Wednesday, 27 October 2010

'Trouble at 'mill...'

'One o'crossbeam's s'gone out o'skew on'treadle...':

Not the Spanish Inquisition as in the famous Monty Python sketch, but could be a serious drawback until I can either replace the section (6" x 2") or patch it up.
Still, got batch 7 pressed, all the time expecting to hear another loud crack! It's getting that last few litres of juice that's the test for a home-made press...

Not half way yet though...

Monday, 25 October 2010

Ooo, a sit down...

Been a crab apple evening... working towards batch 7 now. This is to be a mix of 40% sweet, 33% sharp and 27% bitter. Just need 2lbs more bitters now and I can get 'em scratted. There's talk of rain tomorrow - bad as I got bills to pay... but good if I can get 7 pressed. Whether I've got the stamina for 500 litres yet is another matter, but a routine that starts with better quality apples and ends with 2 pressings a week would be good.
Turbo cider's going down well, tell thi...

Sunday, 24 October 2010

6 Pressed and on...

Why is it that you never get done what you plan to?
Having lost the morning (didn't rise at the crack of dawn mind...) to improving the scratter catchment. After elaborate plans for a fancy chute to deliver the scrats out to a bin, I settled on an easier hinge-top affair with an 'up position' support. All this to make fitting a collecting bin beneath a little easier, but with pulping and pressing batch 6, I just haven't had time to give it a proper trial... though I have got the sharps ready and weighed for the next batch, which puts me a tad in front for this week - all being well for an evening press mid week - fingers crossed.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Pause for thought:

Pooley and Lomax - Real Cidermaking on a Small Scale:
(clearly the authors are avid cider makers...)

page 6: 'The likelihood, however, of our sown pip ever yeilding a variety of any worth* is extremely small'

page 30:
' ...add a small ration of crab apples to the mix...'

clearly the first reference above refers to commercial worth, because tannin-rich apples from the hedgerow (or wherever those wildling pips find growing conditions...) are most 'worthy' indeed to the home producer!

Many of the 'crab' apples I use are most certainly from discarded apple cores, some of them certainly worthy enough for grafting for cider apples with a good balance of sugar, acid and tannin - get sowing!

(*italics are mine)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Thoughts on Scrumpy

It's quite impossible to buy apples and produce scrumpy. Only 'scrumped' apples can make scrumpy.
Scrumpy is definitely not a type of cider - nothing whatever to do with low tech production or cloudiness. The term relates to the origin of the apples from which the cider is made. It should be noted that smaller scale cider makers are more likely to produce scrumpy than the bigger producers who have records to keep!
Apples of any variety come under general rights of ownership. As every inch of the land is owned by someone somewhere, it follows that all that grows on the land is owned by someone somewhere, apples being no exception.
While ownership is clearly apparent in orchards with clear boundaries it is less so in hedgerows and wooded areas. No doubt roadside apples technically 'belong' to the Highways Agency, while those growing beside a field footpath 'belong' to the land owner.
It is thus this distinction of ownership that qualifies the production of scrumpy.
If a cider maker buys his/her apples or gains the owner's permission to use a tree's crop or collect windfalls, the scrumpy qualification is lost. However if there is no permission sought and the resulting fruit is turned into cider, it will be scrumpy.
In my opinion this is how the term came about - while scrumped apples are technically stolen apples they are more likely simply 'not missed', in that the landowner does not want them - he's not, or his agent has not, set out to profit from them.
This brings about an interesting situation, in that if he doesn't want them and you do, then so might someone else! Thus the confusion of ownership...
By way of example, I once had a gooseberry bush growing at the bottom of my garden. I should point out that in those days we lived in a long row of terraced houses... One year the gooseberry bush fruited rather well. Now I like my goosberries (delicious in a fool...) just turning yellow and so I decided to give them a day of two more to ripen. Come Friday off I sets with my colander to the bottom of the garden only to find NO goosberries - not a oner - all gone.
It seems someone else preferred them a little greener and whether a neighbour perhaps thought that I didn't want them or the birds got there first, I'll never know.
Thus it is with apples. Some growing locally fall late and as I'm busy dealing with the falling earlies they don't get early attention. One year I got a bit low on sweets and set off with my lettuce trays to find - LO - just one single solitary apple left alone on the tree! Someone had got to them first. It could have been a flock of starlings or it could have been a rival scrumper...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Whey hey!

Just racked a glassful out of the latest 'turbo cider'... this 5 litres was made from Aldi apple juice (3L) and some juice remaining after a pressing. Much more flavoursome than the 1st trial with Morrison's Value juice (the Aldi juice is a bit cheaper as I remember, but a tad sharper I thought) most likely for mixing it with the 2 litres of 'own' juice. It might be an idea to show people how to press a few pints with a couple of bits of plywood and hand cramps from a local bucket shop as the difference in flavour is quite dramatic. For anyone with access to winter crab apples this would give them quite a treat for minimal effort! By, it's heady stuff as well... looks like this batch won't make it to the bottle either...

bit cloudy mind...

some rescue work today - trying to de-ivy a local wild tree:

before the next customer provided a spot of lunch:

a glass of this 'ere cider would have gone down nicely...
If I hadn't got this turbo cider, I'd have been drinking lager now... think about it - well worth a few litres of apple juice, tell thi, 'get thissen gone'

Another Bitter Sweet - juicy too!

Last customer yesterday offered all their apples - 3 trees: 2 sweet (said they were Jonagold) and a third quite sharp (unknown) - looks a bit like Howgate Wonder, but that's the only other sharp I can (almost) identify after Bramley Seedling lol...
I got all the sweets but ran out of time to get all the sharps, though I can call back anytime for them.
I'd remembered that on a winter run - a day when steam breath warmed the winter air - cutting down a footpath and seeing a carpet of tiny apples... well I wasn't far away yesterday and decidied to check it out. Unfortunatley it was growing quite dark, but I had time to gather what I could find - getting nettled once again in the process! I don't go anywhere without my trusty Burgon and Ball grass hook these days! After cutting back the nettles the little spheres were a little more detectable...
So the Panda stash came out rather well all in all (the bitters are in the sack):

These will help keep me stocked for December pressings as they are in good condition. I could do with getting a bit in front of 30 litres a week though with a target of 500 litres as I'll probably lose a couple of weekends being away...

Sunday, 17 October 2010


Just sat down... 5th 30 litres now in fermenter (batch 5) and racked 1st batch - tasted good though a bit sharp. Need to get a plug/socket sorted for the whale submersible pump as it took ages with a racking tube... Racked about a third before it was light enough to lift onto the work surface. Too risky to get it high enough straight off... it's getting that last foot of lift that's the tricky bit. Need a bigger bore tube as well...

Pulping earlier:

Difference between scratted:

...and pulped:

Pulper is basically a 'Pulpmaster' with hole cut in top:

set in plastic Ikea waste basket

...with blade altered thus:

Rotating blade forces pulp through slot in bottom when small enough:

Three tubs of apples reduce to almost two of pulp:

Washing press cloths: (not with that Gel in bottom RH corner though!! - just rinsed out after being stood in mild bleach solution)

...and wrung out ready to use:

to make cheeses

for loading the press:

Saturday, 16 October 2010

5 Scratted

The home made scratter taken apart ready for washing:

showing the main body:

The Wilkinson beech rolling pin is wearing well!

Very handy and portable for cleaning:

In it's 3rd year now - made from plywood and wood offcuts, and bits from Wilkinsons: beech rolling pin, 2 tap wrenchs for a shaft (roughed up with grinder and epoxied into drilled-out rolling pin) with 2 x 15mm compression straight connectors with a bit of copper pipe in each for bearings. Electric drill powered but a pulley could easily be added and the tap wrench did accept a bike crank as a handle before I ground the end off...
Mine doesn't quite spin true (one single shaft would have been better - bucket shops sell a longer tap wrench though that fits the inside dia of pipe well, but I'd already made mine before discovering this...). Cost about £15 all in, including the stainless screws (1" 10's as I remember)
This is the mk 1 version - very low tech but very effective - takes about 45 mins to scrat around 90lbs of apples (fills three 25 litre tubs). Still need to be pulped afterwards though...

More on the that Press...

missed this one:

Friday, 15 October 2010

Batch 5

...just need another 4lbs of sweets now. Can then scrat, pulp and press... 'tis bath time tonight though. If it rains tomorrow - no work - maybe I could get ahead..?

Cider Press..?

This has to be the best yet for the addition of the very inexpensive bottle jack - free standing and with possible adjustable base beam. This could a be a good basis for a home-made or local engineering works project!

Welding on front side stabilisers would be a good addition or some addition side sliders to help keep the whole thing square. Not sure on the availability of the springs though...
Of course the jack could be whatever capacity you wanted as a 20 ton is probably not necessary for pressing juice. Definitely a step up from my current fence-post floor joist set-up...

Old Poets Never Die...

Went for a meal at the Old Poet's Corner, Ashover last night - 1st night of the Beer Festival. Landord Kim was on bass and it was too bloody loud!! The background music 'Dark Side of the Moon' was something of a give away as to what was to follow... old rockers and all that, but they were clearly enjoying themselves, if somewhat apologetic for lack of rehearsal...
The Black Dragon was spectacular but after a glass or two the palate became very 'sandpapery', such is the tannin content! Maybe they had an excess of Kingston Black at pressing time...
The other notable cider was a Rich's sweet (not tried) - another being the Diabollically dry, or whatever it is, from Norfolk (no way am I ever parting with my hard-earned for that again...)
Isn't it at Rich's Cider where they have an enormous barrell that has a sign saying: 'If you drank 4 pints a day, it would take you etc...'? I've got a picture* of it somewhere...
(*that pic is already posted - here)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


Sorting these tonight:

another 'ornamental crab' from a customer's garden - some grubby, hence the sorting.

Found these yesterday, though didn't have time to collect any:

Undoubtedly Golden Delicious heritage but delightfully sharper. Nice, but some distance from car parking - could do with a wheel barrow...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

...and these little beauties!

- another roadside delight - gathered some yesterday enroute from one job to the next. A really tart little bitter sweet with good astringency - makes the roof of my mouth feel like sandpaper - juicy too. The road gets a bit busy here though and getting them off the tree's a bit dicey, so it requires a few stop-offs for windfalls.

Now if I could get into the field...

4: Success

All was well, if not a day late...
The SG comes out at 1055 this morning with a little over after filling the 30l Young's fermentor to the shoulder.
There were a few pools of juice at the back on the worktop - probably dripped from the top boards, as the tray isn't that much bigger and it all has to be very square for the juice to run down. A 'skirt' would be handy, or a few extra boards to the back and sides to act as guides for any stray juice.
Good thing is that it worked and I got what I wanted from one pressing without having to reload the press! This will now make the whole process a bit quicker.

Monday, 11 October 2010


I did get the pulping done but washing down the pressing boards with a caustic solution (125g per 5 litre) wasn't a good idea... I usually use a bleach solution, but as the boards (well most of 'em) were newly cut I thought a stronger agent would be better. What I hadn't reckoned for was the brown residue that would issue from the caustic soaked boards! May just be tannin from the hardwood, (I've only used beech- faced ply before...), but to be quite sure I've rinsed and rewashed and rinsed again until the rinse water stayed clear...
So at 9.15 last night I gave up on the pressing. At least all is ready for tonight...
something else could go wrong yet...

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Press Cloths Done!

Almost got the hang of the 'flat felled seam'
I ought to hem round all the press cloths sometime... t'would save all them bits coming off.
So, a step nearer - time for more tea - then scrub down the press boards... it'll be dark at this rate...

Time for a Cuppa...

90lbs apples all scratted now.
Sewing machine threaded up.
Tea mashing...

Time's getting on...

Got the reel of thread at least... still preparing the sweets need another 7lbs and I can move on to the scratting... or the press cloths... decisions...
The sweets have taken longer than thought - the trays needed trawling over to select the dubious keepers...
time for a quick bowl of soup - just

The Big Day... maybe...

Got the twelve 18"sq. pressing boards finished this week.
Then, yesterday realised that I hadn't enough material offcuts left for the bigger press cloths... DOH... all I can do for the present is join together what bits I have got, but could I find any white cotton? (not that I need it to match... but don't want anything leaching out of coloured cotton - though probably wouldn't anyway...)
so there's Wilkinsons open at Clowne, and Dodgy Goods in the village so I should just about get something stitched in time for the trial pressing...
I've made a top plate that slides against the uprights to keep the whole thing stable (he hopes...), but I can see that juice could miss the collecting tray if the stack is not nice and square... better get on...

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Batch 3... now underway - fermenting vigorously this morning so the OG of under 1050-ish (well frothy!) will be a bit out... the extra 2 litres of juice have gone into the next 'turbo' cider. On the last pressing, the pulp was fermenting in the bucket as the juice had settled to the bottom. The mild weather..?
Washing down the bigger press boards more of a chore... and that's just 4! Still, that's 90 litres 'cooking' - time will tell...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


The trial with the new baseplate worked well last night - 4 cheeses of 15"x15"x.75" yielded 10 litres. There was a slight leak on one side, but the push-fit vit C tube sealed well and drained the base plate nicely.

Two pressings gave over 20 litres.

It'll be interesting to see if I can load up the press with 12 to get the desired amount at one pressing...

Monday, 4 October 2010

Which reminds me...

...need to increase 'sharp' stock to keep ahead.
Tried the 2nd batch of turbo cider last night - 5 litres made from 2 litres of Tesco juice (value, of course...) with 3 litres of Aldi's (52p per litre) - not bad at all, and has a bit more 'bite' than the 1st 3 ltr Morrisons batch. Saturday night saw us with a bottle of Aspalls Dry and a Kingstone Press and it has to be said the turbo cider is at least as flavoursome... if not better!

Oh, the turbo cider's not cleared yet... I just racked a couple of glasses from the clearer top few inches lol - keen or what?

Apple stock

These are the 'sweets'

New Base Plate continued...

Previous base plate with channel for juice:

With a tube arrangement it should be easier to
control the flow - less chance of spillage! - especially on that 1st gush of infant cider...
(Oh, and the hole's a bit eccentric due to the 1st drill bit slipping...tch)

Batch 3..?

Er, not quite... scratted on Friday - not pulped till Sunday. Then started on a new base plate in an effort to up production. Sadly the shop where I get my ply offcuts is closing down and I could only get 3/4" ply for the larger pressing boards. Enough sheet to get 3 out and curtain lining offcuts to get 4 larger 3'x3' press cloths. Got these soaking to get out the 'newness'...
I'm hoping to get enough to fill a 30litre bin from one pressing. A stack of 12 'cheeses' 15"x15"x.75" should just about do it, but I need more ply offs for the extra larger pressing boards now... Hard to say whether the actual press will be big enough to cope with 12 thicker boards until I actually give it a go.

Progression of base plates:

Note the 1st 2 have a channel for the juice, whereas the latest effort has a hole and tube (Tesco Vit C container...) which is a tight push fit.