RG 2008 September

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

September , 2008


Mad September

It always happens in the same way. September begins innocently enough, then after a week or so the apples start to fall. I get remorseful at seeing them lying in the grass and soon feel compelled to turn them into cider. There are only enough for the little press at this stage and I make between 5 and 10 gallons from the fallen Tom Putts and Redstreaks. I ferment the juice in 5 gallon bins and these will become fermentation starters for the main tanks a few weeks later. A satisfying little exercise for such little effort.

However, this gentle beginning seems to be all it needs to trigger that mad climb up the gaussian curve towards its frantic peak in October. Apples suddenly become massively available. St Em is called into action and the race to turn apples into juice has begun once again. Now the Kingstons are falling off. Press, press, press!

This year I had even decided to force the pace of this ritual by doing some of the ultra early Nehous from my friend Oliver's orchard near Bridport. I had been obliged to change my poor opinion of the Nehou last year, once I'd experienced the high tannic quality of its cider. I now consider it to be a very valuable addition to the blend as a strong character builder. The trouble is that ripe Nehous soon deteriorate, turning brown and then squashy within a day or two after they fall. They are also of no use to Oliver, being are over and done with, long before the first lorry is due to collect his apples for the mill at Shepton Mallet.

'Never mind, I would love some', I said. We hatched a plan. Oliver would sweep the earliest fallers from the sward using his harvester and remove them. Then he would shake and harvest some pristine, golden Nehous. I would arrive with my trailer to take them away. Simple?

The big day came, I received a phone call from Oliver telling me that he'd now got half a ton of perfect Nehous waiting for me in the hopper of his harvester. We had not reckoned on the weather! Next day it poured and poured, heralding a week long spell of really wet weather. Lanes in west Dorset became flooded and impassible. The orchard also became far too muddy for any further movement to take place. By the time it was drier and I was able to get over there, Oliver had discarded 5 tons of Nehous to the compost heap! Luckily I did manage to get some of the last that were still left on the trees.

I am pressing them now along with the usual collection of early sharps. I suppose they make up about a third of the mixture but their effect is definitely noticeable. Whereas the pH would normally be around 3 at this stage, the Nehous have pushed it up to 3.6 and the juice has a gorgeous depth of flavour. SG is pleasing enough at 1050.

Last year I discovered that Nehous that have gone brown can be still be pressed without detriment ( given the correct dosage of SO2 ). Bad ones are obvious from their white fungal spots and for being so squashy that they almost fall apart. These are of course removed. I proved that brown Nehous are alright to use, by making a single variety cider of them. It turned out very well and the flavour was quite remarkable.

I don't much like the look of the Nehous I'm pressing now, but feel confident that it is worthwhile using them.

Today I boxed up the last of the 2007 cider to meet promised deliveries. I'm now sold out. It is good to see the first 2000 litres of this year's cider is bubbling in the tanks.


Square and Compass

"The Square and Compass, Worth Matravers, Dorset wins CAMRA National Cider Pub of the Year 2008."

As your ukcider reporter on the spot, I'm regrettably late in filing my report of the great event. I've been preoccupied with the Battle of Nehou. Yesterday saw a long rearguard action where 400 litres was recovered by 2359 hrs. Today I fear that the battle is lost due to the onset of foul weather. ( I will probably end up scraping them out of the trailer and burying them! )

The presentation to the Square & Compass was made last Wednesday. As a supplier to the pub as I was fortunate to be invited to the celebration. It was very much Charlie and Kevin's day. The sun even came out for them! We were able to assemble outside the front of the pub for the presentation. Andrea Briers, CAMRA's Chair of Cider and Perry made a short speech, saying how much she had always enjoyed her visits to the Square and how delighted she was by its ever increasing reputation for good cider. She then presented two framed certificates, one for the recent award of Wessex cider pub of the year and then the one for the coveted National cider pub of the year award.

Charlie Newman the landlord replied on behalf of the pub. His delight and that of all his staff, was shared the delight of all of us there. Both awards were so truly deserved! He spoke about his own introduction to cider making and how he had found that it is a wonderfully satisfying thing to do. Trays of Charlie's cider were brought out to toast the event and then we enjoyed lunch that had been laid out in the main bar.

It was good to meet the other suppliers. Unfortunately Julian was unable to come, but I met Ian from Westons and John and Mary Hecks. I had a most enjoyable chat with the Hecks. I always enjoy their cider and I think Kevin is their No 1 fan. It was the first time I had met any of the family. What nice people they are. I will have to stop making detours around Street on journeys north of here!

After the nosh we staggered a little up the craggy Purbeck stone steps into the garden to see Charlie's ciderhouse. It was only half completed on my last visit, but as if by magic it now has the full walls and a roof. Only the external cladding is yet to be added. It is a capacious building with a well thought out drainage channel in the floor ( I wish I'd done that ) and mid height access for the apples on the gable end. It looked as though things were being readied for its first cidermaking season. I expect we will see some action at the Square's cider festival on November 1st.

Hope to lots of you good people there! Rose.