Sunday, 7 September 2008

Cider Making

We have 3 very old, very productive apple trees in the garden. When we first moved in, we arranged for a tree surgeon to come and prune them for us, but unfortunately we didn't really know what he should be doing, and he didn't do a very good job. We ended up with few reachable branches, and lots of fruit that even with a ladder and a huge pole cannot be reached.

We are besieged each year by a flock of green parakeets, plus starlings, pigeons, and Cyril the Squirrel. The pests munch part of an apple, and then it rots on the tree, falling down onto our grass eventually. Every day I pick up a small tubtrug of rotten half eaten apples.

In spite of this, for the last two years we've made our own cider. Last year, we processed about 120Kilos of apples, and it was hard work on my hands. We wash and cut the apples, then put them in a bucket and use a blade to cut them; then we pass them through the fruit press attachment on my food processor.

The cider last year was more successful than the previous year, thanks to us investing in a book. However, the quality was still a bit variable, so this year I decided to book us onto a one day cider making course. http://www.cider-academy.co.uk/uk_scheduled_courses.shtml. I picked the September course, as I estimated that would be when our apples would be ripe.

The course was really useful. We'd been using the right technique, but we learned some really great tips, and how to measure and control the process. We also used a proper apple mill, which was fantastic, and we came home determined to buy one second hand. No chance. We did, however, invest in a hand mill, which we're hoping will make the apple preparation process significantly easier than in previous years. We're waiting for it to arrive, and I'm getting impatient.

I also invested in a small pasteuriser, so I can preserve apple juice for later consumption. I normally use a jam pan (or asparagus steamer) to do my pasteurising, but this is very limiting in terms of the size of bottle or jar that can be used. The proper pasteuriser will mean I can pasteurise large bottles of stuff, so it will be great for next year's cordials as well.

I'm sure I'll be writing more about this once the Mill has arrived and we've started processing.



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