Thursday, 30 April 2009
The last two meaty chops from those clever rare-breeders at Crackbottle Road (Keythorpe Rare Breeds) needed something special, and what could be more special than a combination of flavours sourced almost exclusively from local suppliers. The pork was of course sourced from just down the road, the fresh Sage and Rockingham Forest Cider came from even closer to home (our Sage has gone berserk this year, I think it's the coffee grounds I keep tipping around it, that and the fact the hens can't get at it anymore!), the Garlic from wherever it is they grow garlic these days, but via our excellent local farmshop in Ashley.
This is another of my ultra-simple procedures. If it's a choice between a trip to the Red Lion for a pre-dinner pint, or a long cooking session at home, we generally try to do both, so the simpler the recipe is, the better. The chops were trimmed of their rind as I wasn't planning to try and crackle them. Seasoned, and (ahem) pan-fried with a few cloves of garlic until browned. Into the oven with them whilst a good few leaves of Sage are given a short fry-up. De-glaze with a generous slosh of cider, pour over the chops and return to the oven to cook through.
We served the chops with Mustard Mash, seasonal veg from Ashley Herb Farm, all drizzled with the sagey, garlicky, cidery juices. Oh! and a glass of Rockingham Forest Cider on the side too. Yum-yum!
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
The Sulgrave Orchard Cider was made from a blend of several different varieties of dessert apples. It's pale yellow in colour, and now virtually crystal clear in the glass. In contrast, the Rockingham Forest Cider, which was made from a blend of mostly cider apples, has a very slight haze, and a rich golden colour. In my experience, ciders made from cider apples are often a little hazier than those made from dessert and culinary fruit. I'm not entirely sure why this should be, possibly something to do with the higher levels of pectin in cider apples which can lead to a natural haziness in the finished cider. The colour difference is a little more easy to explain, it's down to the presence of Tannin.
Cider apples are split into four main classifications, Sharps, Sweets, Bittersharps and Bittersweets. It's the latter two that we are particularly interested in, since the 'bitter' part of the classification refers to the high levels of tannin in the fruit. This is the flavour compound which gives West-Country ciders their distinctive rich flavour, but it's also the part which turns the apple juice a deep brown colour when freshly pressed. Fermentation seems to purge some of this oxidised tannin from the juice, but it's the tannin which remains that gives our cider it's attractive golden colour.
Here's my tasting notes from this evening's sampling, though do bare in mind that these ciders are still quit young, and the flavour will change and mellow throughout the year. Also, the current batch of Rockingham Forest Cider contains a higher percentage of sharp fruit than later batches will have, and is perhaps more of a halfway point between the two styles than a pure West-Country style cider.
You can try this current batch of Rockingham Forest Cider at the Red Lion, Middleton; and the Criterion Freehouse, Leicester. Both ciders should also be available this weekend at the Jolly Brewer, Stamford.
Sulgrave Orchard Cider (6.4%) - Pale yellow like a white wine in appearance. The flavour is intensely fruity and full flavoured, but the citrusy sharpness makes for a refreshing drink, particularly when chilled. The finish is long, fruity, and the sharpness lingers on the side of the tongue. There is a slight residual sweetness.
Rockingham Forest Cider (6.4%) - Deep golden colour, sharp and fruity. Quite dry, with some astringency from the tannin. Much less sharp in the finish. A mild spicy bittersweet character, quite well balanced and easy-drinking.
Monday, 27 April 2009
We've already delivered our 'LocApple' ciders to the Jolly Brewer in Stamford, ready for this weekend's LocAle Festival, and as you can see from the ever increasing list on the right of this blog, our ciders are well represented at events throughout the area this Summer. We try to keep things as local as possible, there really is very little point in sending our cider the length and breadth of the country.
We're particularly looking forward to this year's Cider & Cheese Festival in July, which is being held jointly at our regular Leicester outlet, the Criterion Freehouse, and the nearby Swan & Rushes. Both of these pubs have an excellent reputation amongst beer and cider drinkers, and it's hoped that there will be up to 30 different ciders and perrys on offer during the weekend of the festival, accompanied by a similar range of tasty cheeses! There should be no overlap of varieties, and our ciders will only be available at the Criterion.
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Traditionally, the first Cuckoo call signals that the new ciders are ready to be tapped. We tapped our Rockingham Forest Cider last weekend, so as a rule of thumb this tradition appears to have some merit. This is particularly true in the case of West-Country style ciders, which can take much longer to mature than those made from Dessert and Culinary fruit.
This photo of a Common Cuckoo has been kindly made available for use by Sergey Yeliseev under a Creative Commons Licence.
Monday, 20 April 2009
Thursday, 16 April 2009
Medieval Re-enactors, and the general public alike will find our cider in the famous Trolls Bottom Bar at this weekend's St George's Joust (18th - 19th April).
For those that can't make the event, this is the sort of thing these jolly re-enactors get up to after a few too many goblets of Mead...
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
The quantity of blossom would tend to suggest a bumper harvest of fruit this year, particularly as the crop was so sparse last season, but there's still time for poor weather or a late frost to scupper the pollination. One other possible problem is that the only other pear tree of any size in the village that I know of, was chopped down last year! I just hope there are sufficient alternatives tucked away in peoples gardens to provide the bees and other pollinators with a ready supply of pear tree pollen.
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Friday, 10 April 2009
Today I bottled up the gallon of red wine we made last Autumn from our Regent and Rondo grapes, and I must say the results are pretty good for a first attempt. Deep claret in colour with a rich fruity nose. Dry, full-bodied, but with a good balance of acidity and a hefty dose of Raspberry and Cherry fruits. Considering how poor the season was last year, this is a seriously rich and fruity wine which may even improve a little in the bottle.
It's a shame we only managed to produce 6 precious bottles of this Rockingham Forest Red Wine. The vines are still very young so yields and quality can only improve over the coming seasons, particularly if we get a 'Vintage' Summer this year to help ripen the grapes. It may even be worth investing in a small wine press to help boost productivity. Our cider press is simply too big to deal with such a meagre harvest, and I don't fancy a repeat of last year's messy, and inefficient squeezing of the grapes by hand. The finished wine may be worth the effort, but I could do without the purple hands.
Thursday, 9 April 2009
Sunday, 5 April 2009
Venturing further afield I tried ciders from Day's Cottage in Gloucestershire, Sarah's of Herefordshire, and Springfield, a Welsh producer. I think the Springfield was the pick of the bunch for me.