RG 2005 August

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8289401_8cd6453906_s.jpg This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant

August, 2005



Rum barrels

RE: keeping the barrels sweet by burning sulphur

The 'jury is still out' on this one. I haven't taken the bungs out yet to see if they are still OK.

I agree that they have a good fall back use as flower pots. I have two half casks of cannas flowering magnificently at present. This was from the first cask I ever bought where I learnt by my mistake of buying one where the bung had been removed. Since then I have only bought casks that are well stoppered up ( indeed one still had a litre of whiskey in it) The only trouble with half casks as flower pots is they are too heavy to move into the greenhouse for the winter, so the plants have to stay put and take their chance.

I've been following the discussion on spirit flavours with interest as I made 6 barrels of whiskey tainted cider last year. I thought the flavour was interesting but not to my own liking as I prefer the pure cider flavour. This year most of my cider will be in stainless vats but I think that assuming the barrels are still OK, I will do some' oak matured' as well. It would be interesting to offer the choice between the two types and see how they go. The 240 galls of whiskey cider sold effortlessly so that tells me there are a good number of people out there who do like the flavour. In any case the whiskey flavour should be less this year as the barrels have now had cider in them.

Eventually, I suppose, the original spirit flavour becomes insignificant and just the oakiness remains, so it could be worth persevering with the barrels. I too am a fan of Julian's cider and I've not noticed a spirit flavour in his. The huge oak vats at Burrow Hill are so enormous that I suspect they were built on site and have only ever had cider in them.



joke: A farmer who won a million on the lottery. When asked what he would do with the money he replied. 'Oh, I think I'll just carry on farming until it's all gone'.

You struck a chord with me here Stephen! Planting an orchard these days, is a deed that is done purely for the love of it. I share your experience with my own. Having had a wander round this morning, I think I will be lucky if I get 50 gallons from my own orchard. There are more trees than usual are taking a holiday this year. However the great thing about having a mixed orchard is that there are always compensations. This year the apple crop may be poor, but the plums are fantastic. I seldom have such promising Victorias. There has been a very good crop of Opals. They were delicious due to our plentiful sunshine this summer. I highly recommend Opal to anyone thinking of planting a plum tree. Unlike Victoria it crops heavily every year, yet the flavour is almost as good ( Victoria is one of its parents). It also gives a nice early start to the plum harvest by ripening in early August. Another compensation for me is that this year I can make Stoke Red single variety cider again. Last year not even a solitary apple, this year an abundance! I think Stoke Red is even better than the fabled KB.

More plums

Q: Querying the Parentage of Opal plums - it is Swedish bred from Ouillins Gage crossed with Early Favourite and was introduced in 1948.

Yes Andrew, I plead guilty. It was duff gen. Having mentioned Brogdale, I had a look at their site after sending the posting. It is a great place to check up on all manner of fruit trees. I looked up Opal and found that it does not have the family link to Victoria, that I had been led to believe when I bought it. This was rather a sad discovery because I had become convinced that you could taste the Victoria in it!

A really ripe Opal is like a foretaste of the delicious Vics that are yet to come!

I also looked for a new plum I am growing called Jubileum. This was raised to commemorate the Queen's Golden jubilee. It has not fruited for me yet so I hoped to find something about it. There was nothing, except that I did find Jubilee, which is a Czar\Victoria cross. I am wondering if I was conned. Nevertheless a combination of Czar and Victoria is a mouthwatering concept.

Sorry to have got all plummy on the Cider. At present the plum season is providing a little pleasant relief from the frantic hard work of getting the cidery ready for action again. I am busy painting the walls and tiling the floor, to make it all lovely for the hygiene inspector's visit.

Hygene in the cider house

Q: I thought painting etc in the ciderhouse only applied if you were bottling or producing apple juice.

My wall painting is purely by choice as the barn is made of concrete blocks and would otherwise be a grim place to spend much time in. It does at least give an impression of cleanliness if the walls and ceiling are clean and white. It also means you have to deal with the cobwebs, every so often! Of much greater importance in my opinion, is the floor. I am tiling the concrete floor so that it can be easily and effectively washed down. Last year my floor had a fair amount of juice, cider and pomace spilt on it which got 'ground in' to the pores of the concrete. One could tell from the build up of the cidery smell that my efforts at cleaning up had not been very effective. It was not an unpleasant odour but the concrete could well have become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. The ceramic tiles will be easy to swab and fortunately the underlying floor has a slight slope down towards the door, as the barn was once a piggery. I am not following a set of rules as one would if setting up a butchery, just doing what makes sense. From what I have heard, one is very much at the whim of the inspectors in any case. I know a chap who makes vinegary cider in oak barrels that he bottles up to sell at farmers markets. The inspectors were seemingly oblivious to the earth floor of his barn and that the only apple washing facility was the hosepipe outside. They were more concerned that he did not have a fire extinguisher! Like you Mark, I will be interested to hear other producers experiences. For example, Chris King Turner told me that they insisted on him having a separate basin for hand washing.