Cider No.1 of 2016

2016 cider 1d

With the Ellisons Orange in the truck, it was time to pick the Tremlett’s Bitter

2016 cider 1c

The Forfar are in the foreground, with the Lord Derby in the far left of the truck

Around a week ago we picked the apples for the first cider, which would allow them to sweat for a week outside. This would give the starch time to convert to sugar prior to pressing, and a quick test with iodine tincture proved that they were indeed ready after one week. Typically I would wait for the apples to begin to drop, and I do remember a seasoned cider maker stating that he tended to use one third of the apples from the ground to two thirds from the tree. I think this was partially because he knew they were ripe in general, and also because those on the ground were busy picking up the necessary wild yeasts that would later help with fermentation. I’m not sure of the validity, but I do it anyway, in case!


2016 cider 1b

The 2016 Milling Station!

Today was the day we made our first cider – No.1 of 2016. The specific gravity was 1.046 at the start, 60 pints scratted and pressed into one large plastic fermentation bin. I loan the scratter from our local transtion group, and this time it came with no supports. Luckliy, two spare pallets hanging by, a few nails and a random piece of wood leant themselves to a scratter stand which also aided the back due to its bespoke height! Eat your heart out Heath Robinson!

2016 cider 1a

60 pints of fruit juice waiting to metamorphosize.

The cider was, as almost predicted, a mix of 33% Tremlett’s Bitter (cider), 33% Lord Derby (culinary), 20% Ellison’s Orange (Dessert) and 13% Forfar (Dessert/Culinary). Of course, to mess up the percentages there wasn’t quite enough to fill the fermentation bin, so I ended up adding 5 litres (mixing units now too I see!) of Bountiful, another culinary/dessert. The heaviness towards the culinary/desserts might help explain the relatively low SG, though it’s still within the bondaries of acceptable, for storage. It might just come out tart – we’ll soon see (hopefully)!


First Walnut Harvest

2016 walnut harvestContrary to the doom and gloom of various people telling us we’ll never see a walnut from the tree we planted in the centre of the acre, today I picked 30 nuts from the floor and tree itself in our first walnut harvest! Who’d be daft enough to plant a full-sized walnut, which would take years to fruit and even then be ridiculously tall to harvest! Nope – our mini-walnut (about 30ft full grown) has started giving back the love. Shelling them was easy enough once in the swing of it, and I dried them out for a few hours on a low 100c heat. Rather than trying to preserve them, they’re just foil wrapped in the fridge, where I believe they could keep for a few months if needed. However, as I eat them every morning for breakfast, they won’t see the week out!

Dandelion Wine 2016

2016 dandelion wine 6Finally I got round to bottling the dandelion wine we started in the spring! I noticed it had finished bubbling away a while ago, and had this sinking feeling I should really bottle it. As is all too often the case, other events always take priority, and I would guiltily glance aside if I walked past the demijohns, full of the yellow liquid.

Well today I plucked up the courage to finally do something about it – besides, we’re running out of space in the garage where the demijohns were taking up valuable floor estate! I carted them off to the kitchen (which is a building site at the moment as we finally extend it to cope with more than two people in it at a time), and prepared to decant them to the cleaned bottles. I really shouldn’t have feared, as I pulled the first gush through the tube I tasted it, and it was splendid! I was also worried that we’d left the green bits on the yellow dandelion heads, some people reported this made the wine bitter. Well, it did have a slight affect, but really nothing to complain about, and the sweetness of the wine more than made up for it! So now we have 29 bottles (30 including the one in the fridge that popped its cork early, demanding to be drunk), and we feel wine rich for the second time in a year! We still have the plum wine sat on the shelf, ageing, so we have over fifty bottles in reserve at Chateau Merrybower 😀

Cider Plans for 2016

Having watched various apples falling over the last few weeks, it’s time again to make cider plans – hurrah! We’ve started supplying a local farm shop with apples and pears – only around 3-4 kg a week, but it’s a wonderful feeling to finally start spreading the fruity love locally! The wonderful thing is that we swap it for some local meat, which keeps those food miles low and the taste is definitely worth it. The pears in particular seemed to go down well – the first basket was Beth, an extremely juicy variety whose development was impeded by the outbreak of WW2 and was only finally brought to market in the mid 1970s! And the second variety was Beurre Hardy, and old French variety from the early 1800s – a large and buttery pear with a slight hint of rose water. Like all good quality pears, they should be picked and left to ripen indoors for 2-3 days – it’s a nack we’ve forgotten in this age of supermarket shopping, but believe me, the taste difference is incredible!

Anyway – on to the important matters in hand – cider! We’ve two cider trees with a decent crop this year – Dabinett and Tremlett’s Bitter, so I’ve tried to team them up with equally as laden trees, one cooker and one eater each. Importantly, these two complimentary trees also have to mature at a similar time, or at the least, last well off the tree until pressing time. The final result is, in theory, with no scrumping from anyone else, three separate ciders – two incorporating the cider apples and one the more east counties traditional of two thirds eater to one thirds cooker. Below are the varieties, their use, and their orchard location number (so I know where to visit to pick!). I’ve also added a guess as to apple numbers – ‘lots’ means more than 100. Before you laugh your socks off, this is only the trees’ sixth year, fifth in the ground here, so next year should be even better! Cider plans 2017 will hopefully be even more of an adventure!


Cider 1 – mid October pressing

Tremlett’s Bitter (cider) – A2 – pick early Oct (some are already on the ground) – lots
Lord Derby (culinary) – C4 – pick late September – lots
Ellison’s Orange (dessert) – C6 – pick mid to late September – lots
Forfar (culinary/dessert) – H4 – pick early October (only 20 or so of these so just chucking them in!)


Cider 2 – late October pressing – “Tally Ho!” (our random cider for 2016)

Harvey (culinary) – H5 – pick mid September to mid October – lots
Sanspareil (dessert) – I3 – pick mid October – lots
Ashmead’s Kernel (dessert) – B4 – pick early to mid October – 20
Barnack Orange (dessert) – B3 – pick early to mid October – 20
Ribston Pippin (dessert) – D5 – pick late September to mid October – 20
Wyken Pippin (dessert) – D3 – pick late Septmber to mid October – 20


Cider 3 – early December pressing – “Sydney Camm’s Marvel Machine”

Dabinett (cider) – H3 – pick early to late November – lots
Rosemary Russet (dessert) – I2 – pick early to mid October – lots
Newton Wonder (culinary) – C1 – pick mid October – lots


And here’s some fun – probably totally wide of the mark. According to “Craft Cider Making” by Andrew Lea, a cider guru, the ideal cider apple would have 15% sugar content, 0.4% Malic Acid and 0.2% Tannin. Now you can find various tables on the internet giving you these values for certain varieties but they really do depend on seasonal differences, local weather, year to year discrepencies and so on. However, for fun I’ve entered the values for the fruit I’m mixing (or an apple of a similar heritage where none is present) to see what each of the three ciders ends up with. The values are below:

 SugarMalic AcidTannin
Ideal Cider Value15.00%0.40%0.20%
Cider 111.1%0.41%0.13%
Cider 2???
Cider 313%0.44%0.15%

Unfortunately there’s no data for Forfar, an apple from the Netherlands, going back to the 1700s. That helps to scupper Cider 1 slightly, and the values for Ellison’s Orange from from its heritage variety Orange Cox’s Pippin, so they may also be wide of the mark. And Cider 2 is just not worth attempting to work out, with more than three apples’ juice data unavailable. Still, at least we know Cider 3 gets close to the mark!

Importantly, when we’ve finally pressed the juices for each cider, we’ll take an acid reading. We’re looking, ideally, for anything between 3.2 and 3.8 pH. Higher than 3.8 and we risk microbial infection of the cider. Lower than 3.2 and the acidity can be mouth puckering!

Roll on pressing – I’ll probably pick the first batch over the next weeek, with a view to pressing it the week after.