Not much can beat a pint of cider on a lazy late Summer afternoon – that pale, crisp, molten gold that glides down a parched throat and tingles with a dry sweetness and that heady perfume of orchards and dappled sun. And even on these shorter, brisker days, with woollen scarfs double-wrapped around necks and booted feet that tap and dance to forestall chill-bitten toes, we cluster in fire-lit pubs and still reach for that deliciously sweet, fermented apple drink.
But which cider to chose? There are countless brands to boot: sparkling or cloudy, pink-hued or clear. There’s even pear. Unfortunately, many commercial ciders are far cry from natural apple juice – they’re highly-processed, fizzy, sugary beverages that most proud cider-guzzlers would balk at. As one of the aformentioned, Kate Beaven, farmer at Tre-rhew Farm and Kate’s Country School, is a traditional cider maker, and probably knows more about cider than we do about food mapping (and that’s saying something!) In this special-edition guest blog, Kate explains the cider-making process, reminding us that there’s enough of the good stuff in a pint of cider to actually count as one of our five-a-day…
“If I asked most people what they thought cider was made from, they would probably reply “apples of course” not realising what else might be lurking in their drink.
Cider making was originally thought to have been introduced in the UK following the Norman conquest, but now records indicate cider activity was here long before then.
So what is real cider?
Ours is made from 100% apples with no added water, sugar or yeast.
Much better for you than the popular “cider” drinks bought in supermarkets which have the minimum legal requirement of 35% apples (you really don’t want to know what the other 65% is made up of). You do? OK – water, sugar, sulphites, flavourings, colourings etc. So just to re-cap, in the UK the minimum amount of apple juice required to legally call your drink cider is only 35%.
We think real cider is much better for you. Be warned though, we had some professionally tested this year at 8% ABV. Our own previous home scientific tests have been to count how many pints Jim can drink before he falls over. 8% equates to no more than four pints before he topples…
Historically Herefordshire & Monmouthshire are well established cider producing areas and cider has been made on our farm since the 17th century when it was customary to pay part of the farm worker’s wage in cider depending on their capabilities. For example a two gallon a day man was said to be worth the extra. By the end of the 19th century, a law was introduced to prohibit this type of payment but Jim still seems to think he’s still worth a few pints every day! Our present cider making methods have changed very little, although we now use a 19th century scratter rather than our 18th century horse powered stone cider mill to break down the apples into pomace or pulp.
The pomace is then put onto the base of the press on sackcloth which was traditionally horsehair. The corners are folded up and this block of apple pomace is called a “cheese”.
The cheeses are piled up and a board put on top. Large screws lower the press and the juice flows down a channel into buckets
The juice is then transferred to oak whisky barrels and left to ferment. Wild yeasts are naturally present on the apples and alongside centuries of yeasts lurking in the cider house and also in the wooden barrels, this means that nothing artificial needs to be added.
So next time you’re shopping for cider, check the ingredients carefully and why not try some hand crafted real cider. What’s not to love? It’s a natural, organic product and with no added yeast, sugar or water, cider surely has to be counted as part of your 5 a day………hic!
Want to try your hand at making cider? You’ll need to get your hands on some apples first! Type ‘apples’ into FoodTrade’s powerful search engine to find the nearest orchards near you. Or if you would just like to find great suppliers of cider, like Great Tre-rhew Farm, simply search for cider on our food map to find your nearest pubs, bars and retailers.