RG 2006 November
| This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant
November , 2006
It seems hard to believe that it has become cold so suddenly. Not much over a week ago I wrote about how warm it was and how the banana leaves were still green. Now the nights are perishing and my clump of bananas is well and truly wrapped up for the winter. The good news is that keeving time is here, but the bad news is that all pressing has stopped.
I've another two tons of apples including a quarter ton each of Kingstons and Porters but I can't do anything with them because I've run out of storage for the juice. There is now 5000 litres divided between every sort of vessel I possess but not an inch of space left anywhere. I could see this coming but, as I remarked a week or so ago, the crisis is due to me failing to get the new tank room ready in good time.
In the last few days I've put in a lot of effort to level the floor and paint the walls and ceiling white. This evening I'm still painting because I'm determined not to move the tanks into position until this is done. It will not be possible to get to the walls once the tanks are installed. I'm sitting here now because I've come indoors to warm up. Shortly I must go back and do more because I want to be able to press again by Tuesday at the latest. I'm hoping to keeve my final 1000 litres but I've got to use up the bittersweet collection in the trailer first.
Square and Compass Worth Matravers
In spite of the crisis I had a day off yesterday and went to the Square's cider festival with my apple picking friend Louise. It was a wonderful afternoon. The sun shone brightly and it was warm enough to sit outside. There was a glorious blazing log fire in the lounge but few took advantage of it, most, like us, preferred to take their pints and hot pasties outside. The sea view not the only attraction this year, Charlie the landlord and his friends were making cider at the front of the pub! He had had a press locally made that was contained within a stainless frame and powered by two hydraulic jacks from a combine harvester. It was the first time that he'd tried it for real and it was proving very effective. It was also obvious that he'd been lashing out a bit down at Vigo on 3 poly tanks and one of their new mills. I was interested to see Vigo's new mill in operation. This is the one that has now replaced the stainless 800 and 1500 mills in their 2006 catalogue. It is a tall affair made of yellow and black plastic and has a 2.2 kw motor. I was impressed by how quiet it was and by the very fine pomace that it produces. I think the quality of the pomace is better than that from my 1500. On the negative side it did seem to jam more easily when presented with large apples.
The festival was the best one I've been to and there was a very long list of ciders to choose from. I was pleased to find my old friend the Sheppy's Tremlett's Bitter again. Delicious!
Trouble with Millie
The other day whilst raking, riddling and sorting out the bad apples from a tank of very cold water I mused over Steve's description of apple washing. I decided that I can cope with the 'mind numbing' as there are always lots of things to think about when hands and arms are in machine mode. It was more the hand numbing that was starting to get me down. My mind was not numbed but planning future home bodged mechanisation to assist this part of the work. It could be a suitable retirement job for my ancient electric cement mixer. Imagine its motor and gearbox attached to a gantry over the washing pit, its battered old drum replaced by 4 multi pronged paddles, vigorously agitating the apples in the water below. A cement mixer's speed of rotation would be just about ideal for this job. The bad apples would still have to be removed by hand at some stage. Photo electric sensors and rejector solenoids? Perhaps not Rose! There is still the elevator to finish off.
Yesterday I started out in a much happier frame of mind. The sun was shining and the prospect of washing apples seemed almost a joy. I put my head in the trailer and breathed deeply to enjoy the glorious appley aroma. This never fails to set me up for the hard work ahead. How I love that smell of the apples! Ah, the sweet perfume of Yarlingtons is so special. It is like a drug that keeps me going throughout the season. I think it is the thing about it all that I miss most, when pressing is over for another year. Perhaps I'm an apple junkie.
Now you will understand why I'm rambling on in such a time wasting manner. Production is stopped! (Those dread words that have haunted me from my years in the electronics factory).
As the first newly washed and sorted apples entered the mill there was a fearful screeching from its motor and it very nearly stalled. The next few hours were spent taking the mill to pieces, whereupon I discovered that the sealing gland had failed, allowing apple juice to get into the upper motor bearing. I put the motor upside down on my workmate bench, let it drain, then anointed it with WD40. A while later I plucked up courage and switched it on . After a few screeches of protest it sorted itself out and started running freely again. What a relief.... no mill, no more cider! The 7000 target had begun to look impossible.
I phoned Mavis at Vigo and was glad to hear that they still have the seals in stock, even though they no longer sell this type of mill. Owners of the 800 and 1500 mills will be pleased to hear that Vigo's policy is to continue to stock the spares for them. I was certainly pleased to hear that yesterday! It is just a case of waiting for the postman and then I should be back in business.
The postman doesn't make it to these far flung parts until afternoon, so I will have to get a bit of gardening in.
Ironically the new tank room is finished and the first two 1000 litre IBC s in there are full of cider. I've gained storage space in the tanks next to the press room. All I need now, is the mill! I hope it will behave when it gets the new seal.
Milly is merrily milling again! Hooray, what a relief.
Thank you Vigo and especially Mavis for getting the new seal posted so quickly.
The mill is working better than ever now. Taking it to pieces made me realise how blunt the blade had become so I sharpened it before reassembly. I milled a quarter of a ton this afternoon so tomorrow I'll be off to a good start for another half ton pressing on St. Em.
I can't think why I had not thought about sharpening the blade before now. It is something well worth doing. In amongst today's little bittersweets were some large Sweet Copins. They had excelled themselves this year and were 3 to 4 inches diameter. The mill coped with them effortlessly. Every so often amongst the rat tat tat of the Harrys and Yarlies came the splodge of a Copin as it was quickly pulverised. It was very satisfying indeed, and there was not a single jam the whole afternoon.
Every cloud has a silver lining!
I'm glad to say that my mill has been superb today. Since I sharpened the blade, the milling has been effortless and there has not been a single jam. It seems such an obvious thing to have done but what really pleases me is that I've proved that the mill can work continuously so long as it is well maintained. I stood beside it today simulating what the elevator will do next year by just allowing the apples to drop into it 4 or 5 at a time. It worked faultlessly. This means that next year I can have a continuous process with the pomace hopper being filled directly from the mill, whilst the mill itself is being fed by the elevator. I had thought that it would be necessary to have a holding area for the apples upstairs in the barn and that I would have to go up there and have a separate milling session after attending to the elevator. It is an exciting prospect for next year.
Dick Dunn asked what will prevent the conveyor from over-feeding the mill and jamming it, if nobody is at the feed-point for the mill when it's running.
This made me smile, because he rightly guessed my worst nightmare with the whole thing. Having nobody to call out to with "How's it going up there?" I could be running to and fro and up and down stairs, from the foot of the elevator to the mill and hopper above the press room. It is one way of keeping fit, I suppose, but something I would much rather avoid. The 'Sorcerer's apprentice' conjures up the situation perfectly!
It was obvious from the outset that two way control of the elevator is vital . I therefore made a starter relay control box for the elevator that is operated by low voltage from either a switch at the foot of the elevator, or from a switch next to the mill, in the loft. During the elevating part of the process I need to be outside checking that the apples are clean and sound before they get taken aloft. Whilst I'm doing all this, apples will also be plopping into the mill upstairs and pomace will be accumulating in the hopper above the press. Strewth!
There are two questions that will concern me:
(1) Is the mill working without jamming? The mill can jam if a whole lot of apples are suddenly poured into its hopper. However, as I proved yesterday, if apples are fed to it in a steady stream, with no more than about 4 or 5 at any one time, then it performs reliably without jamming. This is exactly what happens with an elevator. Each paddle on the moving belt will collect a few apples. These are then delivered to the mill as a steady stream of little bunches, each of which the mill can easily deal with. ( Well that's the theory, anyway!)
(2) Is the hopper full of pomace yet? I think I may buy a wireless CCTV system. It would only need to have a simple black and white camera. The camera could be positioned to view both the hopper of the mill and the pomace hopper below the mill. This will give me a picture on a portable 5 inch monitor that will provide all I need to know about what is going on upstairs. Due to the rapid growth of the market for security systems, basic CCTV can be obtained quite cheaply. It could be a useful tool for this sort of single handed operation, if somewhat incongruous to the ancient craft of cidermaking.
Weekend Off - for St Em
Last week I brought the Kingstons back from the big old tree in Somerset that I'd had my eye on. Although it was a huge tree the apples were very small and the total yield was only 1/4 ton. Rather disappointing and I knew St Em would turn her nose up at such a piffling amount. Her Holiness would want them to be mixed with a 1/4 ton of something else. I let her stew in her juicelessness because I wanted my KB to be pure.
She may have sulked, but I don't know because I moved into the next room for the weekend. For those of you who have seen Ray's Photos, this is the Sputnik Room. In fact the Sputniks are now the only things left in there, plop ploppingly full of Tremletts. The two IBC tanks have been moved to the new bulk store, that I've been working on next door. The 4 IBCs in there are now carrying the blend of my main production so far. The pH 3 early juice has now been mixed with the pH 4 late bittersweet juice and the blend is now a comfortable pH 3.5.( Andrew's table says 'add acid' so I've jolly well done it !) I've more Yarlingtons to do yet, so I'm hoping it will end at about pH 3.6.
Sorry to have led you 'round the houses'. It was just to let you see that I've gained a bit of space in the Sputnik room. This meant that I could set up my little oak press to do the Kingstons in there with lots of space for the pomace boxes etc as well. This was necessary because I needed to leave the boxes full of pomace to macerate overnight.
You've guessed it. Keeving time is here! Actually I've not had as much KB before so I'm quite excited. Usually I only produce about 25 litres from own little trees. After 3 pressings on the little oak job today, I now have 100 litres of the blessed KB in a blue tub. The enzme was mixed into the pomace before maceration, so its sulphite tonight, calcium chloride tomorrow and then wait, watch and hope for the mythical 'chapeau brun'.
It was such a good afternoon today that I decided to go apple picking in the small orchard just up the road. I haven't been there for two weeks because I've been busy with a trailer load from Somerset . On my last visit I cleared all the windfalls. Today I was confronted with another carpet of apples. It took me the whole afternoon to clear the fallen Yarlingtons. They were a sight to behold. Previously I had shaken the lower branches and had a big fall of little green and faintly pink tiddlers. Since then their big sun soaked brothers at the top of the tree had come down. What beauties they were, deep pink, 2-3 inches diameter and of the perfect jersey shape. I fetched my boxes, fell to my knees in adoration to joyously gather them up, thinking, these will add some spice to the blend!
It was so easy to collect them, because there were so many. No need to do any raking this year. I realised too, the value of having previously cleared the sward of apples, including those that were bad. There were no bad ones at all today and this made the job much easier. They will also be easy to process, being so clean and free of leaves.
This brings me back to the Kingstons. Desirable though they are, they have a bugbear that makes a lot of work. I've noticed over the last few years that although they are supposed to be a relatively late apple they have a tendency to have a lot of early windfalls. I'm forever bringing Tesco bags full from my orchard after my morning walk with the dog. In a small orchard like mine one can keep pace with this but in a commercial orchard it must be a nuisance. The Kingstons from the Somerset orchard had been mechanically harvested which meant that all the early fallers had been picked up as well. Some had been on the ground for ages and had turned chocolate brown with white spots. Washing and sorting them was an awful job and I filled a pail three times with the bad ones. It was a lot of work for a relatively small quantity and I hoped it would be worth all the hassle.
At the sight of that pale golden juice dripping from the press today, I realised that all had indeed been worthwhile. The juice of the Kingston Black is liquid gold. Isn't it?
Just been to sulphite and check the KB juice. pH is 3.4 Best of all the gravity is 1070! This my highest to date. The bittersweets have only been giving 1055 and I thought my hydrometer must be no good. (Have I caught up with Stephen at last?) That KB really is gold and it is staying on the premises!
Kingston Black Keeved?
Other cidermakers report a lack of sucess with keeving KB as a single varietal. Apparently the French bouche ciders are made exclusively from bittersweet varieties.
Well its early days yet because the juice was only pressed yesterday. I was prepared to wait a week or two because it took 10 days last year to get a brown cap. I have now been well prepared for failure. Thank you both for softening the disappointment that will kick in two weeks from now. At least I will not wait too long in vain hope but get the fermentation going to prevent a total loss. My success last year was with Dabinett and Yarlington, both being low acid juices. I've never had enough KB before to make it worth having a go at keeving, but have produced a pleasant semi sweet KB in small quantities by successive racking. Perhaps this is the answer for acidic juices.
I'm pleased that this point has been aired because the next juice I wanted to try keeving was Porter's Perfection. You have saved me the bother because it is even more acidic than KB! I think I shall play it safe and stick to bittersweets. Fortunately I've still some Dabinetts and Yarlingtons left.
Andrew is being modest about his keeved Dabinett. It was delicious and one of the best ciders I have ever tasted. There was a bottle left after our May event and I treasured it, making it last by disciplining myself to only drink it in a sherry glass. Well I got curious as to why Andrew's keeved had not just a fine flavour but also seemed so clean and refreshing. My own was good on flavour but seemed dull by comparison. When I got to the very last sherry glass full of Andrew's I could contain my curiosity no longer and got the pH test strips out. Andrew's cider was 3.6 whereas my own was 3.8. I emailed Andrew and he told me to try adding some malic acid to my own. It was then that I learnt the hard way that a little malic goes a long way because I overdid it and made the rest of my keeved cider undrinkable! Add just a little, then taste before adding more, is the moral of the story. I wont make that mistake again.
It was the quest to achieve a naturally balanced keeved cider that made me keen to try the quality bittersharps, sadly it seems to be a doomed experiment. I will report the lack of Chapeau dutifully when all hope is lost!
St Em has been happily chug chugging again today with half a ton of Yarlingtons. The Yarly perfume in the ciderhouse was divine and I've been high on it all day. So carried away with it was I, that I very nearly poured a few gallons of the pH 4 Yarly juice into the KB to lower its acidity. I'm glad that I didn't now. The KB is still undefiled and tomorrow I will try adding more calcium to it. I do have Gary's amazing US enzyme in the juice already, so there may be a fighting chance.
When I release the 12 ton jack on my home made oak press the top beam springs back like Robin Hood's bow and indeed the cheese still has some spring left in it. There is a sort of squeaky sound from the oak frame that always seems to me like a sigh of relief.
Its a different story with St Em. When the pressure is released the cheese seems like a dead thing without the slightest sign of life or rebellion left in it. Then I suppose if one has been sat upon by 60 tons that isn't surprising! She does not hold with any of this prancing about nonsense. Very proper, is St. Em!
I'm prancing about a bit today as I'm running both presses in the final push for the last 1000 litres. I'm doing Brown Thorn on the small press as another hopeful keever. It should be OK as pH is 4. Does anyone know this variety, it's new to me and its not in Liz.
No time for me to ramble on about it. Did I hear someone say, 'thank heaven for that!'
Brown Thorn and Ball's Bitter Sweet cider apples
re: Brown Thorn
Thanks for the full info, Ni.
It describes the apple perfectly. "Mild bitter sweet' explains why I found that they were rather nice to eat when I was picking them.
The other apple new to me this year and one that has given me 400 litres of good flavoured juice, is Ball's Bitter Sweet. Like the Brown Thorn it is not in Liz's book. I would appreciate any info you may have on it.
now at: Cider_Apples#Balls_Bittersweet
Kingston is Keeving!
Much to my surprise and delight a layer of cotton wool like substance has arisen in the KB! It is hovering about 5 mm below the surface. I'm tempted to skim it but have decided to let it continue to build. There seems very little possibility of fermentation starting as the weather has turned colder. Tonight is expected to be close to freezing, so I will be patient and let things develop further.
The Kingston cap is still growing. It is is beginning to look the proper job now, with curdling above the surface.
Like 'home from home' to see the same 30 gallon blue tubs being used over there! ( actually I think those tubs are made in France). It was also homely, to see that he uses the same method as me for removing the brown stuff, - a large gravy strainer.
- on the danger of the chapeau brun falling back in..
Oh yes, I've had that happen! It wont let there be a catastophique with this one though. Barry came this morning to give it his seal of approval and take a photo. Now I can remove the chapeau and put it under the rose bushes.
I've also done a 30 gal tub of Brown Thorn & Dabinett and its cap has just started to form.
Inspired by the success of the KB I have, perhaps rashly, attempted a 400 litre vat of Porter's Perfection. The acidity of this apple is O.82% compared with the 0.58 % of the KB, so this really will be the acid test for the American enzyme. I'm not that hopeful of success because I've run out of the calcium chloride. I've had 2 kg on order for over a fortnight but unfortunately the supplier is out of stock. As an attempt to overcome the problem I mixed a dessert spoon of calcium carbonate into the pomace of every layer on the press. I hope this enables the juice to pick up enough of the essential calcium for keeving. As the carbonate does not dissolve easily, perhaps this will be more effective than just pouring some into the juice.
Barry, how kind of you! I would greatly appreciate having some more chloride. I've five sacks of Ball's Bittersweet that I picked on Sunday. It seems a good variety to keeve and I'd like to give it a try. I'm resigned to the fact that the CaCl2 I ordered, is going to be here in time for next year's keeving! ( also no Bramley orchards nearby, Con.)
I thought about what Barry said about racking and how easy he finds it to run the juice out from below the brown cap, so I decided to give it a go. The Vigo europump proved to be ideal for the job as I could slip the narrow plastic tube down the side of the brown cap without disturbing it. It is a gentle little pump and as the juice was pumped out from below, the brown cap was able to sink slowly without breaking up. I was very pleased that it was such a clean separation. The trouble with skimming the cap is that there are always little pieces that break away and then sink. Using the europump I ended up with 90 litres of beautifully clear KB juice. All that was left was a heap of solid jelly in the bottom of the tub. I tipped into a pail and out of curiosity, hung this on the scales. Allowing 1 kg for the pail, the jelly weighed an amazing 5 kg! A very satisfying operation indeed