Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Thoroughly Modern Milling

I've got a love-hate relationship with Malvern Hills perry. Obviously I love the taste or I wouldn't bother making it, but from a commercial perspective the high tannin is a bit of a problem.

Here are some other loves: Usually nice weather for harvest. Loads of fruit available. Consistently high sugar levels can give very high alcohol in the finished perry. A naturally clear perry. Nice name.

...and for balance, some hates: Very tall trees make harvest difficult. Harvest/Pressing time ultra critical. Consistently high sugar levels can make for a perry which is hard to sell.

Freshly Milled
But back to those high tannin levels. Malvern Hills perry is a clean, fruity, and quite subtle tasting drink, but the tannins are really quite fulsome and astringent. That's to say they dry the mouth in an uncompromising way. I'm fine with tannins generally, but even I find them a bit 'wearing' at this level. It means that our Malvern Hills Perry is perhaps more of a connoisseurs drink, when we'd much rather it had more general appeal, though the last thing we want to do is dumb it down.
After Maceration
After our recent disastrous blending experiment, I've decided I need to tackle the issue at source. My new-fangled innovation for this years Malvern Hills perry is the old-fangled processs of Maceration. Maceration is simply the process of milling the pears to a fine pulp, and leaving well alone for a few hours before pressing. In this way, the tannins in the pears oxidise, and hopefully precipitate out, leaving all the lovely perry taste but with less of the mouth-drying tannin. It's a bit of extra work because it spreads the processing out over two days instead of one, but hopefully the results will be worth the effort. I went for a 24 hour maceration, milling the pears on Saturday, ready for pressing on Sunday.

I can't say that the pressing was a pleasant experience, but then the first of the season never is. Nothing is in the right place, every piece of kit needs a thorough clean, and fatigue takes hold as we're using muscles that have lain idle since the last cidermaking season. Putting the fun-factor aside though, it was a successful weekends pressing, giving us around 220 litres of juice with an average Specific Gravity of 1.070. One batch achieved 1.071, the highest gravity we've recorded, with the potential to give a final alcohol level of around 9%.

The warm weather we're having at moment should mean fermentation will romp away, and it now remains to be seen how successful our maceration has been, and whether it's worth repeating again next year.

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