Sunday, 30 September 2007

Apples & Pears

This weekend we got the new season's cidermaking underway, pressing several sacks of mixed apples and pears, all sourced from within the Welland Valley area. It's said that when making cider from non-cider fruit (ie. culinary and dessert apples), it's best to use as wide a range of varieties as possible, each adding a little to the overall flavour of the finished cider. We were lucky to have picked around 10 different varieties of apple, mostly low acid dessert apples, plus a couple of varieties of pear. I'd like to say I can name each apple and pear which has gone into this mix, but unfortunately I can't as yet name any of them! We hope to be able to take a few of these apples to an Apple Day event later this month for possible identification, but even the experts can struggle to identify unknown varieties of apple, so we may never know.

One of the big advantages of picking your own fruit for cidermaking is that you can afford to be choosy about the quality of the fruit, and also handpicked or gathered apples will usually be much cleaner than those obtained from commercial orchards. This is because most commercial cider apple growers shake the ripe fruit from the tree, then collect them using a mechanised harvester which sweeps them up from the orchard floor. Everything goes into the hopper, rotten fruit, leaves, grass, and even the occasional stone. Of course the big drawback of picking your own is the extra labour involved, but the time saved when cleaning and processing the fruit just about makes up for this extra effort. Besides, an hour or two spent in an old orchard on a bright September day, is infinitely preferable to the hard graft of washing mud and slugs off a trailer load of bruised or rotten apples.

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