Senior’s family presses tradition: cider making

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Crushing apples and cranking the wheel, turning fresh apple  into the sweet drink of apple cider is a fall activity normally done by companies like Ziegler’s Old Fashioned Apple Cider. But for senior Owen Lewis’s family, it happens right in their backyard. 

 Decades ago, senior Owen Lewis’s great grandfather bought an apple cider press. Today, that same press is 150 years old and still in use. 

Lewis’s family continues the generations-old family legacy of pressing cider in the backyard of their Devon home. Typically a day-long tradition, the event brings together the entirety of Lewis’s dad’s side of the family. Despite the long time commitment, Lewis looks forward to the event every year.

“It’s not that often that our whole family gets together on my dad’s side, so it’s just one big event we all get to do together,” Lewis said. 

From start to finish, the process is a group effort. First, the Lewis family goes apple picking at local orchards, typically Highland Orchards. Once there, they like to harvest a wide variety of apples .

“We don’t use one kind. Normally, when we go to the orchard, we just stop at every different section and grab some (apples),” Lewis said.  

Harvesting apples, however, is only the first of many steps. The apples are washed with a hose before entering the complex process of pressing them into cider. According to Lewis, this process requires multiple steps. Starting with a large amount of fresh, clean apples placed on top of the press, the family must manually crush the apples, collecting the juice and apple remnants into a bucket. The contents of the bucket are then pressed repeatedly until smooth enough, before they are bottled for drinking. 

This year, the family made about 20 jugs of cider and used around 750 apples (6 bushels). Despite the large quantities produced, the family chooses not to sell the cider. 

“It’s just a family thing,” Lewis said.

Traditions can be hard to keep up with, and sometimes, the Lewis family will miss a year here and there. However, the family tries to get together and make the cider, even if not everyone can come. Lewis hopes to continue his family cider tradition for as long as he can.

“It’s one time a year when I get to see people in my family that I never get to see,” Lewis said. “It’s something special to bring our family together.”