Thursday, 31 December 2009
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Merry Christmas to all our readers and drinkers.
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Saturday, 19 December 2009
Hmm! Let's dig a little bit deeper into this one.
The truth of the story is less about giving the green light to bacchanalian excess, and more the plight of a rather rare little Moth which happens to have a strong affinity with Mistletoe. The Mistletoe Marble Moth (Celypha woodiana) is struggling to find enough of it's favourite mealtime delicacy owing to a decline in Mistletoe, which in turn is due to our sharply declining orchard stock. I think you may be able to see the connection now.
Having read the news feature again, I still can't see where Naturalists have made any specific mention of cider, instead they seem to be urging us to support British apple growers. It's a minor technicality, the result is the same whichever way you get your 'English Apple-a-Day'. A greater appreciation, and less destruction of old orchards, Mistletoe galore, and happy, happy Moths.
The image accompanying this post has been kindly made available by oldbilluk under a Creative Commons licence. Thanks Bill.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Somerset Cider Brandy is a real home-produced treat, created from the distillation of fine Somerset cider at Burrow Hill in deepest Somerset. When Julian Temperley wrestled a licence to distill from a highly reticent HM Customs in 1989, the scene was set for the recreation of a style of Brandy which had all but faded from memory in this country. The bottlings which have been released up to now have been exceptionally well received, and as time has crept by, older and more mature Brandies have been released, including most recently, the stunning 15 year old Somerset Alchemy.
For preference I favour the 5 year old brandy, less fiery than the youthful 3 year old, but retaining more appley flavour than the smoother 10 year old bottling. Unfortunately, we don't have any of the sublime 5 year old to hand, so we'll have to slum it with a limited release 10 year old Single Cask Somerset Royal Cider Brandy. This version has a slightly higher alcohol level at 45.8%, and was matured in new Limousin Oak which will probably give creamy vanilla notes in the flavour.
If you can't get hold of a bottle of Somerset's finest, I'd also recommend the much easier to find Sainsbury's Calvados Pays d'Auge XO. This 12 year old spirit is deep golden in colour, slightly medicinal on the nose, but beautifully smooth on the tongue. There's rosy apple, vanilla, spiciness, and a Rum-like demerara sugariness. A great way to end the day, and if you can find a little more room, pair these two with a generous slice of Christmas Cake. If you can't, perhaps the cake itself would appreciate a drop or two!
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
I've said it before on this blog, and for those that may have missed it I'll happily repeat myself. Cheese & Cider, or to put it another way, Cider & Cheese, a marriage made in heaven. Yes, contrary to the opinions of the wine trade, most of which seem to believe that the only proper accompaniments to cheese are a Robust Red or a Zingy White (well they would say that, wouldn't they!), cider is the perfect partner to the Christmas cheeseboard. Now don't get me wrong, I'll certainly be rummaging around our small, carefully cellar'd collection of Ports for something special to go with the Stilton, but a really good Cheddar needs something far classier than mere Vintage Port, and that'll be Cider of course!
Bottled Luscombe Organic Devon Cider (4.9% abv) is as close to the taste of a proper draught Devon Cider as makes no difference. It's quite a chunky, rustic, and dare I say, unsophisticated cider. It's also unfiltered, and can therefore pour a little cloudy, something I'm not usually too fond of, but in this case it just adds to this ciders 'Farmhouse' charm. Pour into your glass from a height to help remove the slight sparkle, and you'll have the perfect accompaniment to a proper piece of tangy Farmhouse Cheddar. Close your eyes, pop a generous knob of cheese in your mouth, then swirl and nose a glass of this Devon Delight. Think Devonshire Summers, warm hay-lofts, cool cider barns and generous farmers wives. Lovely..... you can open your eyes now.
Luscombes Cider can sometimes be found in upmarket Cafes and Deli's, alongside their excellent range of soft drinks (the Ginger Beer is great for the day after if you know what I mean!). Ours came from The Case Wine Shop on Millstone Lane, Leicester. Another excellent alternative which is more widely available is Henney's 2008 Vintage Cider (6.5%), a still, full-flavoured medium cider, easily the match for a chunk of Keen's award-winning Cheddar. A sweeter cider like this would even hold its own alongside the pungent saltiness of a good Stilton. Ok, so these ciders may be a little too robust for gentler tasting cheeses, so my advice is... 'Don't buy any gentle tasting cheeses'. It's too late in the day for subtlety, it's a tongue-tingling whopper of a cheese you're after, not a prissy little soft goats cheese. Since when did Brie & Chardonnay transport you anywhere so nice on Christmas Day!
Monday, 14 December 2009
Pour yourself a generous glass of Duchy Originals Organic Dry Reserve Cider (it could be a long speech this year*), and settle down for the traditional post dinner royal roundup. This robust, earthy, grown-up cider is more medium/dry to my taste, but with a good dry finish. The very light sparkle accentuates a spicy, almost sherbet-y character, which seems to be a house style of Worcestershire cidermaker Knights (now owned by Aston Manor) where this cider is made. You'll find this excellent cider in larger branches of Waitrose. If you don't have a Waitrose nearby, you might like to try it's lighter-weight cousin, Tillington Hills Premium Dry Reserve Cider, also made by Knights and available in many Co-op stores.
If you're finding it hard to concentrate on the speech, you may prefer to picture the bucolic scene in the 'Royal Ciderhouse'. Camilla working up a sweat grinding the apples in the old wooden Scratter. Charles bent double over the twin-screw press, the Royal Smock stained brown with apple juice, rubber-gloved hands carefully spreading the pomace out to the corners of the cheese. Prince William, slumped in the corner by the massive oak barrels, a drinking horn nestled protectively in folds of tweed...
* and no, we won't be watching it either!
Thursday, 10 December 2009
I wish you well in your search for a good quality Perry. It's not the easiest drink to find outside of the Three Counties area, and even there it's not exactly common. If you don't a have a Waitrose on your doorstep, I think you'll struggle to find anything other than inferior Pear Ciders, which I can't recommend in all honesty. Online you might like to try Orchard Hive & Vine, who specialise in Three Counties producers, many of which produce excellent Perry.
Next: A Toast for the Queen's Christmas Message
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
How about the 'Warming winter Pint in front of the crackling log fire after a long walk in the countryside', surely everyone loves that one.
A recent addition to the 'Memorable Pint' list is the 'Gosh, we appear to be snowed in and can't get to work so might as well go to the Pub... Blimey, everyone else in the village seems to have had the same idea, Mine's a Pint'... This one is a particular favourite of ours, and one we look forward to repeating some time during this years greatly anticipated Winter freeze.
Then there's the occasion which this post is all about, the 'Christmas Day lunchtime local Pint', always a little special, and as important a part of our Christmas Day as the Turkey and Tree (actually, nothing is more important than the Tree for our Karen).
We're very lucky to have a good draught cider available at all times in our village local the Red Lion, Middleton. When our own cider has ran out, we supply a range of quality alternatives from near and far to keep the 'Real Cider' flag flying through any shortages. The current 'Guest Cider' is from Hecks of Somerset, a proper West-Country cider from an award-winning producer. I'll probably go for the smooth, dry Tremlett's Bitter straight from the cellar, rather than the sweeter blended cider on handpump. A pint or two of this 6.5% beauty should set us up nicely for the Christmas Dinner.
Can't get to the pub! There's probably still time to order a bag-in-box of Real Cider for home consumption. Many of the larger regional cidermakers can deliver their draught ciders to your home, and the bag-in-box method guarantees that the cider will stay fresh and tasty throughout the Christmas period and beyond. Our good friends at Ross-on Wye Cider & Perry have recently set up an online sales website which I can heartily recommend, and for a wider range of West-Country ciders you might like to try CiderPunk.com.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Champagne or Cava are generally considered the traditional Christmas Breakfast Drinks, which is fair enough I suppose. A bit of fizz in the morning can be a great way to waken the senses and put you in a party mood. Sherry seems to feature too, though for what purpose I'm not sure. Perhaps it's the traditional way of polishing off what Santa couldn't finish the night before.
Now I'm all for tradition, but the problem with Champagne and Sherry are their 'weight'. I want the fizz, and I certainly want a grown-up drink, but let's face it, this Christmas Day thing, it's rather long isn't it! Too much alcohol and there's a very real danger of peaking early and missing the Queen's Speech! I want something bursting with zingy flavour, but relatively light in alcohol...
Which brings me to my first Christmas Cider recommendation. Something fruity and fulsome, lightweight and approachable, yet a cider of exceptionally high quality. I'm talking Classy, Sassy, and a little bit Gassy. I'm talking about something French! Yes, polish up the Champagne glasses, ease out the mushroom cork, and treat yourself to a delicious Cidre Traditionnel from across the channel. It's le jour de Noël...
I've chosen La Bolée du Père Raison (5.5%) from the Breton cidre maker Loïc Raison. It's a sophisticated, traditional sparkling cider, labelled as Brut but with more sweetness than some I've tried. Breton ciders tend to be more full-bodied in style than those from Normandy, and the slight sweetness helps to balance the full tannins and slight toffee-apple richness in this example. There's a lovely zesty fruitiness too which benefits from the restrained sparkle created by the Methode Traditionnel. The smaller bubbles created in the bottle enhance this cider, unlike the harsh fizziness found in most of our more commercial bottled 'ciders'.
I was lucky enough to come across this cider at Sergi's Deli in Spalding, Lincs. They also have a Sweeter (Doux) version which weighs in at a minuscule 2.0% abv. You might be forgiven for thinking this low level of alcohol can only be achieved through the generous addition of water, but in fact those clever French cidermakers have perfected the art of arresting the fermentation before all the sugars have been turned to alcohol, resulting in a naturally sweet, naturally low alcohol cider. Too sweet for my taste, but very good nevertheless.
If you can't get to Sergi's Deli, try your own local Delicatessen, many of which will have a good quality French Cidre. I would also like to recommend the excellent single apple variety Duche De Longueville Cidre... I would like to, but since I haven't come across it in a Sainsbury store for some time now, I can't. Decent sized Waitrose stores also sell a French Cider, but I haven't tried it so can't really recommend that to you either... An internet search should find a number of online retailers of French Cider.
So, the French have it, but not for long! It's time to shove the bird in the oven, scrub the Parsnips, and put little crosses in the Sprout stalks. Set the oven timer, wrap up warm and hit the road. Your local pub needs you now more than ever. It's almost time for the traditional Pre-Dinner Snifter...
Saturday, 5 December 2009
Wine recommendations come thick and fast in the build up to Christmas. The weekend colour supplements and top-shelf foody mags are full of festive wine talk ahead of the big day, though quite what's so 'Christmassy' about any of the recommend wines is rarely explained. Wine seems to be the only currency the UK media are happy to deal in, particularly during the festive season when you'd be forgiven for thinking that no other alcoholic drink merits a place at the Christmas table. The well-worn path from Champagne to White to Red, with a fortified and a distilled grape-based drink to finish is hardly original, so why do we get the same dull formula year on year!
Beer rarely if ever gets a look in on these 'Festive Lists', this despite the fact that dozens, if not hundreds of Yuletide special beers make their appearance at this time of the year, both in bottle and on draught. Do wine writers drink nothing other than wine? Assuming they do, why on earth don't they write about it? A warming Winter Ale can be a real joy at Christmas, add in a crackling log fire and the buzz of your local at lunchtime on Christmas Day, and we're talking an essential part of the Yuletide experience. I can only assume that wine writers and foody journos rarely visit pubs. It's probably the lack of spittoons!
Which brings me to the most ignored of all alcoholic drinks, whether at Christmas or any time of year for that matter. Outside of the main Autumn cidermaking months, Cider and Perry are well and truly off the radar as far as the mainstream media are concerned, yet most Cider and Perry is consumed throughout the Summer months. Cider and Perry does perhaps suffer from the lack of range available in the larger retail outlets, but this is a Chicken and Egg situation. The more that drinks writers venture out of their cosy comfort zones in the Home Counties, search out fantastic artisan drinks producers in the wild scary countryside, and write positively about them, the more demand there's likely to be for drinks which originate closer to home than Stellenbosch and Hawkes Bay. Greater demand might just encourage supermarket buyers to increase their meagre range of ciders and perrys, thereby giving the drinks writers more to write about.... Instead we get the usual 'Ooh-arr, Scrumpy' press trotted out in October, predictably littered with 'hilarious' Wurzel references, and that's it for the year. Great!
So in the interest of greater balance, over the next few days I'll be presenting my own Cider Recommendations for Christmas Day. Six great ciders and perrys, all chosen to match critical moments on the big day. From the early morning Breakfast Pint, something Rich and Classy for the Queens Speech, through to a final 'Wafer-Thin' digestif to help the latest Harry Potter movie go down. So polish up your best glassware and throw the corkscrew out*. It's going to be a Cider & Perry-tastic Christmas this year, and you're all invited... To your own homes that is. Not round here, we haven't got the room!
*Actually, don't throw the corkscrew out. That would be very wasteful, and besides, you might need it on Boxing Day!
Friday, 4 December 2009
Friday, 27 November 2009
It's been a longer season than usual, starting with the Malvern Hills perry pears we picked way back in September, and finally finishing last Monday with the last batch of Vilberie cider apples. We've ended up with almost 500 gallons of cider and perry, and the only thing which stopped us making more was a lack of space and eventually running out of fermenters! Here's what we've made this year (the variety shown in bold makes up the major part of the blend):
- Bulmers Norman/Unknown Bittersweet and Sweets/Bramley (250 litres) - S.G 1.052
- Yarlington Mill/Dabinett/Harry Masters' Jersey/Blenheim Orange (250 litres) - S.G 1.058
- Yarlington Mill/Blenheim Orange (190 litres) - S.G 1.060
- Yarlington Mill/Bramley (130 litres) - S.G 1.058
- Mixed Dessert/Culinary (possible Welland Valley Special) (130 litres) - S.G 1.054
- Vilberie/Unknown Dessert/Bramley (560 litres) - S.G 1.049
- Malvern Hills/Blakeney Red (130 litres) - S.G 1.066
- Blakeney Red 1.050 (250 litres) - S.G 1.050
- Mixed Unknown Perry Pears (130 litres) - S.G 1.046
- Green Horse/Unknown Perry Pears (130 litres) - S.G 1.050
- Single Variety Uknown Perry Pear (60 litres) - S.G 1.060
Sugar levels (the Specific Gravity reading at the end) are up across the board this year, and therefore final alcohol levels will be up significantly too. It's also likely that the general quality of the ciders and perrys will be higher as a result. The higher percentage of bittersweet cider apples in the ciders this year should result in a fuller, richer flavour to our Rockingham Forest Cider, which will be a blend of the three main batches, ie. Bulmers Norman, Yarlington Mill, and Vilberie. Some of the individual pressings may be left unblended if they prove to be of sufficient quality.
I'm particularly pleased with the amount of perry we've made this year, though it could have been much greater given a little more time and a longer 'panking pole'. The perrys will probably remain unblended and sold under their varietal names where known.
So, what have we learnt this year? As usual, quite a lot. The learning curve is as seep as ever, which is as it should be. If we're not learning new things every year, we're obviously not trying hard enough! This year we've learned:
- The difference between 'ripe' and 'mature' fruit, particularly in the case of cider apples and perry pears. Cider apples are generally ripe when they fall, or can be shaken easily from the tree, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are fully mature and ready to press. Some further time may be needed before the fruit has fully developed it's flavour, and pressing too early can lead to a lower quality cider or perry.
- That a good rule of thumb when pressing full bittersweet cider apples is to blend with approximately one third sharp apples to achieve the correct level of acidity. By chance this is what we did with the Vilberie, pressing one sack of sharper apples for every two bittersweets. The ideal acidity level for a balanced cider is considered to be between 5 and 6 parts per thousand Malic Acid, so we were particularly pleased that when we tested our Vilberie blend, it came out at 5.6ppt.
- That we need a bigger ciderhouse, and more hours in the day!
Saturday, 21 November 2009
Saturday, 14 November 2009
I must say, we've been very lucky with the weather this year (and our health for that matter). It was only a matter of time before a proper bit of Autumn weather came along and put the dampers on things. I'm sure a time will come when the whole cidermaking season will be nothing more than a freezing, windy, washout. Proper hard work...
A break in the weather on Sunday meant an unfeasibly early 6am start to get to the orchard for daybreak, and what a day. It was as if the Autumn had been rolled back again for one last warm(ish), sunny day. I really love the peacefulness of the orchard at this time of year, with most of the trees now bare of fruit and leaves, and nothing but Woodpeckers, Buzzards and the occasional sleepy Wasp for company. It's been very hard work harvesting the fruit this year, but I'm going to miss being in this orchard when the season finally comes to an end.
Meanwhile. there's an awful lot of Vilberie cider apples to harvest, plus a few Bramleys and some mystery yellow apples which will hopefully add a bit of balancing sharpness to the blend. There are five Vilberie trees in the orchard, I managed to harvest two of them, leaving a fair bit to do next Friday when I plan to make the final visit of the year to this beautiful corner of rural Worcestershire (weather permitting!). John kindly loaned me the use of his old Land Rover, saving me the job of lugging 30+ sacks of apples down to the car through a wet and muddy orchard, and whatever happens now, there's apples to be pressed, and fermenters to be filled next weekend.
Friday, 13 November 2009
We have a rule here at Rockingham Forest Cider, that when one of our own ciders has been delivered to the Red Lion, we don't bring it back home, one pint at a time! Needless to say, this rule doesn't apply to 'Guest Ciders', particularly those we have a particular fondness for.
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Thursday, 5 November 2009
HECKS PORT WINE OF GLASTONBURY 6.5
GOZIER DRY 6.0
COURT FARM 6.0
BRISTOL PORT MED 7.8
THATCHERS CHEDDAR VALLEY MED 6.0
WESTCROFT JANETS JUNGLE JUICE 6.8
BUTFORD ORGANIC 7.3 DRY
OLIVERS CIDER MED 6.3
DEWCHURCH MED 6.0
NEWTON COURT MED 7.0
UPPER HOUSE MED 6.0
BEN CROSSMANS CIDER 6.0
ROSIE'S RAMPANT RAM 7.4
SARAHS MED 6.0
SWALLOWFIELD DABINETT 6.3
Sunday, 1 November 2009
I'm getting a bit nervous about the Vilberie for all kinds of reasons. I've nothing much to blend in to up the acidity of these bittersweet apples, and may have to order a little Malic Acid for the job. I'm also concerned for the condition of the trees, which are already in quite a poor state. When we last visited the orchard, one tree had lost a large branch due to the weight of crop it was carrying, and the crown on another tree has split for the second time. High winds over the next few days could wreak even more damage before we get back to the orchard, and I'm expecting to find most of the crop on the ground. It's much harder work scratching around in the grass for apples, particularly when they're quite small like Vilberies.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
If we couldn't get hold of a supply of tannin-rich bittersweet cider apples like these, we'd likely be making a lighter, sharper, perhaps fruitier style of cider from dessert and culinary apples. A cider perhaps more representative of the Eastern Counties cidermaking tradition we're geographically closer to, than the fuller flavoured, spicy, rich ciders of the West-Country and Three Counties areas. Some people express a preference for one style over the other, but we like to make both, and have found that our customers are pretty evenly split in their preference for the different styles.
In truth, the ciders we make from one year to the next are largely determined by what fruit we can get. Last year we made a fruity, sharp cider from a large batch of organic dessert apples, as well as a richer Three Counties style cider from an assortment of mostly bittersweet cider apples. This year we're pressing what's available, and the mix is turning out rather differently.
Almost half the fruit we've pressed this year has been Perry Pears, a real departure from previous years when perry pears have been at such a premium. It would be nice to think we could make this quantity of perry every year, but sadly it's almost inevitable that the trees which have given us such a bumper crop will be taking a well earned rest next year, and the crop will therefore be very much smaller. The rest of the fruit we've pressed has been almost exclusively high quality bittersweet cider apples, and there's plenty more to come when the Vilberie ripens fully in November. On the face of it a very good season so far, many people struggle to get hold of good cider fruit, and we've been very lucky with both the quantity and quality of our cider apples this year. There is a small but important problem however...
Fruiting in the various local orchards and gardens we harvest from, has been so poor this year that we may struggle to make even a small batch of our Welland Valley Special Cider. The shortage of local apples is so acute that we're even struggling for Bramleys, something I never thought would happen. The village orchard has four Bramley trees, our own and the one next door bringing the total to six. We've never been short of Bramleys, in fact most of the crop usually falls before we have a chance to harvest it, which is very good news for the Blackbirds. This year I've taken maybe 30kg of fruit off the whole lot, and other trees in the valley are carrying a similarly modest crop (see pic right).
Now Bramleys are not exactly the best apples for making cider. A pure Bramley cider is quite thin, lacking in body, and often mouth-puckeringly sharp. It's this intense sharpness that makes Bramley Apples unwelcome in excess, yet very useful in a blend lacking in acidity. Bittersweet cider apples are characterised by being high in tannin and sugars, but lacking the acidity needed to produce a balanced drink on their own. In addition, a lack of acidity can often lead to ciders developing 'off' flavours during fermentation or later storage. The Malic Acid which a few Bramley Apples bring to a blend can be an important contributor to both flavour, and the kind of chemical balance needed for a cider to keep well throughout the season.
So, we're short of Bramleys! What to do? We're pressing the last of the Yarlington Mill bittersweet cider apples on Saturday, so I'll be 'Scouring the Shire' for whatever sharp apples I can find to blend in with this low acid fruit. Bumper crops of cider apples and perry pears are all well and good, but sometimes there's a need for something less exotic when it comes to cidermaking. The word is out, we need Bramleys...
PS. 2009 marks the bicentenary of the mighty Bramley Apple, with events marking this pomological milestone occuring throughout the year. Visit the Bramley Apple website for more details.
Saturday, 24 October 2009
Take a step away from the national chains, and seek out farmshops, deli's and the like, and there are some gems to be found. Broadway Deli is one such place, and though the range of ciders on offer is small, they've thankfully avoided the usual suspects and gone for something truly special.
Once Upon A Tree are a Herefordshire based company, and relative newcomers to the cider scene. They've already achieved an enviable reputation for the quality of their ciders with several top awards under their belt. Cidermaker Simon Day comes from a background in winemaking, and it's this new approach, unencumbered by the sometimes unscientific traditions of cidermaking, which leads to ciders of such exceptional quality.
I tried the Marcle Ridge Dry Cider, made from a blend of Ellis Bitter, Brown's Apple, and Dabinett. The Brown's is a 'Vintage Quality' sharp cider apple, and an important contributor of acidity to the blend as well as bringing an aromatic quality to the cider. The cider is still, and properly dry, a rarity amongst the more commercial bottled ciders where a 'dry' is almost always medium or medium/dry at best. Apparently people don't like truly dry cider! I wonder how many people have actually had the opportunity to try a proper dry cider!
The Marcle Ridge is quite full flavoured with plenty of spicy tannins, and a decent dollop of acidity to balance the fullness and make for a very drinkable cider. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of this cider for myself is just how similar it tastes to our own 2008 vintage of Rockingham Forest Cider. If I was given this blind I'd probably guess it was our own, albeit polished up a little.
Lovely stuff, Karen liked it too, and there's a bottle of their single variety Dabinett waiting in the dark recesses of the pantry for another day.
Thursday, 22 October 2009
This is what we're pressing at the moment. Mostly Yarlington Mill, but also a few Dabinett, Harry Masters' Jersey, Kingston Black, and Blenheim Orange for acidity. The Yarlington Mills are coming out at a very pleasing gravity of 1.060, which is much better than we've had before and with the potential for around 8% alcohol.
There's also a small quantity of unknown Perry Pears, enough to fill a 60 litre fermenter, and also giving a gravity of 1.060. The tree these pears came from is adjacent to a well used footpath, and I was asked on three separate occasions what I was doing, and what the strange fruit I was bagging up was. Perhaps not surprising really, perry pears are quite small, and often not very pear shaped. What continues to surprise me though, is that nobody I talked to seemed to have any idea what Perry is! A reminder of just how rare this ancient drink has now become, and how important it is for people like us to continue making perry whenever we get the opportunity. Thanks to this year's bumper crop of perry pears, we've now made nearly ten times as much perry as we made last year. The sad thing is we could have made ten times more given more time...
Monday, 19 October 2009
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Todays haul amounted to the best part of 3/4 of a ton of Yarlington Mill apples, a vintage quality cider apple variety which will form the backbone of this years Rockingham Forest Cider. We may even make a small quantity of single variety Yarlington Mill cider.
Another excellent day in the orchard, our luck with the weather continues, and a tremendous effort from Paul & Sue to harvest this bumper crop of apples.
*Panking: The shaking or knocking down of ripe apples or pears from a tree, often involving the use of a long 'Panking Pole'
Saturday, 17 October 2009
Not a huge crop on the face of it, but considering our total harvest last year amounted to four apples, we're very pleased with the way our young orchard is developing.
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Our local pub, and regular outlet for Rockingham Forest Ciders, the Red Lion in Middleton, has recently achieved the full compliment of CAMRA honours.
LocAle accreditation comes on the back of licensees Kevin & Fiona's strong commitment to serving beers from local Northamptonshire breweries, Great Oakley Brewery in particular. The LocAle sticker guarantees there will always be a real ale from a local brewery on offer at the bar of the Red Lion.
Kevin's attention to detail in the cellar has already been recognised by the local Northants CAMRA branch with the award of Pub of the Season earlier this year. Now the Red Lion has achieved the ultimate accolade for the quality of its real ales by appearing in the 2010 edition of CAMRA'S Good Beer Guide.
Completing the set is a new initiative from CAMRA, with accreditation for pubs which regularly sell real ciders as well as real ale. The Red Lion is now one of the first pubs in the UK to sport a 'Real Cider Sold Here' sticker. Throughout the Winter, and until our new season ciders and perrys are ready in the Spring, we aim to source quality ciders and perrys from throughout the country to make sure a real cider is always on offer at the Red Lion.
Monday, 12 October 2009
The Rockingham Forest Cider Stall
Apple Identification by the Northern Fruit Group
Friday, 9 October 2009
From top left to bottom right:
- Unknown early bittersweet - These apples had all fallen by early October, and our best guess on these waxy skinned, scabby green/yellow fruits is Bulmers Norman, which we've pressed before.
- Kingston Black - From a windswept smallish tree which rarely produces much. The skin is very dark red at the nose, and the flesh is hard, chewy and classically bittersharp. Wish we had a few more of these!
- Dabinett - Homegrown on our very young trees. Large apples for Dabinett
- Dabinett - Believe it or not, these are the same variety as above, but from a heavily cropping mature tree in the Worcestershire orchard.
- Unknown Sweet - Conical, scabby but attractive apple. This is a pure sweet, that is it has low acidity distinguishing it from a dessert apple.
- Harry Masters' Jersey - Homegrown, from a heavily cropping young tree. Harry Masters' is distinguished by a pinky/orange colouring.
- Yarlington Mill - Homegrown, and again very large for the variety due to a young tree carrying a small crop. These yarly's are deep red, with a pointed nose and distinctive ribbing.
- Unknown Bittersweet - Small, round and dullish green. These are mid season apples from a single tree in Johns orchard. Full bittersweet, Michelin? Who knows!
- Unknown Sharp - These had mostly all fallen at Johns orchard in Worcs. The skin is striped orangey red, and the apple is heavily ribbed. A very attractive fruit with a wonderful aromatic flavour which reminded me of the sharp cider variety Brown's Apple.
We must be doing something right in the garden, perhaps it's this years 'less tidy' approach to gardening. All we need now is the return of the Blackbirds. Where do all the Blackbirds go at this time of year?
Thursday, 8 October 2009
It's been a very busy few days, and I'm too tired to blog about it tonight. Until tomorrow, here's a short 'superior' video showing all the action from todays pressing. It's 'superior' because I don't speak over it! Enjoy.
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Monday, 5 October 2009
Orchards are also incredibly fragile places, often neglected, and of little commercial value to their owners. You only have to take note of the many 'Orchard Closes', and 'The Old Orchard' housing developments to see what we've already lost of this precious heritage.
By writing about orchards, and also by providing a market for the fruit through our cidermaking, I hope we're doing a little bit to help preserve some of this orchard heritage. A more hands-on approach is being taken by Henry Johnson, who is busy restoring a couple of old Bramley and Plum orchards in Gloucestershire. He writes far more eloquently on the subject than we do on his excellent Charingworth Orchard Trust blog, and the pictures are much more impressive than ours too!
Friday, 2 October 2009
We've had a great day at the orchard in Worcestershire today. Orchard owner John very kindly helped out for an hour or so in the morning, and we managed to bag-up maybe a quarter of a ton of Blakeney Red perry pears. It was pretty hard going, but very satisfying working in such a tranquil environment.
I say tranquil, but the RAF fly very low round these parts! Other than that it was the resident Woodpeckers a-rattling, Pheasants crah-crah-ing, and the distinctive cry of a Buzzard circling overhead. I tried to video the Buzzard, but by the time I'd wound the camera up, it had gone. Instead I did a really bad video blog, which you can view below. Rest assured, I'll be quicker and catch the Buzzard next time...