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Family gets into apple spirit

Parrishes' Oregon City company likes the crush of a hard-cider operation


by: PHOTOS BY RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Jeff Parrish, chief brewer of Oregon City's Portland Cider Co., tests out a batch as his niece Kaitlyn Nelson (top left) helps him out with friend David Unziker.‘Tis the season for Northwest apples, but the apple obsession for Oregon City’s Parrish family goes a little beyond buying those 5-pound grocery bags for pies, juice and cheap, tasty snacking.

The Parrishes went through 30,000 pounds of apples this season, making about 900 gallons of juice a day for a total of 12,800 gallons.

“Let’s make an apple-lanche!” yelled Jeff Parrish when his family was ready to process another huge crate of Jonagolds, Honeycrisps and Galas.

But there’s a good reason the Parrishes are making a large amount of juice — they’ve just gotten into the bottling business. This amount of juice is “pretty small change, but for a startup, we’re doing pretty good,” said Parrish, 44, chief cider maker of Portland Cider Co., which recieved permission this month to sell its alcoholic brew out of a small factory on Beavercreek Road across from the Clackamas County offices. His wife, in-laws, 19-year-old niece and 14-year-old son are regular helpers.

Although the alcohol content is similar to beer, cider making is a four- to-five-month process similar to making wine. Unlike brewers who can make their beer from non-perishable materials, cider pressing has to be done immediately for the best-quality juice.

For juicing, Parrish buys bins of what doesn’t make it to the grocery store from Oregon Heritage Farms on Scholls Ferry Road near Hillsboro. Then his family begins an assembly line of grinding and pressing in their 2,500-square-foot space at 275 Beavercreek Road that they’ve leased since August. Adding rice hulls aids in the compression of apple pulp because the hulls provide channels for the juice to flow out.

About 40 percent of the total weight of apples is leftover solid, which Parrish feeds to a Clackamas County herd of Asian water buffalo owned by his landlord, Terry Emmert.

“When they see my truck coming, those buffalo love the apple pulp so much, they all push each other to get to it,” Parrish said.

Tasting the brew

by: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Clive Radford, (from left) Marilyn Unziker and Kaitlyn Nelson help out Jeff Parrish in the family's apple-cider factory on Beavercreek Road in Oregon City.Parrish tests the dry cider out of fermentation cauldrons on a daily basis to see when it’s ready for the next step.

Taking a sip recently, he said, “as a cider maker I’m very happy, because there are no off flavors, and the yeast has almost all racked out.”

Other folks are finding they like hard cider, and it’s the fastest growing adult beverage in the United States, spurred on by general success of the local craft brewing industry. Hard cider was pretty much all the colonialists drank because water was so foul in the 1700s.

Parrish’s father-in-law, 73-year-old Clive Radford, who has retained his accent since emigrating from England, denied bringing any expertise to the operation. He’d just like to share in the fruits of his labor.

“We’re going to teach Americans how to have a decent drink, and after a long day’s work, I’ll be the first to model that,” Radford said.

Before bottling, it goes into completely aseptic, evacuated plastic bags to minimize its contact with oxygen. Parrish says the key to good cider is “process control,” which means identifying biological risks to tasty cider and avoiding those pitfalls.

Cider will naturally come out at about 9 percent booze, but Parrish will mix in some more juice before bottling to lower the alcohol content. “Kinda dry” will be the 6.8 percent version, while “Sorta sweet” will come down to about 6.2 percent.

Stores will sell the Parrishes’ cider for about $6 per 22-ounce bottle. Parrish is starting by making 1,000 cases, but he’s frozen enough juice to make 4,000 cases before next season if the demand is high enough. Many of those 12,000 gallons of juice maturing, fermenting or in the freezer will find their way to the family’s holiday table off of Henrici Road, where more than a dozen Parrishes will enjoy feasting on various apple dishes.

“Apples have been my favorite fruit all my life. We’ll cook with them, and hard cider will be part of the festivities as well,” Parrish said.