The fruits of my labour

So I mentioned briefly in an earlier blog about cider-making. Well, well done you for sticking with me. Here’s the main blog about it.

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A huge harvest of apples thanks to Trash Nothing

I posted on ‘Trash nothing’ that I was looking for fruit trees for picking. Every year, people post on various sites that they’re coming down with apples from apples trees, and I wanted to get onto that. And it’s not because I need them- I’m fortunate enough that I have a decent job which is pretty well paid- but because I want to. I adore foraging, there is just something amazing about taking something that nobody really wants and making something with it. But I digress. Instead of waiting for people to give away fruit, I put out my feelers early, offering to take surplus fruit off people’s hands.

And I got two good hits.

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The most prolific apple tree I’ve ever seen

One, I’ve mentioned before gave me a huge bounty of plums, and then another told me about an apple tree in her garden that was always covered in apples. They wouldn’t be ready for a while, but she’d let me know when they were ready, and I’d come along and pick them.

Last week, they were ready.

Me, my husband and our two little girls went out to her house near the international airport, and we filled our boots. Well, the boot of our car. I’ve never seen such a prolific tree. It was literally covered in apples of all shapes and sizes. They were a semi-sweet apple, nice enough to eat, but there was something that I really wanted to do with them- try my hand at cider-making. Surely that’s the pinnacle of homebrew? Plus, I have the notion in my head that, should it work, it will be ready in time for mulling at Christmas.

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My little helper

We got to work picking apples. My little girl helped a bit, and hindered a bit. I enjoyed watching her though. I hope that somewhere down the line when she’s a little older, she’ll be happy to come and forage with me.

I started with the apples on the ground. This is both easier, but also (I think) politer. After all, the best apples should go to the owner of the tree, so take the ones that are on the ground and might now be a little spotty. There’s also the Phoebe Buffay voice in my head telling me that I’m helping these apples fulfil their appley-destiny.

Only when you’ve taken the best apples from the ground, do you move on to the ones on the trees.

There is a zen to apple-picking.

There is something beautiful about the ‘snick’ of a perfectly-ripe apple when it is plucked from the tree. The slightest tug, the tiniest rotation and it off it comes in your hand. It’s worth waiting a year for that.

Then, of course, when you run out of apples you can reach by hand, you should turn to the use of a tool.

Apple-picking tools are available on eBay for in and around £30. Or you can use one of these.

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Hi-tech apple picker

This cutting-edge tool is a wallpaper roller on a telescopic pole. It’s great because it slides down for transportation, and it’s naturally hook-shaped. And as it’s something that I already have, it’s free. Yay!

It didn’t take too long to fill all of our bags, and then we headed to the Tesco Taste festival for some free samples.

It took a week before I had a chance to start cider-making. For this, I used the ‘River cottage Handbook No. 12, Booze.’ Classy name, eh? But the book is pretty good. I brought out my trusty Kenwood mixer that has a rarely-used mincer function. My mixer, I might add was seriously reduced in an Amazon lightning deal, and has more than paid for itself in pizza dough alone 🙂

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Mincer attachment on my trusty Kenwood

Then I spent hours chopping, mincing and squeezing apples. I added a load of cooking apples from another foraging session to help up the pH of the juice. After more hours than I’d care to remember, I had 22 litres of delicious apple juice.

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Chopping apples
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Squeezing the juice from the pulp
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Collecting apple juice in a demijohn

Next, I added 10 campden tablets (2.5 per 5 litres), 4 teaspoons of super yeast, some yeast nutrient and some pectinase.

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Some of my wine-making ingredients

Normally at this stage, I’d be expecting to add sugar, but if I’ve done everything right then the sugar in the apple juice should be sufficient. Now we just have to wait and see if it works.

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