Friday, 8 November 2013

Harvesting and pressing - part 3, Through the mill...

In the last post we finished with a final rinse before the fruit entered the mill - so the next stage is the crucial one, where the apples are actually pressed to release the juice.

Mike's photos for this bit are a bit baffling - I can't quite follow what is going on - but I'll share them anyway and maybe it will make more sense to those of you more familiar with this kind of thing.

The press and it's operator, Alan

The press forces the juice from the fruit and the leftover dry apple - pomace - is saved for cattle feed

Pomace - what is left when the juice is pressed from the apples

Meanwhile the juice is piped into storage tanks, ready for the magic of cider making to begin...

 Storage tanks

Fermenting juice

The pressing season is now well underway, but still plenty to go - the different varieties of cider apples mature at different times throughout the season, and Mike will pressing right up to December. So plenty more opportunity for more photos - and he tells me he has filmed an apple delivery - just the 30 tonnes (!) - so I'll try and share that next time.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Harvesting and pressing - part 2, apples delivered, sorted and rinsed

I promised a 'stage 2' in the harvesting and pressing series, and here it is - a set of photos capturing the fruit arriving at the farm, then being rinsed and sorted ready for pressing.

Apples from local growers are delivered into the pit

Apples transferred from the pit onto the hopper...

...then they travel up the hopper into the mill

Sticks and leaves are filtered out

Hand-sorted to remove any stones or rotten fruit

..and a good rinse before heading in to the press.

And in the next post I'll share some photos of the actual pressing.... the press is quite a piece of kit!

Also, good news that we have some blue skies and dry weather today. Much easier for harvesting fruit so should ensure there's plenty to press over the weekend.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Harvest and pressing - part 1, apples & orchards

Cider making season is now well underway. Mike donned his overalls in early October, headed off to the farm up the road where his cider is pressed and stored, and I haven't seen much of him since...

Occasionally he comes home for a bacon sandwich, does a bit of admin and picks up messages from local apple growers ("Do you want 30 tonnes of fruit this afternoon?") but really it's all about the practical stuff at this time of year.
He frowned when  I suggested I trail around after him with a camera (can't imagine why?) but he did agree to take some photos himself, and here are the first few - starting where the process begins, with the apples. These are taken in the orchards next to the farm, and show apples which will be made into this season's Henney's cider.

Dabinett apples

Dabinett apple trees

Michelin apples

Michelin apples - the tractor 'blows' the fruit clear of trees, ready for collection

These photographs were taken last week, when the sun was shining. It's been raining here for about 48 hours which makes harvesting apples tricky - so fruit deliveries have temporarily slowed up and there is a bit of a lull in pressing... time for an extra bacon sandwich!

Next post - apples arriving at the farm and being sorted and washed ready for pressing.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Antique cider making equipment

A couple of times this summer we have visited a local agricultural auction / sale arranged by Pugh's in Ledbury - it's a a great place to pick up bargains, and just interesting to wander around and see the amazing array of 'stuff' on sale. It changes every time obviously, but we've spotted everything from olive trees to office equipment, hosepipes to beer barrels, tractors to vintage caravans.

And last time we went we came across some old cider making equipment - a trough, millstone and an old screw press.

We didn't catch the auction for the press, but watched with interest when stone came up. The bidding went up to £1800 - but failed to meet its reserve (which must have been a blow for the seller, faced with getting it home again!)

The kit used these days isn't quite so pretty but still fascinating stuff, and now the cider pressing season is underway I will get some photos very soon (even if I have to trail the ever-reticent Mike with a hidden camera!)

Thursday, 26 September 2013

A busman's holiday (a cider maker's holiday)

A week away in Brittany last month was something of a bus man's holiday for Mike - not that he was complaining. It is an area of France famous for its cider making tradition, and obviously there was much sampling to be done.

It is typically served as a wine alternative, in classic 750ml bottles to share out around the table. And whilst we didn't actually see anyone using them, the gift shops were full of little crockery cider mugs - a traditional, rustic alternative to a glass.

It was great to so much cider around - and so much of it of excellent quality, locally produced by small scale cider makers. There was always a fine selection of ciders in the restaurant wine menus, and, perhaps most heartening of all, even the big supermarket we visited had a cider fixture to rival the beer selection.

Á votre santé!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Slow Cooked Pork in Henney's Apple Sweet Cider

A big thank you to our friends Sam and Anna for sharing this recipe. They sent it over last winter but I failed to get organised and post it, then the weather warmed up and it didn't really seem appropriate for a summer evening.

But I'd say Autumn is pretty much upon us now and it's definitely getting cooler in the evenings, so I think we can safely say it's time to start thinking casseroles!

Slow Cooked Pork in Henney's Apple Sweet Cider

1 Henney’s Apple Sweet Cider
2 Pork chops
2 Bramley apples
5 Potatoes
3 Onions
1 Carrot
1 Red pepper
1 Vegetable stock
Rosemary and thyme

Peel the peelable things and chop everything to bite sized chunks.
Put everything into the slow cooker with a healthy sprinkling of the herbs.
Leave to simmer for 6 hours or so stirring occasionally.

Serve with fresh bread and a glass of cider

Serves 4 - 6

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Tree Farm Orchard - the first summer

Well, the new orchard has been active over the summer, even if the Henney's blog writer hasn't (apologies, I will attempt to post more regularly as we approach the all-action phase of the cider making year - and Mike will just love me trailing around after him with a camera!)

Here are a few shots from June, July and late August, which capture the orchard during it's first summer. And there is fruit on the trees, so more photos coming soon.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Henney's Vintage & Heston Blumenthal

Every so often Mike casually mentions something about Henney's that I can't believe he hasn't told me before.

For example - the other day I found out he supplies his Vintage cider for use in a recipe at one of Heston Blumenthal's restaurants - The Crown at Bray.

The Crown at Bray

Apparently Heston's 'development team' worked up a recipe using bottles of Vintage bought from Waitrose, then the head chef, Nick Galer, contacted Mike to buy in quantity. He now sends it over every so often by the pallet load, so evidently people eat a lot of mussles in cider at The Crown in Bray.

I did try to persuade Mike that we really need a trip over to eat said mussels - as research for this blog post you understand - but apparently this isn't necessary. Ah well.

So if you are in the area do call in and order Cornish Deep Sea Mussels, Cider and Granny Smith Apple (£14.50) - and let us know what you think.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

New cider apple orchard planted at Tree Farm

I mentioned last month that plans were afoot to establish a new cider apple orchard here at Tree Farm, and over the last couple of weeks a lot has happened.

Planning the orchard actually began a couple of years ago when Mike first acquired the land. We  decided then to commit about four acres to cider apple trees and to go for a traditional standard orchard over a commercial bush orchard.

Obviously a bush orchard - smaller trees, closer together, intensively managed - would be the more economic choice, but there were other factors in our decision. We wanted to create something that would enhance the landscape and help preserve a tradition in Herefordshire. Standard orchards - bigger trees, more space around them, less need for pest control - are a huge part of Herefordshire's heritage and their survival depends on active planting and management.

Plus traditional orchards are visually beautiful and a haven for wildlife, and given we are planting the orchard right on our doorstep, we wanted to create something we could enjoy.

So, having decided on the type of orchard, the next job was to choose the trees. Cider apples fall into four broad taste classes - sweet, bitter sweet, sharp and bitter sharp - which reflect the sugar, acid and tanin levels in the fruit - and the trick in creating a great cider is to balance these properly. So this was the main factor behind the apple tree varieties we chose. Other factors were disease resistance, the 'juicability' of the fruit, and - crucially for us - the season of fruit maturity. We hope to be harvesting across the season (which runs from late September to December) rather than all at once so we were looking for a mix of early, mid and late croppers.

We settled on 10 different varieties and ordered 120 trees from John Worle Ltd, a cider apple and perry pear grower in Herefordshire:

Foxwhelp, Dabinett, Harry Masters Jersey, Kingston Black, Morgan Sweet, Knoted Kernal, Somerset Redstreak, Stoke Red, Tom Putt, Yarlington Mill.

As I said, this was all a couple of years ago, and with the trees now two years old and in a dormant phase they were ready to be lifted from the nursery and planted here at Tree Farm.

At eight foot tall they are already sizable trees, and given the scale - 120 trees across four acres - Mike decided to use John Worle and his team to do the planting, which took about three days in total - a day for marking out and drilling holes for the stakes, a day for putting the stakes in, and a day for the actual planting.

There's loads of great information on John Worle's website about how to do all this, including guides to planting plans and a great little film about the actual planting technique. Even on an eight foot tree, the roots are surprisingly shallow and don't need to be planted deeply - but there are certain crucial techniques.

And that's it! Two years on and we now have an infant orchard planted at Tree Farm. It's been hard to take decent photos given the gloomy weather (and all the wet days have of course delayed the planting itself - it has to be dry when this is done) but I have tried to track the progress as best I can, and over the next few weeks and months - and years - I am sure there will be lots more beautiful photos to come.

Measuring and marking

 Measuring and marking

Holes are drilled ready for tree stakes

Rain stops play
A sunnier day, and the stakes arrive...

Stakes go in

Holes are dug, ready for trees

First tree is planted....

...and then 119 more!

 Trees are protected

 And our field has become an orchard!

Do visit the John Worle website for more information on all this - John is an absolute expert in his field and there's loads to read about on his site.

And for more about orchards in Herefordshire and the value they add to landscape, wildlife and countryside life, there are a couple of interesting articles here:

Friday, 1 March 2013

February: bottling, sales and planting an orchard

Time for the monthly round up and a look at what has been happening at Henney's during February.

Despite the prediction of racking and blending this month (some proper cider making stuff) I still don't have much to report on that front. March now, apparently.

But bottling has stepped up a gear this month. With Spring just around the corner and Easter at the end of the month sales are expected to pick up so Mike has increased his bottled stock-holding, ready to fulfill orders.

Quite a few more sales meeting this month so Mike was away a fair amount - overalls off, suit on, bottles clanking in his briefcase. And while he was busy drumming up trade, I tried out a couple of new cider recipes: a chicken casserole cooked in cider, and quirky version of pancakes for Shrove Tuesday - made with cider instead of milk, and served with caramelised apples. Highly recommended.

But the big news this month is here at Tree Farm, where work has begun on establishing the new cider apple orchard. I will cover this in depth in another post, but in summary, 120 traditional cider apple trees have now been planted, thus transforming our empty fields into an infant orchard. Exciting times...

All staked out and ready for planting

 First tree planted. Only 119 to go.