Tag Archives: Cider Apple

Then and Now, Spring….

Spring Blossom, katy WaySpring is a special time in the orchards, and you prey for long sunny days and blue sky. What you don’t want is heavy rain and strong winds, exactly what we suffered today. Our recently built wooden garden Gate has been blown off it’s hinges, so lord know what apple blossom will be left, if any. Luckily, it’s still relatively early for blossom on cider apple trees (only the ever so keen Katy Apple trees may of had their young but strong branches whipped by the winds) so fingers crossed for a rise in the temperatures and a reappearance of Somerset blue skies.Below is another extract from ‘Then and Now’


Spring at thatchers Cider
Even after all these years Martin Thatcher is still

bowled over by the sight of an orchard decked in apple
blossom, and he’s not alone. To many people, the
coming of spring in cider country is one of Britain’s
wonders – nature and humankind working together
to create a marvel. Few sights compare to the beauty
and magic of trees suddenly covered in white or pink
flowers, yet it is not only a visual experience. A walk
in an orchard at blossomtime is as much about the
scent of the flowers and the drone of bees, the feeling
of warm sun or a cool breeze – and a sense of magic.
To the cidermaker, though, blossom is much more
than just a thing of beauty. For the trees to produce
apples the flowers need to be pollenated, and the
blossom doesn’t last for long. If you’re unlucky, in fact,
it can disappear overnight.
Nothing makes a cidermaker quite as nervous
as the prospect of a late frost, which can devastate
a whole orchard in one night, and in times past
fruit growers came up with some ingenious ways of
keeping temperatures above freezing at this crucial
time of year, such as burning oil in ‘smudge pots’ to
warm the air and keep it mobile. On one 19th century
Gloucestershire fruit farm the foremen slept beside
alarms connected to thermometers, which would
sound when the temperature became dangerously low.
But they were probably growing fruit varieties
that were not native to the area. The beauty of the
Somerset cider varieties is that they have evolved over
the years in the same climate, so that most blossom
after the worst danger of frost is over. Thus although
Somerset Redstreak is classed as an early bittersweet,
it flowers in mid-season, that is in the middle of May,
after all but the most freakish frosts. However, that old
renegade Tremlett’s Bitter indulges in rather riskier
behaviour, often flowering in late April when freezing
conditions are still a distinct possibility. It is still
essential, as it always was, to pick the right site for a
new orchard.


Frank Naish 5/2/1924 29/11/13

Frank Naish (Oldest Cider Maker) have passed peacefully away in his sleep aged 89 5/2/1924 29/11/13

A poem for a man whom I had the pleasure to meet and photograph on a number of occasions. commiserations to all his family and friends

Frank Naish at home

After Apple Picking

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still.
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples; I am drowsing off.
I cannot shake the shimmer from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the water-trough,
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and reappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
And I keep hearing from the cellar-bin
That rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking; I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall,
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised, or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Robert Frost
in the cider room

Naish Cider

Naish Cider

Michelin, medium bitter sweet with soft tannin

Michelin, medium bitter sweet with soft tannin

Alcohol level 7.06

A big thanks to Martin Thatcher at Thatchers Cider who let us bring down a sample of our cider so the Alcohol could be measured in their Lab. The lovely Lab technician Katy (did they named ‘Katy Cider’ after her?) did the test and it came out at a very respectable 7.06.

The also did a quick tasting for us and were very complimentary, stating that it had a very clean flavour.

We are really pleased

see pics below,


Lab technician Katy at Thatchers Cider does an alcohol level test on our cider

Lab technician Katy at Thatchers Cider does an alcohol level test on our cider

It's official, Alcohol level is 7.06

It's official, Alcohol level is 7.06

Always a scary moment, Lab Technician Paul, samples our cider.

Always a scary moment, Lab Technician Paul, samples our cider.


Oak Barrel, Frank Naish Cider Farm, Somerset

Oak Barrel, Frank Naish Cider Farm, Somerset

Three weeks after pressing our cider and with fermentation coming to a halt we were ready to rack off our first two (five gallon) tubs. It was a bit of a nervy process, especially as we were also going to be tasting it for the first time.

Hey, surprise surprise, it tasted fairly good, perhaps lacking in a little depth but not at all offensive. We were actually rather pleased with ourselves. We knew we had a good blend of apples and a good reading of around 1080.

We decided to take a sample down to Roger Wilkins cider farm in Somerset so that we could let an experienced cider maker taste our brew. It took a while to attract his attention ( it was really busy in the barn as it was Bridgwater Carnival day and everybody was stocking up for a lively weekend) so we had the usual generous taster from the barrel labelled ‘dry’. This made us very nervous as it tasted fantastic, mature, rounded, with a lovely deep lasting flavor. In comparison our cider was watery and fairly tasteless. When the time came I passed our sample to Roger fearing the worst but he was very kind and said in a few months it would be great. Thanks Roger. This perked us up, after all the cider is pretty young.

Now I’m no expert, but the thing about Roger’s cider and other traditional cider makers in the west country, is you not only get the taste of the blended apples in the brew but also the inherent flavour from the oak barrels where the cider has been maturing, probably for the past 10 months or so. The barrels look as old as the barn (see pics below including Frank Naish’s oak barrels) and have obviously been effecting and sealing in the flavor of the cider for years. Therefore what hope do we have of producing a complex and mature cider using only our sterile plastic tubs and plastic barrels ?

Will it ever taste as good ?

Maybe next year we should invest in oak sherry barrels imported from portugal or Spain. Now that would be an adventure. !

But for now we will wait for our cider to mature and hope for the best.

Roger Wilkins's Old Oak Barrels, Somerset

Roger Wilkins's Old Oak Barrels, Somerset

two tubs, two different tastes, I thought we'd mixed the apples up pretty well , Obviously not !

two tubs, two different tastes, I thought we'd mixed the apples up pretty well , Obviously not !

The first taste of 'Forgotten Fruit', mmm, not bad.

Plastic Barrels. The first taste of 'Forgotten Fruit', "mmmm, not bad" says Tim

A Pressing Day

The apple juice flows

days as

aromatic as

apples fermenting,

as strong as

sweet new


the autumnal

embrace of

harvest and decay

intoxicates me,

makes me join

the finite pageant,

dance the last dance

faster than any before,

a mad nymph

in the temple

of Bacchus,

before darkness

wraps me in

its unyielding arms

kisses me to

eternal sleep.

september 2005

copyright Ulrike Gerbig

Cider Making – The forgotten art

With 22 sacks of prime cider apples collected (about a ton) we arrived at Grimsbury Farm, Warmley in great anticipation of a productive days pressing . After a few tweaks to the Press, i.e working out the most efficient way to build the cheese, it was put to work with glorious results. It did take a while, but once  the juice started flowing it didn’t stop . It was actually quite  emotional watching the juice pouring from the hessian sacks, flowing river  – like into our steadily filling containers .

washing the cider apples

With enthusiastic hearts, great teamwork and (with) the scratter chewing up the apples as fast as you could roll them in, time flew by as we busily worked our way through the sacks of apples. We tried to mix the different types of apples as much as we could, the theory being to ensure each container held an optimum blend, hopefully giving our cider the best chance to be a quality craft product. Martin, our resident scientist  kept us informed of the all important Sugar content of our Cider -10.60 according to the hydrometer which is  (i.e) very good. We ended up making over fifty gallons of juice.

It was great to see families getting involved, the children washed the apples, fresh apple Juice was handed around  and the cider making process was explained to the visitors

All hands to the press

As mentioned, it was a very special day for me but it wouldn’t have happened without the help of Peter Davies and The friends of Grimsbury Park Farm who made available their sturdy Press and fantastic facilities. The team does fantastic work for the community. Also, thanks goes to John Morris from South Glos Council who has supported the Orchard group all along the way. Special thanks also to ‘CiderPunk’ Martin, who turned up on the day and give invaluable advice and assistance. The Orchard Group salute you all.

The happy team after pressing over fifty gallons of cider.

Over the years I’ve wandered around many of the south west’s orchards/cider farms and have been swept away and enthused by the dedication of the traditional cider makers that I’ve encounted . The artisans inspired me to first, photograph them, second, talk to them  and third (and with great resolve) to taste their cider. It was these experiences that inspired me to try and recreate that process in my county and over the past couple of weeks I believe we have gone a long way to achieving that.

Now the difficult part, how the blooming heck do you brew decent cider ? !

Scrumping Days

Picking only the finest fruit

Picking only the finest fruit

noble (if backbreaking) work.

noble (if backbreaking) work.

…Heav’n’s sweetest blessing, Hail

Be thou the copious Matter of my song

And thy choice Nectar, on which always waits

Laughter, and sport, and care beguiling wit,

And friendship, chief Delight of Human Life.

An extract from Philips’ ‘Cyder Poem‘.

Taken from ‘Ciderland‘ by James Crowden

A good day

A good day

The week leading up to our pressing day on Oct 18th was spent scrumping for apples in and around the south Glos region. Blessed with fine weather and  armed with buckets,sacks, sticks and a hearty flask of coffee, we set off to various corners of the county to collect cider apples. We had great success around Oldbury in Severn, collecting from various roadside trees and stumbling upon a number of old forgotten orchards that slowly revealed themselves from over the tops of hedges. The children had  a great time collecting from a small orchard in Oldland Common and myself Tim and Duncan had a hugely productive morning at Jean Grudging;s Orchard in Tytherington, where we were treated to an elevenses, of tea, homemade cake and a glass of Matthew Riddles cider. As you’d  imagine this sent us back to the Orchard with a spring in our step  and all in all we collected over 20 bags of prime Cider Apples.


Solo Picking, gathering in Pickamoore Road

Beautiful day and I stumbled across another wonderful Orchard near Oldbury on Seven. The owner was only too happy to see his apples go to good use. Another sack full collected. Garthering from Hambrook tomorrow.

I discovered a new Orchard today near Oldbury on Severn.

I discovered a new Orchard today near Oldbury on Severn.