Thursday, 31 March 2011

Cider Inside ‘er Insides

Next came the pears from by the school – they were very tasty and we picked about 30Kgs in a fairly short time. I borrowed my mum’s fruit picking tool for these and I highly recommend getting one of these. (I still have not given it back!) As we picked, we gave lots away to other curious children and parents.
Scrumptious Pears
Later I also found pears on… Peartree Green! This inspired me to search on local maps for places with fruit in the names. Fairly soon we had found apples on Orchard Lane (thanks Mark), walnut trees in Walnut Avenue and chestnut trees in Chestnut Avenue – it’s a no-brainer when you think about it.
Very Tasty Indeed
Soon it was time for the apples, and I realised we would need to store them somehow as there were several trees filled with fruit that I had my eye on. Without getting overly technical, there are basically two types of apple in my book – eaters and cookers. Cookers are anything that is too sour to eat straight off the tree (the same is true for cherries incidentally). I decided that we could also use the large amount of excess fruit to turn into cider, as this seemed like a very sensible way of preserving the juice!
When making apple juice or cider it is a good idea to mix several different types of apples as this gives a more rounded flavour. Apples grown specifically for cider-making have a high tannin content and taste far too tart to eat fresh off the tree.
A lovely apple tree ready for picking
I hastily purchased an antique cider press off ebay and dug out an old pamphlet on how to make beer and wine. When the time came we were a whirlwind of action. In one day, my child army and I (with the help of a Gareth, his girlfriend and my brother John) picked over 40Kgs of apples and turned them into 5 gallons of lovely apple juice, which soon (with the addition of only a packet of yeast) became a five gallon barrel of highly drinkable golden cider!
It’s a very simple and enjoyable process. You chop the apples up into quarters roughly, removing any bad bits but leaving the skin and cores. Next you smash them to a pulp in a bucket and finally press the juice out. All that remains to be done is to add some Camden tablets and yeast (if you wish). Naturally you can make the process far more complicated, if you are that way inclined.
Cider Making - That 5 gallon bucket is full!
With the help of my buddy Pete and Finbar & Jonah his children, we picked a similar amount the following weekend, which we stored up and gradually consumed during the winter. The stock lasted until March. Cider will keep until you drink it all. Apparently it can keep for well over a year, although this theory has never actually been tested.
Children love to climb trees and pick apples - that bucket is full too!
Apples keep very well, but you must not let them touch each other. This way if one goes off, it will not spread to the rest, like the apocryphal bad apple in the barrel. I was lucky enough to be given a wooden apple store by my friend Gary. It’s like a skeleton chest of drawers and the apples sit in there waiting to be consumed. Some varieties keep better than others, trial and error will tell. They must not be bruised or maggoty at all for storing, so sort them appropriately and use the less good fruit for juicing.
Thanks Gary - the perfect way to store apples
Other items that we squirreled away around this time of year were Walnuts (16Kgs off one tree!) and Hazelnuts (a wicker wastepaper basket full). Nuts of course will keep all year long, as long as they are kept dry. They make tasty and healthy snacks to take to work when mixed with sultanas, raisins or even dried cherries.
Hazelnuts! I'm still eating these now.


  1. Hello,

    I didn't realise that there were pear trees on Pear Tree Common. I take the children there a lot to collect apples and blackberries and we have never come across a pear tree, I would love to know where it is hiding! :)

    Brilliant blog by the way! I have always wanted to find a walnut tree and thanks to your map, I will be taking a trip or 2 to Eastleigh to try and find the walnut tree! Hopefully with all the rain we've had there will be a good crop :) Happy foraging!

  2. Hi
    Glad you like what we are doing.
    I will make a special post for you about Peartree Green.
    The pear trees are easy to find, have you looked at the Pear Tree Pub garden?
    Where are the apple trees? I should put them on my map.
    the Urbane Forager