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Sunday, March 30, 2014

The last of the Summer Wine (Cider and Perry)

According to our Orchard map which contains the layout of the trees with their details including when to harvest, the Williams Pear was due in February. So much for relying on memory and thinking it was March. Consequently the fruit was well advanced and soft and much of it was rotten. This is a side effect of bagging fruit i.e. it is not possible to see the progress without removing a bag. But then the Packham which is due in March was in peak condition and the combined yield provided almost two 20 litre buckets. Some was put aside for eating and the rest went towards Perry.

While out in the Orchard with the barrow and buckets it seemed wise to check the Cider Apples and the two eating apples Rich Red and Cox's Orange Pippen. Neither of the two eating apples had much good fruit. Just a season that wasn't productive for these two. In other years the Rich Red offers up some delicious produce.

The Cider Apples are Sweet Alford, Stokes Red, Yarlington Mill, Kingston Black and Bulmers Norman. Non of these produced well this year, leaving us with just under two 9 litre buckets of mostly miserable small fruit. One or two pieces of fruit did come to full size and the Sweet Alford was magnificent. These are mostly due to ripen in April/May but all were ready now and wouldn't last on the tree much longer.

The Harvest

Some of the pears were extremely large

Rather than muck around with small quantities of Apples it was easier to chuck the whole lot into the Scratter and make a Perry/Cider blend.

The scratter in action

Our guide for Cider and Perry recommends a Potential Alcohol of no less than 9% for good keeping qualities. The sugar levels when measured after pressing came in at about Brix 15.5 which is just under 9%. Our climate just won't allow the fruit to ripen any more, mostly due to the wet conditions arriving at the final stage of ripening. To get the desired result a little sugar was added to the juice to lift the potential alcohol level.

The pH was not ideal at around 5 and a little Tartaric Acid solved that problem. And so the scratting went quickly and the pressing carried on all night with a yield of a little over 12 litres which is fine. The juice has had CL23 yeast added and when the fermentation really kicks in it will go into a chilling unit at 10 C. A long slow cool fermentation really brings out the fruit nose in the final product.

As usual a big clean up afterwards. That is the last use of the Basket press for the year. After it dries out it will get a light sanding and a coat of non toxic paint before being put to bed. It has worked hard this harvest with over 400 KG of grapes and close to 100 KG of Apples and Pears.

The cake after pressing. Something for the chickens to enjoy

We have been keeping back more fruit for eating fresh and enjoying the quality of the home grown product. Next year the objective is to keep more product on the tree after the main harvest to see if we can improve the length of time it can keep. This is hard in our temperate climate. If we were further south I'm sure it would keep for a few more months especially something like the Beurre Bosc.


  1. Enjoy your blog so much :) Always great information so generously shared.

    Our orchard has produced so many lovely apples and pears but no apple cider making gear...its on the 'saving for' the scratter which we will home make but the press is a must buy. Our problem is the European Wasps that are stinging & then devouring the fruit, and their nest is in the neighbours somewhere! Cheers, Elle

    1. Hi Elle, we can sympathise with your pest problem. We have Fruit Fly which means every piece of fruit has to be bagged as soon as the flower finishes and if we don't use cloth bags the parrots get the half ripened fruit. I suppose on the positive side it does make you appreciative of whatever fruit that manages to come off unscathed. Before the scratter was made we used a kitchen juicer which is tedious and no where near as good but it works. It is possible to make a press using a hydraulic car jack. A lot of work but a cheap solution. Thanks for reading the blog. Good luck. John.