Monday, 22 September 2008

Organic Apple Scrumping

The 2008 cidermaking season is now in full swing. We've already harvested a small quantity of apples from orchards and gardens in the Welland Valley, and now the weather has taken a turn for the better, we hope to be harvesting more local fruit within the next few weeks.

Most, if not all of the apples we aim to press this year will be sourced from orchards which are entirely free from pesticide and herbicide sprays. Indeed most of the orchards we gather fruit from are effectively managed organically (ie. barely managed at all). Many small-scale cidermakers use fruit from similarly un-sprayed orchards, but to describe the resulting cider as 'Organic' requires that the orchard source, and the cidermaking process have to be inspected for approval by the Soil Association, an expensive option for the really small producers like ourselves.

One possible exception to this is the cider we'll be making this coming weekend from a batch of fully certified organic Northamptonshire apples. Neil & Sima Johnston of Windmill Orchard grow a range of dessert and culinary apples for farmers markets and organic box schemes in a beautiful location on Northamptonshire's border with Oxfordshire. Surplus apples not suitable for sale as fresh fruit are usually processed into their own delicious apple juice, but this year we've been offered some of this surplus for cidermaking.

The hard working team at Windmill Orchard helped us load up over a ton of assorted dessert apples this weekend, including the varieties Katy, Ribston Pippin, Ashmead's Kernal, Worcester Permain, and Elstar. These are the kind of apples we used to make our Welland Valley Special cider last year, so we're hopeful that we should end up with something equally as fruity from these apples. We also have to thank all the workers at Windmill Orchard for keeping us topped-up with tea and biscuits, and their great patience when the hire van threatened to break down and the AA had to be called. All turned out well, and we now look forward to the mammoth task of pressing these apples and creating a cider which justifies the hard work of all concerned.

Of course we won't be able to call this batch an organic cider since we're not registered with the Soil Association, but we can certainly mention that it's made exclusively from organic apples, because that's exactly what it will be made from!

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