Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Playing with apples

For the first time ever, in October 2006 there were enough apples to make it a genuine crime not to use them properly. Hiring an apple crusher and press from the local commercial makers was simple, and the apple picking was a joy - filling barrels in the tractor link box making sure that each different variety was kept separate and labelled on a cold but sunny autumn day was a novelty. They got a quick bobbing in clean water and then were put through the electric crusher before putting the pulp into the press. The smell of the crushed apples was heavenly. The pulp is put into a kind of stocking (very high denier!) bag, wooden blocks hold down the lid and then you turn the press until the juice flows. It comes surprisingly quickly and clean food-safe buckets have to be at the ready. We made over 100 litres of apple juice and 4 barrels of cider. The cider was a mix of bittersweet and sweet cider apples with some Bramleys for extra flavour. The juice was a combination of blends and single juices and now, some months on you can determine which ones should be incorporated into blends when juicing next years load and which are best kept as single varieties. The orchard has a lot of Blenheim Orange apples - very sweet, in fact too sweet as a single variety juice - but just fantastic when blended with Egremont Russet and Bramley (ratio of 1:2:1). The best single varieties were Allington Pippin and Ellisons Orange. I didnt want to pasteurise so had to freeze the juice - in new 1 litre plastic milk bottles that a goat-keeper in Milton Abbot had surplus to requirements. The cider has been racked once and now needs to be bottled, ready for tasting in the summer. Cider making and apple juicing has been happening in and around Dartmoor for hundreds of years - it's nice to know that you are part of a tradition and that there is a lot of advice around for novices.