Thursday, 24 April 2008

Quality Control

Yesterday I got down to the serious business of quality control. It's important to us that our regular outlets are happy with the product, and that it's selling reasonably well. This calls for regular visits throughout the year, often involving many hours of intensive sampling. Nice work if you can get it! The weather had taken a change for the better, and a stroll down the Welland Valley to the Hatton Arms in Gretton seemed like an excellent idea. The stroll ended up being a bit of a hike, for which my winter-weight body was slightly under prepared, but this is fine walking country, and it was well worth the effort.

The cider we delivered to the Hatton is selling well, and it's tasting pretty good too even though this is an early batch not quite at it's best yet. The good news is that our cider will only improve from here on in, and if we get a few more days like this one, the sales curve can only go upwards. The picture above shows the view from the smart decking at the rear of the pub. Though a little hazy, the picturesque village of Lyddington can be seen across the valley.

Back home the brilliant white pear blossom has now emerged, and right on time some of the ciders have started a secondary 'Spring' fermentation. I've had to pop airlocks back on one or two as the fermentation is quite vigorous. In olden days, before the role of yeasts in fermentation was widely understood, it was thought this spring activity was somehow associated with the arrival of the blossom itself. We now know that it's simply the warmer weather sparking the yeast into life again, or more rarely the presence of a Malo-lactic 'fermentation'. This isn't a fermentation at all, but a benign bacterial process which converts the Malic Acid in a cider into the less sharp-tasting Lactic Acid. Our ciders are not too sharp anyway, but the Malo-Lactic process is desirable because it can also produce additional complex flavours in the cider. Either way, activity at this time of the year is common and certainly not undesirable, though if the storage vessels have been sealed down tightly, it can lead to alarming bulges and maybe even explosions in the ciderhouse!

No comments: