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From apples to cider: Heckman family makes its annual beverage

Fall is in full swing and the Heckman family is busy picking apples, and making their well-known Heckman Orchards Cider.

“Normally we make the cider on Mondays and Thursdays, but we have been selling out, so we started working extra days,” said the owner, Mark Heckman. Heckman doesn’t pasteurize his cider but runs the fresh-made cider through a machine that has ultraviolet light to kill any bacteria.

“Pasteurizing gives the cider a longer shelf life, but our cider is all natural, so we make smaller batches,” he said.

Family endeavor

Heckman and his wife, Gail, along with their son, Daniel, work right alongside each another in the cider mill.

The noise is very loud inside the small cider mill with the apple grinder running.

Most conversation requires shouting, but it is teamwork all the way.

The apples are picked and brought down from the orchard for cider making.

First the apples are pressure washed in an outside area and then the apples come through a conveyor and drop into the grinder.

As the apples grind, Daniel sets up the trays used to hold the ground apples as his father fills the ready trays with ground apples that come through a large hose connected to the grinder.

Once the stack of trays is high enough, they go under the press and the juice from the apples runs through a strainer and passes through the ultraviolet light and goes into a giant sealed vat that connects to a row of what looks like water spigots.

“We will do around 1,000 gallons of cider today,” said Gail, who fills the bottles and hands them off to employee Nat Gromad, where she puts on the labels, along with the lids and crates the filled jugs.

At the end of this season, Gromad said she will have one full season working with Heckman Orchards and hopes to keep working at the orchard for a long time.

“I really love it,” she replied.

Mark Heckman, owner of Heckmans's Orchard, watches as the juice from the apples is pressed out.
Gail Heckman fills the jugs with apple cider from the big holding tank while employee Nat Gromad puts on the labels and caps.
Daniel Heckman watches as the ground-up apples are piped into the holding frame used to press the apple juice out of the ground apples.
Mark Heckman waits for the next form to be filled with the ground apples, before he folds the cloth over for the next form.
Mark Heckman waits for the ground apples to fill the form so he can fold over the cloth and start a new form.