RG 2008 April

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

April , 2008



Joys of Spring

The joys of Spring at last! The first signs of life are to be seen in orchard and I've been delighted to see that the two top worked pear trees have taken. Every little perry scion is now showing green buds that are getting larger each day. The two top worked apple trees are still dormant. I must be patient a while longer. It is very encouraging though, to see the 100% connectivity of the pear scions. Shawn Carney's recommended grafting method looks like a sure fire winner! Thanks Shawn.


Yesterday came the long awaited visit of a highly skilled young man and his JCB. I was amazed at the way he whizzed around the trees with only inches to spare, to go into battle amongst the two rows of vines. After two hours they were uprooted and burning merrily on a large bonfire. It was no problem because the bonfire was already well ablaze with all the timber that had been used for supporting the training wires. It is good to see the extra space that has been gained. In the autumn I will be able to add another row of cider apples. These will be Roy's Dabinett grafts that he kindly brought over just before Christmas. I potted them to grow them on a bit, so maybe they will be alright to put out after they've been growing throughout the summer.


Good news on the pub front too! The cider is selling well in spite of the poor Easter weather and I've gained three more pubs. The first two have recently become free houses after being sold off by the local brewery. This has really bucked the trend, as I felt sure they would be scooped up by the dreaded Enterprise Inns. Good news indeed, as the enthusiastic new owners had already heard of my cider and wanted to sell it.

The third pub is a free house that is not really free, like those I've mentioned before. It is outside my preferred delivery range, but thinking it to be free, I could not help myself and breezed in full of confidence. Once inside, I was pleased to note that it seemed a proper drinking pub. The jovial landlord behind the bar was joking with a couple of chaps sitting on the bar stools. He'd just poured them each a pint of Stowford press. I waited till he had finished and then asked him if he would also like to sell some of mine. The smile left his face as he said sadly, " I'm afraid I have an agreement with --------" My heart sank to hear the familiar curse once again. Then an amazing thing happened. The two guys at the bar who had been silently contemplating the bubbles arising in their Stowfords, suddenly became animated and loudly proclaimed how wonderful it would be if the pub had some proper cider, just like the old days! The landlord thought it over for a few minutes and said he would try a box after all, ..... "under the counter", he whispered. I'm so glad that he decided to try a box, because he phoned a week later and ordered two more!

The first two pubs have been added to the wiki pub guide, but unfortunately the third has to remain anonymous. However it really gave me a buzz to be able to fight back, just for once.


Earls Court Exhibition

Here's something for those in striking distance of London's Earls Court exhibition centre next week. The Real Food festival is an exhibition of fine produce from specialist producers all over the Country and beyond. A huge selection of meat, veg, cheese, beverages, you name it, will be there, all being artisan produced and mouth watering to behold. The festival runs from the 24 - 27th April. The 24th is purely a trade day. On the public days 25-27th doors open at 11am

Barry gave me a copy of the publicity and I noted the cider makers from the long list of all the participants. They are as follows:

Ashridge Cider, Aspall, Chucklehead Cider ( what a wonderful name! ), Entente Cordial French cider, Heron Valley Cider, Mr. Whitehead's Cider and of course Barry's own New Forest Cider. I hope I've not missed out any other cider people and am sorry if I have.

If you are there, be sure to enjoy a glass of Barry's fine 2007 Kingston Black. Whilst supping you may note the first public display of Jez's Real Cider sticker on the New Forest stand. Dick Dunn kindly ran off some samples for our evaluation and it is one of these. Jez, Dick and I intend to have a quantity of the stickers available soon for wider distribution.


On bottling keeved cider

On 2 Apr 2008, at 16:50, Blaengawney wrote
> The key thing here appears to be the dropping of 1 to 2 degrees of
> gravity over 10 days at 10-15C. Would anybody like to comment on this?

In my limited experience of bottling keeved ciders over the last 3 years, I would say that this seems to be a good rule of thumb for safe bottling. Last year I had a 10 day rate of around 1 degree for the 2 months prior to bottling. The result was even safer than I wished! The same slow tail off of fermentation has occurred this year. My 300 litres of Dabinett/ Porter's Perfection has dropped from 1064 to 1030 over 140 days but in the last month or so the rate has again slowed right down to the 1 degree in 10 days level. The only worry about the rule is that the temperature averaged over this period would have been considerably less than the 10-15 C stated. However I still feel confident that it is now safe to bottle, but will use heavy weight bottles as a precaution.

I was interested to read Andrew's and Barry's comments on the corks that are designed to lose excess pressure. I've been thinking of changing over from the wired down plastic champagne 'corks' to 29 mm crown caps. Does anyone know if these will similarly act as a safety valve? Stewart has said that they can leak. If this is so, by design, then their use would give a further degree of safety. Do they have a 'blow off pressure' spec, I wonder?

Following my posting about the disappointing lack of further activity in last year's keeved cider, it was good to read Andy's posting earlier about his birthday bottle. I've also had a nice surprise this evening. Graham, a good friend, who lives in the village, told me that he still has half a case of the keeved Kingston, from last year. He said that the level of carbonation was just right now and that the cider had kept its natural sweetness. He then brought a bottle round to demonstrate and we had a most enjoyable tasting session. There was also a very healthy plop when the cork was withdrawn that made me glad I'd used the champagne bottles!

Graham kindly agreed to swop three of the 'vintage' 17 month old Kingstons for three of my newly bottled Dabinett/Porters, (after a persuasive little sample of the latter had been poured). What a pleasure it will be to drink the keeved cider that I thought was long since gone and enjoy the fullness of its maturity.