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Finding, Growing and Processing Heirloom Apple Varieties in Finland

A few weeks back we spent a weekend at my friends’ organic apple orchard and nursery here in Finland, where they were juicing the last of this year’s apple harvest. The timing was a little late, since the peak of the season had already passed, but our hosts were still eager to have a try with their new hand powered apple crusher and juice press, and store the yumminess and vitamins for the winter.

However, there was also an another motive driving this action of testing the new hand operated equipment, in addition to the direct benefits of local organic winter drinks for the family.

The story began over ten years ago when Virpi and Hannu, our hosts, started the Northern Savo region apple project by searching for and recording old tasty and productive apple trees that have survived in people’s back yards through the few extreme winters we’ve had over the past century – winters that in some areas killed a large part of the apple stock in Finland. They recorded over a thousand trees and collected samples of the best ones for cultivation. Right after the project there were two hundred new heirloom varieties in cultivation. This, however, was a bit too much to handle so they decided to cut the production to a few dozen of the best varieties.

Now, ten years later, in the local region where the nursery operates, there has been approximately ten thousand apple trees sold from all the stores and nurseries around. Soon those trees will reach their maturity and full productivity, and in a few years people might be drowning in apples.

That’s when locally available, simple and affordable low tech methods for small scale processing can provide a great relief for many, as well as more ways to enjoy the harvest over a longer period of time! Coming together for a day or a weekend to share apple stories and press juice can also be a great way to weave local community and connections when the equipment is acquired and used collectively, or available for renting.

One of the main goals of the apple press project in my friends’ nursery is to do the work of researching and testing the different options of hand powered juice press technologies and find the most convenient and easily operated equipment to provide and recommend to people.

They have initially started out with one set of machinery: an apple crusher which grinds the fruit into a juicy pulp and a 25 liter spindle press for extracting. The first step of the process is to remove the cores, which although a lot of work is done for three good reasons: First of all, even though big industrial presses use whole apples, the seeds aren’t actually palatable and are considered better not included in the juice. Secondly, since we are on a nursery, the seeds from these heirloom northern hardy apples are saved for growing rootstock, and thirdly, the second product of this process is the dry pulp which is mixed with rolled oats and some sugar, and dried in the oven for muesli. Yum! Multiple yields, and no waste!

The press can process 25 liters of pulp on each round, but we were using less, to get a better extraction rate and more juice out of each apple. It was also discovered that when the pulp is juiced once, and then crushed and pressed again, even more juice can be obtained. After the second run though, the pulp had lost a lot of its texture and wasn’t so good for muesli anymore. Some of the juice was bottled and pasteurised for hygiene and longer storage time, and some was bottled raw in plastic and frozen. We also tested pressing whole crab apples (with seeds and everything) which give a wonderful pink colored juice and have a distinct taste that is not as sweet as from regular apples.

It is fascinating how much potential there is in the technologies known to us today that can be harnessed for producing many things other than monstrously large industrial facilities and overly complex and energy consuming equipment. There are so many opportunities in wonderful small scale tools that use zero oil, gas or electricity and which provide better local self reliance and add value to home grown produce.


  1. This is great stuff to hear about Mari. With biodiversity plummeting, and local resiliency threatened by fossil-fuel dependent large scale agricultural systems, these kind of projects that seek out and proliferate resilient heirloom varieties of plants are just the thing that should be on the agenda of people in all countries.

  2. It’s wonderful to find articles from the Nordic countries here! And really very interesting stuff too! I planted three apple trees around my cabin last spring, but just one survived the extreme cold last winter, at least here the hardest winter for a while. But the one that survived really thrives, and in some years I hope to get a lot of apple juice and muesli 8)

    Do you have any idea if the apple seeds contain a lot of antioxidants? I know that for grapes it’s recommended to chew and eat the stones, because these are full of antioxidants. If it’s the same way for apples, the juice pressed with the stones should have more antioxidants and hence be healthier. But I see that there will be a problem with the muesli, maybe to add a little honey?

    But I saw in the news today the bee pest has come to the Nordic countries and threats to wipe out the whole bee populations:

    (Hope you know Swedish so that you can read it?) If this happens it will surely not be good for the bees, but as far as I understand the humming bees are not threatened from this pest, so hopefully they can save our apple three harvests the next years.

    This nice equipment you use, did you made it yourself or can it be bought?

  3. If you eat apple seeds they metabolize to cyanide. A few eaten by accident here and there won’t kill you, but don’t treat them the way you would grape seeds.

  4. Thank you for the great story and photos.
    The very thing to show another way to become more self-sufficient, and that self-sufficiency is so very possible.

    Which company’s equipment is being used in the photos?

  5. Thank you for the cyanide information! Does anybody know if there is a risk with grape seeds too?

    Has anybody any tips about how to dry the muesli to achieve the best possible aroma?

  6. Thanks all for the comments!

    Paul, I must say I don’t know who the manufacturer is, it is also a mystery to us. The equipment was acquired through an Estonian company who imports them to Finland and all attempts to find who actually makes them have so far failed.

    Someone else also sells them though (eg. here Maybe they could tell where they come from. The company in Finland if anyone is interested is found at The site also has the content Swedish for other Nordic readers.


  7. Have a friend who dose the same thing here in Sweden and he bottles it in the air tight bags that you buy to make “box-wine”.

    Might be a tips


  8. Dear Mari,

    thank you for sharing your experience. To increase the juice yield, let the crushed apples stay for several hours before pressing. It is more efficient than crushing apples for a second time.
    The number printed on the busket “25” indicates its diameter in centimeters. The volume of the busket is 20 liters. If crushed with manual crusher, the juice yield is normally up to 50%. There is also electrical crusher available that grinds apples into finer pulp that provides higher juice yield up to 70%.

    You also wondered who is the manufacturer of the equipment. This press and crusher comes from Italy. We are small family-owned company from Estonia distributing juice processing equipment in Baltic states and Nordic countries. Here is more information about us: in finnish or in swedish language.
    We are also going to launch english version soon, I will post here the link later. Equipment can be delivered to any location in Europe for moderate shipping fee within just several days. For other destinations we have to check the delvery costs.

    Wishing all of you good apple harvest!

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