Friday, 31 October 2008


We planted a row of cordon apple trees in 2003 and this year has been a bumper harvest. Trees take about this long to really fruit well, and 2008 has been an exceptional fruiting year for apple growers across the country.

Of course, a man's mind turns to cider when he is faced with an apple surplus. So, away to Hereford to the apple capital of Britain to see how it's done.

The principles remain the same as handed down over millennia...

The machines shown were photographed at the Hereford Food Show and still used on countless farms today. To the rear of the picture a belt driven machine pulps the apples. The apples had not been too closely washed and were poured into the big container and then the mincing blades worked to produce buckets of minced pulp.

This pulp was then wrapped in cloths in layers on the press to form a 'cheese'. The wheel was turned and pressure brought down from above onto the 'cheese'. The apple juice flowed out, leaving skins, pulp, pips and cores all compressed between their cloths.

The juice was then poured into large barrels and left. No yeast or sugars were added and no attempts were made to measure specific gravity. The juice ferments using natural yeasts and is ready to drink within months.

There will be a considerable variation between each batch made with no attempts to control variables. Cider apples or pears of different varieties and quantities were used.

We visited commercial cider makers Westons and were not surprised to see their cider making process much more standardised and scientific. The cider apples or pears are washed and champagne yeast added. Large vats of juice are stored enabling blending to achieve the consistent taste that consumers expect.

But, the basic process remains as it always has.


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