Thank you so much to everyone who came along on Saturday and made our Community Apple Pressing Day such a success.

apples on community day

We reckon around 300 or so people made their way down Collards Lane to the Farm, many bearing trugs, buckets, bags and other containers of apples, goodness knows how many apples we processed in the end, but we were flat out all day long.

Everyone got stuck in and saw the process through from beginning to end, fist chopping the apples.

apple day 2013

Then scratting (the scratter processes them into mush by squeezing them between toothed rollers).

scratter

Before they were stacked in “cheeses” in the press. The screw of the press was then wound down to force the juice out through the cloth’s and seperate it from the left over pulp or “pommace”.

Press

It was great fun, it is always fantastic to see so many people getting involved and having fun using our traditional machinery. It really makes the orchard come alive. Our press has been making apple juice in this corner of the country for well over a hundred years and it is still going strong. That first taste of fresh apple juice each year makes all the work tending and planting the trees worthwhile. If you still have apples on your tree and want to get involved our machinery and some of the Black Down team will be at the Lodsworth Community Pressing Day this Saturday, so there is still time!

Many, many gallons of apple juice were taken away from Swan Barn Farm last weekend. It tasted absolutely fantastic on the day, and keeps well for a few days in the fridge. Any longer than that and it needs to be frozen, but in the freezer we find it lasts till at least Christmas really well.

We also gave out cider making instructions to lots of people on the day, I have had quite a few people asking questions about this since then. So, for them, here is my duffers guide to cider making.

apple juice

I tend to use a bought yeast, and add it to the juice in a demijohn as soon as possible. The airlock and bung then goes on and over the next few days the yeast starts to act on the natural sugars, releasing bubbles of CO2 and converting the sugar to alchohol. The plastic demijons with cork bungs are often not completely air tight and so the bubbler airlocks dont always work as well as in glass ones, but it will all still work, don’t worry! Look closely and you will see little bubbles rising through the cider showing you all is well.

After a couple of weeks (although the timing is very temperature dependant) the fermentation will start to slow, at this point you rack off, which just means seperating the cider from the settled out mass that will have appeared at the bottom. I use a syphon tube, but you can pour it gently into another container if you don’t have one. Then wash out the demijohn, getting rid of the sediment before pouring the cider back in. I usually top up with a bit of water back to the same level. If you want you can add a desert spoon of white sugar to kick off a secondary fermentation (beware though, this will add strength as well!). Either way it will continue to ferment away, more slowly this time. Over the next few weeks the cider will clear as the last of the sediment settles out and the fermentation slows and eventually almost entirely ceases.

When it has finished fermenting, has cleared and it is no longer producing carbon dioxide it is ready to bottle. Old beer or lemonade bottles are perfect as they can take pressure. Add sugar at a rate of 1/2 a teaspoon per pint for a lightly sparkling (hopefully a little bit classy) cider. You can probably have it ready to drink by christmas, but it will be even better if left in the bottles until the spring.

It isn’t a conplicated process, if you are careful and use clean containers you should be able to make something pretty nice. I suppose the point partly is to preserve all that fantastic fresh produce and keep it long term. But for me what it is really all about is looking after our orchard, and giving it a long term future, through the mechanism of getting people to appreciate it. When you sit down with a glass of chilled, clear, lightly sparkling cider on a warm spring day and think of the bees back out pollinating the orchard blossom it makes it tastes pretty sweet.

Swan Barn Orchard

 

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