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Pendragon Apple – Red Fleshed Fruit

Pendragon Apple

Pendragon Apple

Our Pendragon tree has borne its first Pendragon apple – in fact, four dark red fruit with amazing coloured flesh. The taste is okay – it’s fair to say these are grown for their ornamental looks first and foremost, but they’re not a bad eating apple. Maybe one day we can squeeze some pink apple juice!

I learned to graft with this tree, the scion taken from Nigel Deacon’s tree at Sutton Elms. Nigel was the chap who kindly taught me to graft, and I keep meaning to ask him if he’ll teach me other methods – he’s an absolute whizz with the genetics of trees, and specialises in collecting red flesh varieties and varieties native to Leicestershire.

Hopefully we’ll be using this next year!

Year 2 – Cider Making

2015 Cider Making 1What a gorgeous morning to start cider making (hard cider to our friends in the US)! I’d booked the scratter and press from Melbourne Area Transition a few weeks ago, giving us time to pick the apples that were ready to crush, and leave them outside for three weeks to ‘sweat’ – if the weather had been wetter then we’d been advised to move them under cover as heat and wet can spoil them.

2015 Cider Making 2The press was a 20 litre cross beam press – a bit larger than our 5 litre spindle press, which really isn’t useful for any quantity of cider, but probably more suited for crushing soft fruits for juice.

2015 Cider Making 4The scratter could take around six whole average-sized apples in one go, or you could fill the hopper with cut apples. I chose the first method as it was easier with only one person, but it was a doddle!

2015 Cider Making 3The apples we used were roughly 60% dessert, 30% culinary and 10% cider. I had grand ideas of a ‘mix’ of certain types, but when it came down to it I took what we could get – around a third came from our lovely neighbours at number 1, the rest we scrounged from our trees – there were definitely Warner’s King, Elton Beauty and Catshead – the rest I really can’t remember, or I don’t know – hopefully next year I’ll be more organised!

2015 Cider Making 5The cider making method was simple – apples began in the green cart, a half bucket loaded into the white bucket, hosed down, washed around and inspected by Penny, who would have jumped in the bucket if there had been the slightest chance she’d fit! Then six at a time were dropped in to the scratter and munched into tiny pieces. It took about one full washing bucket to fill the smaller 2 gallon bucket which sat under the scratter. Two of the 2 gallon buckets of pomace filled the 20 litre press (don’t you love mixing imperial with metric?), so basically 2015 Cider Making 6two stints on the scratter for every stint on the press, and the press gave between 4 and 5 litres per pressing (that’s the white pouring jug under the press). The pomace left over after pressing didn’t feel as dry as that from the spindle press last year, but the pieces of apple seemed a bit chunkier than last year, so maybe that had something to do with it? Or maybe because we’d let the apples sweat some of their juice out – who knows!

Anyway – it took me about 6 presses to fill my 7 gallon fermentation bin, and about three hours in total, maybe a bit more. Assuming it works, that’s around 55 pints (assume one lost to keeving later into another vessel) – not bad for three hours’ (enjoyable) work! Last year was heart-breakingly slow, with our tiny press, and I expected this year to feel as bad – in terms of the effort-to-produce ratio.

2015 Cider Making 7But this cider making experience was a whole different ball game! To see the juice pouring from the press was a beautiful sight – and makes me realise that we need at least a 40 litre press. We really do need to decide in which direction to take this, once we have some experience under our belt? Do we stay as hobbiests, making our own product for friends and family to enjoy, or do we expand the idea to create a mini business that can self-fund? We’ll have plenty of apples to play with, there’s no doubting that! Plenty of time to worry about that, and for now it’s great that people like Melbourne Transition rent out kit that can suit a serious hobbiest.

A quick reading of the Specific Gravity showed 1.046, at a room temperature of around 19 degrees, which is fine. Again, as last year, I’ve decided not to sulphite, to rid the juice of wild yeast. That would mean adding a known yeast back into the cider, but I quite like the idea of seeing if natural yeast, present in the air and on the apple and pressing equipment, can do the job for us. Health-wise – sulphites can cause problems with people suffering from asthma, or people with allergies to sulphites themselves.

2015 Cider Making 8As it was, Jay and Smiler came back from school just as I’d finished – impeccable timing! Seeing the press, the dived right in and pressed out another 4 litres of apple juice from the Forfar tree – a light and slightly acidic juice, but then we may have been a bit early picking them. It only seems fair to press something they can also enjoy.

Despite that being the end of our first cider making day, we’re not done yet – we have some later maturing varieties on the trees still, so hopefully we’ll do another pressing come late November, early December 🙂

2015 apple jam

Sugar-free Apple Jam

A sugar-free apple jam recipe – something not too sweet to spread on your toast or, my favourite, stir into your breakfast porridge 🙂

2 lb eating apples (net weight once cored)
2 tablespoons hot water
8 sweetener tablets (e.g. Canderel)
1/2 oz powdered vegetarian gelatine
Powdered cinnamon if required.

Prepare/sterilise the jars – put lids / seals into a saucepan of boiling water for a while. Wash jars with soapy water, drip dry and place in a warm oven for half an hour.

1. Simmer fruit with hot water until soft (there will still be sizeable lumps of apple in it it doesn’t need to be smooth).
2. Crush the sweeteners and stir into the hot apples (not boiling)
3. Add the vegetarian gelatine dissolved in a little hot water.
4. More water can be added to the mixture if you feel the texture needs it (add cinnamon at this stage if required)
5. Stir for several minutes.
6. Spoon into the jars.
7. We have kept ours in the fridge as the shelf life is unknown at the moment.

Very healthy and delicious on puddings / cereal / hot oat cereal. Delicious on sugar-free eierkoeken.

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!