few apples at the beginning of the session. If more time is available, they would be able to harvest all the apples, but I frequently find that we have to stick to a two hour window. Not all schools have easy access to an orchard, so apples may need to be brought into the school instead.
A sturdy table is a necessity for positioning the barrel press, and is essential for ensuring the juicing session can go ahead in the school grounds. Outside is always easier as it’s rather a messy process; there is less floor cleaning required if a flat outdoor space can be found!
Children wash the apples in trugs and then cut them into halves. Decaying pieces of apples are cut away and discarded. I have bought plastic knives for the younger children to get involved in this part of the activity. Teenagers are able to use kitchen knives, supervised by staff.
A good scrat
The next stage is scratting. I prefer a small hand scratter as it’s a far more interactive process. It is a dangerous activity though! A full demonstration is given of the apple being crushed, whilst a child turns the wheel. “Imagine what that would do to a little hand”, I say. I encourage the children to drop the apples into the mechanism from their head height with an upright straight arm. This means no hands go anywhere near the blades of the scratter.
Constant surveillance is needed during this process. The children are organized into a queue, with one child turning the wheel whilst another drops the apples into the shute. The children love turning the wheel and shriek as the juiciest of apples splash everyone as they are crushed! After this process is finished the scratter is either locked away or immobilized.
The fruits of our labours
On to the next stage! The crushed apple is then scooped into the press. Don’t forget to position a jug under the spout of the press. As soon as the apples are in the press, the delicious amber fluid pours out. Once the circular boards and blocks are screwed onto the chopped apples, the juice begins to flow in earnest.
An orderly queue is again required to ensure that each child is able to turn the handle of the press for a couple of rotations. It gets tougher towards the end, so often the little ones will need a bit of help.
It never ceases to amaze me how children who profess not to like apples at the beginning of the session love the taste of the juice they have made! Juicing is such a therapeutic, bonding activity which demonstrates that the best tasting juice doesn’t have to come from the supermarket.
by Kate Davies, Swansea Project Manager