Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Mystery Perry 2011

I've been busy in the ciderhouse today, boxing up the Kingston Black Cider ahead of festivals at the Tollemache Arms and Raunds Cricket Club. The cider is tasting very good, in fact everything tastes good at the moment, a reminder that cider really does need a bit more time than we often give it.

I took the opportunity to deal with a lonely gallon demijohn of mystery Perry whilst I was about it. It's the one with the 'jellyfish' of tannin floating on top, and was originally earmarked for topping up purposes but never got used. I've no record of what it was made from, or what it's alcohol level is likely to be. What I do know is that it's crystal clear, has a rich Elderflower and pear aroma, and a juicy, sweetish flavour with a well balanced and drying tannic finish. Similar to the Malvern Hills (which it could well be), but less tannic, which can only be a good thing.

Anyway, Perry as good as this needs to be savoured, so I bottled up half of the gallon for our own drinking pleasure. The other half is destined for a more culinary fate...

Really good Cider Vinegar is quite an expensive condiment, but common enough. Perry Vinegar on the other hand is even rarer than the drink it's made from. Westons experimented with a Perry Vinegar some years ago, but it didn't take off and seems to have disappeared. The only way you're going to find Perry Vinegar (should you want it), is from small craft perry makers, or make your own. I've decided to make my own.

It's an easy enough process, leave a jar of (unsluphited) perry exposed to the air for long enough, and it will soon become infected with wild acetic acid bacteria and eventually turn sufficiently vinegary to be of use. If you want to help things along, and help protect the perry from the chance of other less useful micro-organisms taking hold, it's best to inoculate your perry with a 'Mother' of live Acetobacter from a bottle of unpasteurised cider vinegar. The problem is, you'll be lucky to find unpasteurised cider vinegar in the supermarket, this is a job for the craft cidermaker.

I bought my unpasteurised cider vinegar from perry (and cider) making wizzard, and all round top-bloke, Tom Oliver. It's good stuff, a lovely deep Herefordshire colour, with a greater depth of flavour than the national brands. Lurking at the bottom of the bottle is a small clump of the all important 'Mother of Vinegar', waiting to get it's digestive system into my perry. I decanted the vinegar off this clump, and pitched it into a not-too-full jar of the perry, gave it a good shake to aerate, and tied a small piece of muslin to the top. I want the air to get to the perry but not the Vinegar Flies.

Perry Vinegar is pretty rare stuff to be sure, but whether this reflects the scarcity of the raw ingredient, or the lack of value of the finished product remains to be seen. In a month or two's time I should hopefully be able to tell you.

You can read more about Cider Vinegar making on Andrew Lea's excellent Wittenham Hill Cider Pages

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