MARQUETTE - Throughout the summer and fall, there's a marked difference in our connection with our food. Area farms are in full motion until November, home gardening supplies, basic kitchen staples and any leftovers can be canned for use in the winter.
Yet, a fall-season favorite and Upper Peninsula classic, apple cider, is sometimes overlooked on the local level, with most cider sold in the area coming from Wisconsin or beyond.
Aside from a handful of U.P. businesses that make apple cider commercially, 100 percent fresh apple cider is hard to come by in the Marquette area. Even commercially-sold cider must go through the pasteurization process, according to local cider-presser Justin Savu, and is therefore not technically raw, fresh apple cider.
Cider press owner Justin Savu demostrates how raw apple cider is made to a group of Marquette Farmers Market patrons earlier this fall. (Photo by Sarah Monte)
"Handmade apple cider is as fresh as you can get it," Savu, a local woodworker and cider maker said. "The stuff that you buy at the store is pasteurized so it's gone through the heat process. That's a good safety concern for the public when you're doing it commercially, but I prefer the raw stuff."
On most Saturdays during the fall season, Savu can be found at the Marquette Farmers Market working his cider press in front of curious bystanders. And while he presses for free, patrons must bring their own apples.
"The nice thing about the farmer's market is that people that don't have access to a cider press can come down," he said. "You can bring 20 apples or 10 bags and it's just a good thing for a community to have access to, especially with someone helping out and explaining."
As a woodworking artist-with work featured at Zero Degree Art Gallery in Marquette-and a carpenter, Savu considers the cider press a seasonal hobby, bringing it out only a handful of times in September and October as the apple harvest allows.
"The (best part) is picking your own apples," he said. "It's fun to be in an apple orchard and typically people in the area are okay with me picking from their orchards. So I get free apples and make free cider.
"My neighbor actually has an apple orchard that they don't use, so I have free reign on that every fall."
With a neighbor that provides the materials for the cider and a press-which Savu bought 15 years ago as a result of "being around someone with a press and it having a big enough influence for me to just get one on my own"-Savu's cider pressing has become fairly simple, and still immensely satisfying.
"The collective community aspect of it is what makes it (so gratifying)," he said. "And the first glass of fresh cider out of the press, that just does it every time."
Not only is the momentary satisfaction worth the work of pressing his own cider, but Savu also acknowledges that he is taking part in a dying custom, one that has been hardly utilized in the last half decade.
"I wouldn't say it's extinct but it's much less common," he said. "It feels good to revive a food craft and keep it going."
Amanda Monthei can be reached at 906-228-2500.