Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cider Making

Heavy rain here in Wales today. I have to say that I'm not that sorry, we've had a dry year even if it's not been that warm a summer. More to the point I'm feeling a bit smug having completed the outdoor jobs that needed to be done before it started. Our new 'slug clearance squad' (AKA the ducks) are enjoying it as well.

 I got the apple pressing done on Thursday and it yielded 11 gallons, that was from two young trees and the fallers from a third. This is a mixture of Major, Early Red Jersey and Tom Putt. The first two varieties are about three weeks early and I find the sugar content is a bit low. All our apples are coming ripe early this year, most three or four weeks!

I will need to upscale my cider making equipment soon as the new trees come into production. My mill is a home made 'studded cylinder' type and was made to be pedal powered. However when I'm doing the pressing alone I hook it up to an old washing machine motor.

The pommace made by this mill is quite fine and I get a good juice recovery, in excess of 50% with cider varieties. I do find it helps, especially with non cider apples, to mill one day and press the next.

The wasps made the whole process more exciting than usual! This is a sure sign that I'm doing my pressing earlier than in previous years, usually they are gone. Above is a pic of the pommace as milled into the bucket and transfered to the drum of the press (also home made). Below is the whole press assembly.

It gives just over a gallon of juice per fill, so not bad for small scale or single variety work, but not big enough for serious work!

Just to the right of the press you can just see my latest find. A set of scales from a local auction house. They were billed as sack scales, but turn out to be old medical scales, fine by me, they'll weigh apples just as well! The interesting thing is when I looked up the maker they were made between 1871 and 1874. One hundred and fortyish years old. When I've refurbished them they'll be good for that again I would say.

The rains seems to have stopped now so I'd better get out and get on. Back soon.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Dried Apple - 36 hours later

The Mark 2 apple drier has completed it maiden voyage, or something like that. Anyway it's dried the apple we put in it in in 36 hours. I left it a bit longer than was absolutely necessary to make sure it was done. It came out like leather; flexible, but tough! To answer a question I had by email, we peel the apples first, then core them then slice them. Some slice better than others, some being very brittle, but it is still possible to skewer the bits even if the rings have broken up.

The best one were as follows: James Grieve, best tasting. Charles Ross, which did not discolour so much and tasted good. Tom Putt which has a nice sharp twang to it and a new variety from a seedling (I call it Red Spot) which is beautifully sweet. We did try other varieties, but they did not taste so good! None of them were recognised 'drying varieties' but it's a case of use what you've got. So it is not rocket science and I wish you all good drying. Oh yes, the dried apple weighed in at 7 ounces and just fitted into a 2 pound preserving jar, I guess we could have got a bit more in the drier if we'd tried.

Tomorrow is a cider making day so I'll try to remember to take some photos.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

DIY Apple Drier

So apple time is here again and having had success with the mark one DIY apple drier I decided to see if I could make it a bit more robust. It was, after all, only a cardboard box, some knitting needles, kebab skewers and a dehumidifier. BUT it worked.
The mark two is a little more sophisticated, it's a cardboard box, a wooden frame, kebab skewers and a dehumidifier. As you can see a lot of development work has gone into this new design.
The idea is to use the dehumidifier to blow a stream of warm dry air over the apple rings, which are suspended on the wooden skewers. The box I used is a flower box which florists throw out by the dozen. The wooden frame makes it all a bit more robust than just sticking knitting needles through the cardboard, as I did in the Mk 1. Some skewers are stapled to the frame to support the ones on which the apple rings are threaded. A door is cut in the box to make it easy to load the apple.
A hole also needs to be cut for the dehumidifier to blow into. Of course there has to be a hole in the top allowing the air to leave, in this box the hand holes were big enough.
The apples need to be cut quite thinly, no more than 1/4" or 6mm. The mark one dried them in about a day, we'll see how the Mark 2 performs.