Saturday, 19 September 2009


Where did the summer go?

More likely, I didn't realise it was so long since I last posted anything on here! Holidays, working full-time, and building and planting have so occupied our time that writing anything on here has been low on my "list of things to do"...

Anyway, a quick update on the past two months:

France. Cidre. Spain. Sidra. Planting trees. Weedkilling. Mowing. Moorgreen Show. Cider-Shed altering. Cider-Shed adapting. Environmental Health. Local Council. Spending lots of money we don't have... Installing permanent water supply. Installing electricity supply. Stainless steel. Planting more trees. Radio Mansfield 103.2. Interviews. A & GCSE Results. OFSTED. More pressure. More stress. Harvesting. Pressing.

Phew! I'll go into detail later when I have time (Yeah! Right! As if!!!). Mind you, I am enrolled on a Retirement Planning course in a couple of months time, so who knows?

"Floppy Tabs" has been our best seller and is very popular; we finally were presented with our fourth CAMRA "Cider of the Festival" certificate for Mansfield Beer & Cider Festival where FT received almost as many votes as the winning beer! Ha! We were well chuffed. At Moorgreen Show, our ciders were the first to sell out: FT first, followed by our "Heritage Orchard" single-orchard cider.

On a parallel note, due to some difficulties in obtaining what we wanted for the Cider & Perry bar at Moorgreen Show and some slight hiccups with the order, we ended up with mainly Dry and Medium-Dry ciders and perries. We only had 3 out of the total of 20 which came anywhere near Medium-Sweet, and nothing really Sweet at all. Did that stop folks enjoying their ciders and perries? Not at all!!! We managed to find something to suit everyone and had totally sold-out by closing time on Bank Holiday Monday. Don't let anyone tell you that folks young and old will only drink sweet ciders - utter codswallop! And don't forget that this was a mainly Horticultural show, with a very wide mix of folks - not a cider-tickers CAMRA festival.

We pressed our first fruit of the year (season?) last weekend, a mixed bag of our own Tom Putts and windfalls, plus a couple of carrier bags of Conference pears from Mark at work, and a bag of John Downie crabs from our friends Paul and Julia. The juice was absolutely wonderful and fragrant, and had less acidity and a higher Gravity than I expected (Ph 3.1; SG 1052). I have long been tempted to let the fermentation naturally run it's course without adding anything at all - so with just 5 gallons of juice, I thought why not?

The photo above shows the surface of the juice after just four days: a fine mousse of froth showing that something is happening... The smell is still fresh and fruity so I am hoping that the fermentation that I am seeing is due to the desireable strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast) that live on apples and produce fruity and cidery-type flavours.

If not, I could be in trouble...

We have also started our 2009 "Damson Vodka" off, with a few litre "Kilner" jars slowly filling with lovely ruby-red juice. It's been a great year for Damsons. I have also just bottled some Damson Vodka, Raspberry Vodka and my special Damson & Clove Vodka that has been maturing in the cool and dark for the last few years - at least 5 years we reckon (forgot to label it...). Whatever, it is super stuff and really smooth. Ready for long cold nights by the log burner...

Our autumn-fruiting raspberries are loaded this year, many going to the wasps or falling to the floor before we can pick them. More Raspberry Vodka perhaps...? Hmmm... My mum came up to see me earlier in the month and we went up to our plot to pick Blackberries - another fruit that has done really well this year. We picked about 10lbs between the two of us (and throwing the ball for the dog - the eponymous "Floppy Tabs" AKA: Shambles.)

The hedges around our plot were groaning with big juicy blackberries; I must plant some damsons, we already have Sloes (Blackthorn) but I've had to hack them back this year to bring the hedges under control. We have two old trees on the plot which we inherited: one is very ancient and at some point has been grafted over to 3 different varieties, while the other is some form of wilding. The 3-in-1 has Bramleys plus some other unknown cooker and an unknown eater, while the wilding may well prove very interesting... more on that later.

Whatever, my mum went home with bags of windfalls from the two trees to make Apple and Blackberry pies and lots of apple-sauce.