I’m not holding my breath for a huge crop of apples, but at least we have made a start. In 2009 we planted four trees: an eating apple (Winston), a dual purpose (Howgate Wonder – good for Yorkshire), a crab apple (John Downie) and a plum (Marjorie’s Seedling). The first summer, we had four crab apples and plenty of blossom on the others just no fruit. The second summer, very little blossom after a poor Spring and only one crab apple. In truth, I am a little disheartened. I know we live on a windy hillside in one of the cooler parts of the country, but I chose the varieties carefully, read extensively on apples and plums and ordered from very reputable nurseries, then planted them in the most sheltered south-facing part of the garden. Perhaps we were just unlucky with the weather last year that destroyed the blossom; perhaps it was too wet/dry at critical times; perhaps there were too few bees to pollinate the meagre blossom that survived the spring winds. This year, I have my fingers crossed as the Spring has been benign and the blossom buds plentiful.
But I am not giving up yet. We have just planted four more apple trees. In recognition of my OH’s desire for the amber nectar, we have purchased four cider apple trees. Yorkshire is not reknowned for its cider-making, but we are determined to give it a go. For the last year, we have been brewing our own cider, but not from scratch. Instead, we have been using cheap apple juice to produce TurboCider. This is a ridiculously easy thing to do. If you google TurboCider you will find lots of recipes and video demonstrations. The recipe we like best is this one.
A demijohn, cork and airtrap – available from Wilkinsons and lots of internet brewing sites
Siphon – to get it out of the demijohn when it is ready
A small sachet of champagne wine yeast (about a teaspoon)
Four-and-a-half litres of pure apple juice – from a supermarket (don’t get the sort with sugar or sulphates)
For the best results, you need to sanitise all equipment first, using metabisulphite, also available from brewing websites.
Once the equipment is ready, pour three litres of juice into the demijohn, add the sachet of yeast, give the demijohn a good shake to mix the yeast into the liquid, then put in the cork and airtrap and fill the airtrap with clean water. In only a couple of hours you will see the yeast begin to work. It is not necessary to put it in a very warm place – we leave ours in a fairly cool room. Leave the demijohn for 36 hours for the yeast to bubble up and subside, then add the remaining one-and-a-half litres of juice. The yeast will bubble up again, sometimes even through the airtrap, but after a day or two it will subside. Leave in the demijohn for two or three weeks until the yeast has dropped to the bottom and the cider is clear, then siphon off into sanitised bottles. You will get approximately 6 wine bottles full from one demijohn. You can leave the bottles to mature, or drink immediately – it tastes pretty good either way. And it is ridiculously cheap. Ignoring the cost of equipment, which is an investment, the yeast costs £1 a sachet, and the juice as little as 42pence per litre (we buy it in bulk from Costco), so the resulting cider costs about 60pence per litre. And you have the joy of having made something for yourself.
One day, we may have the satisfaction of pressing our own fruit and brewing in the time-honoured slow and steady way, but for now, TurboCider is a good substitute.