Pressing on

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Jock at Woodlea told me he’d used his last bottle of last year’s cider. It opened with a gentle hiss and tasted great, which is a relief because there’s always a fear that the pasteurisation might not have completely killed all the yeast so there’s a bottle somewhere that’s been slowly fermenting away for a year, waiting to go off like a roadside bomb when it gets opened.

Up to now I’ve been using a little 25 litre brewing kettle that used to be my home brewing kit. With a pizza tray in the bottom – you know, the sort of thing with holes in the bottom to give you a crisp pizza crust – you can fit 14 bottles in it. Filled with water and attached to a temperature controller, you can heat the water to 70ºC and then hold it there for 15-20 minutes to kill off the yeast, giving you a fizzy, slightly sweetened cider. Nice.

This year I’ve upgraded to a much bigger but still improvised, pasteuriser. My hot liquor tun, with the false bottom from my mash tun supported on legs made from copper plumbing pipe. I haven’t tried it yet but I have high hopes of fitting 40 bottles at a time, which should make that little job a bit more efficient.

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You know that saying about making hay will the sun shines? How about making cider while the wind blows, pulping while there’s still apples to be pulped. Cider season is in full swing. Today saw the first 100 bottles filled and they’ll ferment for a week or so to get a little fizz and then they’ll need to be pasteurised.

There’s 400 litres in tanks in various stages of fermentation and more apples than you can shake a stick at waiting to be to be pulped and pressed. And there’s still apples coming in. Every day or so little carrier bags and boxes and the occasional wheelbarrow appear in the drive, full of apples. There’s messages on Facebook and an open invitation to plunder a little orchard and empty a few gardens. The only trouble is that there’s still beer to be made and bottled (and proper paying work to do).

On top of that, there’s apples being pressed at Woodlea on a Saturday in between selling beer. If you have apples, feel free to bring them along. Bring something to put the juice in and take it away. It’s all free. Of course, I won’t stand in your way if you want to buy beer. And there’s plenty of bread, fruit and veg and eggs buy (actually not plenty of eggs, they always sell out) and you can get yourself a coffee from Jason. But there’s no obligation. If you just want to get apples pressed, bring them along and I’ll press them for you.

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Pressing on