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October 24, 2012

Link to the past

FAIRMONT — An old wood-and-iron lunk of an apple press is linking Aric Naternicola to a great-grandfather.

“My grandfather (Joe Naternicola Sr.) told me his father had bought it from somebody 60, 70 years ago. And I restored it,” he said.

He has this vague memory of when he was younger of the family making apple cider.

“My grandfather and other people would bring up apples in the fall and make cider.”

The press, made by the Red Cross Manufacturing Co. out of Indiana, stood unused for years at his grandparents’ house.

“I came across it a couple of months ago. It was rusty and needed a lot of work,” he said. “The mechanics were pretty bad. I decided a couple of weeks ago I wanted to make it usable to make cider. It is in good enough working condition to make cider.

“It’s a little unstable now. But I’m not finished restoring it completely.”

He needs to replace one of the legs and some of the hardware on the support beams on the back.

“Not a whole lot needs to be done,” he said.

He wants to bring back those memories of chilly fall days, crisp apples and family gathering together.

“I want to start making cider in the fall. I feel like we’re starting a new tradition. We have a lot of new family members. I just decided this would be something fun to do. Making cider would be a reason to get the family together on a nice, cool fall weekend.”

So that’s what they did the other day, about 20 people making short work of 10 bushels of apples purchased at Romney.

“We made 18, 19 gallons of cider. Everybody went home with a couple of gallons.

“I wouldn’t say it’s hard work, but there is some work involved,” he said.

“It’s quite simple. The press does most of the work. You put the apples in the top and a crank mashes the apples up into a pulp. The pulp falls down into cedar barrels.

“Once they fill up, it slides down to the other end of the press. The press sits on a wheel. You turn it and the press goes down and presses all that pulp. And the cider flows out into a bucket.

“We take that and drain it with cheesecloth into another container and then pour it into jugs.”

Spoken like a seasoned cider-maker.

“We don’t pasteurize the cider. You have a week, week and a half to drink it, or you can freeze it.”

Seeds and apple pieces and other undrinkable parts are caught in the cheesecloth, he added.

“Everybody who has had this said it tastes better than what you get at the store,” Naternicola said. “It was delicious.”

He found out something interesting about apple cider.

“If you let it sit out, it will start to turn ... ferment ... and tastes somewhat alcoholic,” he said with a laugh. “Hard cider.”

If he has his way, they’ll do this every fall.

“I want to make this another family tradition. Every fall, I plan on inviting friends and family over on a Saturday afternoon making cider.

“Maybe I’ll try different recipes. I don’t know what they did in the past. I was too young to pay attention to understand what they were doing.

“Now I’m curious as to what I can do with different apples, different tastes and different recipes.”

The press is old and heavy, he said.

“Probably weighs about 300 pounds. The main part that grinds and cuts the apples is all iron.”

Now it’s enjoying a well-earned rest in his basement.

“It’s like a conversation piece,” Naternicola said. “You’re not sure what you’re looking at if you don’t know what it is.”

He pressure-washed and disinfected the press, and plans to spend more time restoring it.

“There are some more things I want to do to protect the wood. But I’ll wait for the summer to do that.”

Through December, Take 5 wants to share your family traditions. For more information, contact Debbie Wilson at 304-367-2549 or dwilson@timeswv.com.

Email Debra Minor Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.

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