RG 2006 October
| This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant
October , 2006
Yesterday a friend and I did a demonstration pressing at an Apple Day in Broadoak community orchard, not far from here. I took my homemade 16 inch rack & cloth press and we perched it on a trestle table, in between trees still laden with golden apples. It was idyllic and the whole business captivated the attention of a good number of people. Having done this sort of thing before, I knew how amazed people would be by the amount of juice that comes off the press and especially by the good fresh apple flavour were they given the opportunity to taste it. I therefore made sure that we had some disposable glasses. We were pressing a variety of apples from the orchard and some that I think people had brought from their gardens. It looked to me as though most of them were cookers, but true to form the flavour of the juice was greatly acclaimed by all who sampled it.
I also knew that there would be some, usually men, who would want to try the end product,( ie. some what was made earlier! ) Having no cider left of my own, I took a bottle of Stephen Hayes rum barrel cider which he kindly brought to our May Festival. It is most enjoyable and wow what a punch it has!. I am pleased to say that all who tasted it remarked on how good it was. I did add that it was not mine, but one that had been specially prescribed by a good doctor that I know!
Q. Is a pump with a brass impellor OK for use with cider?
Contact with copper will produce an unpleasant metallic taint in cider. I suspect that brass would do the same as it contains copper. I bought a second hand stainless steel wine vat that had a brass tap which I have replaced with the stainless equivalent. As a rule the only safe metal for long term storage of cider is stainless steel. However short term contact with brass and aluminium is Ok in my opinion. I am thinking here of parts of the processing equipment with which the pomace or juice only has passing contact. I've used small brass screws to make press racks without any problem. Vigo's racks are held together with aluminium rivets. I've just made 45 aluminium angle brackets to attach the paddles of my apple elevator. ( Still belatedly under construction! )
I would guess that a brass pump would be alright since the juice would pass through it too quickly to be affected. You would have to make sure it was well cleaned soon after use, so that juice was never left in the pump chamber long enough to set up a reaction. Personally I think for real peace of mind the Okoflow pump sold by Vigo and beloved by many craft cider makers, is a worthwhile investment. All parts of it that are in contact with juice are made of nylon or stainless . I see that there is also have a range of Italian pumps in their catalogue, that are similar but less expensive.
If you look at Vigo's Italian pumps it would seem that 93204, 93208 and 93205 all have stainless steel bodies with plastic impellers but the 93206 is made of bronze. Vigo don't recomend using the bronze bodied pump for cider due to the higher acidity.
http:///www.screwfix.com have an all stainless pump submersible pump for only £89.99. Cat no. 71885. I am thinking of getting one of these to pump the juice from my press receiver tank to the vats. It looks ideal .
I have not bought the Screwfix pump as yet. I feel sure that it would be fine but, I find the Okoflow is perfectly adequate for the job. I thought it would be nice to have a pump dedicated to the press but managed to rein myself in from further spending!
Having further thoughts about this type of pump may have been a blessing, because I do wonder if it could prove to be a pig of a thing to clean at the end of each pressing. The whole pump and some of its cable is immersed in the juice. What a sticky proposition to deal with at the end of the day, just when you are feeling really bushed! The Okoflow is much more straight forward. I just dip the tube ends in sulphited water and pump it round and round for a few minutes when I'm packing up for the day. I also have a set of Vigo's little foam cleaning balls that I pump through the pipes now and then. They work well, the only snag being that it is necessary to remove the pipe connector fittings before attempting to squeeze them in.
There was a discussion in the letters page of the Telegraph a few weeks ago as to whether 'whelmed' is a proper word. I can't remember what the consensus was, but I do think that whelmed describes my present situation perfectly. I am not yet overwhelmed as I am still managing to cope with meeting the large input demand of St. Em using the old bucket and scoop method of building the cheese. From this you will gather that alas the elevator has progressed no further. It still lays, forlorn and soggy from the recent heavy rain, on the ground below the gantry. I'm trying not to think about it.
I've been whelmed by the bittersweets. The glorious jersey time has come, hastened by the onset of the squally autumn weather. The farmer who sells me apples in Somerset has taken two weeks holiday in Spain. Would you believe it? Nought out of ten for timing! However, Pomona has smiled on me nevertheless. A dear Dorset lady has given me the total crop of the 20 cider apple trees in her orchard. This is quite some gift! Like everywhere this year, the crop in phenomenal and her trees are good varieties including 2 each of Dabinett and Yarlington. There are also two of Tremlett's Bitter. Being an early bittersweet, a lot of the fruit was already on the ground. I cleared this along with all the other windfalls. The Brown Snouts, Michelins and Yarlingtons had also been beaten up by the wind over the last week. I got enough of a mixture together to celebrate with a pressing on St. Em.
On Saturday Andy and Louise, a cider loving couple in our village, came to help me. We put a tarpaulin under one of the Tremletts. Andy climbed right up inside the tree and started shaking them down. It was as though they were all barely hanging on a thread. Within minutes the whole lot were on the tarp. We pulled the sides of it up to gather the apples into a heap. What a fine sight it was all those little bright red stripeys with their pointed noses. I started thinking about a tasty single variety Tremletts that I once enjoyed. ( I think it was made by Sheppys ). I liked all that tannin! Maybe I will be tempted to have a go with some of the juice from these. I've not experimented with this variety before.
The problem of course with picking by hand is that it takes ages, even if one is fortunate to have some help. It took the three of us the whole afternoon to bag up the yield of just this one tree. There was over half a ton of apples! This evening I washed and milled half of them to get things off to a good start tomorrow. Then I will be able to build a complete half ton cheese of Tremletts on St. Em. It was a pleasant job washing them because these little apples were perfect and being straight from the tree were free of dirt and debris, save for a few twigs here and there. We had gone to the trouble of picking them out of the leaves whilst on the tarpaulin and it paid off. They were soon rattling through the mill at a most satisfying rate.
Earlier today I had a pleasant time picking Penny's Bramleys. Penny is Charles May's mum and she kindly gave me the Bramleys from the lovely old trees in her garden. There will be a little bit of Hampshire in my cider next year and I don't think I will be needing any malic acid powder from Vigo! You should have seen Charles. He had the really good idea of positioning his Land Rover at strategic points around the trees and then climbing up on to the roof rack where he was in a good position to shake them down.
I will be back to the little orchard down the road this week. It looks as though it will have to be Yarlingtons next. How on earth will I be able to keep up with it all? It is awesome looking up at all the fruit on those trees! I will be whelmed but not overwhelmed, I hope.
I've been stacking the cheeses for St. Em to the maximum height that will fit between her powerful jaws. This has meant building a thirteenth layer of pomace. It has been worth the effort because she now produces around 400 litres each time. Today I made 400 litres of Tremlett's Bitter from apples hand picked in the glorious sunshine last week end. This has brought me to an encouraging milestone. I have now made 3500 litres, as much as I did last year and halfway to my goal of the mythical 7000 maximum. It is still a firm possibility, as we are not yet quite half way through the season.
Tim, the farmer who gives my spent pomace to his cows, came to collect the 13 bags of super-dry Tremlett this afternoon. He said that he supposed I'd be about finished pressing by now. He was surprised and his face lit up when I told him that there was as much again, still to come! It is a rare sight to see a farmer smile these days, so this was a pleasure to behold. I laughed when he said that he wished I could press apples all year round! Can you imagine it? At the rate I'm working, I certainly can't!
I think his cows are now really hooked on the stuff. They are in the field just slightly up the hill behind our house. From there they can see him entering our drive with his tractor and I've seen them rush down to the fence with excited anticipation of their forthcoming appley treat . I'm just so grateful that Tim is so keen to take the stuff away as it saves me a lot of bother. It is also rather nice to think that with cider apples, absolutely nothing is wasted.
The half way mark has been reached without the hoped for industrial revolution of the elevator. My friend Clive helped me to get it winched up and attached to the gantry last Thursday. What a rewarding sight it is too. Newly painted in St. Em blue, it rears up proudly behind the barn like a great giraffe. The cast iron driving wheel, high and mighty on the top box, gleams in Hammerite red. It really looks the Business and would not be at all out of place at the Great Dorset Steam Fair. There is still much to be done, I'm afraid. I still have to make the apple chute and fit a little window to the barn roof, through which the chute will pour apples into the loft. Further progress is impossible at the moment with the bitter sweets now in full flow. My Somerset apple farmer is back from his Spanish holiday, so I'm getting another 2 tons from him tomorrow. Yes, more bittersweets! This is the time to add the flavour.
How happy the cows will be next week end!
Yesterday Ray and Gail Blockley dropped down into Dorset from their half term cidernauting hi- jinks in Somerset . They helped me to complete a pressing of Yarlingtons on St . Em. Then we celebrated with my last bottle of Stephen's rum barrel cider ( that I was trying to save for Christmas!). It went down very well especially as it was followed by Roy's King John Perry as a dessert! It was ukcider heaven here yesterday evening.
We had a great day and the sun even deigned to shine on our apple washing. Alas it's back to the drizzle for my attempts today and there's loads more Yarlingtons still in the trailer.
Busy season crisis
I'm heading towards a crisis in that I'm fast running out of storage tanks for the prolific output of St. Em. Of course I've known all along that extra tanks would be needed to get me up to 7000 litres and I bought another 3, 1000 litre IBC s back in the summer. These have lurked in the back garden awaiting the refurbishment of the lean-to shed that I once used for pigs, at the ciderhouse end of the barn. I knew that it would be foolish to install the tanks in the lean-to until something had been done to insulate the roof. This being of basic corrugated iron, would cause the cider to get too warm in the summer months, if nothing was done.
It was not that I forgot about the need to do this job, rather that I've repeatedly put off doing it. The elevator project was much more interesting and thus became the job of choice whenever I could spare some time in between cider making sessions. I even used the unimproved little shed as a workshop for building the various parts of the elevator. Having been unable to complete the elevator system in time, I now see how stupid I was to make it the main priority. The bare fact is that next week I will have to have those tanks, or stop pressing. I've now over 4000 litres and need the tanks for storing the 3000 I hope is yet to come. The elevator has been relegated to the Third Division and panic has set in!
Fortunately I was able to persuade one of my neighbours, who is a carpenter, to do the insulation job in between his other jobs last week. He fitted insulation board below the tin roof and this in turn was held in place by new ceiling boards. These he deftly banged into place with some sort of explosive nail gun. The whole thing was done more quickly than I thought possible for a little bundle of notes and the promise of cider yet to come. Clive, my friend who had helped with the elevator, then arrived with a pneumatic drill and removed the remains the concrete pig troughs that I had been unable to bash away from the floor. More cider was promised!
I just have to find some time to make good the floor with some concrete and give the ceiling and walls two coats of white paint. The tanks can then be moved in. This shed is 5 metres from front to back so it should ultimately be able to contain 5 IBC tanks, so providing a 5000 litre bulk store. An excellent prospect!
I feel every day is of increasing urgency. There is so much to be done and the weather calls the tune. Yesterday it rained hard all day so I worked on the lean-to job. Today I was washing Yarlingtons in brilliant sunshine then milling and building another cheese. What a strange autumn it is this year, still so warm when we are nearly in to November. Last year I keeved theYarlingtons but it is still too warm to consider it this year so they are going into the blend. At lunch time the temperature was 20 c. I sat in the garden under a clump of banana trees looking up at their still green leaves. This time last year the leaves had withered and I had packed up the trunks with straw for the winter. I wondered if and when and what I will be keeving this year. I suppose there is still the possibility of doing some Kingstons and Porters if it gets chilly in the next few weeks.
As for the present I'm going to need more apples for the next pressing so perhaps I will be on my knees in the orchard tomorrow. I would like to finish the lean-to over the week end, but silly me agreed to do a demonstration pressing at the apple day of our local agricultural college on Saturday. This could be more fun than it sounds as my friend Nigel of Bridge Farm is doing the cider bar. There could be a good few other fans of his cider that I know well, who are almost certain to turn up!
College Apple Day
My little press performed well at the agricultural college apple day on Saturday and attracted considerable interest.
I had decided that unlike the last apple day I went to, where I churned out indifferent juice from a collection of all sorts of apples, I would actually use the time to make some cider. Better still I would make cider from my own orchard. The offerings from my own orchard are too small at any one time to satisfy St. Em and have to be supplemented with apples from elsewhere. Here was an opportunity to use the small press to make some cider for myself that would be entirely my own.There is that special satisfaction that comes of drinking ones own apples. I had arrived at the college with the car packed full of equipment and 5 bags of my own apples, two each of Dabinett and Ashmead's Kernel and one of Kingston Black. The college staff had thoughtfully provided 6 boxes of Golden Delicious from their orchard. These I graciously declined and stacked up in the corner of the marquee.
There was continual interest in my milling and pressing and I found that I was replying to questions almost continually. A pint of Nigel's draught was essential to prevent my throat becoming parched from all the talking. There seemed to be a glass of it on the table next to the press throughout the afternoon as though an essential part of the equipment. At one point I looked up from the cheese making and was suddenly aware of about another eight of Nigel's pints being clutched and much enjoyed by a group of students from the college. I thought how nice it was to see the lager generation discovering real cider. The students became more and more animated by the obvious simplicity of the cider making equipment and the cider making process. There were many enquiries as to where the various parts of the press could be obtained and as the cider in their glasses became less, the more became their ambition to make one themselves and give it a go. 'You only need some nylon curtains', said one of the girls excitedly. The boys thought that the wood work would be a doddle.
They drifted away, probably back to Nigel's cider bar and my audience became more family orientated. I was pressing the Ashmeads and knowing what a beautiful juice they give, I was offering it as tastings, straight off the press. An amusing coincidence was that opposite to my stall was that of a nursery selling apple trees . They had Ashmead trees in pots and these were adjacent to my press. When people tasting the juice exclaimed how wonderful it was, I pointed out that if they turned around they could behold an example of the very tree itself. The lady from the nursery told me later that she had sold four Ashmeads that afternoon!
As I was packing up the students returned, well cidered and even more determined to make their own. I had pressed all my cider apples and was loading the 5 gallon tubs of juice into the car. ' Don't suppose you could spare us those apples', they said, pointing to the boxes of Golden Delicious I had put to one side. I replied that I was fairly sure they could take them but that they would not be much good for making cider. 'It wont matter as long as it's alcoholic' said the most highly cidered one.
I may have started something! Rose.