A Pressing Engagement


As someone who loves to experience new aspects of French life, I was sorry to be missing out on the chance to sample the delights of apple pressing. Fortunately my Other Half stepped into the breach and what follows is Andy’s account of an experience which began when the alarm went off at stupid o’clock on a still-dark Saturday morning.


When friends in the UK talk about you moving to France they’ll commonly assume that you’re surrounded by vineyards and be quaffing the local wines. But in this part of the Deux-Sèvres department known as the Pays de Gâtine it’s rows and rows of apple trees that dominate. So it was an interesting experience to see how those apples get turned into bottles of freshly pressed juice.

This last weekend good friends of ours Kath and David asked me to lend them a hand in pressing and bottling their ten crates of apples. It was an early start on a misty Saturday morning with a 7:30 a.m. appointment at the local co-operative Doré de Gâtine just outside Secondigny.

It’s a very hands-on task with only minimal supervision from the staff as you move amongst all the equipment – surely a Health & Safety Executive inspectors nightmare but here in France it’s just a case of mucking in and getting on with the job.


Our crates of apples were duly transferred into one large container and the contents tipped onto a conveyer belt where they are washed and then ground into small pieces, a process known as scratting. On the press we had to lay out hessian sheets and drop in the scratted apples from the hopper. The sheet was then folded over to make what was effectively an apple parcel and a wooden slat placed on top. Each layer was built up in same fashion. The electric press applied several tons of pressure to squeeze the golden juice out into a tank. We had a sip of that pressing as it came out of the pipe, delicious and sweet.

The bottling process is fully mechanised but again we had to work hands-on at either end of the production line; placing bottles onto the conveyer belt at the beginning and unloading them off the turntable at the end into another crate. The bottles are cleaned and sterilised at a high temperature so they come off filled with apple juice but red-hot to the touch so gloves are an absolute necessity.

We’d been told to expect about 150 litres of apple juice but in the event we watched the counter move up to 173. Not bad for half a mornings’ work. Coming in at just under a euro per litre, less if you return and re-use your bottles from last year, that’s pretty impressive value for organically  produced apple juice. Even more so when you know it’s from your trees and that you’ve pressed and bottled it.

Next year David is keen to use those apples to brew some homemade scrumpy. Here’s to the next harvest!

Doré de Gâtine

Pomme Expo

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