RG 2008 December

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

December , 2008


Late Season

The 16 th pressing of St Em on the 5th of November completed my 6000 litres of draught. This is all bedded down chillingly within the 6 IBCs in the tank room. The cold weather this year has greatly slowed the winter miracle of converting juice to cider, but it is happening!

Since then I've concentrated on the keeving of the remaining excise allowance of 1000 litres. This has been a slow business due to the cold. It took two weeks for the Porters Perfection to show any sign of defecation. Then it went mad in the week before Christmas and produced a thick brown cap and then again another after the first racking. The 400 litres of juice that remains is clear, delicious and very pleasing. It is also a relief because I had started to worry about all that juice hanging around with air on it and doing nothing for so long. But I'm glad to say that all is well and now a gentle fermentation has begun.

The keeving period had in fact started with an almost mechanical predictability in late November. There was a warmer spell then. 150 litres of Kingston Black, the entire crop of the one ancient tree in Justin's orchard, had started to keeve after only 4 days. It soon made a good cap and was then racked. Wonderful, I thought, this is like falling off a log! I went on to another success with 250 litres of Yarlington. This time I used St Em for the pressing. Instead of macerating the pulp in boxes and then using my small press, I had merely completed a cheese on St Em and left it overnight to macerate before pressing. Again the keeving began a few days after the pressing and I felt horribly smug. I remember somebody posting last year who said that keeving was just a straightforward process. I now began to believe this, in spite of my previously aired views fears to the contrary. I told myself 'You've cracked it, what a cocky little keever you are!'

Ah, how pride cometh before a fall! I had always used my small homemade press for keeving because it was much easier to sterilise its set of cloths and racks. The cloths and racks of St Em are 4 times larger and it is very difficult to ensure that nothing remains on them from previous pressings. In between pressings on both presses I always soak the cloths and racks in a weak solution of sulphite, but it is impossible to rinse out all the tiny apple particles in the large press cloths. Following the success of the Yarlington keeve however, I had begun to think that my worries were unfounded. I therefore decided that I would use St. Em from then on and went on to do a good press load of Dabinetts. As with the Yarlingtons I macerated the cheese on the press, the enzyme having been carefully mixed into each layer during it's assembly. I'd added about 20 % of Ashmeads to increase acidity and also sulphited the resulting juice for a partial yeast kill. The chloride was added a day later. Then the following day an uninvited and vigorous fermentation began. Absolutely no hope of keeving now, those wild yeasts had got their way somehow. It certainly brought me down to earth again about keeving.

By now it was time to do the beloved Porters. I could nor bear the thought of them not keeving. Porters is such an acid apple it needs to be keeved for use as a single variety. The residual sugar then provides balance to the acidity. Were it to ferment to full dryness I would have to add it to the draught. Not a waste, but it would be a big disappointment all round. My keeved Porters has built up quite a following locally.

I decided that I must revert to my old method using the small press and its well sterilised 'nylon curtain' cloths. I knew it would take a lot of time and patience. Instead of doing it all at once on St Em, I would have to build up the quantity in sessions of small pressings. I did 4 sessions, each of 4 pressings. Each session produced a 120 litre blue tub of juice which was then keeved separately. After keeving the tubs were pumped into a 400 litre stainless tank, whereupon the second cap developed and racking had to be done again. What a keeve it was!

The extra care had its reward. The juice had stood sullen for weeks until it keeved, the final reward being a 400 litre Christmas present!

Now I'm busy having a big clean up of all the juice splashes here there and everywhere. Those little tell tale marks have accumulated during the season on the walls and even surprisingly on the ceiling.They have started turning black and an environmental health inspection is due! Oh dear!


Craft Cider Making by Andrew Lea

I really do have to say to anyone who wants to understand keeving and to know why this is such a worthwhile way to make real cider, read Andrew's new book "Craft Cider Making" (from www.goodlifepress.co.uk ). Andrew considers keeving to be the 'ultimate style of naturally sweet sparkling cider' and goes on to discuss traditional keeving and the latest techniques that are being used. His own expertise in the keeving process means that he is also the perfect advisor.

There is a world of difference between full juice, naturally sweet, self sparkling cider and the commercial pasteurised, back sweetened, 30 % juice, force carbonated product.

Andrew's book is written in a clear and most informative style. It is also delightful to read, which is an amazing achievement for something so useful and bursting with gen. It covers all aspects of our craft from orcharding to cidermaking and its problems. It even has an extra chapter on apple juice, vinegar and perry. In my opinion it eclipses all that has gone before. I could cheerfully throw out all the little books I've collected over the years! It answers all the questions repeatedly thrown up on this site by new cidermakers. There is no excuse for anybody to go wrong now. Buy this book and you will make good cider.


Being New year's Eve there were several alcoholic inexactitudes in my reference to Andrew's book. A keyboard should not be driven whilst drinking cider! Here it is again:

Craft Cider Making, by Andrew Lea
I.S.B.N. 978 1 90487 1378
From www.goodlifepress.co.uk or Amazon etc

May you read, enjoy and make excellent cider in 2009. Happy New Year one and all!