Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

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Manitoba chicken farmer juiced up about apples


February 11, 2010
By Myron Love

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Manitoba is certainly not known as a major apple producer. The province has plenty of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and saskatoons, but commercial apple production doesn’t necessarily work there.

Manitoba is certainly not known as a major apple producer. The province
has plenty of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and saskatoons,
but commercial apple production doesn’t necessarily work there.

That hasn’t deterred an entrepreneurial southern Manitoba chicken
farmer from developing a sideline producing locally-made apple cider
for the marketplace.

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At Apple Junction Sweet Apple Cider, the apples are first put through a wash machine.
 
p11_Manitoba-Cider-04
 
The Ungers sell their Apple Junction Sweet Apple Cider through a supermarket in Steinbach, Man., an organic bakery in Winnipeg, Man., and a weekly summer farmers’ market in St. Norbert, Man.
 
p11_Manitoba-Cider-01
 
Tony Unger explains that the farm uses Manitoba-grown apples, as long as they are available. They also bring in a trailer load or two of apples from B.C. each year. 
 
p11_Manitoba-Cider-03
 
After the apples are ground up, they are put into the press. After, the juice/cider is pasteurized, cooled and put in a refrigerator until it is bottled.


 

Tony and Debbie Unger, the producers of Apple Junction Sweet Apple
Cider, have been raising chickens just southeast of Winnipeg, Man., for
the past 20 years. About six years ago, they decided to diversify and
start a commercial bakery on their property.

“It was about that time that friends of ours offered us an apple press
that they had had for 15 years or so,” Tony recalls. “To our knowledge,
it is the only apple press in Manitoba. It was a hobby for them.”

In their friends’ hobby, the Ungers saw an opportunity. “We thought
that making apple cider would go well with our bakery,” he says. “There
are a number of bakeries in the United States and Canada that also
produce cider.”

The Ungers put their apples first through a wash machine. The fruit
then travels up a hopper into the grinder and then into the press. The
product is subsequently pasteurized, cooled and put in a refrigerator
until the juice/cider is bottled.

“We use Manitoba-grown apples, as long as they are available,” Unger
says. “We buy from private growers and Hutterite colonies. We generally
bring in a trailer load or two from British Columbia.”

He observes that most apples make for good juice, but the best ones are Trail, Goodland, Norland and Norkent.

Apple Junction Sweet Apple Cider’s production period is the summer,
fall and early winter. “We started last summer at the beginning of
August,” Unger says. “Next year, we are going to start in early June.”

For most of their season, the Ungers press apples every second week. As
Christmas nears, they begin pressing on a weekly basis. In addition to
pressing apples for their own needs, they also have about 400 customers
for whom they provide custom pressing services – for a minimum charge.

“We could produce a lot more if we had the orders,” Unger says. “We could produce up to 400 gallons in a day.”

Currently, the Ungers sell their cider through a supermarket in the
nearby community of Steinbach, an organic bakery in Winnipeg and a
weekly summer farmers’ market in St. Norbert (on the southern edge of
Winnipeg). They are also interested in selling their product in
Manitoba schools as an alternative to soft drinks.

“Our sales are increasing every year,” Unger says.  “This is still new
for most Manitobans since we don’t grow a lot of apples here.”