An Apple a Day

We tried to make cider last year with limited success, I think the term ‘small scale production’ took on a new meaning with our 1.5 litres of finished product! However this year we are determined to do a bit better.

Following our visit to Reidsdale Old Cheese Factory to wassail the apple trees in September last year we knew exactly where to find professional help. Sully’s Cider House offer an apple pressing service to members of the public. They will also take your juice through the full pasteurisation or cidering process if you choose not to do this yourself. Their press requires some 200kgs of fruit to operate so you do have to have either several large trees of your own or access to trees to get a pressing done.

First we needed to get some apples so we hit the roads around the ACT to find feral fruit trees, of which there are many, growing on the roadsides. Feral fruit always makes me think of fairly ratty, spotty, insect infected fruit. Surprisingly that’s not what we found. Here are some pictures of two of the apple trees and a pear tree that we collected fruit from. Picture perfect as you can see (well OK the pear had a few ratty leaves). You can quite readily mix apples and pears in the same cider batch.

Apple1PearsApple2

Having lived in a kitchen full of fruit and plenty of small spiders for several days we were quite pleased when the day came to get the fruit processed. We got underway with our trailer load of fruit (not to mention some more bags in the boot) and headed out to Braidwood.

Trailer

On arrival we got there we got stuck straight into the pressing. First washing the fruit, to get rid of the dirt and bugs,

Washing

then putting the fruit through the chopper (most home cider makers use a garden chipper),

Chopping

and finally carefully building up the layers of the cidery ‘wedding cake’.

Layer1Press1Press2

Building up layers with some nylon curtain netting in between is critical to ensure that the juice can flow out between the layers and avoid the massive build up of pressure that could result in the fruit exploding out of the press. (Aparently very ugly, not to mention sticky, when it happens).

Even before the fruit is pressed the weight of the layers is enough to start the juice flowing. In this barrel is over 20 litres of juice that was collected before any pressure was placed on the fruit.

Juicebarrel

Then on go the sides of the press and the main action begins.

Press

From our near to 250 kgs of fruit we got 115 litres of apple juice. We didn’t bring all of it home – Sully’s will buy back from you any suitable juice that is excess to your requirements.

The_haul

No rest for the wicked as we had to get stuck into bottling and preparing the fruit juice for fermentation as quickly as possible. We have a number of uses for the juice. Roughly half is being made into cider, TB is seen here adding champagne yeast to the juice. We decided not to go down the ‘wild’ yeast path for our first large batches as the process can be difficult to control and may well deliver a product with some very unpleasant flavours.

Adding_yeast

Of the rest we have fresh juice to drink this week. We have also saved most of the remaining juice in sterilised bottles, which are then pasteurised in the same way as you bottle fruit, ie heated in a water bath for 30 minutes. These we will be able to keep for later use.

Pasteurisation

The last remaining 10 litres is being devoted to two small projects. Firstly I’m making a demijohn of cider which has had leatherwood honey added to it. The higher sugar levels will raise the alcohol content of the cider. However, we will have to wait and see whether we get any trace of the leatherwood flavour in the final product. TB is turning the rest of the juice into apple version of vino cotto (or what ever you would call it) by very slowly heating the juice at low temperature, over several days, to reduce the juice to a viscous lushness.

If nothing else we have a delightful apple scent throughout the house accompanying the slow bloop, bloop of the fermenting cider in the kitchen.

If you are interested in making your own cider you might find the pages of the Whittenham Hill Cider Pages useful.

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