Get press­ing!

Take some tips on us­ing all that small­hold­ing pro­duce to make cider and wine! Kim Stod­dart of­fers some thoughts

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Fun with fruit

With the hedgerows and, hope­fully, your veg patch full to burst­ing with pro­duce, now is the per­fect time of year to con­sider home brew­ing. There are so many op­tions avail­able, from coun­try wines made from any num­ber of de­lec­ta­ble fruit (or in­deed veg­eta­bles), many dif­fer­ent home-flavoured beers and of course, cider. Now is the time to get pick­ing, press­ing, bot­tling and mus­ter­ing up your own small­hold­ing pro­duced stash to see you through the long, dark evenings ahead.

Here are just a few ideas from those in the know to help you on your merry, booze pro­duc­ing way!

Cider

I am al­ways both amazed and dis­mayed at how many good folk with ap­ple trees in their gar­den just al­low the fruit to fall and rot on the ground each year. It’s such a waste, but it does mean that even if you don’t have many (or in­deed any) ap­ple trees on your land, if you’d like to make some ap­ple juice or cider, then it shouldn’t be hard to find peo­ple happy to pass some on.

I spoke to Paul Court­ney at Vigo Presses to get the lowdown on this in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar craft bev­er­age. “Un­til re­cent times there was a great deal of mys­tique sur­round­ing the art of cider mak­ing, com­bined with some ele­men­tary mis­un­der­stand­ings about the process,” he said. “Yet mak­ing cider at home is a very re­ward­ing way of us­ing ap­ples which might oth­er­wise go to waste, to pro­duce a re­fresh­ing and whole­some drink, renowned for its health promoting prop­er­ties.”

Now is the time to get pick­ing, press­ing and bot­tling

The Vigo Presses Guide to Get­ting Started Choos­ing your ap­ples

Cider is fer­mented pure ap­ple juice and can be made from al­most any va­ri­ety of ap­ple. Each county has its own tra­di­tional style of cider. In the West Coun­try there are special va­ri­eties of cider ap­ple which pro­duce a deep coloured, some­what bit­ter cider, while in the East­ern coun­ties a paler cider is pro­duced from dessert and culi­nary va­ri­eties. Both styles can be ex­cel­lent and have their fol­low­ing. Most home cider mak­ers make use of the ap­ples they have to hand.

Choose ripe fruit – when cut in half the pips should be dark brown or black. Ripeness is im­por­tant be­cause ripe fruit will con­tain the high­est su­gar lev­els and it is the su­gar level which will de­ter­mine the po­ten­tial al­co­hol of the fin­ished cider.

Lightly bruised and slightly browned ap­ples are ac­cept­able, but it may be best to avoid rot­ten fruit. It helps to learn to dis­tin­guish be­tween sweet­ness, acid­ity and bit­ter­ness. Bit­ter, tan­nic cider ap­ples leave the mouth feel­ing dry while acid ap­ples pucker the mouth. Acid­ity can mask su­gar and su­gar can con­ceal acid­ity. Try to avoid too much re­ally acid fruit as, once the su­gar has been con­verted to al­co­hol, the acid­ity will be­come more ob­vi­ous. Cook­ing ap­ples will mel­low if left to ma­ture un­til late in the sea­son. With a lit­tle care, there is no rea­son why you should not make a very drink­able cider from the ap­ples avail­able to you.

Tips on milling and press­ing

Ap­ples must be crushed be­fore press­ing; the de­gree of crush­ing will de­ter­mine the yield of juice from the press. The sim­plest method is to place a layer of ap­ples in a strong tub and pound them with a length of heavy tim­ber – a 4ins x 4ins sec­tion is ideal. This will soon re­duce the fruit to a pulp. Freez­ing, then de­frost­ing your ap­ples be­fore pound­ing them, will make this process eas­ier.

How­ever there are many pur­pose-built ap­ple crush­ers which re­duce the fruit to a suit­able con­sis­tency for press­ing with­out the brute force of pound­ing. For larger presses in par­tic­u­lar, a mo­torised high­speed mill will pro­duce a fine pulp that will give very much higher yields than can be achieved by hand-crushed fruit.

Once crushed, the pulp can be pressed. For small-scale press­ing, there are three types of press avail­able. The sim­plest to op­er­ate are bas­ket presses which con­sist of a cylin­der into which the pulp is poured and a pis­ton which is driven into the cylin­der, usu­ally by means of a screw; the juice es­capes through gaps in the cylin­der and is col­lected in a chan­nel in the base of the press.

Cider mak­ing in six steps

1 Choose sound ap­ples. 2 Crush and press the fruit to pro­duce juice. 3

To each 30-litre con­tainer add one sa­chet of yeast and shake well. Rest cap on open­ing. 4

Place the con­tainer in an un­heated room. Re­place any juice lost by foam­ing. Fit a wa­ter-primed air­lock once the fer­men­ta­tion qui­etens. 5

The fer­men­ta­tion process may take any­thing from 10 days to 10 weeks or more. When the fer­men­ta­tion is fin­ished, syphon the cider from the fer­men­ta­tion con­tainer to a clean con­tainer and top up to ex­clude all air. Con­sider the use of Cam­p­den tablets. 6

Put the con­tainer in a cool place, such as a garage or out­build­ing. It will clear more quickly if cool. Leave for a cou­ple of months and then taste. If it does not taste ready, then leave for an­other cou­ple of months, al­ways tak­ing care to keep brim-full and prefer­ably un­der a primed air­lock.

The best of the coun­try wines

Again, at this boun­ti­ful time of year, you can take your pick of a wide range of pro­duce for home-made wines. If you are a reg­u­lar tip­ple maker your­self, you’ll no doubt have your per­sonal favourites and those that you wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. There is most cer­tainly an el­e­ment of per­sonal taste in­volved, so one small­holder’s parsnip wine pref­er­ence would be an­other’s (my) idea of tor­ment. That said, some pro­duce lends it­self es­pe­cially well to booze pro­duc­tion, and on the highly rec­om­mended list this in­cludes: plums, straw­ber­ries, el­der­berry, black­berry, cherry, rhubarb, black­cur­rants and peach.

John Wright has writ­ten var­i­ous books as part of the River Cot­tage se­ries and one specif­i­cally on Booze. Like many other good books on the sub­ject, it cov­ers the wide range of home brew­ing on of­fer. From rhubarb wine and orange beer to black­berry whiskey or pomegranate rum, there re­ally are a large num­ber of DIY tip­ples you can try. John says two of the most pop­u­lar wines men­tioned amongst his fel­low home-made en­thu­si­asts are el­der­berry and parsnip – the lat­ter of which ap­par­ently had an ex­cel­lent rep­u­ta­tion. Although this is a wine best made in the spring, when the roots are sweeter, and adding a ba­nana into the con­coc­tion can add a lit­tle some­thing. Maybe that might con­vince me to give it a try af­ter all… MORE: http://www.ed­i­ble­bush.com On twit­ter Rachel from @ Cam­bridgeGoats sug­gested: “El­der­berry v re­li­able! Best with spe­cific red wine yeast. Rhubarb & cherry make lovely pink wines.” Whilst @ walk_ eat_ re­peat rec­om­mended: “Def­i­nitely sloes... they make the best gin and jam too! Or you could try el­der­ber­ries, lots of them ev­ery­where at the mo­ment”

Use your soft fruit to make juice. Photo: www.prim­rose.co.uk

How about black­cur­rant wine? Ap­ple blos­som in spring

Squeez­ing out the juice

Your cider should be ready for drink­ing by early sum­mer. Some ciders clear, oth­ers re­main slightly cloudy; this does not im­pair the drink­ing qual­ity. If you would like a sweet cider, mix up a lit­tle su­gar with warm wa­ter to make a syrup and add this to the cider prior to drink­ing.

Do not add su­gar to the cider be­fore bot­tling as this may cause ex­plo­sions ow­ing to fer­men­ta­tion in the bot­tle. Happy cider mak­ing! All the equip­ment for juice and cider mak­ing is avail­able from Vigo Presses at www.vigo­presses.co.uk www.prim­rose.co.uk also sell a wide range of fruit crush­ers and presses.

Coun­try wine

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