RG 2005 November

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

November, 2005

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Contents

Cold

Next time you enjoy a glass of real cider by the warmth of a blazing log fire in the pub inglenook, spare a thought for the cidermaker on a cold November evening smoothing layer on layer of icy pomace on to the press. This craft product is truly hand made, sometimes with very cold hands indeed!

Yes!!! I have just finished the last pressing of the year. It seems a world away from when I started in mid September. It was so warm then and you may recall that I was plagued by the fruit flies. In the last couple of weeks the flies have completely disappeared. Have they have died or hibernated? I really don't care, but I do know that it has been just too dammed cold for them, because it nearly was for me too! Making cider has been a test of endurance just lately, so I am not sorry to have finished.

Actually I'm feeling rather pleased with myself since I have more than met my target. Last year I did 300 gallons and wanted to double it this year. A final check around the vats this evening told me that I have made 750 gallons. You may remember that I wanted to get a bigger press in the summer to go with the Vigo 1500 mill. I had no luck with finding one so I've had to continue using the 16 inch press that I had last year. I made an extra rack to give me 7 layers instead of 6. This got the output up to 10 gallons a go, which means that my last cheese this evening must have been about the 75th that I have done. I have pressed 5.75 tons of apples so the yield was 130 gallons per ton, which is quite pleasing.

Next year I am going for the excise limit which will mean doubling this years' output. Recently I have been able to buy a large steel electro- hydraulic press with a 34 inch bed. All being well this will be installed next summer. Each layer on this press will be 4 times the area of my present press and I should be able to get well over 50 gallons per pressing, depending on how many layers I can build. The Vigo mill can deal with the pomace required but the limitation will be in washing and handling the apples. This part of the job has been time consuming enough this year. The only sensible thing to do is to put the mill on the upper floor of the barn to feed pomace to the press from above, in the time honoured way. This in turn means that I will have to make an apple washing pit outside and build an elevator. I had a good look at Julian's elevator when I was at Burrow Hill. His is homemade and he told me where I could buy the chain and sprocket wheels in Yeovil. It should be fun if it all works!

I will keep you posted.

Rose.

Useful tools

I expect most of us have seen the old wooden apple shovels in cider museums and wondered how they managed to push the clumsy things into a heap of apples. It must have been heavy work in those days. I have found the modern equivalent that I have bought , tested and can thoroughly recommend. It is called a corn shovel and has a huge business end made of aluminium alloy. The shovels are light to use and can pick up a large quantity of apples. They cost about £25 from farm shops.

I once bought a plastic grass rake, tried it on the lawn and decided that it was nigh on useless. It then lurked in the garage for many years while I continued to use the rake that it was supposed to replace. This was the conventional type with a head made of bent wires, which was much more effective on the grass. Now I have discovered that the plastic rake is a perfect tool for apple washing!

I made a washing tank by cutting a 1000 litre Plastic IBC container in half. The tank is next to my trailer and this is where the story begins for my much maligned plastic rake. Firstly it is good for pulling the apples into the wash tank from the trailer. Then with its head inverted ( curly teeth sticking upwards), I push it backwards and forwards just below the layer of floating apples. This really gets the apples moving and they are vigorously washed. Finally it is a perfect tool for removing the apples from the wash as the apples are drained as soon as they are lifted from the water. I have really appreciated being able to do all this without getting my hands in the water now that the weather has turned so cold.

Of course it is still 'hands on' with the pomace, which feels really icy through my Marigold gloves as I load the press. I want to do one more cheese today so I'd better brace myself for another visit to the cider house and the perishing pomace!

Rose.

Harvesting

Having had much backache over the years from picking up apples, I have been very pleased this season and the last to be able to buy apples that have been mechanically harvested. That is, until now! The last batch I bought were picked up after a period of heavy rainfall. They are filthy and some have patches of Somerset clay that is stuck on to them like glue. It is really trying my patience to get them clean. Recently I was offered the chance to have the apples from a small orchard of 14 cider trees. I just could not refuse such an offer, but thought of the woeful backache I would have to endure. I waited for the apples to fall and started harvesting last week. Knowing that I would not be able to pick them up by stooping for very long, without pain, I decided to kneel. This is a better way of doing it but is also wearisome and can bring on pain in the neck. Eventually I discovered that the best way of doing the job is to rake the apples into a heap (leaves and all) using a grass rake. I then laid down by the side of the heap on a plastic bag, propped myself up on my left elbow, akin to the banqueting style of ancient Rome. This may have looked bizarre, but must have pleased Pomona. I found that it was simple and painless to sort the apples from the leaves in the heap using both hands and then toss them into the basket with my right hand.

I've done rather a lot like this now and I thought it worthy of mention because I found the work enjoyable instead of irksome. The view of an orchard from its floor is a wonderful thing and to be there close to the carpet of crimson Dabinetts and yellowing Brown Snouts is strangely fulfilling. Best of all, my handpicked fruit is all good and will be quick to process. It is clean, there are no bad ones and the half eaten ones have been left for the birds to finish.There is something to be said for really getting down to it! Oh, but I still have a ton of the mechanically mucked up ones to deal with, which because they are taking so long, are now half rotten as well ! Rose.

Pig's perks

RE "pumice" is a variation on "pomace".

Well bless me. An er thought tis that ole bit o stone er uses to grind the black appley stain awf me ands.

Q but does it refer to the pulp before or after pressing!

Interesting one this, I'm curious to know if people have heard of a different name for the stuff after it has been pressed. I always think of it as 'pig's perks'. Well, that is I used to. Last autumn I finally overwhelmed my pig keeping friend, there were so many bags of the perks. Unfortunately because of the glut, he left some of the bags standing around for too long. When piggies got their perks they became very drunk and aggressive towards their kindly keeper. This year he solemnly told me there was no way that he wanted any more of my perks so I've had to bury it all in the garden. I will have more apple seedlings than dandelions next year!

Rose.

Suntans

This year my Suntan apples were the tastiest I've ever grown. We have had a good summer which made them big and red, but I am convinced that their fine flavour was due to the heavy mulch of cow manure that I put around the tree. Rose.

Stowford press

I think it is the gas that murders a keg cider like Stowford press. If one had the patience to let a glass of it stand for a few hours it would be possible to taste the cider without the overriding CO2! It reminds me of the awful Watney's keg bitter before real ale came on the scene.

A lot of pubs now sell Weston's ciders from 20 litre bag in boxes. This is much better, eg the tasty 'Organic Vintage'. This method of delivery also preserves the quality as there is no air spoilage.

Bramleys

Today while my trailer was being loaded with more apples at Sparkford, I took off down the A303 and visited Burrow Hill Cider. Julian Temperley showed me the revised layout of his process now that it uses a huge Voran belt press instead of conventional rack & cloth. It was impressive to see it working though I felt that it lacks the romance of the old method, not to mention all the hard work!

The delivery and washing of the apples still looked conventional. A big pipe was gushing water over them in the yard from whence they were directed to the mill by a flume and an elevator. It was then that I noticed the huge apples mixed up with the bittersweets. " Bramleys", said Julian, " They are so useful for maintaining the right acid balance in the cider. I would not be without them!"

Rose.


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