Monday, October 19, 2009

cider house rules

What do Hoary Morning, Slap-Ma-Girdle, Pig Snout and Hangy Down Cluster all have in common?

The answer is: they're all varieties of apple and I know this from googling "cider making" searching for technical terms to describe how we made ours yesterday.

A few people in the village still have traditional cider making equipment and an elderly couple (relatives of Mini-B) offered to let us use theirs. This is what it looks like:

To begin with, we crushed (or 'scratted', to use the technical term) the apples in a 'scrattter' - a wooden box with two rotating drums studded with nails in the bottom resembling a medieval torture device (photo 1). This one has been fitted with an electric motor to turn the drums instead of by hand using the wheel on the left. As the apples are thrown into the box they pass between the drums and emerge underneath as a rough pulp known as the 'pomace' (or pommage) which is placed in the press (photo 2). The pomace is then covered with a layer of straw and wooden blocks, cut to fit the barrel, are placed on top which squeeze out the juice by applying equal pressure when the screw at the top is turned (photo 3). The bottled juice will now be left to ferment for three weeks au naturel.

We made cider for the first time five years ago and some of the plastic bottles we'd brought into the house from the woodshed exploded because we hadn't left the tops unscrewed. We came back from the bar one night to find every surface - walls, ceiling, floor, furniture - shining with tiny points of bright light as if the glitter fairy had been in. That time we made 150 litres of the stuff and what we didn't drink (or the house didn't wear) we turned into Calvados the following autumn.

I made an apple cheesecake using some of the unfermented apple juice and some puréed apples which was yummy, although I have to admit it tasted more of lemon than apple.

2 oz/50 g butter
2 oz/50 g caster sugar
4 oz/100 g scratted digestive biscuits

8 oz/225 g full fat soft cheese
2 eggs, separated
4 oz/100 g caster sugar
grated rind and juice of ½ lemon
¼ pint/150 ml crème fraîche
½ pint/300 ml apple purée
1 x 11 g sachet powdered gelatine
8 tbsp apple juice

1. Melt the butter and sugar in a pan and stir in the biscuit crumbs. Press evenly over the bottom of a greased loose-bottomed 7-8 inch/18-20 cm round cake tin.

2. Soften the cheese in a large bowl. Beat in the egg yolks, 2 oz/50 g of the sugar, the lemon rind and juice, crème fraîche and apple purée. Put the gelatine and apple juice in a small heatproof bowl over a pan of hot water and stir until the gelatine has dissolved. Beat the gelatine into the cheese mixture and leave until on the point of setting.

3. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and whisk in the remaining sugar. Fold lightly into the cheese mixture and spoon into the tin. Chill for 3-4 hours until set.

♫ Cook along to: Divine Comedy Something For The Weekend

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