The taste of fresh cider always surprises me. You think you've had good apple juice and then you have a sip of cider straight from the press and you realize you don't know a thing. Now that is apple juice. It's sweet and tart and, being a little bit thick, glides over your tongue in a silky stream of apple essence.
When D. invited me to an apple party, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but gladly accepted figuring that spending a beautiful fall day outside doing something with apples couldn't be all bad. Having been to parties at D.'s before and having always been unfashionably punctual, I intentionally showed up an hour late, but was still the first to arrive. This meant watching a hungover D. prepare himself a one o'clock breakfast, but also gave me a chance to poke around and take a few pictures.
Shortly after D.'s mom got there we trekked down to the lower pasture to pick apples. They were old, gnarled apple trees bearing small fruit, which were showing a season's wear. They were good apples, though, flavorful and crisp, and the cider press doesn't care about looks.
Each batch of cider tasted slightly different. The one made mostly with the red apples (I'm afraid we didn't know the varieties we were working with) was rich, pleasantly sweet, and quite tart. The yellow apples made a cider too sweet for my taste, with few of the balancing characteristics of the other one. We were especially pleased to see that the cider we pressed from the Hidden Rose apples (sweet, tart, astringent), instead of being golden-brown like most cider, was as pink as--pinker even than the flesh for which the apples are named.
Cider presses are expensive. Apple trees take a long time to grow and mature. Cider is delicious. So when a friend has borrowed a press, has apples to harvest, and asks you to help, just say yes and don't begrudge him his homefries.