RG 2008 October
| This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant
October , 2008
The early part of the pressing season always seems to be a mad rush. Once the early apples start to fall, a treadmill like operation begins in order to get them pressed before they go bad. This has been all the more so for me this year due to the problem of the Nehous. Yesterday I worked very hard to sort out all those that remained and to get them pressed. There proved to be a surprising number of sound golden Nehous within the awful brown sludge on the floor of the trailer. I picked them out, one by one and mixed them in with the Tremletts that were in the wash tank. I couldn't bear to see them wasted. Then I shovelled the rest of the rotten mess on to the compost heap.
It took me ages and it is a relief to have done with it. The good thing now, is that 3,000 litres of juice is fermenting in the tanks. This has resulted from 8 cycles of St. Em and has used 4 tons of apples. I feel that I'm well on course to make the 7,000. Now I can start to relax a little and enjoy the mid season and its glorious bittersweets. This year I intend to make 6,000 litres of traditional dry. Just as in previous seasons, this main blend that I call 'Cider by Rosie' will be an amalgam of early, mid and late varieties. Apart from the fact that it is physically impossible to make it all at once, I like the blend to represent the whole season. Curiously this method of accumulation, as though working with nature, also happens to achieve a good balance of acid and tannin. However, if I go a bit mad on the Dabinetts and Yarlingtons later on, due to the fantastic crop this year, it may be that an acidic correction will be needed in late season. This can be conveniently done by adding juice from the late ripening Ashmeads Kernels or Porters Perfection.
The late season phase in November will be an exciting time. This is when I make the keeved cider. I've found that it is the best time to do it because the weather is usually starting to get chilly and also because most vintage varieties are then at their best. This year I hope to keeve 1,000 litres in 3 of my 400 litre stainless tanks. I reckon that in starting with 1,200 litres I will end up with 1,000 after removal of the brown caps and the lees.
Today was a good sunny day for a break. Having the trailer empty meant that it could be used to collect some logs for the winter. Like many in country areas who have to rely on oil for central heating, we are trying to economise on the fuel that has now become like liquid gold!
The logs are neatly stacked, the trailer is empty. Tomorrow I'm going to bring it back full of pretty mid season jerseys. To see the colour of them will be a joy in itself, after all those hard little green sharps and the spotty Nehous. How joyously they will rattle through the mill and perfume the ciderhouse!
Let mid season begin!
I seem to remember that last year, when I was around the 3.5k half way point, there was a bit of trouble with the mill. Well blow me down, it has happened again! Just when I was thinking how sweetly the mill was running with its new bearings and juice seal, one of its 3 legs dropped off! The brackets that attach the legs to the body of the machine are only held on with little tack welds to the main casing. On one of the brackets these the welds had sheared, probably due to fatigue caused by vibration and the weight of the heavy motor that the legs have to support.
Today I had to beg a favour from good friend Steve at my favourite welding shop in Wimborne. He kindly attended to the job in his lunch break and even put some extra weld on the other two brackets that were still intact. He did not want cash but said he'd like some more of the champagne cider when I do it again. It amuses me how the keeved cider is often referred to as 'champagne cider' by customers and friends. I never call it that because I don't do the 'methode' and would hate to annoy the French. I like to think that it is because people appreciate the extra quality of it. In truth, it is probably because I always put keeved in champagne bottles, (mainly for my own peace of mind). Still it is nice to know that the keeved is so well liked.
This evening I was able to reassemble the mill and took the opportunity of doing a mid season sharpening of the blades. They will now be like a couple of rotating cut throat razors! Even the largest apples will be instantly turned into mincemeat.
Last year I sang the praises of the amazing Mono pump that I'd come by second hand. It saved me so much hard work in getting the pomace from the mill to the press and has been working well again this year. I am still in awe of the way that it just swallows the 'tongue' of pomace emerging from the mill. It did develop a snag by the end of season last year. Due to its high starting torque requirement, the gearbox of its driving motor became worn and started slipping. At 1 hp the motor was also rather underpowered. This year I've fitted a 3 hp motor/ gearbox and it is working a treat. Being a 3 phase motor I've got it running from an inverter which has the great advantage of allowing variable speed control. I've found that running the Mono at 200 rpm, best matches the output speed of the mill.
Contrary to what I had imagined, the speed of the mill does not depend on how fast the apples can be thrown into the hopper. The milling speed depends on the juiciness of the apples and how fast the milled pomace can be cleared from the mill output. This in turn depends on the speed of the Mono pump. However it is no good just turning up the Mono speed or the pump will run out of pomace, start to cavitate and could then run dry. This is potentially fatal for the pump so the system must be set so that the mill tends to overfeed the Mono. It is quite a delicate balancing act but it is very rewarding when the system is working well.
I realised the necessity for careful speed control from my experience with the Mono last year. This year however it was further emphasised by what happened when I recently milled the Nehous. Not only are Nehous hard to capture alive but when you've got some that still look golden and wholesome, you then discover what dry little beggars they are. Ironically they are soft and so should be easily milled, but I found that their dryish pulp tended to clog up the mill. The auger also had a hard time forcing the stuff into the Mono pump which further slowed the throughput. Extra juice has to be added to keep the system running. I hope that the goodly flavour of the Nehous in my blend, will make it seem worth all the trouble it has been to process them.
To end on a high note, I've had a great time this week doing my latest load of Harry Masters and Yarlingtons. Once again the hopper of the mill has rung to the sound of the Piccadilly tube as the firm little Jerseys rattled around in the mincing chamber. This joyful sound was accompanied by sight of the juicy pomace in the hopper below, curling effortlessly into the auger. The appetite of the mill was insatiable, the smell of the juice divine!
I'm happy because their juiciness has made a big improvement to the processing speed.
Hi Rose, what kind of mill do you use? Regards, Tim
I use a Vigo 1500 which is made of stainless and has a high speed rotating knife and hammer. The two rotating hammers force the cut pieces of apple through a curved plate perforated with holes of about 1 cm diameter. It is an excellent mill that produces a fine 'porridge like' pomace. I find that the beefy 2 Kw is powerful and fast enough to do my annual processing of 10 tons without any trouble. I see no reason why it will not see me out as long as I keep it well maintained.
Unfortunately Vigo no longer sell them, although they still hold the spare parts. I can't comment on the yellow plastic mill that they sell in its place. Perhaps somebody who has one would like let us know how they get on with it.
New Forest Cider weekend
This evening I've been phoning my cidery friends around here to make sure that they don't miss it either. Barry's Do is a must! It isn't every day one gets to see a steam driven cider mill and its two sequentially powered presses in full puff and grind. There are many other attractions and demos too. Are you showing off the mighty little Shark again this year? It was quite a crowd puller, I remember
In this part of England the New Forest Cider Weekend has become our 'Big Apple'. We should be very grateful for the kindness and all the hard work by Barry and his family for staging such a fine attraction. `
(photo by Pete Yarlett)
What a wonderful weekend it was at Barry's. It was even better than last year and very well attended. For me it is always so good to meet up with friends from ukcider again . To be welcomed by Barry with a glass of that delicious Aussie Perry was especially memorable!
There is lots I would like to write about the last week or two, but there is just too much going on to stop and do it. Following on from Barry's Do the weekend just gone was Kingston Maurward College Apple and Harvest festival. Next Saturday is the Square & Compass Cider Festival and Poole Beer Festival. In between I'm trying to cling on to the crest of the mid season wave and pressing till 11 pm and falling into bed exhausted.
I will be back!
Jolly keeving weather! Minus temps overnight already!
I'm looking forward to getting started on that special part of the job again, but still have the last 1000 of draught to complete. I hope the chilliness stays with us for a week or two.