Showing posts from 2012

Apple day 2012

Okay, I'm a bit late. I've not been very good at posting. Apple day has been and gone. This year I have  failed to produce a drop of cider. The trees that were so productive last year yielded dribs and drabs. While we were turning apples down last year, this summer I found my self squinting up at the leaves (often through the rain) trying to make out 1 or 2 apples growing on the branches. Apparently this has been the worst harvest for 30 years, particularly in Devon. On the plus side, my 22 trees have all grown a fair bit.  They're a bit young to be producing anything yet so i assume this is as good a time as any for something like this to happen. I feel for someone on a year like this who actually does this for a living. I spent apple day in hospital this year  being a back rubber and  useless provider of empty platitudes while my wife gave birth to our daughter. Life is great, if a bit sleep deprived. There'll be apples next year. So with failing to produce anythi

The benefit of waiting

I decanted half my first batch of cider just after Christmas. I put the other half into 3 Demijohns, I added sugar to two and put one somewhere warm and the other out in the cold. I put the remaining demijohn without sugar in the cold. I then left them for three and a half months. Beyond the sugar there was no appreciable difference between the demijohns but it tasted a lot better than the first batch. There were few bubbles sneaking through in the demijophns while it was sitting but nothing like the first fementation. However there was something happening as there was a fair build up of sediment and the Cider tasted a lot better, smoother and less rougher around the edges. I've now sulphated it and racked it off into a bag in a box. my wife is pregnant so its all the more for me. it really does pay to let it sit!
It's been a while, the weather has made the thought of leaving home a fairly miserable prospect, let alone schlepping all the way down to Devon. However a couple of weeks ago we took a long weekend and the weather gods smiled. We went to stay with some friends who'd traded London for a cottage in Cornwall and with the sun shining it was a fantastic advert for moving to the country. On the way down we did a spot of cider tasting at Truro Farmer's market before a long walk on the coast path a a BBQ on the beach. We drove back to Devon on Monday and spent the day de-brambling the wood and then weeding around the apple tree's. All the new trees had survived planting and my enthusiastic pruning and were at different stages of growing leaves and coming into blossom. The Colloget Pippin's seem to be thriving the most (both the new one and the one I planted last winter) but it's early day's yet. The site used to be  largely covered with Nettles but a bit of Judici

spring trying to get sprung


Orchard Link members' day

I joined Orchard Link , a south Devon group of orchard enthusiasts, when doing some initial research about trees. I'd been to a few of their courses on pruning and planting, which had been a great introduction. There's also an expert on the end of an email if I ever get stuck or need advice. All the same, I was still slightly dubious about attending their annual jamboree last weekend as the only Londoner and also having a rather more amateurish set up than most of the members.  I think Roz and I lowered the average age in the room by a fair way but it was a great afternoon. James Crowden was the main speaker and talked at length about the history of cider in the Westcountry and the different varieties of apple. I'm now avidly reading his book Ciderland . There was also lots of lively debate and questions, and a cider and apple juice competition which i'd shied away from entering. With hindsight I think I'd have been in with a chance but then I'm slightly bia



An experiment with Slider

While my apple trees have a fair bit of growing to do before they produce anything meaningful, there are some damsons and sloes in the wood. These had a bumper year last year. As a result, we filled numerous empty jars with sloes or damsons, sugar, and vodka or gin.  The sloe vodka is my favourite, especially when added to a glass of fizzy wine as a slightly superior Kir Royal. So far, so good. The question is, when decanted, what to do with the booze-soaked berries? The damsons make a mean crumble when mixed with some apples or are delicious covered with molten chocolate and chucked in the fridge. The sloes are a different beast all together as they are pretty revolting as fruit. Hunting around on the web we discovered a recipe for sloe sherry , so got a jar of this on the go, and then thought about trying sloe cider - or slider. Recipe as follows: 1. Half fill a jar with sozzled berries and top up with cider 2. Leave for about 4 weeks shaking from time to time We cracked it

New Tree's

7 wasn't nearly enough so the other week we planted a further 14 apple trees and an apricot, cherry and Damson to keep them all company. We got them from Thornhayes in East Devon and spent a day marking, digging and pruning. It was a lovely sunny day, like most recently slightly hotter than usual. The dogs helped with the digging, sometimes a little too enthusiastically. Now the rows of twigs march further down the hill. It's gonna be a while till they produce anything. but this is a long game...

The office


The dogs in the sun


The First Batch of Cider

Just bottled my first brew: its surprisingly drinkable!  The apples were whatever we could find; windfalls from people's gardens (with permission!) alongside crabs and wildlings from the wood (about 1/3:1/3:1/3).  We unpacked the press and spent a very satisfying day in late October turning the apples to pulp and then juice. Autumn was freakishly mild and the sun was shining. Even now some of the trees still have not dropped their leaves. Theres a great rhythm to to cutting, crushing and pressing the fruit, time flows by as you get lost into the mechanical routine. The pigs down the road where thrilled to help dispose of the left-over mush. The juice was quite dark and clear but pretty acid, knotting my insides when I tried some in place of my usual juice in the morning. It took a while for the fermentation to get going and then, when the air lock went in, it gave up completely. But the shock of my taking the lid off and peering in seemed to get it going and soon it was happily