After the coronavirus pandemic forced a halt on the apple press in 2020, starting Aug. 7 Slow Food Russian River has brought back to Bodega Avenue the press, which juiced 50,000 pounds of apples in 2019.
The Gravenstein apples are here, and the Sebastopol Community Apple Press, which started in 2014, is coming back ready to make juice on weekends from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. beginning Aug. 7 through Oct. 24 at the Luther Burbank Gold Ridge Experiment Farm.
“People are just blown away by putting apples in one end of the press and getting this incredible juice out the other end… it’s just a lovely way to spend the weekends,” said Paula Shatkin, the Slow Food Russian River coordinator for the Apple Core.
The Slow Food movement is an international grouping aimed at helping communities maintain their food culture. About 20 years ago, the Russian River chapter came together to preserve heritage foods in the Russian River area and West County, according to Shatkin.
The Apple Core is the volunteer group that helps people use the press, set it up each morning, and clean it at the end of the day.
The press, which is funded through a grant from the City of Sebastopol, will be operated by a Slow Food volunteer. All residents need to do is reserve a time at slowfood.rr.org and bring their apples and plastic containers to fill the juice available, according to Shatkin. They ask no one use glass containers to avoid breakage and will supply half-gallon containers to be purchased for $1.
They ask to limit the number of apples to 100 pounds per person, which will produce five gallons of juice and is not intended for commercial purposes. Each appointment will take about 20 minutes, but if you need to rinse your apples arrive 15 minutes early.
Apples should not have breaks in the skin or any rot, and containers should be clean. Slow Foods warns that the juice will not be pasteurized, which gives it limited shelf life, and the apples may contain pesticide residues. Moreover, the CDC recommends boiling raw apple juice for 30 seconds.
Slow Food started the Sebastopol Community Apple Press as part of their “Save the Gravensteins” effort, which looks to preserve the Gravenstein apples in the area after people began chopping down apple orchards in favor of wine grapes, Shatkin said.
“We don't want to be all grapes all the time, right?” she said. The juice can also be used to make cider. In the past, Slow Food provided cider kits at the press.
“The idea was to remind people of the value of what we have here, and what a good apple it is, and what it's good for,” Shatkin added.
At the press, the Apple Core provides recipe cards for Gravenstein apples and educates people on canning apples to preserve them for winter.
In 2020 when they could not hold the apple press on weekends, the Apple Core collected apples from resident’s backyards and then forklifted apples over to Manzana, who made 12,000 quarts of apple sauce and donated it to Redwood Empire Food Bank, according to Shatkin.