GREENVILLE — Crisp colorful leaves, football, cool nights and the delicate blend of sweet and tart that flavor apple cider all define autumn in Michigan.
That fall feeling just got a little sweeter for area residents, who can now have freshly pressed cider at Klackle Orchards with the addition of its rack and cloth cider press.
Owner Steve Klackle recently added the huge press after attending a school sponsored by the Michigan Apple Association. Klackle’s is one of 30 to 40 members of the Apple Cider Maker’s Guild despite there being about 140 cider mills in the state.
In the past, Klackle Orchards sold cider produced at other mills.
“Now we’re at a point where we can produce our own,” Klackle said.
Support from other area mills has been helpful, too, he said.
“All the cider mills have been great in cooperating. Terry from Anderson & Girls (in Stanton) and Uncle John’s (in St. Johns),” Klackle said.
From crates to jugs
The process of making apple cider starts with the apples in crates being cleaned in a bleach water solution. A conveyor belt moves the apples past a worker who removes any with visible rot.
The next step involves an elevator that moves the apples where they are washed again and go through a hammer mill and pumice pump. Workers then take about an hour to stack the racks for the pumice to be pressed.
Fifteen racks are pressed at one time and pumped into a pasteurization tank.
There are typically two methods of pasteurizing cider — an ultraviolet (UV) pasteurization and flash heat pasteurization. Klackles uses the latter.
“We have modified a dairy pasteurization tank, “ said Wes Hartstock, a Klackle cider press operator. “We heat the water to 155 to 160 degrees for 2.1 seconds and drop the temperature and store it in a bulk tank at 38 degrees for 24 hours.”
Key ingredient: Nature
Hartstock assembled the press and oversees its maintenance. He is a connoisseur of cider, likening it to wine.
“Ciders have a vintage like wine,” he said. “The weather affects the flavor. Sunny days and cool nights produce a good cider, but lots of cloudy weather make the flavor flatter.”
Shirley Hartstock has been with Klackle Orchards since 1984 and manages the growing operation. She too is involved with the cider-making process.
“You need a good blend of apples to make a good cider. We use four varieties of apples, a couple sweet and a couple tart,” she said.
Both Klackle and the Hartstocks hope to have the press producing about 20,000 gallons of cider a week, requiring about 5,700 bushels of apples.
“We have a tasting bar available all weekend and during the week if someone requests a sample,” Shirley Hartstock said.
Klackle Orchards’ fresh apple cider can be purchased in gallon and half gallon sizes for $5.99 and $3.99, respectively.
The cider press’ hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Klackle Orchards is at 11466 W. Carson City Road in Greenville.
Stacie Rose is a Greenville resident.