Cider House Rules – or making cider with minimal equipment and little knowledge

Today our house turned into a Cider House.  It has not, in the past, been known as my favourite beverage.  But I am quietly confident that I will love it from now.  At least, I will love the cider I have made.  I know this because I already do love it.  I have long been admiring the apples hanging from the tree in our garden.  I do not know what variety they are but they look lovely and their flavour is beautiful.

Unfortunately the texture leaves something to be desired.  Eating them is a little akin to chewing a feather pillow.  It has grieved me to leave them to rot but I have no freezer room, and what with the operation and all, have not really been up to organising something more imaginative.  However, the lovely John Wright, of River Cottage fame, came to my rescue with an article he wrote back in September that someone kindly retweeted on Twitter.  John uses a proper apple press but I don’t have such a thing so I did some more rummaging on the t’interweb and discussed the problem with the Captain, knowing he is a practical sort of chappie.  At the very moment I discovered this YouTube video, he burst into the room having reached the same conclusion.  A car jack would apparently solve all our problems.  Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not the end results are drinkable, but we are hopeful.

This is how we went about it: first of all, I washed the apples in the sink.

If anyone can identify them, I would love to know what variety they are.  Once washed, I roughly chopped them, removing any bad bits or grubs and smashed them up in batches using the pulse setting of my food processor.  Traditionally, this stage is done by crushing the apples in a bucket with a stick but that really would have been much too much like hard work.  John Wright suggested using a hand-held blender but mine really wasn’t up to the job so I decided a food processor was really only the next logical option.

We found that the finer the apples were chopped, the more juice they yielded, so my later batches became mushier than the above photo.  Whether this was down to the variety of apple or not is open to debate.

The general advice was once the apples were crushed, they needed to be wrapped in smallish quantities in muslin before pressing.  I found that 2-3 quantities from my processor were about the right amount for a muslin square from Tescos baby department.

While I was doing this, the Captain and the seventeen but very soon to be eighteen year old had been busy constructing the press.

True, it is an apple press that Heath Robinson would have been proud of but it cost us absolutely nothing to construct as all the varies bits of wood used were from the shed, apart from the main platform and that had started life as a cupboard aboard Wand’ring Bark.

So even our cider has a boaty link.  Best of all, and perhaps a little to our surprise, it actually worked!  There was great excitement when with only a little pressure, the juice began to flow.

The advice I had found about pressing all spoke of patient and not hurrying the process, and to press the 11 kilos we had, it took a couple of hours.  Using the food processor made it a lot easier and to have been smashing the apples by hand for that length of time would have been exhausting.

Once the juice had been extracted the remaining apple was dry, crumbly and really fit only for composting.

When we had pressed the lot, we had a respectable total of just under 6 litres.  We decanted the liquid into two demijohns and added 1 1/2 crushed campden tablets to keep the bugs at bay.  Cotton wool then bunged the necks until tomorrow when we will add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of brewers yeast.

The whole process involves a bit of siphoning and decanting and bottling but all in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the morning, cost very little and will hopefully produce something worth drinking.  We have left it too late to be ready for Christmas but late January should see us enjoying a glass.


3 thoughts on “Cider House Rules – or making cider with minimal equipment and little knowledge

  1. Don’t know the apple, this website might help.
    We had ours id’d by sending bits to the RHS I think.

    Another way to squeeze the juice out was to run the bag through a mangle, but they aren’t common now. Feed the pulp to the nearest available pigs.

    If you did’t catch it Radio 4’s Food Programme was about foraging yesterday.

    • Thanks for the apple info, Roger and for the Food Program tip. I’ve just finished listening to it and have noted down the recipe for Elderberry and Apple Chutney for next year 🙂

  2. Pingback: Cider Revisited | 'I know a bank where the wild thyme grows'

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