Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Out and About with the Beeb

The good folks at BBC Radio Nottingham have been very supportive of our efforts to produce true, real Nottinghamshire ciders. They have also cottoned on to the fact that as Nottinghamshire's only commercial producers of real cider, we are a bit unique. OK I know we are a very small producer but size isn't everything (cough!).

Following a recent visit to the BBC Radio Nottingham studios to chat with Andy Whittaker (who is a very nice man) and taste our cider - at 8.20 in the morning I might add - a quick appeal for apples and pears has resulted in the good folk of Nottinghamshire answering the call to arms. We have been very pleased by the response of folks who have fruit to spare that would otherwise be going to waste, composted or left to rot. We don't want to take the best fruit, as for cider it doesn't really matter what it looks like or if it is a bit bruised. Lots of people have phoned us or emailed us to let us know what they have going spare; some folks like Mr. Chappel in Hucknall, just turned up at our base with the car loaded with ready-picked and boxed-up apples. How kind and cool is that?

However, we would just like to point out that we can only collect so much fruit per day - and Nottinghamshire is a big county - so if we haven't got back to you straight away, don't panic. Many varieties of apple are still not fully ripened sufficiently for cider-making (they need to be starting to soften) so always remember that just because they are falling from the tree does not mean they are fully ripe. Thankfully we didn't need to turn many folks down as nearly everyone heeded our plea that Bramley's are not too much use to us for cider - they contain too much acidity for cider unless left to ripen for some months.

So yesterday I wound my way around Nottingham's ring-road (joy of joys) to the little town of Ruddington, just south of the city. Here I met up with Verity Cowley, radio journalist for BBC Radio Nottingham and Dan Sinclair who is a 'back-room boy' if you like, at BBC Nottingham  - whizz-kid with a camera and website production. We went first to Kathy and Ken's house who had phoned me offering Worcester Pearmains from their trees. I also spotted a pear tree in their garden and Ken kindly offered to let me have any spare Winter Nelis (the pear variety) for use in making a Nottinghamshire perry. An offer not to be refused! Verity followed the activities with microphone-in-hand getting sound bites and noises-off, while Dan snapped away from multitudinous angles and distances.

We then went across town to visit John and Jean, who had phoned me that very morning saying they had a couple of trees if I was interested...? John's garden was very large and impressive with neat lawns, productful vegetable plots and greenhouses, and some lovely big old apple trees: Beauty of Bath, Newton Wonder and some unknown apple that was very crisp and sweet, and reminded me of a Cox of some sort. John did point out a very large Bramley tree, but quickly added; "I know you are not interested in Bramley's..." The Beauty of Bath were a lovely deep red, very juicey and when cut open, showed red and pink tinged hues through the flesh. John thought they were too soft, but with a quick press of the pad of my thumb, the juice flowed - perfect state of ripeness for cider-making.

Once again Verity and Dan started recording sound and images while I spread out the tarpaulins under the tree and started to shake the apples down from the branches. John joined in and soon the apples were raining down and slapping onto the tarpaulins. Sack after sack were filled and the trailer was soon full of sweet-smelling apples. Time was against us so I am going back to John's to collect more of the Cox-like apples, perhaps in a couple of weeks when they will be riper.

The fruit of Dan's labours can be seen here on the BBC Nottingham website - just try to ignore the fat bloke with the glasses on... Verity's interviews and sound-bites will be broadcast on the morning of 30th September on BBC Radio Nottingham, between 8.00 and 9.00 am.

Great day, great fun. It is good meeting up with the friendly folk of Nottinghamshire.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Tempus fugit - ad nauseum!!!

Sunset from Croft Ambrey on summer-solstice 2010
 There just aren't enough hours in the day at the moment... What a busy summer - where did it go? One minute we were watching the sun set on Summer Solstice day from the summit of Croft Ambrey Iron-age hill fort north of Leominster in the company of the Marches Cyder Circle, the next... Well - being inundated with offers of apples and pears of all sorts from the good folks of Nottinghamshire, after listening to our little interview, tasting and appeal for excess fruit on BBC Radio Nottingham. Mind you, drinking our 8.4% ABV cider at 8.20am is not the sort of thing I'd recommend you do on a daily basis...

The work on the plot continues - sadly I have not been able to reach the big pear tree in time so I fear the pears - whatever they are - will be lost for this year. We have had bumper crops of Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Gages, Damsons, Plums - and of course apples. We threw lots of these into jams and crumbles and pies. The battle with the brambles shows little sign of success but we have shifted a great deal and are making headway. We need to clear the rest soon to get the heeled-in trees into the ground. Yarly was sort of helpful, but wasn't too keen on the bramble thorns having-a-go at her pads. 

Yarly posing in front of a wall of brambles
The cider shed is now filled with lovely smells and delightful 'plopping' sounds as the first ciders of 2010 get underway on their fermenting-journey into 2011. Gravities are still low-ish compared to last year, being around SG 1046 - SG 1050 (6.0% - 6.5% ABV). We hope to have a little cider ready by the early part of 2011 to supply a festival or two. However, we do want to keep the sales limited this year until we are sure it is at it's best. But the phone keeps ringing, the emails still keep coming in and people still want it for their pubs and festivals, even though we sold out in early August. We are hoping to take delivery of some 1,000 litre IBC's soon so that we can try to satisfy demand with our planned increase in production.

The last of the pre-ordered 2010 ciders will go out of the door in a couple of weeks for the 2010 Nottingham CAMRA Robin Hood Beer & Cider Festival (14th - 17th October).

Morgan Sweet
The first fruits have ripened well on our new 'orchard plot' - the lovely big and juicy Morgan Sweets have already been processed and the bright red Tremlett's Bitters will join them soon. A few Yarlington Mill's and Harry Master's Jersey's will need a few more weeks to ripen I think.
Tremletts Bitter