Showing posts from 2013


Christmas is coming and we're off for a few days to celebrate. The cider that's been bubbling under the stairs for the last couple of months has slowed and the plops of bubbles rising are fewer and further between. Easing out the bungs releases a delicious apply smell. We've racked all the containers, indulging in the geekery of ph's and specific gravities as well as numerous and more qualitative taste testes which made the whole afternoon a slightly tipsy blur. The process also got a bit messier as the afternoon progressed. While all the equipment was carefully sterilised, my aim with the siphon tube became poorer as we progressed following numerous taste tests, leaving  slightly sloppy kitchen floor. And how did it taste? a little rough around the edges but pretty palatable. The demijohn's with blends worked better than the single variety versions but its all an experiment so we'll see how they evolve over time. Now we wait. Everything's sitting ther

Soft hands, hard work

Last Friday we pilled into the car and set off for the West, counting the roundabouts down the a316 then on to the m3 and finally the a303, whistling past service stations as the city spluttered out and the greenery took over. Theres a rhythm to the journey we're now long accustomed to, Stonehenge is the halfway point but its where things start to slow down (and more often than not grind to a halt). It must be the most disappointing tourist attraction in the world as you've seen it at its best from the road but the stones mark the beginning of the weekend as we pass their mirky bulk. Three weeks ago we had collected boxes and boxes of apples from trees in two orchards just outside Newton Abbot. These were apples that would otherwise have been left to rot on the ground. Some came from trees that had been tagged but most were unidentified, or unidentifiable, as much effort had been  spent by the farmer to work out what as growing on his land. There were a range from delicious

it takes as long as it takes

We live in a busy world, and London is busy squared. Its amazing how easy you get used to things being on tap, I can buy Lemongrass from Thailand at 2am at the supermarket; people get properly angry if they miss a train and have to wait 2 mins for another; I can buy a pizza online and the website keeps me updated while someone one makes it for me and the brings it to my house (as if knowing what stage of production my pizza is helps with getting it to my door faster). But now I'm waiting. I have 70l of cider in my kitchen thats refusing to do much but sit there. Its weird how much it gets to you. I'm trying to restrict lifting the lid and peering inside or giving the containers an encouraging shake, but its hard. After all it should be doing something. It should have been doing something days ago. All the books said it should. The mighty internet said it should. It did last time I tried. 2 days ago one of the demijohns cranked into life and lazily started producing some bubbl

Nettle Beer

There are a lot of nettles in the wood and we spend a fair bit of time trashing them and the brambles in the spring and autumn. This year with the demijohns lying fallow I thought I'd put them to good use and have a go at making nettle beer. Its proved eminently drinkable, more cider flavoured than beer and very refreshing when served chilled in the sun. It was backbreaking work picking the nettles but it was a rare sunny day so good to be outside. We filled a big sack; about 3 kgs. The little one and my wife were staying on in Devon so I had to cart the nettles on the train back to London and then across town on the tube.  I felt a bit of a wally and the weird cabbagey smell of the nettles emanating from my sack became more obvious in the concreted world of London. Back at home I filled every saucepan with water and, lacking marigolds, had to use sandwich bags to lift the nettles into the pans. The smell did not improve as the nettles cooked down.  Unlike cider they need som

pruning and and the eventual advent of spring

Its been the shittest winter for some time. I've juggling training for the London marathon with parenthood.  I applied for the former before i realised quite how time consuming the latter can be! Down at the wood I acquired a couple of bush cider tree's to compliment the standards which have been happily lapping up last years rain. We planted these back in February and pruned the existing trees. Pruning always feels like taking a step back; removing growth and effort that the tree has put in and each cut is generally done with a wince (is this right?!). Finally it feels like the end of hibernation period and things are coming together.  I've just returned from a bank holiday in the sun where everything is throwing off the cloak of winter and theres a green fuzz spreading across everything. We spent a healthy weekend trimming around the  apple tree's and attacking the brambles that are trying to colonise the whole hill. very satisfying work an a world away from spreads