Monday, 27 December 2010

Ice in their Cider Anyone?

Just how did I get 6.5 gallons into a 5 gallon barrel? Well I didn't, though thought I did...
With a view to freeing up a 30 litre bin, I'd transferred Batch 1 last week to the 5 Gallon sherry container (now that 2 has gone - mainly on topping up other batches) only to discover today that it contained a lot of ice:

showing some residual cider in the bottom:

...this much in the sink:

explains how I got 6.5 gals into a 5 gal container...

I'd used the tap on the barrel and hadn't peeked inside till today. Just shows how cold its been all over Christmas this year. Had it thawed and refrozen it would have formed a solid in the bottom, but it was still in fine ice-crystal layers!
Leaves Batch 1 a little more potent at least!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Not just for drinking...

Ham cooked in cider is another reason! Imparts a lovely flavour...

Friday, 24 December 2010

Old Poet's again, again...

And it came to pass 'twas Quiz Night again - I got one answer right - yes, just the one - waste of a quid really, any ways the cider was even more of a mystery:

Orchards Wye (tends to suggest the Wye Valley) - got that stainless steel + acid edge (which tends to suggest NOT the Wye Valley...)


Mc(something) (tended to suggest a name...) - rather better than the above, with a rounder tannic edge.

Bearing in mind that the glasses could have been confused on their way from the container to the bar...

Directing enquiries as to the whereabouts of these two ciders at the landlord proved fruitless: "I've no idea," was his response.

Two mystery ciders indeed... craft or crafty?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Minus & Miners...

Well as the temperature dropped to -10c last night, the last apples prepared this morning were quite solid, but went through the scratter okay. These are the 15lbs of crabs for just a gallon of single variety (I call them P.O.W - as the nearest pub to their location is the Prince of Wales) these could turn out to be a good 'cider apple' as they have a good mix of suitable properties. If this batch works I'll be tempted to try some grafting, or maybe see if I can't peg down a branch or two to root - the idea being to source and preserve some good original Derbyshire cider fruits! In this way I can perhaps gather together some of the better crabs and find good locations (ideally not too far from a layby or car park) where access is not too difficult, for my old age... lol.
I'd be 'shot down' somewhat to send a few off to Brogdale at some later date only to discover that they are a recognised variety anyway! Most unlikely though, but not impossible, as they could have been planted with 'remaindered' nursery trees as a roadside screen...
It's interesting to note that some stretches of road have more wilds than others - I like to think that an 'apple-a-day' enthusiast has discarded their cores on a regular basis, perhaps miners on their way to or from work, or maybe school kids - Johnny Appleseed characters or what?

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Made it!

550 litres... phew. There's enough crabs left maybe for 5 litres of a single variety - just out of interest really, to see what it would be like. Plenty of sweets - mainly GD, in fact all GD... surely? No sharps at all, not even a one to go with the chops tomorrow... so that's just about it. 16's popping away merrily and 17's just started fermenting and will need an airlock tomorrow. Can't be arsed to take the gravity on the 2 batchs making 18...

Scratter Assembly

As all the Batch18 apples are now prepared (54lbs sweet, 30lbs sharp and 36lbs bitter sweet for those last 2*20 litres - got the 2 containers 'sweet' in the end with a caustic solution) ready for scratting (milling), I thought it might be of interest to include some pics of the very effective but cheaply-made scratter.

Back plate slotted in position:

A thin ply spacer fits on top - (push fit)

(note scuffs from screw heads)

then front plate slides into...


followed by the feed plate:


and 'hopper' (only shaped thus by using up scraps of 12mm ply... but does allow access for a 'paddle' to encourage bigger apples through)

Ready for drill attachment:

Note arm prevents drill from acting counter clockwise:

Note direction of drill set to rotate away from feed plate:

and in use:

after scratting 90lbs apples - feed plate slid back, showing tendency to clog (though didn't on this occasion)

Thursday, 16 December 2010

17 in and some...

...made 1.050, so no change there. Left it under pressure and got another 3 litres of nice clear juice which will come in handy for topping up (in a 3l Robinsons juice container as 17a alongside 14a which has almost fermented out now)
Most of 18 prepared ready for weekend but still need 24lbs crab mix. Another loud crack from the press on those last few litres - thought I may as well fill the 3 litres - but think it will hold for the last pressing... 'ding dong merrily' or what?

More snow...

No work due to the weather, yet again, so it's pressing time once more...
With over 510 litres now pressed (112 gallons) there's just a few more litres needed from the press for 17 then I'll bring it in with the others - (11 to 16). It's that bloomin' cold again in the garage I've come in for a warm and a nice cup of tea...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Simply Delicious!

- that's Batch 5 - seen here being racked with the Whale submersible pump into it's barrel:

A little cloudy yet, but very nice on the palate:

...should be a tad more acidic at this stage though. Checking my notes I see that 20lbs of mild sharps were used out of a total of the 30lb sharp portion - be interesting to see how it progresses...

Now I have a spare container for the next - Batch 17 will take me to 510 litres of juice.
Now the snow has largely gone (been quite bad here in North Derbyshire) I did some hedgrow ferreting yesterday and returned with 45lbs more crabs with no frost damage. This is probably down to the carpet of ivy and leaves beneath the trees, but the crabs are hardier too.
I have enough sharps left for just the one more batch - 18 if I can manage it. I have scrounged 2x 20 litre ex-vegetable oil containers, but am struggling to get them 'sweet'...
Maybe overtones of rancid vegetable oil will improve the last batch though..?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

16 now in...

...but it's nothing compared to these guys:

BBC's 'The One Show' Friday 10/12 (from 5:24)
[Unfortunately no longer available]

Must have been made before the heavy snow falls but there was a bit of snow about.

Also found these:

Ampleforth Abbey Cidermaking

Northern Apples

Friday, 10 December 2010

Ready or Not...

Batch 16 is now prepared. Some of the apples are unaffected by the frost - the top layer here(12lbs) is unscathed but the 8lb layer beneath is all brown and crinkly, though still juicy, so...

Yesterday I visited a Golden Delicious tree with lots of fruit still hanging - too much for the birds it seems - reaching up for a few I soon realised they were simply mush beneath the intact skin. But the mush tasted sweet and would surely yeild juice. The ones I have left are thawing now, but don't seem to be turning to mush like the ones still on the tree, though bruised areas do seem to be more affected. Undamaged then, the apples seem to fare better in freezing conditions. Maybe the old boys in years gone by built a tump with layers of straw..? though hard winters are most likely the reason they learned to get 'em all pressed before the end of November...
All good stuff.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Oh & 'Baron Aldi'...

Forgot to post this, but before I got busy I made a few small few-litre batches of cider that I've already touched upon, but in seeking out different apple juices (pasteurised 'n' all that) - available in 1 litre cartons - I noted similar cartons of grape juice in Aldi. 'Not from concentrate' read the label, so in a moment of madness I bought 3 litres and bunged it into a Robinsons plastic juice container - sprinkled in some yeast and left it for a few days. Thinking I'd end up with a red wine, I was surprised (albeit mildly) to end up with 3 bottles of an acceptable rosé! Now had I left it for a few months it would have been better... (wine benefits too from secondary fermentation and is repressed by some makers wanting a more acid wine) Not being arsed to take the gravity, I left it to ferment furiously - I suppose 'cos there's more sugar than apple juice - and it cleared beautifully.
Anyway I'm planning to give it another stab with 5 litres (89p per litre btw) - don't get me wrong, it wouldn't win any awards, but it was a lot better than some of the rosés that are passed off as such in the supermarkets.

'Quatermass and the... Pit'? 'and the Fermenter Bin' - yep 15's up and running.
The sweets prepared for 16 are looking a bit grim now they're thawed out but I reckon they'll make juice okay - just 20lbs of bitters to do now. If there's time this week it would be good to start on 17 which will achieve over 500 litres of pressed juice and get 'em both pressed this weekend. Another batch would be good as I'll then end up with 500 litres of cider after the necessary topping up as I prefer to keep it at 100% juice and top up the fermenters with cider than a water. I reckon 40 litres should cover all the topping up...
I can't imagine how small producers turn out 1000+ litres working on their own... I'm knackered... but it's 34 yrs since I made my first ciders and perries and you do learn something new every time, but I'm starting to forget things now too ... like where the hell I got that sherry barrel from?
I remember making some perry in the early eighties and I got a stone jar on loan from a farmer. I filled it and tied down the rubber bung and left it for a few months. At the appointed time I took it outside and cut the cord. With an almighty bang and gush the bung was gone - disappearing into the night air. I waited a while, then, thinking the bung was lost, picked up the jar and turned for the door when I heard it bounce off next door's roof!
The perry was good - though it would have been better had the farmer not used the stone jar for storing diesel at some point!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

More on frozen apples:

...seems other cider makers having similar troubles - here at cider-workshop discussion.

I just hope they don't all turn to mush if there's a sudden thaw!
I've found a 25litre ex-sherry plastic barrel, so I'm thinking of doing some topping up and what's left bung in there to free up another 30 litre bin - currently using these which are actually 30L and not 25 as stated.

Golden Deli's 'n stuff...

Well I've just been reading Andrew Lea's excellent source for we 'attempters'... It's the comments on using more flavoursome varieties than GD (and Bramley) on his page 'Tannin in Cider Apples' that got me thinking about one of my later aquisitions - that tree full of Golden Delicious.
Amateur apple scroungers, like myself, have to make do with what we can get. I've not done bad this year, but it's not all been plain sailing -

On a daily basis I was passing laden trees on a local farm. One day I could see some people collecting apples from one of the 4 or 5 trees in a row in the garden. Thinking I might run low on sweets, I pulled over, only to get 'short shrift' from the elderly couple taking a few carrier bags of 'cookers' - 'You'll have to see *****,' insisted the lady. So I tracked down ***** (the farmer) and we chatted about cider and the lot of dairy farmers and farming and T.V's 'Country File' for a good ten minutes... 'If I can help out I will do,' he said at length, but he likes to leave them for the birds as he'd seen many a fieldfare during last winter's snow feeding on the unused fruit. Fair do's - his apples, and bearing in mind his kind offer I set off for the local church yard for a sackful of sweets (probably wilds) and it was the next day that I chanced on the tree full of GD's. And that's it: we have to make do with what we can get, but are GD that bad? When we think of the variety, I think we associate the charactaristics of the French GD - bland and watery, but I find the English grown (certainly the ones I use) more flavoursome, and being juicy and very sweet come in handy for bulking up the sweet portion which is more to add sugar than flavour, surely?
For this next batch I've used 2/3rds GD for the sweet portion with two other (unknown) sweet varieties, though any surplus this year will be GD as I've got loads left yet - ideal for the birds with a high carb content too!

Pleased to see a pair of blue tits and a couple of robins feeding at the makeshift bird table this afternoon - a male blackbird too (not seen the female since this morning...) and I could hear the high pitched squeak of a wren. Word must be getting round about the morsels. It's worth noting that the only time I've seen the tiny goldcrest is during harsh winter spells where their tiny bodies have given up the struggle. Bigger birds stand a better chance of survival and maybe the fieldfares will be back at the farmer's apples this year already...

'Sort them frozen apples...' the tune of ABC's 'Shoot that poison arrow...' (from 1:02) - bit of a trip down memory lane... no idea why, but that tune's been in my head all week... must be the cold?
So, frozen apples and cider? Bit like Magners & ice - but at the outset, lol... I think I'd rather risk the ice at the beginning (rather than drive the old Panda straight through a wall to get the apples pressed while they're still fresh (??) The power of advertising or what?
Are they going to turn to mush, I wonder? Well a quick search turned up this:

...maybe he blanches 'em 1st..?

Batch 14 has started fermenting - the bucket lid was well bowed up! Airlock now fitted.
Be interesting to see what happens to 15 as some of them were frozen or partly so, but the juice seemed fine, though the pulp was quite runny and the yeild was up.
The Golden Delicious prepared this morning were frozen but cutable with a knife, but some other sweets weren't (frozen, that is), so it seems some are more frost resistant than others.

Just 3 batches to go... Hmm, I'm going to have to magic a few containers yet - buying might be more practical though.

A very weak blackbird entered the apple store this morning - she just sat on the floor exhausted. I've put some apples at the bottom of the garden and there's fat balls and peanuts, bread and some bits of ham and cheese... (water as well, as they might not be able to get at the pond water) but no birds now... Blackbirds are ground feeders (though they do take the apples I've left on the tree - but they've been snow-covered all week) so I've put some under a plastic table and some stuff on a feeder and last week I knocked up a feeding table with a top on, but it's not very secure as it's just hanging from a branch and the swaying might put them off..?
Anyway, hopefully this week will see at least batch 16... Back's holding out, but troublesome.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Hey, 15 is in!

450 litres now! - most I've ever made... on a scale of 1-10 though back is at about 6 - it got up to 7 yesterday sorting the apples trays round. 8 and it gets serious... might take some Ibruprofen tonight... if I can find some that is.


Well 14 pressed okay - made 1.050 - it's now in the kitchen in a 30 litre fermenter bucket - the ones with a big lid and hole for a small bung and air lock. Took some transporting from the garage - had to drag it along the ice...
There was a 30 litre fermenter in my local Wikinsons - been there for weeks... went to buy it yesterday and guess what? Gone. So now I've got nothing for batch 14 that I hope to get pressed later today. I'll need to transfer batch 4 into the last Supercask 1st though.
Meanwhile Wilbur's tail bandage (3rd now) is holding well - the 2nd vet made a better job. Big bandage - little cat...

right, apples to sort...

Thursday, 2 December 2010


Well, batch 14 is scratted and pulped ready for pressing, but no way am I standing around in that garage any more tonight...
Thing is, can I now get the remaining apples pressed before the frost gets them with a predicted minus 7 tonight..? I've put a small heater on to prevent the pulp from freezing but the apple store is open to the weather, so we'll just have to see how things pan out...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

'Snow good...

After pressing 13 on Sunday, I accidentally trapped the cat's tail in the door - 2" of it remaining on the closed side (the poor traumatised cat on the other...), so what with one thing and another (ie. the vet's run and the turn for the worse in the weather), there's no progress on batch 14 as yet...
I've never seen so much snow fall so early either. There's a path to the garage now, but more snow is forecast tonight...