Cider making – The Marshwood Vale Cider way.
This idea came about after a chat with a friend; he suggested the only way we can differentiate from the rest, is to come clean on our manufacturing practises. Why not I thought, I have nothing to hide here.
Our cider making begins much the same every Year, never quite ready and the apples always seem to come early.
- Apples, all from naturally managed orchards. No sprays of any kind are used, but there is plenty of pruning and grass management by mechanical means.
- Vast majority are collected by hand, this entails a lot of scrabbling around on hands and knees in the wet, and plenty of cussing about bad backs. We do collect occasionally with a walk behind harvester, mind you; this is back breaking as well, I am sure the design was based on some sort of torture device.
- Once back to the yard, the apples are pressed using a rather lovely belt press, my back simply will not allow me to make cheeses with Barley straw any longer, it is also a hell of a lot quicker. At full tilt we can do 3 Tonnes an hour.
- Juice is then allowed to ferment 100% naturally in IBC’s; no need for Yeast as there is plenty around you all the time. No SO2. No sugar to up alcohol levels. No water to drop alcohol levels. Nature decides the outcome, not me. Fastest fermentation I have had was 10 days, slowest, 9 months. All done outside so controlled by the weather.
- Once fermentation is nearly over, the IBC’s are screwed down tight for at least a month, this allows time for the lee’s to begin settling out, and a good head of CO2 is produced, naturally protecting the cider from the oxygen, our biggest enemy. When we are ready, we rack into barrels for storage, again the cider gives off enough CO2 to give a little protection.
- From the barrels a selection will be racked again later for bottling, I have recently used contract bottling but this may change next Year as I lose control of what is happening. The cider bottled under contract is filtered through a cross flow filter, force carbonated, pasteurised and packaged. To sweeten we only use Sugar, and again only as little as needed. After all, even sugar is processed, can’t exactly stuff a sugar beet in the bottle.
- Through the Year we bottle some cider at home, this is done with young cider that still has a little life in it, usually enough to finish in the bottle giving a lovely gentle, natural fizz. Mostly dry as nature intended, but some will have Sucralose added to cater for those with a sweeter tooth.
- Draught cider is used direct from the barrel, packaged in Bag in Box, this can, and will last for months with no pasteurisation. If we think it is likely to hang around longer, we use 25ppm SO2 to avoid oxidisation, and the slight chance of off tastes developing. For the majority of events we attend, we use the cider with nothing added apart from Sucralose to sweeten the medium and the sweet.
And there you have it, an honest appraisal of the way we make cider at Marshwood Vale Cider.