Saturday, 25 December 2010
Sunday, 19 December 2010
I like Birmingham. It's really come on in recent years. A little bit London only a little bit friendlier. Full of Brummies rather than Londoners... I'll say no more. I like Frankfurt too, though sadly I've never had the opportunity to go there yet, so I'm basing my view of Frankfurt on Birmingham. Naturally!
Throughout the month of December, Birmingham does a pretty passable impression of Germanys fifth largest city, decking itself out in Singing Mooses and Rotating Santas at its annual Frankfurt Christmas Market (the clue's in the name). Possibly the best German Christmas Market outside of Germany itself, certainly better than the lame or non-existent offerings I've visited in other Midlands cities recently (you know who you are...).
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
Friday, 26 November 2010
Sunday, 21 November 2010
Friday, 19 November 2010
Malvern Hills (130 litres) 1.060
Blakeney Red (260 litres) 1.050
Green Horse (260 litres) 1.050
Unknown (70 litres) 1.064
Most of the ciders and perrys are now gently fermenting away, with only those pressed over the last week or so showing no signs of life yet. The wild yeasts have been slow to get going this year, possibly due to the slightly later pressing time which has meant colder conditions. Meanwhile, it's time we put our feet up for a bit. We've been picking, panking, and pressing almost every spare day for two months now, and whilst we enjoy most aspects of the work, there comes a time when it's nice to just.... well... Stop!
Sunday, 14 November 2010
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
So it's back to work for a couple of days rest, before attempting to scale the foothills of the Yarlington Mill mountain next weekend.
Monday, 8 November 2010
The haul included around half a ton of Yarlington Mill, some Dabinett, Sweet Alford, assorted Sweets and Sharps for blending, and enough late-season Perry Pears to fill the press one more time. The fruit is in very good condition, but rather too full of grass and leaves for my liking. This will make an already difficult job that much harder as we hand wash all the fruit which goes into our ciders and perrys. Sleepy Middleton will once again ring with the sound of loudly cursing cidermakers. It's becoming a bit of a tradition actually...
So that's it for another year. Nowt but pressing to do, and quite a lot of that to be sure. As raindrops freeze on the brim of my hat, and the cold seeps ever deeper into boots and gloves over the next few weeks, I'll be able to think back to warm sunshine, and cool English ales, in Gods Very Own Country, the glorious Cotswolds.
Thursday, 4 November 2010
The blanket media coverage has got so bad recently that Wayne Rooney himself is apparently '... a bit miffed...' with the Hucknall Headline-Grabbers. There simply isn't enough bandwidth available on this blog to list every piece of Press, Radio and Television coverage the 'Hucknall Two' have appeared in, so here's a link to the latest offering. Two and a half minutes of hardcore Hucknall cidermaking, presided over by Nottinghamshire's answer to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall... in the bath! View from 16.10 minutes.
Coming soon: Ray & Gail host their own television series: 'Drink Up T'Cider Me-Duck'
Monday, 1 November 2010
John's trusty Series 3 Landrover assists with the removal of fruit from the muddy orchard, but that's about as high-tech as it gets. We'd happily use a Horse for the job if we could persuade one to work for Windfalls & Beer like Paul & Sue do, but they're a bit fussy these 'Orses...
Ours won't be there for long, and we've covered them over to protect from weather, wildlife and inquisitive walkers on the nearby Cotswold Way. We aim to collect them this Friday, and I've already posted a traditional Post-it note on the back door.... 'DON'T FORGET THE CARROT SACKS MISSUS'
Saturday, 30 October 2010
Saturday, 23 October 2010
It's a 'lack' that's been bothering me ever since we combined the Quincy loveliness of Membrillo, with a few thin slices of mature Manchego in a Barcelona tapas bar way back in the 90's. We don't grow Quince you see, and it's very rare to find Quince for sale in this country, so if you want to experience the fragrant loveliness of this strange fruit, you're jolly well going to have to find someone else who grows it. Even then you're going to have to talk them out of the fruit, unless of course they don't know what they've got...
My source of Quince fruit is a lovely, generous lady in nearby Medbourne, and she knows exactly what she's got! Luckily for me, this generous benefactor had already processed quite as much fruit as she could bear for one year, and I was welcome to take the remnants. Yay!
There are several things you can do with a handful of Quince. Simplest of all is to put them in a pretty bowl on a sunny windowsill and wait for the fruit to release their unique fragrance. Actually, this is probably a very good idea for the Quince novice. If you find the fragrance agreeable, you're ready to progress to the more advanced level of creating something edible from your fruit.
A few slices of Quince are likely to enhance any apple or pear based dessert, but if you really want to experience Quince Heaven, then Membrillo, or Quince Jam/Jelly is the fruits true vocation. I took Lornes recipe as a starting point, then largely ignored it.... sorry Lorne.
1.5 kg Ripe Quince (peeled, cored & sliced to give around 1kg of Quince flesh)
1 large Bramley Apple (peeled, cored & sliced)
1 pint Dry Perry (or enough to barely cover the fruit)
1 kg Sugar
Slice the fruit into a pan containing the lemon juice to prevent browning (very tedious work, I really should add a Radio to the ingredients list). Add the perry and cook for 20 mins or so until reduced to pulpiness. Stir in the sugar and cook for a further 30 mins until well thickened and darkened to light golden.
Quince contains a lot of Pectin, so should almost certainly set well, but if you're concerned add a drop to a chilled dish to test the set as you would with jam. The Membrillo may taste a little too sharp at this stage, but rest assured that it will taste much more mellow when cooled.
Whilst hot, transfer to sterilised jam jars. This should keep for a good 6 months or more, and is excellent with strong cheese.
Friday, 22 October 2010
The original grafted variety produces a reasonable crop of early bittersweet cider apples, most of which have already dropped by early October. Once they've hit the ground, they have a tendency to rot, so we pressed them today along with some of our own home-grown bittersweets, the Sweets we harvested last weekend, and a few sharps to help lower the pH.
My best guess on these is Ashton Bitter, an early bittersweet usually grown alongside Dabinett as a pollinator. This tree is in the same part of the orchard as the Dabinetts.
We also pressed a small trial batch of Kingston Black today, finding very few rotten fruits, and giving a respectable gravity of 1.055. It will be interesting to see how this variety develops over the coming weeks. I'm hopeful that we may get closer to 1.060, and maybe improve the flavour if we can leave them a little closer to December.
The Kingston Black apples are producing the most wonderful candy-apple aroma as they mature, and the fragrance in the ciderhouse today has been quite heady. The Wasps find it very attractive too, and I had to fish several out of the juice as the afternoon wore on. Look carefully and you'll see a couple buzzing around the cheese on this short video of today's pressing.
Thursday, 21 October 2010
We came home with a half ton or so of greenish 'Sharps' and yellowish 'Sweets'. The Sharp apples are a bit of a mystery. Hard, very sweet, but with a clean, sherbety acidity which should help balance the bittersweets whenever they deign to fall for us. It's quite probable that these are dessert apples of some description, but we'd much rather use these for our acidity than plain old Bramleys, which bring plenty of acid, but very little flavour to the cider. The Sweets on the other hand are genuine cider apples as far as we can tell. So what distinguishes a Sweet cider apple from a sweet dessert apple?
In common with most cider fruit, these sweets have a chewy texture, more suited to pressing than eating. They're also very low in acidity, such that the flavour, whilst being pleasantly sweet, is not particularly interesting when eaten raw. It's this low acidity which is the main distinction between dessert apples and sweet cider apples. Sweet cider apples are useful in a blend for adding their own unique flavour, but without adding too much acidity. They can also be used to tone down a blend which contains too much 'hard' tannin. This will be useful for us when we press the Tremlett's Bitter cider apples later in the month, since the tannin in these is quite hard and bitter (the clue is in the name I guess).
When we explained to John where we'd been working in the orchard, he suggested the apples were probably Sweet Coppin, a widely planted sweet cider variety which I've pressed before. Another possibility, and one I'm a little more convinced of, is Sweet Alford, a vintage quality sweet cider apple, occasionally mildly bittersweet in character. Susan spent a good few minutes comparing the fruit to the images and descriptions in Liz Copas excellent reference book 'A Somerset Pomona - The Cider Apples of Someset', and agreed that Sweet Alford is a slightly better match.
Either way, we now have well over a ton of fruit to press, with plenty more on the way. Saturday looks like being a washout, so the pressure's on to get as much fruit pressed tomorrow, which means yet another early, frosty start to the day. Brrrr!
Monday, 18 October 2010
Saturday, 16 October 2010
It was a long, hard day in the ciderhouse, but we were rewarded for our efforts with around 300 litres of cider and perry. The Green Horse pears have pressed with a similar sugar level to last years crop, giving a Specific Gravity of 1.050 (as measured with my shiny new German Hydrometer). This will produce a perry of around 6.4% abv, although only around 100 litres will actually be sold as a single variety perry. The rest will be used for blending with other perrys for our Rockingham Forest Perry.
The local Rockingham fruit had been left to mature slightly longer than absolutely necessary, resulting in a fair few apples and pears not making the grade due to rot. Not an ideal situation, but nevertheless I had high hopes for this fruit. There were four different varieties, all dessert fruit. An early, soft-fleshed apple with a lovely fragrance, though no great keeping quality; a crisp, sharpish eater, only just ripe at harvest; a probable Conference pear; and a greenish/golden russeted apple, almost certainly Egremont Russet. The russets made up the bulk of the fruit, and I'm expecting a soft tannin from them to add a welcome complexity to the blend. All that waiting around will have helped the sugar levels, and I was pleased to record a Specific Gravity of 1.058, giving a potential abv of 7.4%.
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
If you're lucky, you may be able to match up your specimen with one of the many examples on display, otherwise there's likely to be a small library of illustrated books on hand to help the identification process. Even then, a positive ID may be difficult, and there's always the chance your fruit will turn out to be a 'wilding' variety from a unique pip-grown tree. Apple identification is a fascinating, yet fiendishly difficult pastime. I know, I've tried it and failed on numerous occasions.
Which brings me to an apple which has been foxing me for a few years now. It's an aromatic, sharp, early apple, growing in the far corner of the orchard in Worcestershire. A rather pretty apple I think, with its green/yellow skin, and profusion of red stripes. Given that this is a mixed orchard, containing dessert, culinary, cider and perry varieties, we've tentatively classified this apple as Tom Putt, a dual purpose variety, often used for cider in it's native Devon. It certainly matches the description in Liz Copas 'A Somerset Pomona - The Cider Apples of Somerset', though less so the accompanying photograph it has to be said.
The fruit expert who attended the Brocks Hill Apple Day, was from the Northern Fruit Group, and he confidently identified these specimens as Flower of the Town, a native apple of Yorkshire. I have to say I'm not convinced of this, and I'm even less persuaded having seen the beautiful watercolour of a Tom Putt in the recently re-published 'The Apple Book' by Rosie Sanders. The resemblance is really quite striking, and it just seems more likely to me that a West Country dual purpose/cider apple would be planted in a Worcestershire orchard, than a Yorkshire dessert apple. So until proven otherwise, Tom Putt it is...
The Apple Book comes highly recommended. The watercolours really are stunning, and you can view a fascinating video of the work in progress on this YouTube Channel.
Monday, 11 October 2010
It really was a day in the sun too, with a lovely bit of late Summer sunshine to bring out the crowds. We had a good day, offering many samples, and selling a few gallons too. Diana Fegredo's beautiful cards were well received, and our small display of cider apples and perry pears made a nice change from the wide range of dessert and culinary fruit on show.
Our best sellers were the Medium Rockingham Forest Cider blend, and our last box of Mystery Perry. This picture shows the innovative box-tilting method we employed as the cider and perry got low towards the end of the day.
I'd like to say a big thank you to my Sister-in-Law Susan, who helped with the smooth running of the stall, organiser Helen Gregory for her great enthusiasm and hard work putting on the event, and David Bates of Welland Valley Vineyard for sorting out the licence. Let's hope that government funding cuts don't put paid to this and other important community events in future years.
Saturday, 9 October 2010
Anyway, it's been a great weekend of picking and bagging-up, with time made for light refreshment at the terrific Crown & Trumpet in Broadway. Stanway Brewery Ales for me, Hogans Cider for the missus, all washed down with a generous helping of Skip & Tinkle from Adlington Morris. Man cannot live on food alone.
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
It was a fine day, characterised by lovely late Summer sunshine, and a good crowd of interested visitors, and interesting exhibits. Sadly, Jim Chapman, the resident Perry Pear expert who I was hoping would help identify my own pears, had taken ill and was forced to miss the day. It must have been a huge disappointment for Jim, and I wish him a speedy recovery.
Blue skies, good crowds.
The Perry Pear Display, later to appear at the Malvern Autumn Show.
Peter Mitchell of the Orchard Centre demonstrates the revolutionary Goodnature Press. It still looked pretty hard work to me.
Out of the Orchard is the brand name for ciders and perrys produced at the Orchard Centre.
Albert Rixen brought his beautifully restored Workman Press to demonstrate perry making the old-fashioned way. This mill and press are displayed and demonstrated by Albert and Eric Freeman at shows and events throughout the Summer.
Sunday, 3 October 2010
Four days of persistent rain, hard graft in assorted orchards, and the washing & pressing of a third of a ton of Blakeney Red Perry Pears, has finally taken its toll. Today (Sunday) has been designated a rest day.
Limbs aching, and fuzzy-headed with tiredness, the only thing we're good for today is a trip to the Red Lion for a pint and a snooze on the comfy sofas. I'll be enjoying the Great Oakley Welland Valley Mild, Karen the Wot's Occuring, but we could equally enjoy a pint or two of the recently delivered Rockingham Forest Perry. This is the mystery perry which will also be going to Brocks Hill Apple Day, and very nice it is too.
For those of you who can't make it to a pub today, here's a virtual version for you to relax with. Pour yourself a pint of beer of cider, surround yourselves with the Sunday papers, sit back and warm yourselves at the Fleece Inn, Breforton's cosy open fire:
Friday, 1 October 2010
One hour and thirteen minutes of undiluted shopping pleasure in Broadway certainly grabbed her attention. A budget bar snack at the Fleece Inn, Bretforton sealed the deal. Our bodies liberally greased for the very worst the Cotswold Weather could throw at us, we set forth to pick Blakeney Red Perry Pears, armed with nothing more than a Tarpaulin, several Builders Buckets and the mighty, mighty Rockingham Forest Cider Mega Panker.
Several changes of clothing later, we left the orchard wet-through, but fully satisfied. Something like a half ton of top quality Blakeney Red perry pears had fallen to our Prodding & Panking. It now only remains for us to Mill & Press these juicy pears to within an inch of their lives.
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
All in all we've got maybe a quarter of a ton of fruit to press. This will form the core of our 2011 Welland Valley Festival Special Cider, along with the fruit from various other trees dotted around the village which are a few weeks off ripening yet.
My pleasure at spending time in this lovely old orchard was seriously tempered by the knowledge that it almost certainly won't be there next year. Sadly there are plans to build on the land, and the orchard will be grubbed up in due course. Such a shame.
Here are a few photos I took this evening. Unfortunately the light wasn't very good, and the heavy rain created a few problems too, but hopefully you'll get an idea of what we'll soon be missing...