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!

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