2019 Cider No.2

With all the kerfuffle over the confounded Covid-19 virus, cider bottling was put to the bottom of the ‘to-do’ list. Before it all kicked off, we’d managed to bottle two ferementers – No.4, a small 30 litre fermenter, and No.1, one of the new Speidel 60 litre fermenters.

Today we finally got round to No.2 – yes – there is no order we do this in. No.2 is a quarter Warner’s King, for the acidity, with Jonagold making up a large portion of the sugar content, along with Ellison’s Orange and Oslin. I have absolutely no data on the malic and tannin levels of any of the dessert apples used, suffice to say the resulting blend has turned out very smooth and doesn’t seem to have suffered much from being on the lees for so long.

This is also the second time I’ve used the new Grifo capping machine, along with capped bottles rather than swing tops. The Grifo is amazing – very sturdy; the decision to go with capped bottles is largely due to the desire to go commercial in the near future, and the fact that plain bottles are cheaper, but also easier to clean than a swing top. I’m hoping we get many of the bottles back to reuse.

The final ABV was 6%, back sweetened for in-bottle conditioning. As usual it’s a wild yeast fermentation with no sulphites added. A friend asked if it was vegan, which is something I hadn’t really thought about before! But I guess it is? I mean, it’s apples and, in this case, some sugar. Does that make it vegan friendly? I need to learn more!

2018 Cider No.2 Pressing Day

The Picking

It all started out with a sunny day, as it usually does. Unless it’s raining, which hasn’t been that often this year, really.

Cider No.2 has typically been a “pick the apples mid October, press them end of October” thing. This year the condensed but intense growing period in the summer has forced the fruit to ripen quicker than usual.

Add to that the fact we have numerous wasps this year and more hornets than we’ve ever seen, the poor old apples have been hard hit. And the many insect bites have soon rotted the apples – a bad year for brown rot too. So all in all, I’m impressed with how much fruit we actually ended up with.

As we picked the various varieties to add to the mix for 2018 Cider No.2, Mikey the Marsh Daisy “stood guard”, which roughly translates to Mikey “stood guard whilst his ladies helped themselves to the freshly picked apples”. Plenty to go around though.

The Tremlett’s Bitter looked particularly gorgeous – the red of the apples is so intense (no filters were used on that photograph!), and I can’t wait to see the impact they have on the cider. It’s our first year of a really good crop off this tree, which is awfully exciting.

Once they were all picked, several hours later, on to the little grey Fergie and pootled back to the house where they’ll sit outside for a week or two sweating. This is where the starch in the apples turns to sugar, which in turn will convert to the alcohol which gives cider its shelf-life and storage qualities.

The Pressing

Rob popped around again to help press whilst Suz took on the animal cleaning, with Jay’s help. This time round we had a much better system in place. The first wash and cutting table. where Rob sat most of the time, was sat in the full sun, which helped. Then the second and third wash buckets were placed between the table and the mill, where I could sit. The press was next to the mill, but faced a direction where we could empty the bladder after each pressing on to the drive gravel. The barrow for the pomace was a distance from the mill so as not to infect anything in the clean area.

It took us about five hours to process 200kg of apples, which in turn gave us 100 litres of juice. The bottle neck is definitely the press now – the mill could easily feed two 40 litre hydropresses – one being filled whilst the other is pressing. It was also a long process as we pressed each apple variety separately, and this mix had a lot of varieties. This was done so the pH and Specific Gravity could be measured for each type of juice, to add to the records for the orchard. Also we could add the right ratio of juice to each of the fermenting containers (70l barrel, 25l bin 4.5l demijohn) . I think in a 7.5 hour day , with two presses, we could press at least 600kgs of fruit for this kind of fiddly mix of nine varieties.

The Original Pressing Plan

The original plan was something like this:

VarietyAttributePercentage Mix
Slack ma GirdleSweet14%
CatsheadSharp14%
Tremlett's BitterBittersweet14%
Wyken PippinSweet14%
Rosemary RussetSweetsharp7%
Marriage MakerSweet14%
BramleySharp9%
Barnack OrangeSweet7%
Ashmeads KernelSweet7%

The final plan, in liquid percentages was this:

VarietyAttributePercentage Mix
Warners KingSharp4.87%
CatsheadSharp9.74%
Tremlett's BitterBittersweet24.35%
Wyken PippinSweet12.35%
SanspareilSweet14.6%
Marriage MakerSweet4.87%
BramleySharp9.74%
Barnack OrangeSweet9.74%
Ashmeads KernelSweet9.74%

Despite most of the fruit in the orchard ripening early, Rosemary Russet was sticking to her guns and remained unripe. The Slack ma Girdle also had ripened too early and we lost a lot of the crop to insect damage, so the sharpness missing from the russet was replaced by some Warners King, and the sweetness missing from the Slack ma Girdle was replaced by Sanspareil.

The pH and Specific Gravity values for each juice were like this at the end.

 Specific GravitypH
Warners King1.0502.8
Catshead1.0582.8
Tremletts Bitter1.0563.6
Wyken Pippin1.0653.2
Sanspareil1.0463.2
Marriage Maker1.0623.2
Bramley1.0522.8
Barnack Orange1.0623.2
Ashmeads Kernel1.0703.0

Whilst the 70 litre blue barrel and test demijohn had the above mixes, the 25 litre fermenting bin had a slightly different mix as there wasn’t as much of some of the juice types as we’d hoped. To that we added 2.5kg each of Allington Pippin, Ribston Pippin and Newton Wonder. The final reading for both types are as follows:

70 litre blue barrel and test demijohn – pH 3  .0 – SG 1.057

30 litre fermenting bin – pH 3.2 – SG 1.059

Cider No.1 Apple Pressing Day

Last Year’s Cider No.1

This time last year we picked around 30kg of fruit, and considered it a horde worthy of Crown intervention. From that we ended  with 30 litres of apple juice, which turned into 50 pints of lovely cider about eight months later. It took about five hours to make that, with the hand-crank scratter and beam press we’d hired from Whistlewood Common (Melbourne Transition group), but it was worth the effort.

Knowing that this year would be bigger, in terms of fruit production, I’d been sizing up which route to go in terms of buying in kit, and talking endlessly (ask Suz…) about the various options which would see us enter apple heaven, floating on gossamer wings no doubt.

This Year – the Kit

Vares Fruit Shark Megalodon

Vares Fruit Shark Megalodon

The first piece of kit to arrive was the scratter – wonderfully called the “Fruit Shark Megalodon”, produced by a company named Vares. It was this or the Speidel Mill, both powerful, but I liked the fact this is made from stainless steel rather than plastic. The fact Speidel offer replacement plastic housing makes me wonder.

40 litre Hydropress

40 litre Hydropress

The second piece of kit to arrive was a 40 litre hydropress. I love the fact that it’s powered by the water mains, water being pumped into a large bladder balloon in the centre which pushed the milled fruit outwards and against the sides of the cylinder, which as holes to allow the juice to run down the outside and collect in the gutter. It’s a beautifully simple system and in practise it was wonderful!

Apple Haul No.1

Apple Haul No.1

This photograph shows it with the lid off, the milled fruit having been squeezed down the sides between the bladder in the centre and the outer cylinder walls, and then covered with the cloth. The idea of a 40 litre hydropress rather than a larger 90 litre, for example, is that one person can easily manage the 40 litre, in terms of emptying, carrying and so forth. Also, if production increases then adding another 40 litre press to the set up means one can be pressing whilst the other is being emptied, ridding yourself of a potential bottleneck. The Megalodon would easily produce enough milled fruit for two presses – we found the bottle neck in this set up was us not preparing the fruit quick enough, and the press.

This Year – the Fruit

Apple Haul No.2

Apple Haul No.2

As mentioned, last year we managed to scrounge 30kg of fruit for our first pressing of the year. This year we thankfully had our little grey Fergie tractor to help us out as we filled about seventeen Eurocrates and hauled up 260kg of fruit! Next year I imagine it will be even more!

Rob busy apple sorting

Rob busy apple sorting

Our good friend Rob offered to help pick the fruit, and then process it (cut bits out and provide banter). I was so thankful when I saw the amount of work, but two of us, powered by bacon butties, tea and apple juice, managed to process the fruit in about six hours.

That said, about two hours were wasted by faffing with the new kit and a few mishaps – apparently blue barrels (we’ve moved on to 60 litre barrels to ferment in now) are quite slippy when covered in apple juice. Luckily I didn’t spill the entire contents when one slipped out of my hands! And why was I trying to pick up a half-full barrel? Because it turns out that a washer on the inside of the tap doesn’t keep the juice inside the barrel, so we needed to retap the barrels. Next time will be much smoother, I promise 😀

Dunk & Rob loading the Fergie

Dunk & Rob loading the Fergie

Finally, the fruit we used for Cider No.1.

The original intention can seen in the post Cider Plans 2018. However, as all good plans of mice and men, it unraveled as the freak weather we’ve had this year caused some fruit to drop, and others to ripen early.

Wocester Pearmain was or main issue – we just didn’t have enough. But on the plus side Tremlett’s Bitter stepped up to the mark and ripened early, so we managed to sneak some of those in, something we’ve never been able to manage in a first press of the year.

The original plan was like this (in weight of fruit, as we assume it all presses about the same – which it doesn’t):

VarietyAttributePercentage Mix
Yellow IngestrieSweet30%
Worcester PearmainSweet20%
RivalSubacid20%
Lord DerbyAcid20%
QueenSubacid10%

The final plan was this, in liquid percentages:

VarietyAttributePercentage Mix
RivalSubacid33.5%
Lord DerbyAcid32.5%
Yellow IngestrieSweet11%
Worcester PearmainSweet10.5%
Tremlett's BitterSweet Sharp10%
QueenSubacid2.5%

Again, notes were taken for the Specific Gravity and pH of most of the juices.

 Specific GravitypH
Rival1.0503.2
Lord Derby1.0482.8
Worcester Pearmain1.0453.2
Queen1.0512.8

The final overall Specific Gravity was 1.050 and the pH was 3.2. To gain a better idea of the final alcohol level, I also mixed up a demijohn at the same ratios as above, and we’re forcing that to ferment quicker than the main barrels in the garage, This way we can see where the fermenting stops, as cider can often be down as low as 0.997 rather than the 1.000 people expect. It will also help me to know when to bottle to gain natural carbonation in-bottle, without going over the allowed 3bar pressure.

Oh, and the final amount of juice? An amazing 125 litres 😀

Cider Plans 2018

It’s that time of year once more, when thoughts turn to apples dropping on heads and littering the orchard floor, and the 2018 cider mixes. Indeed, it’s been a rather strange year – amazingly cold until quite late, we were thankful when the sun finally made an appearance. Three months later with hardly any rain, desperation set in as the June drop continued into the July drop as trees shed their fruity loads to conserve moisture. Along with the glut of rotting apples on the ground came one of the worst years for wasps we’ve had in a while – I won’t forget the task of picking Devonshire Quarrendens from the grass with litter pickers, placing them gingerly into a barrow, and leaving them until midnight when most of the wasps were either too dozy or drunk to attack. Only then was I brave enough to cart the barrow to the middle of a field to dump the apples as fertliser!

Still, the trees continue onwards and upwards, and there is plenty of fruit to press. There are even varieties this year that didn’t happen last year, and some from last year that have failed to dignify us with their presence this year. With the seasons being as erratic as they are, I’m rather glad we planted such a varied group of trees – at least something fruits from one year to the next.

Walking the orchard, trying to get some measure on quantities and varieties and then measuring them against the attributes each variety will give a cider, I’ve come up with the following ciders for this year.

Cider No.1 – September Pressing

VarietyAttributePercentage Mix
Yellow IngestrieSweet30%
Worcester PearmainSweet20%
RivalSubacid20%
Lord DerbyAcid20%
QueenSubacid10%

Without reliable sugar, malic acid or tannin data, I’ve resorted to the good old 30% culinary to 70% dessert mix from the South East counties.

Cider No.2 – October Pressing

VarietyAttributePercentage Mix
Slack ma GirdleSweet14%
CatsheadSharp14%
Tremlett's BitterBittersweet14%
Wyken PippinSweet14%
Rosemary RussetSweetsharp7%
Marriage MakerSweet14%
BramleySharp9%
Barnack OrangeSweet7%
Ashmeads KernelSweet7%

Again, without reliable data, I’m using the same 30% to 70% acid/sweet mix, but this time, as we have Bramleys in the mix and they have a high malic acid level, I’ve brought it back down to a 25% to 65% mix. There’s also the added benefit of a bittersweet variety in there, which will add more body to No.2, but the option to add more bitterness is missing, which hopefully the newly planted Major variety will make up in a few years.

Cider No.3 – November Pressing

VarietyAttributePercentage Mix
DabinettBittersweet30%
Medaille d'OrBittersweet15%
Newton WonderSubacid30%
SanspareilSweet15%
ForfarSweetsharp10%

I was in two minds with this. We have data for all but the last variety, and whilst I can get a good mix using the top four varieties, it was still slightly heavy on the malic acid and tannin side, and short on sugar. To try and compensate for this, I’ve added in some Forfar, which are an early October variety but good storers. Leaving them to sweat a while will hopefully pull as much starch out and raise the sugar levels. Naturally they’re a sweet sharp apple (dessert/culinary) so I’ve lowered the number of Sanspareil, which are very sharp, and managed to get more respectable numbers.

So No.3 is a bit of a risk, but very similar to last year’s No.3, which has gone down well, albeit a tad too strong at 9.2%! I’m hoping for something more in the region of 7.5%, but we’ll see.

Normandy Cider Apples

I’m just sticking this up here as an aide-mémoire from our trip to Normany three years ago. Stumbling across one of the many cider makers, I got to chatting with the son of the owner and asked him what varieties of apple they used. I lost my scribblings, but found them at the bottom of a bag, so here they are in case I lose them once more!

  • Douce Moën
  • Rouge Duret
  • Tête de Brebis
  • Douce Coët-ligne

There is one more, but I can’t make the writing out. It looks something like Marie-besrord/besrard but I cant’ find any information on the internet about anything sounding similar.

Cider No.3 Bottling

I’ve been measuring the specific gravity of Cider No.3 every couple of weeks or so, and today it hit 1.005. To ensure there’s enough residue sugar for in-bottle carbonation, I’ve been told that is a good level, so today was bottling day!

I have to say, if I could stop it now I would. The slight sweetness is incredible, perfect for me even. But that’s another learning curve for another year – this year I want to perfect the in-bottle carbonation first. Comparing this cider to the first of the year, you can tell a difference even at this stage – the apples, being late varieties, gave a much higher sugar level. That, coupled with the higher tannin content of the Medaille d’Or cider apple gives it a much fuller body – less harsh and abrasive. Fingers crossed the next stage will work out for the best – just six months to wait until we can begin trying it! Having tried some cider from 2016, it is quite amazing what a year in the bottle can do for a flavour.

This was also the occasion I decided to not waste the cider lees – the bit typically washed down the sink. I’d heard of using it in bread making, so I bottled it and left the lees, with the jar lid slightly undone, on top of the fridge, with the murky cider dregs placed in the fridge. The next post shows how it came out!

Cider No.3 Pressing & Cider No.2 Update

Cider No.3 Pressing

2017 Cider No.3 PressingThe final cider making day of the year, and what a day was forecast! A height of five degrees Celsius, with rain from mid-day to mid-afternoon – lovely! The thermals were extracted from the rear of the wardrobe where they’d lain since last winter, and with four layers on I ventured out, double-socked and ready for anything. A pub brolly, kindly donated by our friend Nev, cast its welcome shadow over the scratter and chopping board, with my little gnome seat central to the whole operation. I felt I was about to perform a Phil Collins’ drum solo, with more apples and less drums. Everything bar the press was within arm’s reach of the command centre gnome seat; baskets of apples, two cleaning tubs filled with water (a double-dip operation to remove large dirt, then finer grime), a second gnome seat to balance the chopping board on, the scratter, a cast-off’s bin for disgarded apple bits cut out, and a barrow for the pomace. Maybe next year I’ll do it wearing a gorilla costume.

I’m not complaining though, whilst I had the luxury of sitting/stooping, Suz and Bunny were down the patch, cleaning out the chooks, whilst Smiler was duck and goose cleaning!

I’d only got a 25 litre fermentation bin to fill this time, so not too bad. Realising that I wouldn’t be able to use all of the apples at my disposal, I started with the main varieties I was interested in using. I should say at this stage that I’m really excited about this cider – it uses our local Newton Wonder apple and a Normandy bittersweet that is finally giving a good crop.

I tend to work on the rough visual amount of apples to figure out the eventual mix, which is a rather ambiguous method as each variety gives a differing amount of juice for its weight and size. Therefore, for the first time, I actually measured the amount of juice going into the mix! I need to be careful as it’s getting a bit too accurate for my liking 🙂 The eventual mix was something like this:

Apple VarietySpecific GravitypHVolume (Litres)% of MixCrates
Newton Wonder1.056~3.210.041%1.2
Medaille d'Or1.066~3.25.522.5%1.0
Forfar1.0623.24.016.5%0.5
Rosemary Russet1.060~3.23.514%0.5
Dabinett1.0544.21.56%0.2

Based on my basic knowledge of the varieties, the sweet,sharp and bitter mix ended up something like:

21% acid
65% sweet
14% bitter

(This is assuming Newton Wonder is subacid – 50/50 acid/sweet, Medaille d’Or is bittersweet – 50/50 bitter/sweet, Forfar is 100% sweet, Rosemary Russet is 100% sweet and Dabinett is bittersweet – 50/50 bitter/sweet).

The final SG reading was 1.060 and the pH was 3.2 – both respectable!

As you can see, we’ve invested in some proper crates! Up until now it has been a mix of the hand cart and donated mushroom boxes. As the quantities are getting larger, we’ve had to step up to euro containers, which are perfect for lugging food items around in, and if you buy used you can get a real bargain! Again, for the record, I’ve also added how full a crate was, so in future I can work out the volume of liquid to expect from a given number of apples – this was a good run for working these varieties out as there was very little spoilage and therefore wastage.

I’ll add a page in the future with all this data in, and also save it to the main fruit spreadsheet, which desperately needs updating with the one on my computer!

Cider No.2 Update

The juice sat for around two weeks in the unheated garage, and finally started to ferment, nice and steadily. Today the specific gravity is 1.020, and it’s beginning to clear nicely. I’m going to rack it as soon as it gets to 1.015, and then bottle it at 1.005, for a natural carbonation as it matures in the bottle. By next summer it should be done!

Cider No.2

cider no.2 pressing

I have to say that two of the ciders from last year have aged well – Tally Ho! and Half-Cock (and Cock On – the naturally carbonated cider which was essentially Half-Cock). Tally Ho! was our random cider, but as it’s so good I’ve decided to try and recreate it, throwing a few other varieties in but keeping the core varieties the same – namely Harvey, Sanspareil, Ashmead’s Kernel and Barnack Orange.

It also had Ribston Pippin and Wyken Pippin, but we had neglible amounts of those this year, so chucked in Allington Pippin’s instead.

The make up, by rough volume, was as follows:

Harvey (19%)
Sanspareil (19%)
Allington Pippin (15%)
Hoary Morning (15%)
Queen (8%)
Barnack Orange (6%)
White Melrose (3%)
Medaille D’Or (3%)
Dabinett (2%)
Yarlington Mill (2%)
Marriage Maker (2%)
Random apples (6%)

The apples were a mix of windfalls and plucked from the tree, about 1:2 ration, and were left to sweat outside in baskets for a fortnight. We lost about 5% before pressing. I also took specific gravity and pH readings of the four main varieties, to keep as records. They were as follows:

[avia_table]

Edit Specific Gravity pH
Sanspareil 1.046 3.3
Harvey 1.055 3.2
Allington Pippin 1.060 3.0
Hoary Morning 1.050 3.2

[/avia_table]

The Allington Pippin was a shock as records from BRSquared’s website shows an SG of much less – around 1.048

I also broke the various apple’s attributes down roughly into the acid/sweet/bitter mix I wanted.

Roughly – very roughly – the above broke down into the following percentages:

45% subacid
42% sweet
7% bittersweet
6% random (unknown)

Rightly, or wrongly, I assumed sub acid (such as the dual purpose Queen) to count as half sweet, half acid. Sweets are sweet. Bittersweet again, half bitter, half sweet.

The following percentages popped out of the rather dubious maths:

22.5% acid
68% sweet
3.5% bitter

For a good mix in a cider we actually want to get as close to a 35/65 mix of cookers to eaters – or acid to sweet. Some suggest down to 20% cookers, especially if they’re quite a tart cooker like a Bramley. For me, the numbers above seemed about right.

In practice I measured the final Specific Gravity and pH of the pressed juice and it came to 1.054 and 2.9 respectively. Slightly more acid than I’d have hoped, but still good nonetheless – better too low than too high (too acidic than too alkaline), as it’s more likely to preserve better. The potential alcohol is level is also good – if fermented to dryness then we’ll be looking at an ABV of just under 7%.

Having failed miserably to intercept the first cider early enough to rack it with some residual sugar so that it could naturally carbonate in the bottle, I’m determined to not miss this one.

Cider No.1 & Perry Pressing Day

True to form, the weekend nearest the 1st October seems to be our first early pressing. The varieties uses can be seen in the Cider No.1 post from a few days ago and all we did was add a few Bountifuls – a subacid cooker that is quite sweet. It seems to be a decent filler apple, not upsetting the balance too much.

A beer-making friend, Matt (aka “Random”), came down from Yorkshire for the experience, and went away with a gallon of juice pressed from his own trees – sounds like there’ll be another cider-maker his way soon! We took it reasonably steady and managed 68 pints – 50 pints of Cider No.1 (SG 1.052), 8 pints of Matt’s “No Name” (SG 1.046), and 8 pints of a Blakeney Red perry pear and Cider No.1 50/50 mix (SG 1.048).

It’s the first time I’ve used perry pears, and as they’d fallen from the tree over a week ago, I thought it best to experiment rather than lose them. It’s the first crop from that tree and I’ve read it makes a decent single variety perry, but we only had a half-demijohn worth! As the books said, we scratted them the day before, leaving 24 hours before pressing.

Cider Plans for the Future!

As I mentioned in my cider plans and thoughts post last Sunday, we have gaps in our tree rows where cherries and plums failed to grow, and we have gaps in our apple varieties when it comes to cider making. I don’t like gaps, they make things look mussed up and untidy.

Cider No.1 – October Pressing

Putting together Cider No.1 this year, our October pressing, it was painfully clear that we are missing early bitter varieties to give a cider that elusive body. We have one, Tremlett’s Bitter, and as its blossom this year was nobbled by a late frost, we had no fall back. To that end, we’ve ordered an Ellis Bitter and a Major, both bittersweet trees, to complement the plethora of cookers and eaters we have, early in the season.

Bear in mind that there are a few thoughts on a good balance between the three main qualities you need from an apple to be used for cider – sugar, acid and tannin.

For cider apples, a 50% bittersweet and 50% bittersharp is a figure bandied around. Others mention 50% sweet, 35% sharp and 15% bitter. Also bear in mind that cookers tend to be acid (sharp), or subacid (weak in acid) if they also make good eaters – like the Peasgood’s Nonsuch, eaters tend to be high in sugars (sweet), and tannins (bitter) are the rarest in that they make your mouth pucker when you eat them, so you tend to need cider apples for that, or some crab apples.

My initial deliberations for the potential apples for Cider No.1, from our orchard, are:

  • Lord Derby – acid
  • Warner’s King – acid
  • Slack ma Girdle – sweet
  • Yellow Ingestrie – sweet
  • Ellison’s Orange – sweet
  • Ellis Bitter – bittersweet
  • Major – bittersweet

Until the Ellis Bitter and Major start producing well, in 5-6 years, we’ll have to rely on the Tremlett’s Bitter, or if that fails, just make the Kentish style cider with only cookers and eaters. With a bit of fizz this may well be a nice light refreshing cider.

Cider No.2 – November Pressing

This month we have quite a few bittersweet and sweet apples, but nothing much in the way of decent acidic apples. We do have the Bramley, but we have so many sweets and bittersweets that we could possible make two different ciders in November, or press quite a lot of one mix. So to add to the acid quota, we’ll plant a Brown’s and another Bramley. The potential list of candidates looks a bit like this:

  • Bramley’s Seedling – acid
  • Browns – sharp (acid)
  • Yarlington Mill – bittersweet
  • Tremlett’s Bitter – bittersweet
  • Dabinett – bittersweet
  • Medaille d’Or – bittersweet
  • Marriage Maker – sweet
  • Barnack’s Orange – sweet
  • Ashmead’s Kernel – sweet

Cider No.3 – December Pressing

I don’t know the reason, but this pressing is my favourite. Maybe it’s something to do with the impending winter, when the gatherer instinct is at its height. Or maybe it’s the satisfaction of having pressed the last of the apples, a sense of closing the year’s last chapter before settling down to cosy up in front of the stove and the winter ahead. I do know it’s great to wake up to a foggy, chilly and damp day, knowing that some manual work will soon get the blood pumping.

To the matter in hand. This month is the month of cookers and the hardiest of eaters, the russets. However, we do lack the pure sweets, and this is where another specialist sweet late season cider apple will be planted – the Dunkerton. The list of potentials looks like this:

  • Newton Wonder – subacid
  • Egremont Russet – sweet acid
  • Rosemary Russet – sweet acid
  • Dunkerton – sweet
  • Vilberie – bittersweet

Whilst we have no pure acid apples, I’m hoping that the combination of subacid Newton Wonders and relatively acidic russets will be enough. I’m terribly excited about this cider because:

  1. it uses our local apple, the Newton Wonder
  2. it uses the Vilberie, which I learned to love when we visited Normandy two years ago
  3. there’s an apple with my name in it!
  4. my rudimentary calculations shows a certain mix of the above apples gives a sweetness/acidic/tannin result near to that which is regarded as the ideal mix for the perfect cider.

Of course, it’ll probably fall on its face, but it’ll be fun trying!