An apple a day

One bite of the apple from the forbidden tree had Adam and Eve cast from paradise. When the fruit fell on Sir Isaac Newton’s head, the scientist went on to develop his groundbreaking theory of gravity. And, the apple has become the symbol of a giant personal-computer company.

Throughout human history, apples have represented health, power and knowledge. And they taste pretty good, too.

‘Tis the season to load up on them, as apple harvest is in full swing.

At Peach Hill Orchard on Route 866, south of Martinsburg, Ammon Martin and his son, David, are busy making their unpasteurized apple cider for sale in their store. On a recent day, they were washing, grinding and pressing Gala and McIntosh varieties, using forklifts, conveyor belts and a high-tech accordion-style press called Squeezebox.

Those modern techniques make it a one-person job, but the father and son know how cider was made in the old days.

You can find out, too, at the Prince Gallitzin Apple Cider Festival & Craft Show from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Sunday, when Boy Scouts from Asheville will perform live apple press demonstrations, said Beth Garner, environmental education specialist for the state park located at 966 Marina Road in Patton.

“They will be pressing the apples through an old-fashioned press … with samples available for folks to try fresh apple cider,” she said.

More than 100 vendors of handmade crafts, food, live music, environmental education programs, chainsaw carving, hay rides, pony rides and more will be at the event.

Admission is free, but donations will be accepted by the Friends of Prince Gallitzin.

A lot of the “vendors specialize in apple-related products,” Garner said.

Way Fruit Farm in Port Matilda will have its Apple Cider Demonstration Day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday at the 2355 Halfmoon Valley Road. Its modern cider press will be demonstrated every half hour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with free samples of cider available. It also will have its Apple Festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 10 and Oct. 17 with free wagon rides to its pumpkin patch, a craft show and lunch featuring homemade apple dumplings and more.

At Peach Hill Orchard, apple butter, apple cider, apples and other products are for sale in the store, which is across a small valley from the apple cider barn where the Martins will make cider once a week through Christmas. The schedule after that depends on the weather, but they plan to make it through next April.

They get their apples from other nearby orchards after Ammon tore out his orchard years ago so another son could expand his dairy farm next door. With the apple crop winding down by late October, the Martins will keep the fruit in cold storage to stock their market and make their cider through the winter.

Since their cider is unpasteurized, they have to sell it all directly to the consumer, David explained. Pasteurization means heating the cider to a high temperature to destroy any bacteria, but some people think that changes the flavor and don’t like it.

“We used to pastuerize it, but we decided to stop doing that and our sales went way up,” he said.

And some preservatives are added so the shelf life is extended from roughly a week to up to four weeks. But the Martins will do special orders for preservative-free cider.

Typically, they make cider batches from four to six varieties of apples to get a good blend.

“Cider is a lot better if it’s tart and sweet mixed together,” Ammon said, before climbing up on a forklift to move a crate of apples from cold storage to the washing area.

From there, a conveyor belt moved the fruit inside the barn where an automatic grinder chewed up the apples and spat them into a large, flexible tube, which David then held over the press before pressing a button that sent the pulp into the accordion-like device. The dregs were pushed aside to be later spread on the dairy fields next door like fertilizer. Another tube caught the juice underneath and directed it into a nearby 400-gallon steel tank connected to a bottler.

Martin said his customers come from all over Central Pennsylvania as well as West Virginia and Virginia to get his cider and other apple products that help “keep the doctor away.”

The fruit is a good source of fiber, pectin, potassium and vitamin C, and has no cholesterol, saturated fat or sodium, according to the Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program.

PAMP suggests that apples should be stored in the refrigerator which slows the ripening process and maintains their flavor longer. Ideally, they should be store in the crisper drawer at a temperature of 34 degrees Fahrenheit, according to its website at www.PennsylvaniaApples.org.

To slow down the browning process once an apple has been sliced, coat it with vitamin C-fortified apple juice or in a mixture of one part lemon juice to three parts water, according to PAMP.

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.