Apples Picked and Ready to Go!

2015 ApplesOur first two batches of apples, ready for cider making! The barrow in the foreground is two thirds dessert (eaters) apples from our lovely neighbours at No.1 – types unknown (apples – not neighbours!), and one third culinary (cookers) from our orchard – type I really should remember but I don’t!

The trolley behind is using Tremlett’s Bitter, Slack Ma Girdle and a cooker, again, not entirely sure which. It should have been Catshead, and next year it will be, but we ate them all as they fell! Talk about organised 😀

We’ll leave them outside for three weeks to “sweat” – to give the starch a chance to turn to sugar. We’ll do an iodine test then, to make sure all is ticketyboo, and then hopefully get on with it!

Cider Making Thoughts

I’ve been reading this book – “Craft Cider Making” by Andrew Lea. It’s a mine of information, and my head’s full to popping. Not being a natural chemist (I’m more of a monkey-see monkey-do type of person), I’m still getting my head around things, but as ever I thought I’d write down thoughts here, so I can learn from mistakes and successes.

The jist of a decent cider seems to be to get the balance of certain key elements right, to get the flavour you’re after. The three key elements are sugar, malic acid and tannin. Last year we made a cider using culinary and dessert apples, which produced a sharp and acid cider, similar to that made in the South East of England. It was good – it tasted like cider, but a part of me wants to make something a bit more ‘West Country’ or ‘Normandy’. To that end, this year I’ll be looking to use our cider apple varieties, which seem to be available in a decent enough number to have a go. To try and make life easier, I’m choosing to mix varieties that should ripen at a similar time, to save having to blend juices at a later date.

The first cider will be made from:

  • Tremlett’s Bitter
  • Slack Ma Girdle
  • Catshead

The first two apples are cider varieties, the latter being a culinary apple. Tremlett’s Bitter is a Bitter Sweet apple, ripening in Early October. Slack Ma Girdle is a Sweet apple, ripening in October, and Catshead is a Sharp apple, ripening in early October. The Catshead is used to raise the acidity of the mix, which might otherwise be out of the desired range.

The second cider will be made from:

  • Dabinett
  • Medaille D’Or
  • Newton Wonder

Again, the first two apples are cider varieties, the latter being a culinary apple. Dabinett is a Bitter Sweet apple, ripening in November. Medaille D’Or is also a Bitter Sweet apple, ripening in November. Newton Wonder is a Sharp apple, ripening in mid October. The Newton Wonder may have to be fermented earlier than the two cider apples, but I can blend the fermenting Newton Wonder cider with the juice from the cider apples once they are pressed, to allow them to all continue fermenting together.

I also plan to leave the apples outside for three weeks to allow the starch present to turn to sugar, which the yeast will feed on. Having had good success with the wild yeast method last year, I’m going to go that route again – leaving nature takes its course on the pressed apple juice.

This year I will also attempt to naturally carbonate the cider, by bottling it at a Specific Gravity (SG) of 1.005 (Edit 04/11/15 – Andrew Lea of The Wittenham Cider Portal recommends 1.003 might be more prudent, to help prevent bottle bombs). If this fails, if the cider moves below that, I can add a level teaspoon of sugar to each pint at bottling stage. This way they will continue to ferment slightly in the bottle, allowing the CO2 to saturate the cider.

I’m moving to swing lid bottles rather than capping them. As it’s for our own use, they’ll be worth it in the long run, and I damaged a couple of bottles last year whilst trying to cap them – which was painful.

First Cider!

Cider No.1 Front ShotIt’s here! Our first cider was finally ready for bottling – all 7 bottles! Considering the amount of time it took to make, it’s probably the most expensive cider in the world 🙂 On the plus side, it tastes like cider! A dry, light bittersweet taste, very refreshing when chilled. I am amazingly chuffed it went so well, and it’s a thumbs-up to the wild yeast method of brewing – let’s hope the next batch is as good, if not better!