We had another successful day in the Worcestershire orchard yesterday, which was pleasant enough when the sun finally cleared the treeline, but real Winter work for most of the morning. Susan came along to help out, taunting me with her sensible warm coat and cosy mittens. I'll remember to dress sensibly one day...
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!