Community cider making day

by | Jul 9, 2012

We’ve spent the past two Saturdays a-merry-making cider; and it was easily the most fun we’ve had all year. Friends are helping us make things happen at Stellar Violets. Local winemaker Dave called up and said he was keen to turn his hand to cider and vinegar. He had a proper mechanical apple crusher ready to go, and the facility at the winery was made available. All Dave needed was apples! Fortunately, I knew someone who could help with that! Another friend lent us his wooden wine press, and we were ready in a flash.

“Community Cider-Making Event” was born, and we invited anyone interested to come and play.

Our dear friend and cider mentor offered a lot of good advice. Moving to Manjimup from England just a few years ago, Michael Gill is also a chemist, potter, and silviculturalist. If you want to know anything about biochar or local currency, this is your man.

As soon as you’re crushing you need to start catching juice. The press worked best on our second crushing day, when we added some gauze/shadecloth all around the interior. It stopped so much mush leaking out, as you see here! We also cut some circular pieces of gauze to place into the press at intervals, as it was filling up with mush. It’s all about maximising juice extraction!

One of our many experiments will be a wild ferment. Freshly-pressed Granny Smith juice with zero preservative goes into the barrel, which should be stored somewhere warm. Soon enough, natural yeasts in the air will discover there’s a party to be had in the barrel, and it will start fermenting. Wild ferments can bring unexpected and very interesting characters to cider.

A freak second crop came on our Jazz trees this season – a throwback characteristic of the Braeburn apple, one of the Jazz apple’s parents. The baby apples are really high in tannin so we thought they’d be perfect to add to our cider mix! We thought if we cut the little apples in half, we could just press them straight away in this cute little press. We barely got a drip. So the little apples went into the high-powered hopper, which minced them up in a few seconds. If you want to use a wine press, you’ll need to crush up apples really well. Softer apples might work a bit better, but I’d recommend getting a crushing machine of some sort. The small press worked really well, and we got ample juice per apple for the baby ones.. which indicates to us what is generally known already: some apples are better for juicing than others. Even more inspiration to plant a lot of old varieties so we have more to play with. Next stop for the apple cake – the pig trough.

We’re so glad we held a Community Cider-Making event. After two Saturdays play, we’ve got a lot of juice and a few ferments ticking. Dave used champagne yeast to innoculate some of the juice in small kegs during the week. He’s also experimenting with an ancient drink called a Cyser. It’s like a cross between a cider and a mead, with honey, ginger, and vanilla added to the apple brew. We’ve already tasted a bit; definitely a crowd pleaser.

We’re also going to start brewing some vinegar; and hopefully try out a balsamic vinegar recipe as well. We’re thinking we’ll be bottling our cider by September. The vinegar will take longer to brew, but will face the same fate if all goes to plan.