Friday, 14 November 2008
Spent an enjoyable hour or two late this afternoon checking and topping up the tubs of slowly fermenting cider in t' Cider Shed.
The recent cold weather has certainly ensured a slow and steady fermentation in the metal shed; the tubs of cider were dripping with condensation and that is with an air temperature of around 12 celsius. Still, makes for a better, deeper flavour at the end - I hope...
Of course when checking that all is well, you have to have a sniff and a taste, so I entered armed with a large "wine thief" which I picked up in Ross-on-Wye during our visit for the Ross-on-Wye Cider Festival. A wine thief is a shaped glass tube, open at both ends, that you immerse into your wine or cider; as the liquid fills the empty space inside the tube, air is displaced out of the top. When you have enough liquid inside the thief, you put your finger or thumb over the top, so closing the open end and creating a vacuum. Then all you need to do is lift out your 'stolen' liquid and release the vacuum over a suitable glass.
After working my way through all 12 tubs, I can happily report that all is well. The earliest started cider, a blend of our windfalls, all our Tom Putts and a donated sack of John Downie crabs, is really quite dry already. The tannins from the crabs have given it a somewhat harsh bitterness, but then these are early days and this batch will be blended over the next four or five months as it matures, and approaches the time of the calls of the first cuckoos.
All of the tubs are working away quite happily without airlocks, but I am looking forward to the delivery of the bungs and airlocks arriving which I ordered from Brouwland in Belgium. It doesn't seem right to have anything fermenting without an airlock. Anyway, I miss the satisfying - soothing? - sound of a series of air-locks gently 'plopping' away.
Did you know each bubble from an airlock has resulted in an equal weight of alcohol being released into the cider?
Tomorrow we are off to the Hempsall Heritage Orchard to collect more windfalls for more cider. I must get my backside in gear and order more tubs...
Monday, 10 November 2008
Cleared all of the remaining apples from our trees on Friday afternoon; we were surprised to find how much fruit was still clinging to the trees. We filled a number of 40 litre tubs with Royal Somersets (Sharp), Stoke Reds (Bittersharp), Yarlington Mill (Bittersweet) and Harry Master's Jersey (Bittersweet). I'm really pleased with the HMJ's - they are such beautiful apples and polish-up to a rich red lustre. In fact, I could get all prosaic and waffle on about how good looking some cider apples are when really ripe. I won't.
We mixed these with the unknown Bitters (definitely not Bittersweets) and unknown Sharps we collected from Dierdrie in Norfolk, and spent the rest of Saturday milling and pressing our time away. The weather was good, the November sunshine warm and welcoming. A great change from what we've experienced so far in our cider-making this year.
I must do some research to try to find out what the two varieties were that we brought back from Norfolk... Should have taken a photograph. Doh!
The juice was a rich red-brown in colour and slightly tart from the Sharps, but with an underlying dryness from the tannins in the Bitters and Bittersharps. I wish we had more to do a seperate blend, but we will have to blend it into the whole. So apart from these few bags of Norfolk-sourced apples, we are producing a cider which is going to be at least 90% pure Nottinghamshire-grown fruit - according to my calculator anyway (I always was crap at maths though!).
The end of the pressing on Saturday was rushed, as we were due to be picked up at 7 for a night out and meal with some of Gail's Ladies Hockey team - I was the token male. It's a hard job, but someone's got to do it...
We started off in the "Bread & Bitter" pub in Mapperley Top, owned and run by the guys from Castle Rock Brewery. Superb pub, great range of well-kept ales - but only one cider - Weston's "Stowford Press". So it was ales for me: Castle Rock "Harvest Pale", washed down with Thornbridge "Jaipur". Lovely. But I would have still preferred a good real cider or perry; I can get real ale anywhere! Well, almost...
Saturday, 1 November 2008
The aroma rising from the trailer was extraordinarily rich. We used some of the non-returnable builders sacks which held the materials we used for the base of the "Cider Shed" to hold the apples for the journey home. They are very useful bags, being strong, rot-proof and easily washable.
The apples were transferred to tubs to be taken to the bath for washing before milling. As all of the apples we collected were windfalls, they had quite a bit of mud on them so careful washing and in many cases scrubbing, was the order of the day. Worm casts in particular were a pain.
The apples looked great though, the few Norfolk Beefing being instantly recognisable; the colour of the skins looked just like aged beefsteak. I wished that I had not collected so many Russets though, as their rough skins really held onto the mud and soil.
The taste of the juice was something else...
Rich, full of honey notes, something like toffee... Toffee apple? The juice was also thick and syrupy. Acidity was quite high, with a Ph of less than 3.5, but we didn't expect anything else with the mix of apples we had.
The weather was lousy as usual, so Gail retired to mill the apples under the car-port for greater shelter, while I stayed inside the Cider Shed. As usual the morons were letting fireworks off most of the afternoon and they were also joined just after lunch by someone burning a whole load of garden waste - it was like a thick fog. Hope it doesn't affect the cider...