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Collete asked if any water should be added added after her apples are pressed. 


My response is an emphatic "No, dont add water to pressed apple juice."  My advice is to stick to pure juice when making cider.
 
 However some people do take the used pomace (the pressed pulp), soak it overnight and then press it a second time.  This will produce a weaker juice and an inferior cider. So my advice is not to bother. Why go to the effort of producing something second rate.  Mind you, apples are plentiful around here. If you only have a small crop you might be tempted.  
 

We got an email recently asking about whether the mix in our reader’s garden was suitable for cider.

“I have 3 cider apple trees ,they are ellis bitter, tremletts bitter and yarlington mill. I also have a variety of eating and cooking apples including bramleys, jupiter, jonogold, lanes prince albert , lord lambourne and 2 crab apples. plus others. My question is:what would be a good mix for a good rich cider. hope to make about 5 gallon. many thanks . john”

Well, my response is that John is showing off.  What a  fantastic collection of trees to work with. I do hope the harvest is good this year as you will be spoilt for choice.

Ok, so you ask for a ‘rich’ cider recipe, but one man’s ‘rich’ might be another man’s ‘undrinkable muck’. Blending is an art form, not a science and even choosing the same proportion of apple varieties in a blend can result in a finished cider that tastes quiet different from year to year.

If you are set up for it, try brewing single varieties through to finished ciders and then blending them according to taste at the end of the process. This will give you an approximate recipe to follow next year.

If you don’t have enough fermentation vessels to be able to do that this year, then simply resort to this ‘old faithful’ recipe.

40% tremletts bitter
20%  yarlington mill
10% ellis bitter
10% lambourne
10% bramley
5% any others
5% crab apples

 

Then of you have more apples, try a completely different mix and see what emerges from that ( you probably wont be disappointed)  The key is to always record your mixes so that you can repeat the good ones. Writing things down is so important because drinking good cider does tend to make you forget stuff.  Happy Brewing.

I got an email asking how to add fizz to cider. Here is a (sort of) answer.

When the yeast is working it produces carbon dioxide which bubbles slowly to the surface. However if the cider is put into a pressurised container before the yeast has finished its work then the carbon dioxide diffuses into the cider where it stays until the pressure is released (the bottle is opened) and suddenly the bubbles rush to the top… ergo, fizzy cider.

Many cidermakers try and judge just how early to bottle their cider and get it wrong resulting in exploded bottles and sticky cider residue up the walls. This is why so many of us let the cider brew out fully to flat (no bubbles) scrumpy style cider before bottling.

There is another way to get fizz, and that is to inject CO2 into flat cider with a soda stream.. But frankly that is cheating and the big bubbles that produces are in my humble opinion a hindrance to the enjoyment.

 

So many apples are at their best right now, so it is definitely peak time of year for cider making.  Our small russett tree cropped a good plastic bagful.  Remember that the next time you pop into a garden centre, you will probably want to stock up on greasebands.  We had a colony of ants who bypassed my band by climbing an adjacent fence. They stopped the aphids from being eaten and so the tree suffered. My mistake.

Our crab apple was infested with maggots or larvae of something or other, so next year the crab is also getting the greaseband treatment.

I have only ever seen boltac brand greasebands round here and they are pretty fiddly to attach correctly. Does anyone have any alternative suggestions?

Also, now that you are cropping it is probably a good time to start planning your wassailing party. At midwinter you and a bunch of mates should be wandering through the apple trees, making lots of noise and drinking lots of cider in an attempt to (a) frighten off the bad spirits or (b) enjoy any excuse for a piss up.  (Delete a or b as appropriate).

Many manufacturers sell ‘cider yeast’ but over the last few years more and more home cider makers are switching to ale yeasts instead.  The results are said to be a deeper richer taste, although nobody I know has split tested their cider so the apples may be the reason for different taste.

I switched from ‘cider yeast’ to ‘champagne’ yeast for my cider following a trip to Brittany in France where a local maker swore by it.

I pitched in the yeast at the normal time and the fermentation was a little more vigourous than I was used to. The cider was excellent, but because champagne yeast survives longer in higher alcohol concentrations there was a wine like aspect and I suspect a far higher than usual alcohol content.

When trying ale yeast myself I have been very pleased with the result but as I didn’t split test the brew, I don’t know if the yeast was the deciding factor there either.

One brewer I know does use bread yeast but that really is not good and his cider is an acquired taste to say the least.

So, pay your money and take your choice.  Whichever yeast you choose (as long as it isn’t bread yeast) I’m sure you will do just fine.

‘Fresh from the tree’ is the obvious, modern, healthy, sensible answer to the question ‘how soon after picking should I pulp and press my apples.  It is also, as our ancestors knew, totally wrong.

I have been looking through farming manuals and kitchen management books from the dim and distant past and all of them talk about leaving the apples in a pile for a week or two before crushing.

They don’t give any reason for doing this, but a bit of research revealed the scientific answer.

This process of leaving the apples before crushing allows the cells to start breaking down within the protective casing of the apple skin so when you do eventually press your apples more juice and flavour will be extracted.

Obviously it is doubly important that no rotten apples are in the pile and beware of split skins when piling your heap. Leave it out in the garden for a week before you start crushing, pulping, mashing or stamping and you should see a 15% increase in the quantity of juice you can extract from every kilo of fruit.

Whether this time actually affects the flavour is something I cannot yet answer. I have found no evidence either way and haven’t done a comparison test… yet.

If during the season when the fruits themselves are growing, there are periods of drought, the small apples develop a hard skin. if later there is lots of wet weather the skin can crack open, ruining the apple.

The best solution is to keep your trees weathered during hot weather to ensure even apple  growth, right up until harvest time. Bigger apples mean more cider after all.

Ok, so there is not enough crop for even a gallon of cider. Well last year that happened to lots of small scale growers and one or two reported that a late glut of blackberrys meant that rather than eat their few apples, they added them to the berries to make an apple and blackberry wine. This is a british hedgerow classic combination.  We all know they taste great together in pies and sure enough they taste amazing together as a wine too.

However you will need a decent wine yeast rather than a cider yeast to produce a good finished drink.

Too late!  I didn’t spray the trees this spring and two are showing signs of scab. Not much I can do this year and I suspect my crop will suffer.

Spraying has to be carried out in spring for it to be successful when managing apple scab.