With the first throes of autumn setting in, the leaves turning brown and the birds heading off south, we thought we would try our hands at cider making at our MDs apple orchard. At his invite, a group of us turned up early Sunday morning to help produce the first ever batch of Postcode Anywhere cider. Whether this qualifies as team-building or just cheap (free) labour I’m not sure, but as we were promised a share of the cider at no cost, the usual suspects turned up eager to get their hands on some free booze.
The Pink Ladies
Having made cider once before – albeit not that successfully- I took on the role of chief cider maker and rounded up the clan into the barrow of Guy’s dumper truck to gather our crop. The collection process was far from idyllic; the dumper bucket was wet, Alex S was hit on the head with a metal rake, and we were all covered in apple tree branch scratches. With a wet behind, sore arms and a bumped head, we valiantly filled the dumper bucket with (mostly) tasty looking cider apples. After 20 minutes of shaking trees, dislodging low hanging fruit with our hands and trying to avoid getting hit by rakes or falling out of the bucket when Guy bumped it into the trees, we judged we had enough for our first load and headed back to base.
Then began the enthralling process of sorting and washing the apples. I won’t go into detail about this bit, because it actually wasn’t enthralling at all: washing hundreds of apples is as cold and dull as you would imagine but completely necessary as no one fancied an earwig in their cider! After the apples were nice and shiny and earwig free, we dropped them a handful at a time, into some sort of gizmo, called a centrifugal mill, that turned them into what looked like mix that you might make beef burgers out of – basically mulched up apple. I was informed this process is referred to as scratting, but I have no idea why.
Stop the Press
At this stage I judged we’d done enough ‘team building’ (labour) for the time being, so settled down to a cup of tea and a nice chocolate digestive. It wasn’t to be however, as I was quickly enlisted into shovelling the pulp into the press. The press employs a corkscrew type mechanism at the top to press a wooden plate down onto the apple pulp, squeezing out all the juice. What came out the bottom looked like murky pond water, but actually tasted surprisingly pleasant.
Four hours and a lot of cups of tea later, we had 200 litres of apple juice ready to ferment and a group of tired and sore employees. The next time we see the juice, we’re hoping it will be magically transformed, with the help of some yeast, into something that is sparkling, crisp and extremely alcoholic! A quick search on the internet revealed that H.P Bulmers produces about 600 million litres of cider a year, so I don’t think we’re quite ready to quit the day job yet. Taking into account all the bumps, bruises, scratches and blisters, I think providing a suite of web services is significantly easier than producing a batch of cider. Still, the cider will (hopefully) taste better.