The Cottage Smallholder

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Cider and Cyder (Premier Cru)

A bottle of Aspall Suffolk Cyder

My favourite cider – Aspall Suffolk Cyder

We have a glut of apples this year. I’ve been meaning to try my hand at cider for a few years now and I am hoping that this year will be the start of cider making at the cottage smallholder.

I wanted to invest in a proper wooden cider press until saw how much they cost. So we decided to go down the economy route and invested in a plastic bucket and a slicing attachment that attaches to a electric drill.

The Vigo Puplmaster (Walker Desmond) looks a bit lethal and would be handy if Triffids ever stepped through the front gate. Meanwhile, it will be used for slicing up the apples. The slicer sits inside the bucket and is operated from outside the bucket. Its shank goes through a small hole in the lid and is attached to a drill.

Amongst the vast swathe of winemaking equipment that we won on eBay two years ago was a small fruit press, also Walker Desmond, which would suffice for pixie scale crushing. I thought that I’d make a gallon and, if it’s good, go into production on a massive scale next year.

I have found two cider making recipes. One from my favourite book: New Complete Self-sufficiency: The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers by John Seymour. The other is an old recipe that Margorie dug out for me. John Seymour’s recipe is for five gallons whereas Margorie’s is for a modest gallon. Both do not rely on the yeasts in the apples for fermentation and both add a wine yeast. The art of brewing recommends a Gervais no. 3 yeast for cider.

At first I decided to use Majorie’s recipe but on further reflection, Margorie adds water, raisins and sugar whereas the Seymour brew is just apples, sugar and yeast (with a little water to dissolve the sugar). So I am going for a scaled down version of the Seymour recipe and will let you know the results around Christmas time.

There is just one problem. I have become addicted to this amazing crisp Suffolk Cyder from Aspall. In fact I prefer it to wine to accompany the sort of autumnal food we have been eating recently. So our cider will be facing tough competition.

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  1. We can’t afford a press, but have brewed gallons of cider this year. We operate a staggered cider brewing. We collect about a bucket and a half of different apples at a time. This seems to produce enough to fill up a demijohn – just the right amount for an evening’s squeezing! We usually make a gallon a week, and the apple season is so long that we have got about 6 gallons so far. Plenty! If others fancy this small scale strategy, i would absolutely recommend the slightly time-consuming practice of grating the apples. It’s not as gruesome a task as it sounds, and we get almost twice as much juice this way compared to when we used to chop and crush. It also eliminates the need for a press. If you try it good luck!!

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Zeb,

    Thanks so much for leaving this comment. A great simple way of making cider. We have a brilliant apple harvest this year and will try your recipe!

  3. I have been making cider for a few years now. All I do is chop and pulp the apples I get from friends gardens, put them through a fruit press ( Vigo ) and straight into demijohns. Put cotton wool in the necks for the first few days and then replace that with “U” style airlocks. Leave it alone until fermentation completely stops ( about 3 months ) and bottle it up. Hey presto, very fine cider. No yeast, no sugar , no raisins, just apples. I haven’t had a bad lot yet !

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Lindsey,

    The community apple press sounds great! I was talking to my mum and she says that there’s one in the Cambridge area.

    Great to hear about your experiments with cider. Looking forward to hearing how they work out. Apple wine is supposed to be great CJJ Berry ended up just making loads of this every year and a red one (I can’t remember the fruit) so it must be good.

    What a brilliant idea to use a car lift as a press!

  5. I have finally found a community apple press in the north west but haven’t managed to find enough people to get it our way -next year I will! Every community should have one. There is EU funding from Leader so why not look into it for your area? I’ve seen the kit at the Westmorland Show and it is pukka! You can’t feed the apples in fast enough to the hopper for pulping, and the press is big and sturdy. I would give a link but we don’t have internet access in our barn so I’m on a mobile and it’s just too difficult to do all that at the mo!

    So, I am now on my second batch of unscientifically produced cottage cider eg no research into yeasts, no press etc!

    The first batch I made with 12lb of windfalls from a tree in the village plus a few English coxes from the village shop as the tree is really odd. Half cookers and half dessert. As the garden it comes from belongs to a rented house, I can’t find anyone who knows what was grafted on to what so I chucked some sweet apples in to try and increase the chances of a good cider!

    Invite a mate round, pour a glass of wine, and chop apples fairly finely with knives. Put in plastic dustbin, add 1 gallon warm water, 1lb chopped raisins, 1.5 – 2lbs sugar and a packet of yeast. Cover, leave next to Rayburn, stir every day for 2 weeks, then siphon off juice into fermenting jar to finish.

    I got one full demijohn from just the juice and decided to pulp the apples left through our juicer (which I killed in the process!), strain through muslin and jelly bag, and put resulting slightly cloudy juice in a demijohn as an experiment.

    I tried a little and it is very dry so am planning to add sugar syrup nearer to drinking time.

    Batch 2 is ongoing. Use borrowed food processor to mince apples as friend on holiday. Put pulp in plastic dustbin, add water, raisins and no yeast (told you this was experimental!), cover, put next to Rayburn for 2 weeks and push pulp down every day. Although not as active as with yeast added, it is fermenting nicely, though trying to take the SG of the original pulpy mix is bordering on impossible!

    Word of my exploits has spread and I need to scoot down to a friend’s apple trees this coming week for experiment number 3 – apple wine. Luckily, asking everyone in the village has yielded another demijohn and a cider fermenting kit!

    Also, my other half is finally coming round to me using the car lift in his workshop as an easy press so I may also get some juice for the kids now I’ve trashed the juicer!

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Amanda,

    You can’t beat a really good cider. Waitrose used to have a great French cider and probably still do.

    Hi Pat,

    I thought that I might have a go at apple wine as well this year. Most sounds heavenly. Mine would just be a still wine.

  7. Ohhhh Best of luck on the cider!!!! When we visit Austria they have an apple wine there that is lovely…. they call it Most and it is only produced in one little region of Austria. It is like a sparkling white wine, but alot stronger. Best of luck!!!!

  8. Ooo! Now that’s exciting. But Fiona you realise I’ll drink more than a gallon!! I love cider but always forget to order it. You’re spot on about it going with Autumnal food. I must write it on my hand (or my forehead) the next time we’re heading to the pub!

    Can’t believe the result this evening – You woz robbed! It was lovely to see you.

    Sorry you haven’t been feeling much better today.

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