RG 2006 May
| This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant
May Queen Crowned
The flags are down, the chairs, tables, barbecues and the maypole have been returned. The blossom in the orchard has started to fall, hastened by the onset of heavy rain today. How fortunate we were on Saturday! Although not brilliant, the weather did at least stay dry and everything went ahead as planned. The previous week of warm sunshine had caused an amazing flush of blossom. Varieties that normally flower several weeks apart came into bloom together, the early varieties having been held back by the cold winter. The blossom reached its peak on Saturday and made a beautiful backdrop to the May queen on her throne and the children as they danced the maypole. It was a lovely sight and I felt that it had been well worth the effort involved.
Then of course there was the CIDER brought by ukcidernauts from far and wide. Some had even crossed the Atlantic at 30,000 ft in heavy glass bottles! Sadly some had leaked in Gary's suitcase (but that is another story!) What a great time we had, tasting so many fine ciders and what a pleasure meeting each other face to face, in most cases for the first time. Alas it all passed too quickly. It seemed to me that it was impossible to really appreciate so many excellent ciders in so short a time.
I now know this because I've been washing out the empty jars and carefully putting any cider left over into bottles so that it wont spoil. Of course I've had to have a little taste of this and that to ease the job along. This more leisurely sampling has allowed me to fully appreciate the high quality and the interesting variety of the ciders that you kind people brought to the festival. Thank you all very much. Your ciders and perry were excellent . I will greatly enjoy what remains ( Rose's perks! ) Having seen so many lists of cider at festivals posted here, I thought that it would be of interest to list the ciders at the Winterborne Houghton May Festival 2006 . Unlike those listed for other festivals, these were all made by members of ukcider and were graciously donated to our May festival. I hope I haven't forgotten anything and apologise if I have.
|Gary Awdey|| Russet with Elderberry
French style cider
|Andrew Lea||Dabinett, keeved
Harp Hill, bottled
Rum barrel cider
|Michael Cobb||Knytshall Orchard Cider|
|Roy Bailey||Royal County Cider
King John Perry
|Rose Grant||Cider by Rosie
Dabinett & Yarlington Mill,
I would love to tell you about each one of our guest ciders, but it would take too long and would be impossible to do so fairly as they were all of good quality. However the thing that really stood out was that each cider had unique character. The range of flavours was both interesting and exciting.
Thank you all Rose.
New pomace hopper and tray
Just to let you all know that things are still progressing with the upgrading project. Last week I collected the large hopper that I've had made in stainless sheet by a local metal workshop. This will be mounted through the ceiling of the press room to collect the pomace from the mill upstairs. It is large enough (700 x 700 x 1200) to hold the pomace for a complete cheese. As this is a one woman operation here, I have to have things set up for being able to do one bit at a time. Otherwise I could see myself running up and down stairs, like someone demented!
I've also had the pleasure of getting the new, oak and marine ply, juice tray for St. Em. I got the impression that Matthew, who made it for me, was rather keen to see where it was to be used as he insisted on delivering it! He'd also made a splendid pomace former, also of oak with perfectly dovetailed corners. I was delighted when I saw how these gleaming newly varnished items looked on top of the old press bed. Matthew and I just had to 'wet the new baby's head', whereupon he discovered a liking for cider. Another convert from the dreaded lager! He left here very contented along with a bonus of cider to take back for himself and the boss.
The next big thing will be to rebuild the elevator along the back wall of the barn. This can't begin yet awhile, until my spring events are over. All I've managed to do so far is to get the single phase motor converted to drive the elevator gearbox.
I am also busily boxing and bottling cider as the warmer weather has increased demand. A nearby farm had a springtime event last weekend, tractor and trailer rides through the bluebell woods plus ploughman's lunches back at the farm etc. They sold 6 x 20 litre boxes of my cider with the lunches. This was very pleasing as it was nearly twice what they had from me last year.
Hope to see a good few of you intrepid cidernauts this Saturday.
Dick asked about the new juice tray for St. Em being made of marine ply.
I asked the woodwork shop to make the tray and former entirely out of oak. However the boss, a man of many years experience in working with wood, said that it would be a mistake to have the base of the tray made from oak planking. He said that due to the expansion and contraction of the wood with the continual wetting and drying in use, the tray would inevitably leak. At worst the corner joints could be forced apart.
I could see the logic of this and so agreed to the use of 1 inch marine ply. Bearing in mind that the tray was going to be heavily varnished the actual type of wood would be of no consequence. Strength and stability were the over riding concerns.
I am well pleased with the result as Matthew recessed the plywood base into the oak sides so there is a juice proof joint between base and sides just as there is at each of the dovetailed corners of the sides themselves.
I congratulated Matthew on the perfection of his dovetails. Then Lou the Boss spoilt the illusion by telling me about the wonderful dovetail machine in their workshop, operated by one of the girls!
I was pleased to catch sight of Matthew in the cider tent on Saturday. He really has caught the cider bug! Better still he wants to come and help with the pressing. Perhaps help is at hand after all!
Cider by Rosie
Thank you Greg and Dick for your kind comments on my cider. It has really made my day!
We did have a very pleasant weekend and I found the Sunday to be especially relaxing with all the worries of the May event behind me. Memories of enjoyable times seem to me like a series of snapshots that can easily be recalled many years afterwards. I have already dwelt on quite a few of these from last weekend as I never manage much in the way of actual photography. One memory in particular will always be a pleasure to recall. Dick has described how he, Diane, Gary and I sat outside the Square & Compass gazing over the hills to the sea. We drank Burrow hill draught (Sir Julian's name be praised) and ate hot Cornish pasties (that I reckon were the real thing). There we were, cider makers and friends from two continents, enjoying our friendship in the atmoshere of that quaint pub. Surely what real cider it is all about and absolutely unforgettable!
Greg, you certainly managed to take in a wide selection of our better Dorset pubs on your visit. I reckon you must have made a checklist from the wiki guide and that perhaps Andy forgot to consult that good brainchild of his before leaving home? Still I am pleased to hear that you both had a pleasant time in my beloved county. Come again soon!
On the subject of supplying Cider By Rosie to pubs. I do have my eye on a few more freehouses but I have to reign myself in to a radius of 25 miles due to the cost of delivery. eg. If I take one box of cider 25 miles, I lose nearly £10 of what I get for it, to pay for the diesel. I try to encourage pubs to take 5 boxes at a time and landlords are becoming helpful with this. Of course supplying several pubs close to each other is also beneficial and this is also my policy, now that fuel is so costly. There are more pubs I could try within my self imposed limit but I want to try and keep the eight that I now supply going well into the summer. This is already in doubt as half of my 3500 litres has gone already. I'm not complaining but I would like to have some left for the Swanage festival in September.
I really do have to make more next year. On with the elevator project!
Last Saturday Andrew noted that St. Em's ram is operated by water pressure and wondered if this could lead to problems with corrosion. I had been concerned about this as well and had tentatively considered whether it would be better to fill the system with oil. I decided to email Vernon Bland, now retired and a veritable grandaddy of cider in Gloucestershire, from whom I bought the press. I asked him if it would be worth using oil in St. Em.
I just loved his reply as it reads like a page out of cider's history. It is a fine description of the way things were and I think you will all enjoy it too. It is also educational so I'm sure he wont mind me repeating it.
Vernon Bland wrote:
Dear Rose, Nice to hear from you and that things are progressing well. I've been in this business for nearly forty years and have seen hydraulic presses working in this country and in France and not one of them used oil.The chance of contamination would be far too high and in some cases,the cost would be astronomical.I'm thinking now of Coates Cider from whom I bought both my Beare presses.They had about a dozen identical presses all driven by an accumulator which I would guess held about 20,000 gallons so just think of the cost of filling it with mineral oil. A vist to Bulmers many years ago where I saw presses sretching into the distance,all powered by an accumulator which must have been the size of a gasometer.It was a truly Dickensian sight operated by an entire village from Ireland which used to spend the last three months of each year at Bulmers.They also had one Ensink press which has now grown to four as they bought my old business which included three Ensinks.The origin of the word "hydraulic" was based on water I believe. The only trouble that I ever had was with icing in December as we worked outside when we were trying to fill a 4,500 gallon tanker each day to supply Showerings as they had a strike on their hands.Our water supply was from a 40 gallon drum and I discovered that it takes an awful lot of anti freeze to stop that quantity from freezing.Personally I wouldn't give the idea a minutes houseroom.
It looks as though St. Em is meant to work with water, so I will leave well alone. Incidentally, for those of you fortunate to have the Warcollier & Charley book, there is a picture of one of the large Beare accumulator tanks at Plate XV11
A friend asked me to put on a cider bar at his 40th birthday party two days ago. He obviously wanted a local and rustic feel to the Do as the party was to be held in a large barn at a nearby farm. I readily agreed. I'm rather partial to parties in any case! He also arranged for a local brewery to provide the main bar.
I was pleased about this as it immediately solved the licensing problem. The brewery manager was, rather understandably, not so pleased when he heard that there would be competition! He said he would only agree to the situation as long as I did not undercut his lager price of £2.30 per pint. Oh heck! I'd wanted to sell my Rosie at £2 a pint to keep it moving and to appear reasonable, but what could I say?
As I usually just sell my cider wholesale, this was all a bit daunting. I needed a bar so I did something that has probably been done ever since coopers made oak barrels. I took two 40 gallon barrels and set them up with a 30 inch wide wooden door, used to make a table top. One end of the door rested on the top of one barrel and the other end rested on the top of the other. I set this up several hours before the party in the small marquee that had been put up to adjoin the barn. This extra tented area had been allocated for the bar as a whole, so I was careful to put my improvised barrel table well to one side. I came back later with my boxes of cider, about an hour before the party was due to begin, the brewery lorry was outside the barn and large sections of their portable bar were being carried into the bar tent. When this bar had been set up it took nearly the whole width of the tent, leaving me only about 3 ft of the available frontage adjoining the barn. I had no option but to have my little bar sideways on, there being room for only one of my carefully linseed oiled barrels on the frontage. This meant that my boxes of cider were at a right angle to the main bar, since my homemade bar was alongside the end wall, inside the tent. Seeing how I had been squeezed, one of the bar staff graciously offered me the use of the end of their bar, where it abutted my own. At least this would give me somewhere to put the glasses of cider if I ever got any customers. Things did not look good especially as the wretched lager pump was the next thing on the bar only about 3 ft from the end where I stood. I told myself that it was going to be a waste of time and expected to spend the evening bored and embarrassed by my lack of activity.
But I was not going down without a fight! I perched my 'Cider by Rosie' name board on the end of my bar that faced the public and above my one shiny barrel that could still be seen. I hoped that the red KB apples of my logo would be eye catching! Fortunately,( though I cringe to tell you), I'd made an even bolder sign that said 'Cider by Rosie is the Real Thing in Dorset' with a list of the pubs showing where it is sold. I wanted the party goers to at least try some real cider. To their credit the bar staff had had the decency to leave their fizzy factory cider on the lorry, so that any requests for cider would be referred to me. Nice people, so I decided to be bullish and set the price of the Rosie( traditional dry) at £2.40 and the semi-sweet keeved at £2.80 per pint.
Pint after pint
I was astounded by what happened. I had such a busy evening. It had started sedately enough, so I got myself a burger from the BBQ. I'd no sooner taken a bite of it, than things went mad. I was selling pint after pint continuously. It must have been an hour or more before I was able to finish the burger. To my increasing delight people were coming back, saying how nice it was and reordering further pints. Two rustic characters in particular kept reappearing. They told me they knew Julian Temperley and that they" knew a good drop when they 'arppened upon it ". Obviously real cider drinkers, praise indeed! By this time I was getting the distinct impression that the pints of cider were more than matching the pints of lager being sold next to me. Quite amazing! As I'd expected, the keeved cider was especially popular with the ladies and some were even drinking it in pints but a good few of the chaps took a shine to it as well.
Outside the rain was beating down continuously. It was a terrible evening and I thanked the Lord we had had a dry day for our May Queen festival. It rained so hard that water flooded into the bar tent due to the slight slope of the ground. By the end of the evening the floor was awash with muddy water. The brewery staff were heroically paddling about in their sopping trainers. luckily I'd had the foresight to bring my wellies, so what with that and the good selling of the cider, I was feeling disgustingly pleased with myself!
It was a new and interesting experience to have a cider bar.( Now I know why you do it ,Roy!) There is something very satisfying about seeing people enjoying what you have worked hard to produce. It was also a good way of getting a fair price for all the effort that goes into making keeved cider. It would be silly to try selling it to pubs as draught. They just would not want to pay the premium that it deserves. However, the evening was also a good marketing exercise. The semi-sweet keeved easily outsold the dry cider. It is the way to go, folks! The French know a thing or two, though it pains me to admit it.
I sold 3 x 20 litre boxes of keeved and 2 x 20 litre boxes of the dry. That amounts to 176 pints. There were about 200 people invited but some didn't come due to the foul weather, so I averaged around a pint per person. The brewery sold one aluminium keg of best bitter plus the usual spirits and soft drinks. I didn't see the lager keg changed, though it may have been while I was so busy.
A very satisfactory outcome, after all!
Rose, how did you get from there to here so fast?
Dick Dunn asks:
- Rose, when did you get out of the "few jars a year" category of cider production?
- and more to the point, how did you manage to scale up to serious commercial craft cider so fast?
- Anything special you did that helped a lot?
I did about 20 or 30 demijohns every year from about 1990 until 2003. It was a hobby that I enjoyed because it used the apples from the 10 or so trees that I'd planted on my small holding. This is the land that is now my orchard but in the 90 s I was really a hobby farmer as I kept 2 or 3 pigs and between 4 to 6 jersey cows. It took every moment of my spare time. I reared calves, hand milked, made butter and sold my excess cream to my work colleagues in jam jars at £1 a jar. My day job was mostly desk bound, as I was an engineer. I always longed to work outdoors, so my farming though hard work at times, was always a pleasure. I had a great affection for the Jerseys and it still melts my heart to see one. They are such beautiful animals.
Making cider from my own fruit also proved to be a very satisfying thing to do. Some of it was good but much of it was awful. I learnt by my mistakes, but tipping away a few demijohns is not a big disaster. I'd always enjoyed cider, probably something to do with getting to like it at the age of 17. It was my first alcoholic drink. I and a good friend, first discovered the joy of cider in a tiny pub in Churchill, Somerset. The pub was called the Crown. ( I've just looked it up on google. It sounds delightfully the same. Must go there again! )
When I retired I decided to limit myself to two jerseys that I would not put in calf, but just keep as pets. I intended to keep them until they died of old age. Sadly this was not to be. There are 3 badger sets in the wide hedges that surround my land and one by one my cows succumbed to bovine TB and had to be slaughtered. By 2004 I had 2 acres of land but no livestock. However by this time the cider making had been improving and I'd found the encouragement to plant a lot more trees. I could not face the sadness of loosing any more cattle so I decided to fully plant the land as an orchard and to concentrate on cider making.
The previous year I'd actually done enough pressings on my 1 gallon basket press to fill a 40 gallon barrel as well as the demijohns. Something horrible had happened to the cider in the barrel and I had to run it into the drain. A big waste of effort but I resolved to put it behind me and went out and bought 5 more barrels. The important extra this time round, was a pack of sulphur candles from Vigo! Tipping a barrel of cider away had been a lot more painful than the demijohns and I resolved not to let it happen again.
In Spring 2005 I had 6 barrels of cider that I had blended, racked and kept meticulously topped up over the winter. The cider had finished fermenting so I decided to see if I could sell it. I got some 10 litre bag-in-boxes from Vigo and approached a few of our local freehouses. I was astounded how quickly it sold.The local lads seemed to see it as an interesting diversion from the lager. I like to think that it took them back to their roots as this was once a big cider drinking area.
It was this success that really set me on the road. Having been a development engineer and used to project management I then saw what I wanted to do as a project with an ultimate aim. I planned a progressive build up to achieve 7000 litres a year over a two year period. (I do not consider that it is worth doing more because of the tax situation). I intended to ramp up production by gradually acquiring bigger and better equipment. I had seen James Marsden's ciderhouse at Greggs Pit and decided that this was the way I wanted to go with as much stainless equipment as possible. It seemed to me that old oak spirit barrels were a risk that I really did not want to take. Of course this ideal required some initial investment. I knew that it would be a while before I would break even but I felt that if I could build a clean operation then there would be a good chance of being able to make good cider, year on year. This being so, then I would have a dependable small income that would supplement my pension as well as an enjoyable occupation.
This year I am on target, half way there with 3500 litres. I've not recouped my investment yet, but I'm on course to, before I press again. The danger is the Iure of Vigo. I could use another couple of those stainless vats! They are perfect for keeving. Perhaps' break even' will have to be next year.
Assuming that I am able to get the old elevator installed, then I can see myself being able to handle, mill and press enough apples to have my 7000 litres next year. I also want to build a flume to feed the base of the elevator but this may have to wait until the following year.
How have I done it? Why am I doing it? It isn't to make money. I'm doing it because I'm enjoying myself. For the first time in my life I am working for myself and it is great to be one's own boss. I couldn't bear to have an idle retirement and this is like new career. I am able to make good progress because I now have all my time to devote to it. Engineering also taught me that being single minded gets results.
You asked if there was anything special that had helped. Yes, without doubt it has been ukcider and all the excellent advice and useful tips that are posted hereon. I am especially grateful to Andrew whose wise words and willingness to share his great knowledge of cider making has cleared up many misunderstandings and things that had been a mystery to me.