The first really cold and frosty day brought a few challenges to our cider-making... The sun was up and a bright day was in store when Gail asked me what the fountain was that was spouting forth from the middle of the garden? Looking up, I saw a myriad of drops of water glistening in the new-born sun... Very pretty.
Bugger! I'd left the spray-head attached to the hoze and the frost had frozen the water inside the spray-head, which of course had expanded and cracked the body. Gail was dispatched to fetch a new one, while I set about washing and milling the load of apples left soaking overnight. Well, I would have done - but first I had to break through the ice which had formed around the apples. I had to grit my teeth to plunge my hands into the freezing water. Such are the joys of cider-making in the open air at the end of October. Undaunted, the Shark was set running and fed a mixture of dessert, dual-purpose and a couple of containers full of our own cider apples.
Upon Gail's return, she donned some suitable warm clothing and took over the milling while I prepared the presses. We now have the two presses running side-by-side: the Mark II Homemade Press and the Rockingham Forest cast-off Vigo Rack & Cloth Press. Gail can quickly fill enough 5-gallon tubs for a days pressing, so I can work inside the "Cider Shed" to keep the presses fed.
As 'Machine Mart' had one of their "VAT-Free" days recently, we decided to buy a few hand-tools for the proto-orchard and also invest in a larger capacity hydraulic jack to power the Mark II handmade press. Moving from a 6-tonne press to a 10-tonne press has certainly made the job physically easier, but as far as I can ascertain, has had very little impact on efficiency; it still runs at about 1 gallon of juice per cheese. To get this figure, I used the frame supplied with the Vigo press to make the cheeses, so giving a direct comparison between the two cider presses. Both produced just under 1 gallon of juice per cheese using the same pulp; in fact the Vigo only manages just over 5 gallons for 6 cheeses, while my "Mark II Homemade Press with 10-Tonne Hydraulic Power" produces a fraction under 4 gallons from four cheeses. So each "tandem pressing" results in about 9 gallons of juice. I need to make another rack or two so that I can increase the capacity of my homemade press.
One thing that is painfully clear though: having my homemade press mounted in a "workmate" certainly saves my back! A priority must be to make myself a custom base for the Vigo press to raise the press-bed to an ergonomically suitable and less painful height!
We've still got plenty of fruit left on our trees so are now going to visit some of the kind folks who contacted us ages ago about collecting their un-wanted apples so that we can blend them all together. We're still after a "Nottinghamshire Cider Taste" but are not really certain what that should be... What is for certain though, is that it will not be an imitation of a West Country cider.
This Yarlington Mill grown on an espalier still has about a third of it's fruit left on it. There are also lots of Royal Somersets, Stoke Reds, and a few Harry Master's Jerseys and Dabinetts still to pick.
Andy Dowson from Chesterfield CAMRA popped over in the afternoon to pick up a box of cider for the Chesterfield Market Festival which is taking place this weekend (31st Oct - 2nd November). This is the last of our 2007 cider, bar a box for The Arkwright Arms at Long Duckmanton (East Midlands CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year 2008). Now just one lone 30 litre container is all that remains of 2007's fruit - I think we'll drink that!