Updated on 26 January 2024
Reading time: 4 minutes
Looking to shake up our farm-to-table food experience whilst in Normandy, we decide to make the Pays d’Auge our destination for a great family activity that can involve all ages. The apple harvest season is upon us and on this beautiful autumn day, we head off to visit a family-run, organic apple farm in order to discover the full process of making juice from freshly picked apples. We’re so excited to get involved and help out the farmer throughout the various stages of production of this lovingly hand-made apple juice!
It all starts in the apple orchard of the Domaine de Ouézy in the Pays d’Auge, a place where apple trees grow everywhere. We drove through the sleepy countryside to get there, bathed in sunshine on this day. Upon arrival, we are greeted by the farm’s friendly owner, Hervé, accompanied by his son. On the agenda for the day: picking, sorting, pressing apples and pasteurizing the beverage before we can finally savour the golden juice. A busy day ahead!
Apple harvest in Pays d’Auge
The smell of ripe apples drifts in the crisp air as we stroll through the orchard, golden leaves crunching underfoot. Traditionally, apples are picked by hand, like in the old days. Hervé promises to show us the apple picking machine he occasionally brings in to help fill the gap in fruit picking labour. But, for now it’s time to get our hands dirty! The orchard is overflowing with delicious apples. Hervé takes the time to brief us on the does and don’ts. For example, extreme care must be taken not to bruise or damage the fruit during the harvest process. We mustn’t pick rotten apples. We must remove the stem leaves.
Organic farmers don’t use chemicals that don’t occur in nature. “ Sheep are the most successful, environmentally friendly method of herbage control” he says. “There can be no organic orchards without the help of these natural lawnmowers and fertilizers”. Among the 750 varieties of apples existing in the Pays d’Auge from Carrouges to Honfleur, we are introduced to a few in the orchard: the fresquin rouge, the cimetière de Blangy and the Noël des champs.
Manual harvesting of fruit involves shaking the trees energetically so that the apples fall on the ground. The children are impressed by Hervé’s strength in doing so! It is then our task to collect the fallen fruit in a basket that Hervé can pour into a larger box. Let’s go to the press!
The Apple Press
As we walk into the press, the first thing that hits us is the scent of fresh apples. It is loud and rightly so, the press is in use. Before the juicing begins, the apples are inspected and cleaned to remove any dirt. We take the kids on our shoulders to get a plunging view on what happens in the press during the next stage, probably the most characteristic element in the process: apples are crushed and the press is screwed down to make the precious juice flow. Any residue from the juicing (skin, stem, core and fibres) are collected and make up for the nutritious treats for the sheep living on the farm—gourmet and zero waste!
Next step is the pasteurisation of the juice, which involves carefully heating it to high temperatures (78 degrees precisely) for a short time in order to kill any bacteria that may be present. Finally the process is complete. Hervé points out the yellow-gold juice surprisingly extracted from green apples. Last but not least, we help with sticking the labels on the bottles. Looks like the juice is ready for drinking!
Pressing the juice by hand & tasting
We then head for the château. On the way, we make a quick stop to marvel at the tree houses. One of them is actually one of the highest in Europe. We follow Hervé into a small room for a deeper insight into apple production on the estate. Hervé proudly showcases an old-fashioned, hand-crank wooden press and demonstrates how it works!
Visitors gather around Hervé to watch this fascinating tool and listen to his explanations. Let’s put it this way, meeting such a passionate artisan with a great love for the apple and a desire to produce products of remarkable quality is captivating! Time to try our apple juice now. There’s something so gratifyingly simple about the good, old-fashioned juice making process. It’s not only fun, but it produces a tasty, natural and healthy drink!
Domaine de Ouézy
This The Domaine de Ouézy was built around its13th century castle. The estate covers 30 hectares. In the park, animals are free to roam so you may come across some pigs, some Norman and Highland cows and alpacas. The educational farm is an important part of the estate. You can also stay in atypical wooden huts, some of which are perched in the trees. Activities for families are regularly organised on the estate.
The activity is open during French school holidays late October (booking on the phone or by email).
The farm is open every day from the end of February to beginning of November (10am – 6.30pm
7 € per person (free under 3 years old)
Group from 20 people (from 4 € per person)
Open to anyone with a disability
Where to sleep?
Spend a night in the atypical tree huts of the Domaine de Ouézy.
All of the above information is subject to change.