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.