Dad tells the story of his encounters with cider. First, during his National Service after the war in Germany. He and his fellow RAF colleagues had visited an area famous for its cider. Dad had been persuaded to try the local brew: his verdict - undrinkable. Then years later, in Somerset with Uncle George, they'd visited a pub famed for its ciders. Having been bitten before, he chose a cider shandy of lemonade and cider: undrinkable.
Our experience has been different. We remember a Dorset family holiday with our kids and Trev & Linda's tribe and discovering that our neighbour was on a local cider trail. Folks dragged up on his doorstep each day with various impromptu containers and took his home made scrumpy away. Jill remembers Trev and I spending a lot of time round at 'Farmer Scrotes'.
Glimmers now, of a return to something like a normal life and of the opportunities that our new life at Cordwood might bring.
But first a phone call to say 'Bring a demi-john so you can take some fruit juice home'. Okay, and can I ask about this phrase 'There is a small barn which will provide some shelter but no toilets' that came with the email? Really, no toilets? We chatted about stuff, including feeding weening babies avocado. I asked at the end of the conversation, "Will we see you on Sunday?' "Hell, no' she said 'There aren't any toilets'.
So, today, to a Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust day course at their Osmanthorpe Orchard reserve making cider - led by Ray Lister. At Cordwood we inherited an orchard planted in around 1947. The trees are old and grow on mean, unproductive ground. We are steadily bringing them back into productive life through pruning and improving the ground beneath their old trunks and hope to have an apple harvest this year. The best thing one can do with apples is eat them, but when there is a surplus, what better to do than make apple juice or cider?
So, today, crushing ('scratting') apples and then pressing them.
Nine of us on the course but only one fool, (the one with with the thinning hair and vacant smile) got the job of carrying the finished pulp out to the compost each time and punching it out of the wooden tub with his fist while the pulp and juice ran down his cagoule. Of course, I was that fool. But, an affirming day as we had read quite widely on cider making and looked for confirmation that all we'd read and seen could be realised. We drove away with two demi-johns filled with delicious, brown apple juice. One will be left for the natural yeasts to work their magic while the other received a crushed Camden tablet to kill all of the naturally occurring yeasts. We will add brewers' yeast to this demi-john and then compare the quality of the two finished ciders when they are ready (somewhere around Christmas).
Haven't we got lovely toilets at Waxwings, we said, over a cup of tea.
Use a range of apples including crab apples
Quarter or half apples before crushing (scratting)
Press crushed apples and collect juice
Wild yeasts are unpredictable and so use brewers yeast
Two fermentations will be necessary
Bottle into wire topped bottles and keep cool
For apple juice collect juice from single varieties and freeze in tetrapaks