Right. Now this is the serious bit – no messing about!
We only use 100% fresh pressed juice. We get this from pressing carefully selected bitter sweet and bitter sharp cider apples. We only use orchards that we know well and we can tell you down to the tree where we’ve sourced our apples from.
At the moment we are using the following bitter sweet and bitter sharp cider apples: (but we’re always playing with different varieties to see if they’re good enough to use in the cider we sell)
Where possible we use orchards that are just a few miles from our mill, but with the resurgence in cider drinking, the terrible Winter weather (speak to Alan about this!) and the big producers buying up the production of whole orchards each year, there is a general shortage of cider apples.
So, inevitably sometimes we have to look further afield, but we still know these orchards as well as the ones we use locally.
We wash and inspect each apple before putting it in the mill.
We work on the basis “if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t make cider with it”. Once pressed we introduce a carefully selected yeast strain to the juice which we hold in a temperature controlled fermentation vessel to make the yeast all happy and get it growing.
Once it’s on its way we pump it into another fermentation vessel where it is left to it’s own devices for as long as it takes to convert all of the sugar in the juice into alcohol. When it’s finished we rack it off into a maturation vessel. Basically this just means we carefully syphon the cider off the dead yeast that falls to the bottom of the tank once it’s done its job and put the ‘racked’ cider in a new vessel so it can mature.
Then it’s feet up for a good few months while the cider matures and develops some nice flavours, [whilst having the occasional sample along the way].
Around the spring time we’ll start testing the base ciders and having a think about how they will best blend together. We then leave it a few more months, just to be sure.
Once the cider is ready, we’ll then do the blending.
This is pretty scientific stuff and involves the following carefully controlled tests and analyses:
1. Sit in the cider mill blending the different ciders together until you come up with some really nice ciders that have a good balance between tannin, aciditiy and sweetness.
2. Come back the next day [not too early] and do the same thing all over again, just to make sure.
3. Remember to write the recipe down!
4. Send it all off to the bottling company.