RG 2005 October
| This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant
It is the perfect time to go for them. The mid season varieties have been falling madly due to the windy weather in the last few days, Those that have not fallen only need the slightest shake to bring them all down.
I've just had a phone call from Dora, a friend who lives near Wimborne. She has six cider trees in her garden and the apples are raining down. I sadly had to decline them as I've just got another 2 tons of Somerset apples that are keeping me rather busy! If anybody else would like to take up the offer, ring Dora on 01202 882275.
IKEA have wonderful rectangular, white plastic storage bins.They fit nicely under an apple mill so are ideal for the temporary storage of the pomace. Even better, they come with a lid to keep the flies out, which is good if you want to macerate the pomace overnight. Best of all, one side of the bin is sloped which makes the job of scooping the stuff out so much easier. I used them over the whole season last year and I've just been to get some more so that I can get ahead of the pressing when I have a milling session. With the lids on, you can stack the bins of pomace up like Lego, while they await pressing. The only thing that is a bit off putting is that the juice turns them brown, but I sterilise them with sulphite and have had no problems.
When I started cider making this year, I congratulated myself that my newly improved and more hygienic ciderhouse, was without flies. They were a curse last year and I put it down to all the spilt juice and poor housekeeping. However I frequently washed and sterilised the equipment and managed to get through without making any vinegar, but I was not happy about it. I therefore decided to give the ciderhouse a makeover this summer.
I now have a tiled floor that I mop carefully at the end of the days work, using sulphited water. As before, I sterilise the racks, cloths and all utensils. All was well in my new hospital like environment for about two weeks. I have it cracked, I thought.....until yesterday.
Yet again I've been invaded with a cloud of those minute black flies, hovering over the press and diving down to settle on the juicy sides of the cheese. They are driving me potty but I can't think how to get rid of them. Insecticide spraying is obviously not an option and last year I found that they were not much attracted to fly papers. I also tried an industrial UV fly killer, but the little varmits just fly through the high voltage grid without touching it!
Has anybody found a solution to this problem? Is there, perhaps, a substance of incredible stickiness that is more attractive to them than apple juice?
I don't think the spiders will oblige me by returning to their old haunts before I've finished pressing this year! I have almost solved the problem by painting insecticide solution on the metal casings of the florescent light fittings. I noticed that when I was not pressing, the little whatnots all went to roost on the warm light fittings. Not any more, they don't! There are now very few of them and before anybody mentions it; no, the dead ones did not drop in the cider!
I am now convinced that they come into the cider house on, or in, any apples that are bad. I do the whole operation, cutting out the bad washing, milling and pressing, in the same room. On reflection, it is probably a better idea to select and wash the apples outside. I have now started to inspect every shovelful of apples as I take them out of the trailer and I throw the obviously bad ones out at this stage, before barrowing them indoors. I am sure it has helped.
This evening I've been drinking the first bottle of the French cider that I bought at Cherbourg. It was only £1 per litre but I think it is really good and easily competes with Westons for full bodied flavour. Rather like Frome Valley but with nothing like as much gas in it. I wish now that I had bought a whole lot more, especially seeing what Lord Palmerston charges for it!
The question that comes to mind is that this cider is unpasteurised, fully dry and yet only 5% abv, how do they do it? Presumably it is diluted with water, since dry cider always finishes at around 7 to 8 %. I wondered how reduced alcohol cider is made, when I once tried some low alcohol Westons. It was pretty awful and to me it tasted like cider that had been diluted. Can it be made any other way than by dilution?
A Yes. By distillation, reverse-osmosis membranes, or special strains of yeast.
Thank you for the full info on low alc cider, Andrew. I did buy cider over there. The label says 'Cidre du Cotentin'. It is made in St Joseph by Cidrerie de la Brique. I look forward to more of it later, when I've done another pressing or two here! If I do happen to have purchased some l'eau Francaise in each bottle, then it certainly has not spoilt the flavour.
Welcome to ukcider, Mark.
I hesitated in replying to your request because I knew that Stephen would give you the definitive picture with regard to the economics of orcharding and cider making. He has done this extremely well and I concur with what he has said especially the bit about learning from your mistakes. Some of my trees still haven't produced anything worthwhile after 15 years! Fortunately I planted many different varieties, so I now know what works for my soil. The trouble is that it is a very long term experiment and I now have to wait another 15 years (God willing) before the extra trees of the "good" varieties, that I have since planted, bear a useful crop. I suspect that in Kent your soil is above chalk, as mine is in Dorset. If so, let me know and I could advise on what works well. Chalk is far from ideal for apple growing, but has the advantage of being well drained and will produce OK if the top soil is well cultivated and manured.
As a matter of interest I have found that Kingston Black crops reliably and well on chalk. Yesterday I was in the good apple growing area of Somerset collecting apples and enjoyed a pleasant wander through the orchards. Whilst there was a reasonable crop on most varieties, I noticed that the KBs were very poor compared with my own. The KB is known to be a poor cropper in apple growing areas and is not usually planted in commercial orchards. So like everything else, it is' swings and roundabouts'. Even chalk can have it's advantages.
I would not want to try and make a living from cider making. It is far more profitable to sell juice. Last year I sold juice to a pub at £3 a 75cl bottle but the best could get for the cider was £1.80 per litre. This is about £1 a pint, which the pubs then sell for £2.60 a pint. C'est la vie! However, it's much more of a challenge to make good cider and a lot more interesting! I am not bothering with juice this year and all that wretched pasteurisation.
I did 300 galls last year and made about £2000, allowing for that which I gave away to friends. All of this money and as much again I have reinvested in buying better equipment. There is still more that I want to buy, such as those increasingly expensive stainless steel vats, so it will be a year or two to break even. After that my hard work will be rewarded by having a supplementary income.
I think that to have a living from cider making would require quite a big investment in equipment so that one could profitably break through the 1500 galls excise limit. One would would have to make some careful calculations and have another source of income to get over the initial investment period. (Are you there Chris? It would be nice to have your view of this, as I know your are thinking of crashing the barrier.)
| end of January, 2006
return to The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant