FOOD AND FARMING A look at Oliver's Cider & Perry
It’s time perry made a comeback says BBC Food and Farming finalist Tom Oliver, whose fruity perry is making a big impression
Going back 20 years and, if someone had offered you a glass of perry you’d probably have wondered what they were talking about – or thought they meant sherry. Although perry has been made in Britain at least since the Norman Conquest, in the 1970s and 1980s it fell out of favour, perry pear orchards were grubbed up and perry became the tipple of just a few cognoscenti. Now perry (like craft ciders and real ales) is witnessing a revival, thanks to the dedication and skill of producers such as Tom Oliver from Oliver’s Cider & Perry (oliversciderandperry.co.uk), who has been named a finalist in the Best Drinks Producer category of this year’s BBC Food and Farming Awards.
Tom grows over 40 varieties of perry pear on his family farm in Herefordshire, with fabulously intoxicating names like Gin, Painted Lady and Brandy. In contrast to dessert or culinary pears, perry pears tend to be small, round and astringent and inedible raw.
Once harvested, the pears are washed, milled, then pressed, and the resulting juice pumped into tanks or wooden barrels and left to ferment until the spring. Tom then blends his perries to get the right balance of sweetness, acidity and astringency before bottling it. Some of Tom’s perry is still, but his bestselling Classic Perry and bottle-conditioned versions are sparkling. He also makes single varietal perries.
‘Carefully made perry has all the succulence and delicacy of a fine white wine and when conditioned appropriately, all the finesse of a fruity, rich champagne,’ says Tom. ‘I hope that being nominated a finalist in the Awards will spread the word about this wonderful, refined, and ancient, drink – the wine of England.’
Baked ham & cider SERVES 18 PREP 10 mins plus soaking overnight COOK 3 hrs 45 mins MORE EFFORT
This is one of my Dad’s old recipes, and came from a farmer’s wife he once worked for. You can make it with cider or perry. Both bring out the succulent flavours of the ham, with perry making it a little sweeter. If you use perry, add a bit more mustard and vinegar to the glaze. We eat this for Boxing Day lunch, and enjoy leftovers with eggs the following morning. What’s great about this dish is that it’s equally good hot out of the oven, or cold the next day. for the ham
4-5kg ham (off the bone) 1 litre Oliver’s Vintage Dry Cider
4 carrots, cut into chunks 2 large onions, studded with cloves large bunch fresh herbs, like rosemary, thyme and sage
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp molasses or black treacle
2 bay leaves 12 peppercorns for the glaze
1½ tbsp honey
1½ tbsp mustard powder a dribble of perry (or cider) vinegar, approx ½ tsp 1½ tbsp of molasses or treacle
1 Soak the ham in a pan of water overnight (if the ham is salty from dry curing).
2 Remove the ham and pat dry. Put everything, except the glaze ingredients, in a very large pan, topping up with water in order to completely cover the ham. Bring to a simmer, remove any surface scum and cook for 17-20 mins per 500g (around 3 hrs), keep topping up with water while the ham cooks.
3 When cooked, drain the ham and leave to cool for 30 mins before peeling off the skin. Meanwhile, mix all the glaze ingredients (except the cloves) together in a small bowl. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.
4 Score the fat in diamonds, cover the ham with the glaze and then insert cloves into each diamond. Bake in a roasting tin for 30-40 mins or until golden. Let the ham rest for 45 mins if serving hot or wait until cold.
PER SERVING (18) 389 kcals • fat 20g • saturates 7g • carbs 10g • sugars 8g • fibre 2g • protein 38g • salt 4.3g