Many of us wait expectantly for Humboldt's annual abundance of apples with a plan for baking, canning, pressing or distributing them. I have encountered a rather remarkable number of people, however, who would like to do something with the apples growing on their properties but don't know what. Apples can be used to make so many delicious things to eat. They can also make delicious things to drink, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. If you don't want to eat or drink your apples, you may be able to donate them to a food bank, depending on available storage space. Just contact the food pantry closest to you. For a list of pantries and more information, you can contact Food for People at 445-3166, extension 312, or via its website www.foodforpeople.com.
One of the great things about having an abundance of apples in Humboldt is, if you want to press them for juice, you do not have to own a bulky and expensive press. Sara Borok of Erie Street Farms, whom I endearingly refer to as "the Apple Lady," has offered her presses to our community for about 10 years now at Kneeland Glen Farm Stand. For those of you who have not already discovered this delightful little venue, it is located at 5851 Myrtle Ave. in Eureka, not far from the intersection of Freshwater Road.
In years past, she also pressed at Coastal Grove's Medieval Festival, unfortunately canceled this year due to COVID-19, as was the Fortuna Apple Harvest Festival. This service to the community is even more important now than in the past as Miller Farms in McKinleyville is not pressing this year, nor is Humboldt Beer Works in Eureka. All Borok asks in return is a donation (most people put in $2 to $3 per gallon).
There are approximately 7,500 apple varieties worldwide, of which some 2,500 are grown in the U.S. California is one of the top apple-producing states, and Fruits of the Humboldt Bay, edited by Sean Armstrong, notes about 16 varieties that grow well near the bay. Borok, however, says she's probably pressed 20 or 30 varieties of local apples over the years and suspects there are probably more varieties than that in the county.
Borok has been pressing apples at Kneeland Glen twice a week since Labor Day weekend. So far this year, her presses have produced more than 700 gallons of juice. On dry days, Borok sets the presses up outside and on rainy days, she sets them up in the barn. Either way, there is plenty of room for social distancing and masks are required. You might need to wait your turn but not for too long. I went on Halloween, one of her busiest days, and didn't feel as though I had to wait long at all. There is a grill set up selling burgers and potato wedges, adding to the festive environment. While you are there, you could go for a stroll on the nature trail, or visit Kneeland Glen's charming shop. It's also just great to be in a place that smells so sweet.
Borok used the old press and its slightly more modern sibling — both with hand grinders — for the first three years of her community pressing mission. She eventually upgraded to a newer and more efficient model with an electric grinder. It works like a charm, chopping up those apples in no time and with virtually no human effort.
Asked why she goes through all the fuss and work, Borok said simply, "I hate seeing food go to waste." At a time when Humboldt's food insecurity is high, it is especially important to utilize the resources growing around us. Humans can't live on apples alone, but there are a whole lot of things that they can be used for: applesauce, apple pancakes, apple cakes, apple jelly, apple butter, apple chutney, apple pies, apple cobbler, apple kombucha, hard apple cider, apple wine and, of course, apple juice. Apple juice can be drunk straight, watered down, splashed in some mineral water or used as a sweetener for drinks like iced tea. It can be preserved for years frozen or canned. So pick those apples off the tree and pick them up from the ground. You can cut out any rotten bits, press the remainder and enjoy the sweet golden nectar. If you're not blessed with apples but instead have an abundance of quince, carrots, pears or even pumpkins, Borok is willing to press those, too.
Borok will continue to offer her presses and assistance at Kneeland Glen Farm Stand every Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine, for as long as people keep coming to press their apples. She will not be pressing on Thanksgiving Day, but will be available on Wednesday, Nov. 25, instead. Last year, she said she was open until the end of December. Bring your apples and don't forget to bring some containers to put the juice in, as well. (I use cleaned milk cartons.) Borok advises bringing more containers than you think you will need — people are often surprised how much juice their apples produce.
Jeanette Cooper (she/her) is a freelance writer and educator.