Cider with Susie

WELL, that’s the plan. Laurie Lee sipped cider with the lovely Rosie in a haystack. I’m planning to do it with Susie (Sue is really her name) although I just know a haystack is out of the question so will settle for the comfort of our own home. But right now the scrumpy is on hold.

It’s bubbling gently in a plastic carboy in the corner of the kitchen. I can hear it plop as another bubble goes through the airlock. It seems to go to sleep at night but wakes up in the morning when the room warms.

It was hard work making that cider as I don’t have an apple cruncher and nor do I have a cider press. But I now have some pretty fit arm muscles and an awful lot of apples. Buckets full of them.

It all started with Brian next door. He has three apple trees, one of them a fine Bramley, and a crab apple tree. The Bramleys make him a lot of apple puree but the rest goes to waste.

A couple of weeks back I sauntered round to ask if I could have some for my curried apple chutney and came back with a couple of buckets. There are only so many jars of chutney a household needs so I thought about what to do with the rest (there are more apples stored in his garage).

I made apple puree for the freezer. Apples and prune are the main ingredients of my brown sauce recipe so I made some bottles of those. And an apple pie. Then I set about juicing them as an alternative to orange in the morning.

The price of a cider press at the home brew shop was horrendous so I grated some up, squeezed out the juice and put it in my blender, which won’t work unless it has some liquid in, then added chopped apples and whizzed everything up. Then I tipped the contents into a double layer of muslin and squeezed.

What came out was basically pureed apple, a dark brown liquid (the juice oxidizes very quickly) the colour of tea and, to be fair, looks pretty unappetising. But it tastes like apple juice. Adding some of Brian’s crab apples pepped it up.

This has been drunk most mornings for breakfast and is a welcome change from orange juice. Some surplus juice, with the addition of a slug of gin, also made a decent granita.

So we come to the cider. Each time I juice the apples I put the extra in the carboy and now have a gallon on the go. It took an anxious week to start fermenting. I eventually added some cider yeast although I expect it would have started fermenting as the juice stored in the fridge began to fizz!

I am now hoovering up spare apples to keep production going. Today I raided a box of apples put out free to allcomers in a neighbouring street. I nick a few from overhanging branches on the way to the shops. No local crab apple tree is left untroubled.

This has been a great year for apples. The bloke at the home brew shop says next year he will get cider presses for half this year’s price. I’ll be ready. I just hope the apples will.

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