Cleve Smith Stocking Up on Gold

Cleve Smith opening a fridge full of home-pressed apple cider

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The Record Exchange

By Dianna Troyer

Cleve Smith stores a unique type of gold in glass jars and plastic bottles in his freezer for winter.

“To me and my wife, Karol, pressing and bottling apple juice with our friends and family is as good as gold because we’re making priceless memories when we do it together,” said Smith, 82, who farms in Sublett in southeastern Idaho. “For a few days, we have quite an assembly line going in my shop.”

When snowdrifts pile up at his farm, Smith opens the upright freezer he bought just to store the juice—a natural rich source of vitamin C—and selects a jug from more than 130 lined tightly beside each other on shelves. 

“I try to use similar-shaped containers, so they stack easier, and I can fit more in my freezer,” he said of the unpasteurized juice, which must be frozen to remain fresh.

“Once you taste juice from Fuji apples, you won’t want juice from any other kind. I guess I’m old-fashioned, wanting to make our own juice, so we know it’s fresh,” said Smith, who also puts the squeeze on carrots and grapes, so he has juices fortified with vitamins and minerals throughout winter.

As he sips his juice during frigid weather, warm memories of autumn surface, reminding him of his family’s fall apple-pressing ritual.

Their daughter, Jill Hardy, said many hands make light work.

“We’re all laughing and telling stories and catching up on our lives as we work,” Hardy said. “The time flies. We don’t even mind our sticky fingers. It’s become a fantastic tradition for our family and friends.”

The Smith family tradition started in 2015 when Smith’s son, Wade, suggested his dad buy Fuji apples.

“My brother-in-law owned an orchard in Washington, so I knew how delicious that variety is,” said Wade, who owned an adjacent orchard. He noted that Fuji apples are known for their sweet flavor, being easy to squeeze, and yielding a lot of juice. The apples mature late in the season and store well. “Dad liked the flavor and found an orchard in Idaho to buy from.”

Smith said the flavor makes the Fuji variety “the epitome of apples for juicing.” 

Sharing his penchant for Fuji, Smith began inviting neighbors and other families to his shop, so they could make some for themselves.

“Along with our kids, we usually have four to six other families who come,” Smith said.

Someone in the group volunteers to drive to a Fuji orchard in Fruitland, Idaho, and brings back several bins of apples. A 4-foot-cubed bin has 24 boxes of apples and weighs about 800 pounds. Each bin yields about 45 to 50 gallons of juice. 

“Depending on how many families participate, we buy two to six bins,” Smith said. 

Wade said the task of making apple juice, although time-consuming, is rewarding.

“When you taste the fruit of your labor, it makes all the hours of work worthwhile,” Wade said. “It’s more delicious than what you’d buy in a store.” ISI

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