RG 2008 May
| This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant
May , 2008
Relaxing before Putley
At last I've stopped working and can have an early night in readiness for my early departure for Putley tomorrow. This week has been hectic. I've felt as though I've been squeezed between the two big jaws of Powerstock and Putley. Being away for a few days at the beginning of May is very pleasant but creates a large hiccup with my cider orders. Having caught up with the backlog at the beginning of the week, I've then had to package and deliver new orders and also make provision for next weeks deliveries when I return from Putley. This great rush of activity in early May is due to the cider I supply to local festivals. This week end is the annual Georgian Fair in Blandford and next week end is the Spring fair in a neighbouring village. Added to this I've needed to get my own entries ready for the Putley trials.
The pub trade has however been slower than last year, probably due to the miserably cold weather. There have been some highlights in spite of this. To my surprise and amusement, the tied pub with my cider 'under the counter' is doing extremely well, having now had 5, 20 litre boxes! The new free houses that I've mentioned are also doing very well. Now it does begin to feel like Spring at last and cider drinking time is here.
Looking back to the Powerstock festival last Friday brings a warm glow. This may be something to do with the delicious and most enjoyable glass of Ni's Blakeney Red perry that I'm sipping as I type. It was a great do, better than ever this year. It was fortunate that the weather was kind, because there were more people outside, than within the hall! The crowd had even overflowed into the adjacent school playground. It is a great credit to Nick and Dawn who organise the event each year, that it all works out so well and is a thoroughly good natured affair. It was good to see cider world personalities, Liz Copas and James Crowden there again and nice to see Julian Temperley as well this year.
Being a fund raiser, all the cider is donated and it speaks volumes about the many local producers who turn up with their kegs and barrels to dispense their lovingly made produce throughout the evening. Many are now becoming familiar to me but I'd better not start listing them or I'd be sure to leave someone out. I must however make one special mention because I found it so welcoming to see our good friend Nigel Stewart from Bridge Farm Cider with his stall right by the entrance. Nigel had an enticing line up of three kegs, one of which contained his single variety Dabinett. This was my first drink of the evening, a delightful hors d'oevre! I was soon to return to sample his main blend, always so good and dependable.
Nick had placed me, by special request, next to Ukcider friends Ni and Sharon. They in turn had persuaded newbie cidermakers Tom and Sandy from Oxford to bring a cask of their first cider to the event. Their cider was East Anglian in type due to the apples available to them but was well made. I enjoyed a glass and could tell that much care had gone into the making of it. Ni and Sharon had brought a real show stopper to rival their fine Major of the year before. It was an equally delightful single variety Cherry Norman, reddish and perfectly clear that somehow due to the magic they always seem conjure up, had finished delightfully medium sweet. The customers kept up a continual procession in returning to enjoy the yumminess of it! It was all sold out, long before my own
(I am pleased to report that Ni's Cherry Norman scions are now sprouting from my top worked cooking apple tree. This is definitely an apple that is well worth growing!)
Instead of overnighting in the back of the car this year, Ni persuaded me to camp at the farm where he and Sharon had pitched their tent last year. I viewed this with trepidation, but decided to search out the one person cycle camping tent from the loft, that I last used 25 years ago. It proved to be a surprisingly good night of camping, thanks to the cider I suppose. I have to say that the guy ropes could have been my undoing but for Sandy's kind loan of her LED torch! Then how pleasant it was next day to cook breakfast in the open air and then to sit lazily around, drinking tea in the morning sunshine with my cider friends from the night before. Really memorable! They did laugh about my tiny tent though. The beggars.
Gary Awdey has carried out a detailed programme of investigation into the art of keeving for several years. He has become a fount of knowledge on the subject and has generously given advice to craft cider makers worldwide in how best to obtain naturally sweet ciders by this method. He has freely shared the results of his experiments and generously provided enzyme samples to those of us who have been hoping to achieve the same high quality natural product. He has been untiring in the help he has given. I personally have learnt so much from Gary's detailed and lengthy emails, together with numerous photos of demijohns showing all stages of the process, modestly including those of occasions where things have gone wrong. That I can now usually manage to produce a keeve, is due entirely to Gary's kindly advice and also the fine detail in Andrew's useful web pages.
I've posted this tribute so that you can appreciate how deservedly Gary won the Sweet Cider class of the Putley trials last Saturday. I was delighted to witness this reward for his dedication and above all for the great help he has been to many of us. As I had had the honour of presenting Gary's entry in a UK gallon demijohn, I had also the pleasure of sampling it when it arrived from the USA. Gary had sent 5 litres so a generous sample was left for me. A fine perk indeed.
I can honestly say that as soon as I tasted that crystal clear Yarlington, I knew it would be the winner. The flavour was so full on appley it was stunning. It seemed so fresh and aromatic, the liquid equivalent of munching a beautiful apple straight off the tree on a sunny day. It was so delightful that I was hardly surprised when my fellow entrants judged it so highly. Gary's cider won 9 votes. 3 above the cider in second place and 5 above my own! Well done Gary!
Ukcider figured well this year because our Ni of Marches Cyder Circle also did extremely well with all of his entries, with a well deserved First in the Medium Cider class. I've remarked on Ni's delicious ciders and perries that I've had the pleasure to taste on a number of occasions, especially at the Powerstock festivals. They are always beautifully clear and full of flavour. Ever keen to experiment with unusual apple varieties, Ni comes up with some delicious surprises. The wonderful Major single variety he took to Powerstock in 2007 was even bettered by this year's naturally sweet Cherry Norman. His generosity in donating it to the Dorset event meant there was not enough to go to Putley. I fear my score would have been even worse, had this been the case!
Like Gary, Ni's success is also richly deserved due to the great care that he and Sharon always take with their ciders ( sorry Ni, Cyders! ). There is nobody that I would have been happier to hand the medium cider torch to. Well done Marches Cyder!
James Marsden was out and out King of perry as usual. When I congratulated him he shrugged and said he was just waiting for somebody to come up with something really good. Surely he must know how difficult it will be to better his own. Certainly it will be a challenge. Now remember this, I've tasted Ni's Blakeney Red. You read it here!
I think that the nicest thing about Putley is the general bonhomie, the renewal of friendships and the making of new ones. The little world of craft cider is a cheery place to be. I count myself lucky to have found so many good friends within it. On arrival at Putley it feels like arriving back at the family home. There are the familiar faces once again. Cider makers cheerfully chatting, as they queue to hand over their cherished jars and bottles to David Hewitt. David's smile is welcoming but he is unable to join the small talk. He sits at the table preoccupied with his laptop ensuring that all entries are properly checked in and allocated to the appropriate classes. He does this quickly and efficiently. Nobody has to wait very long. Almost as quickly as the entries come in they are whisked away by Jackie and her helpers to be given their colour coded number stickers. It is well tuned piece of team work that one sees further evidence of throughout the whole event.
I carefully placed Gary's jar on the table and told David he was looking at the winning sweet cider. His smile widened, knowing full well Gary's careful planning that lay behind the arrival of this entry all the way from New York State. I think it pleased David to be going international. When I had handed in my own jars which seemed much less exciting, I was pleased to spot Jean Nowell in the hall. "Rose", she said. "There is someone I want you to meet". She guided me across the hall towards a slender and demure looking teenage girl. "This is little Rosie and she has entries in the novice classes for both cider and perry.", said Jean with obvious pride. Rosie appeared to be rather shy with the suddenness of all this interest in her. I could easily understand this, from my own teenage memories of being introduced to strangers and felt the need to tread carefully. It was not long however before we were getting along really well and Rosie was getting really interested in my cider making and the other cider by Rosie.
Later that afternoon came the astounding news that the first prize for both of the novice classes had been awarded to 'Little Rosie'. I was as thrilled as she was. It was really nice to see her so happy as she went up to collect her certificates.
Next day Rosie was there again and she took a great interest as I set up my stall for the cider sales part of the event. I got the impression that it gave her quite a buzz to see 'Cider by Rosie' printed on my boxes and on the name board along the front of the stall. We had a bit of a girly giggle about it! She twice came back and offered to help. I thought a lot of this, but sadly there was not enough for two of us to do.
Later I met her mum. Then Adam, her dad, came to the stall for a chat. I soon realised that I was talking to one of those fine fathers who really involve themselves with their children and in so doing stimulate enthusiasm for new interests and activities. Gradually the story unfolded and I began to understand how a 14 year old girl could enter and win both cider and perry making competitions. Adam belongs to a local bell ringing team. The captain of the team is none other than famous lady cidermaker Jean Nowell! Jean is supposedly retired but still going strong, literally it would seem with regard to the bell ringing. I knew that although no longer at Lyne Down Farm, she was still making cider, albeit on a smaller scale. It transpired that she and Adam got to talking about cider, during, or more likely after bell ringing and they decided on a collaborative project. It put me in mind of the Combined Harvester song. Adam made the press, a steel hydraulic powered job ( he can weld ). Jean still had a scratter. Together they made cider. This got Adam and family involved in the noble art for the first time. How very like the Jean Nowell of old, famous for her proteges!
Rosie and her brother enjoyed the whole thing and according to dad, took a full and active part in the proceedings. They were much more than just onlookers, so it was decided that the cider and perry they helped to produce should be entered into the novice classes under their own names. What a lovely story about real family togetherness. It was the made my weekend to hear about it. As for Jean's part in all of this? Well she did remark to me later that it was a shame that there were not more lady cidermakers. I could see that her enthusiasm and probably some of her skill too, had definitely influenced Rosie. Wouldn't it be great if Rosie, living where she is, surrounded by a sea of orchards, with the encouragement of her double win in the Putley trials, grows up to become another Jean Nowell.
Anyway I have told her she can take over this Rosie business in a few year's time. It might even get another win at Putley then!
Some of you may have been wondering what has become of the ukcider pub stickers. I am now able to give an update of the progress that has been made. You may remember that we decided to make a start by using the first of Jez's designs; the apples within the map of the UK. It was generally decided that A6 would be the best size for a sticker to be applied to a pub door or window.
Dick Dunn kindly offered to print a small batch for evaluation and sent them over for Jez and me to look at. We found that those printed on a transparent substrate did not show up well when attached to a window. Their translucency reduced the contrast of the design such that the lettering was not easy to read. Luckily Dick had also printed one or two on a white semi opaque substrate. These showed up very well and were still easy to read when attached to a window, so this was the way we decided to go.
Soon after making this decision Dick sent me a dozen stickers of the type that we had preferred, so that I could try them out in the pubs. This proved to be most encouraging. The first pub I tried was The Drax Arms in Spetisbury, one of the two new free houses, recently sold off by the local brewery. The landlord thought that the sticker was a great idea and wanted to put it on the door straight away. I asked if I could have the pleasure of doing it. It was quite a thrill to be able to affix the very first one myself! Since then I've shown them to 7 more landlords. In every case the reaction was positive. I told them that we (ukcider) are conducting a national campaign for real, full juice, cider, to parallel the successful real ale campaign of the 1970s. I got the impression that most of them considered it an honour to display the sticker as well as it being a useful aid to sales!
That was two weeks ago. Putley intervened. Whilst there I put a
sticker on the front of my stall and offered one to each of the other
stall holders. Again the idea was well received. Dennis Gwatkin was
particularly impressed and would like to have some for his various
Roy Bailey (above) said that he would also like to have a few more.
On my return I found another package from Dick containing 25 stickers, all beautifully laser printed as before. I must say how indebted we are to Dick's characteristically American generosity. How kind of him to do so much towards getting a campaign started in a country that is not his own from thousands of miles away! I feel humbled by all the effort he has made on our behalf as well as bearing the cost of materials and the postage. Many thanks from us over here, Dick!
The position now is that allowing for pubs I've yet to approach and also for sending a few more stickers to the cidermakers that I've mentioned, I will have a dozen or so left over. I will send 3 or 4 to people who have a good retail position to display them and who are the first to email me ( off line ) with their address. More stickers will become available in due course. Jez has also printed some and is also looking at the best way to deal with the A5 posters.
This evening I went to resupply The Drax Arms with another 3 boxes of my draught. I was impressed by the number of people in the pub. Country pubs can be a bit dire on a Monday evening. Our own local is rarely busy during the week. I remarked on the jolly atmosphere in the pub to the landlord and how obviously things had improved since becoming a free house. I was heartened when he said that this was largely due to my cider and that even he, who had been a non cider drinker before, was now converted! Well that was nice to hear and certainly put a spring in my step. Then as I was driving home I started thinking how much Jez's clever little sticker, so professionally printed by Dick, had helped to get the folk in there.
On with the campaign!
May Queen Festival
We've been busy here for the last two days getting ready for the May Queen festival tomorrow. How sad that after all that unusual summer warmth, the weather has now reverted to type. I shall know better than clashing with the Cup Final weekend again! At least it has not rained yet, so it has been possible to cut the grass in the orchard and get the decorations and flags etc put up without much problem. This evening we installed the cider bar in the barn and put up the little marquee over the barbecue. When the job was done we were able to enjoy a couple of glasses of cider and stood outside the barn looking up at the leaden sky, cogitating about tomorrow. Now, get it over tonight or hang on until after our event, I pleaded.
There is an empty table in the barn especially for the guest ciders. So dear guests I do hope you will come regardless of what the weather may bring! The cider tasting begins at 3 pm then as long as the rain has held off we will have the May Queen crowning etc from 3.30 onwards.
Looking forward to seeing some valiant cidernauts here tomorrow.
Advice for Canada
Rose I will not be joining the cidernaughts as I live in Canada, but I have a question for you , made a batch of cider last yeak ,taste is really good and it is a little heady BUT is does not have any FIZZZZZ can you please advise - Geoff Reid
Good to hear from Canada and to realise you were with us in spirit on Saturday ( more later ). To our great pleasure we did actually have cidernauts here from the USA two years ago, a memorable occasion indeed.
I think your cider was bottled too late. I've been disappointed by making this mistake as well. There must be a little bit of potential fermentation left to produce the 'inbuilt' fizz, though not so much as to obliterate the flavour of the cider itself. I've found that to bottle when the Sg has fallen to about 1002 -3 produces a pleasant sparkle. Some people add a tiny amount of sugar as an insurance and this has been often mentioned here.
It is more difficult to judge when to bottle keeved ciders with higher levels of residual apple sugar. We had an interesting discussion about this recently. Check the archive if this is also of interest to you.
One consolation I have found, is that it pays to be patient. With real cider there is bound to be a few yeast cells left that will eventually make it sparkle. I'm often pleasantly surprised to open a bottle that has been kept for a year or so and find it has the perfect liveliness when poured into a glass.
Now you have really worried me, how does this sound! a friend of mine over here spent his life in the beer industry and made home wine, beer, and cider he told me I must kill the yeast dead before bottling ,because if I did not it will turn to vinegar, and so I put in a ????????? to kill it after fermentation, seems like the wrong thing to have done ?, but having said that my first batch did turn to vinegar and I had to use it for drain cleaner , so I would appreciate any advice you can give me - Thanks Geoff Reid
You were wrongly advised. Vinegary cider is caused by unhygienic processing or exposure of the cider to air, allowing infection by acetic bacteria. Assuming that your bottles were sterilised, the cider was most probably infected before it was bottled. Acetification then developed during its storage in the bottle.
The best advice I can give you is to study Andrew Lea's detailed website on cidermaking. See http://www.cider.org.uk . It is the definitive work, covering every aspect of cidermaking.
Dry Cider Event
I'm pleased to say that the much forecasted heavy rain did not happen last Saturday. We had a lucky escape because a friend who went to Exeter said it rained all day in Devon! We were blessed, the sky here remained leaden but it stayed dry and to my delight the event proved to be one of the best yet.
This year the event was centred on the barn, making use of the recently made, level dancing area there. Over the last few years local people carrying out major garden work or excavations for building foundations have been encouraged to dump their unwanted soil on the slope in front of the barn. Now that this has been levelled and seeded, it has made a pleasant area for our events as it commands a fine view of the orchard and its surrounding countryside. It has also meant that it has been possible to plant four more cider trees in the area previously used at the bottom of the orchard. This the part of my land with the best soil, so it was a shame not to use it for trees.
The May Queen throne was decorated luxuriantly with rhododendrons and mock orange blossom. Little Jasmine our queen of the May seemed to almost disappear into her colourful nest as it was carried aloft by the Morris men. I had mown a short path among the trees for the procession to follow, in deference to the advancing years of the Morris side. They however to their credit decided to spurn the easy option and carried the throne from the barn to the bottom of the orchard and then all the way back up again through the blossom! This was lovely to see and also to hear. This year three of the men walked in front of the throne, one with a flute and the other two with accordions. They played the Cornish Floral Dance as they progressed through the orchard. In their smart whites and florally adorned hats not only did they really look the part but the jingling of all their leg bells merged merrily with the quaint old tune. Jasmine peeped out demurely from amongst the rhododendrons. It was just perfect!
The crowning and the dancing then took place in front of the barn whilst people sat around watching and enjoying a glass or two from the cider bar. This was followed by a tasty barbecue, more cider and the cheerful folk music of the Bulbarrow Band. It was great to welcome once again our ukcider friends Ni and Sharon from Herefordshire, Barry and Sue from the New Forest with their friend Albert from Gloucester. Many of you will know Albert Rixon for his devotion and ingenuity in the restoration of antique cider presses. He also makes good cider and like our other guests brought a generous contribution for our bar. Barry's delightful perry was much commended by the ladies. Personally I also just loved Ni's Yarlington and Norman which kept me in good spirits all afternoon! It was also nice to have two well made local 'newbie' ciders from my friends Nicki in Blandford and Nick in Stickland. Ni thinks we ought to start our own Cyder Circle.
Ni also remarked that we had set up a four county event ( 4CCP ? perhaps 5 or 6CCP next year! Come on Somerset and Devon! ). A big thank you to all, for your kind contributions that helped so much in making the event so enjoyable. It was lovely having you here.
Bath and West Show
Rose's won a second place award for Class 11 Farmhouse Dry Cider.
Well done Rose!
Thank you, Andy. It was certainly a nice surprise, especially as it was the first time that I have entered the Bath & West.
Back online again
My mail went off during the Bath & West due to a software problem at the server end. After several phone calls this is now resolved and lots of ukcider mails have tumbled into the inbox. I'm pleased to see that we are suddenly busy again, after the unusually quiet period the week before.
I really wanted to say thank you for the kind words and congratulations that appeared following my prize at the Show. You are such nice chaps to know and gallant gentlemen indeed! Thanks especially to Michael for posting the results. I have been able to access the B & W website and although the livestock results were there from day 1, the cider results did not appear until the Show was over. The Committee ought to remedy this, for the benefit of those who have entered the competition but are unable to attend to view the results. I am most grateful to Barry for phoning the good news to me on Wednesday. It was such a nice surprise!
When I was able to see Michael's list I was thrilled to see ukcider well represented, most particularly by Andrew's triple listing! A superb result. May I add my congratulations to Andrew and also to Andy and Stewart at Blaengawney Cider. (I remember Stewart posting during the champagne cork discussion.)