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.

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