Apple cider flows at demonstration

PARKERSBURG – As the apple harvest begins, one local orchard owner is sharing the way to make cider from the apples.

“Cowboy” Bob O’Dell of Mineral Wells demonstrated the way to make the cider to children at the Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg on Thursday.

“We use a variety of apples to make the cider,” he said. “Today we are using Pink Lady and Ginger Gold, a variety close to the Golden Delicious.”

O’Dell said he prefers to add McIntosh apples to his cider but they were not available for Thursday’s demonstration.

“It’s an early apple and we could not get them,” he said.

O’Dell said he makes his cider the old-fashioned hand-operated way, with a hand-operated grinder and press. A bushel of apples ground into a pulp and pressed will yield two gallons of cider.

For Thursday’s demonstration O’Dell used apples he was able to get from Hampshire County. He said his apples have not been harvested yet.

O’Dell has been demonstrating cider making at the Boys and Girls Club for 10 years and has been around cider mills almost all his life.

“My grandfather had a cider mill back in the ’50s in Mingo County,” he said. “That’s where I got my start. It was a family tradition.”

O’Dell said he has his own orchard where he also grows peaches and pears. He said 2013 will be a good crop.

Apples are the only fruit used to make cider; peaches and pears are mostly for preserves, jams and jelly.

He said the apple cider is not altered in any way.

“This is completely natural fresh apples cider,” he said.

O’Dell said yellow apples produce a lighter color cider and red apples produce a darker cider.

In keeping with the traditional ways, O’Dell has not motorized the process.

“People ask me why I haven’t put a motor on it,” he said. “I tell them if I put a motor on it, that won’t be the old-fashioned way, the way my grandfather did it in Mingo County.”

As for the leftover pulp, O’Dell said he uses it for compost.

“I used to leave it out for the deer but they wouldn’t have it,” he said. “It has no taste; they are after the juice and it’s gone. I just compost it.”

Cider is easy to make, compared to making the other fall time staple, apple butter, he said.

“It only takes 20 minutes to make a run of cider,” he said. “I enjoy this a lot more than making apple butter; it takes all day.”

In a year’s time, O’Dell makes about 30 gallons of cider. He said he gives it away and keeps a little for himself.

The press he was using was made by Jaffrey Manufacturing. He has an antique grinder and press like his grandfather used.

“It is very heavy and can’t be moved,” he said. “It weighs 400 pounds.”

Today O’Dell will be making cider at the New Era one-room school museum in Mineral Wells.