Here come the apples

On Monday Helen visited The County Ground at Taunton to attend the Taste of the West category finalists lunch. Needless to say we were delighted to discover that our bottled Red Hen cider so impressed the judges that it was awarded the accolade of Champion Cider 2015 against some stiff competition from Perry’s Cider, the legendary Dowlish Wake makers. Delicious food at the swish do including canapés, duck, and great cheese, plus the best ice cream we’ve tasted for ages – Lemon Pavlova by Orange Elephant. We don’t usually dine so well on a Monday lunchtime. Thanks to everyone who made us so welcome – we’re really overjoyed with the gong.

Red Hen on the bar at the Taste of the West awards dinner before picking up the Champion Cider for 2015 award.

Red Hen on the bar at the Taste of the West awards dinner before picking up the Champion Cider for 2015 award

At the farm, Neil enjoyed a tin of soup and put together the finishing touches to the pressing set-up. The first apples came on Tuesday, five tons of early bittersweets, filling the air with that unmistakable late-September scent of cider apples. Awards are great, but the next few months is probably the most important time for Worley’s Cider – making sure the right fruit is pressed at the right time, and at its peak.

Wednesday saw the official start of pressing. Sunny day, perfectly ripe bittersweet apples, and Neil reported excellent juice content. Last year, many of the apples were ripening so fast they were clogging the pressing cloths before we could work our way through them.

Early bittersweet apples in the silo. Using apples at peak ripeness makes the best, cleanest tasting cider

Early bittersweet apples in the silo. Using apples at peak ripeness makes the best, cleanest tasting cider

Our pressing process

Here’s a rundown of our pressing procedure  – we can go into more details over the coming weeks, but this is the gist of what happens to give you an overall picture.

Apples drop into the stainless steel hopper with a hole in the bottom

Apples drop into the stainless steel hopper with an aperture in its base

Apples that are stored in the silos are poured into the stainless steel hopper on the outside of the pressing shed. They drop through an aperture in its base and are taken into the shed by a flighted conveyor belt set at a slight incline. The apples then drop onto a grading conveyor where the grots, rots, twigs and stones (and tennis balls!) are picked out and discarded, before the apples drop into a water bath. Helper Will controls this process, stop-starting the belts using the control panel.

Will sorts the apples and picks out any rotten ones

Will grades the fruit to ensure a good quality of fruit is maintained

The apples then bob about in the water bath at the base of the mill. Inside the mill shaft there’s a giant ‘screw’ that draws the apples upwards out of the water and henceforth to their doom. They are then hurled against a giant cheese grater that turns them into pea-sized chips of apple that are then perfect for pressing.

The chopped fruit gathers in the chamber above the press and when Neil’s ready to start building the cheese, he opens the hatch. To start building the cheese, he lays out a slatted wooden rack. On top of that lays a metal former that determines the height of each layer of fruit, and on top of the former, Neil lays a cloth turned to a 45° angle (so the corners overlap the straight sides). When the hatch is opened, out plops a measured amount of wet, chopped apple that is spread out to fill the cloth inside the former. The corners of the cloth are then folded on top of the chipped apples, and the metal former removed. Another board is laid on top, then the whole process is repeated until there are nine layers forming the apple ‘cheese’.


Apple chips drop onto the open cloth

Apple chips drop onto the open cloth

























The layers are built into a cheese nine layers high before going under the press

The layers are built into a cheese nine layers high before going under the press























Neil then swings the bed of the press around and starts the hydraulic pump. It works from the bottom-up, with the pressure being applied from underneath, squeezing every last drop of juice from the cheese. It’s amazing how much juice you get from each stack. This juice is filtered into a blue barrel, and then pumped to one of our 1,000-litre fermenting tanks.

When the press has finished its work, the cloths are opened one by one, and the pomace shaken out. The pomace is pretty dry, and flat as a board, but it still contains much goodness, so it’s shovelled onto a trailer and taken for animal feed. Our fancy new conveyor for taking the pomace away is a few days from completion, so until that glorious day, we have to shovel it by hand.

There’s so much more to tell – we’ll keep updating the blog regularly during pressing and hopefully post a video or two. Look out for us at Wells Food Festival on 11th October. – it’s a great family day out – well worth travelling for, in case you’re in two minds. We’ll be there with the bar, or you can take home some of our lovely Champion Cider 2015 Red Hen bottles. Or possibly even both :)


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Eating, pressing & cider shopping

The gathering of the IBCs, ready for storing fresh-pressed apple juice

The gathering of the IBCs, ready for storing fresh-pressed apple juice


Pressing news

Much of last week was spent sorting out the pressing shed. Apple pressing is nearly upon us, and we have to make sure everything’s checked and working before the first fruit is ready. We bought a Voran mill and press two years ago that have been brilliant. The press is a hydraulic rack and cloth type that handles a cheese of around nine layers of fruit and the 50-tonne ram squeezes up to 120 litres of juice from that 180kg of chipped apples. The mill is like a giant cheese grater!

The conveyor and sorting belt – this takes the apples from the hopper and drops them into the mill's water bath

The elevator and sorting belt – these two conveyors take the apples from the hopper, allows a grading check for bad fruit, sticks, stones, golf and tennis balls, and drops them into the mill’s water bath.


To support the mill & press, we have a conveyor that lifts the apples from the hopper and onto the sorting belt. We’re also sourcing a new conveyor this year to take the pomace (the spent apple pulp) away from the press and drop it into a container for easy removal. Previous years have seen the pomace shaken onto the ground then cleared with a spade into the tractor’s loader bucket. It’s like shovelling tons of thick wet cardboard, so this new conveyor should make life much easier.

Like the cider apples, pressing season is a bittersweet experience. On a crisp clear autumn day, there’s no better place to be with the smell of ripe cider apples and pressed juice filling the air. By the end of the day we’re exhausted, soaked, sticky and freezing and can’t wait to get home to a massive bowl of spaghetti in front of the fire. When pressing’s over for the year, we give thanks to the cider gods and sleep for a weekend. More details later this month with proper photos of pressing in action.

The view from the pressing shed into the woods

The view from the pressing shed into the woods

Abergavenny Food Festival

Last weekend saw Neil head to the Abergavenny Food Festival where the sun shone and the foodies turned out. We were in the beer and real cider tent along with five other cider makers so we were in good company. The new bottles went down well – we even had someone complaining that she couldn’t buy any because they were too drinkable! That’s a first – we must remember to make some disgusting cider next year.

Shopping news

Good news if you live in the Bristol or Bath area – you can now buy single bottles of Worley’s Cider through a local online food site called Fresh Range. They are an online ‘supermarket’ but source local food, drink and provisions from the area and deliver to your door. Click here to visit

If you’re looking for a nice pint of our draught, check out The Hare on North Street, Bedminster. They were early adopters of the Worley’s draught and are real cider aficionados.

Over on the Bath side, Independent Spirit are stocking our new bottles, all four will be gracing the shelves by the end of the week. It’s a lovely shop – purveyors of the finest booze.

Telly Wogan

And finally, we were lucky enough to be filmed for Terry & Mason’s Great Food Trip back in the spring, and this week the show was aired on BBC2. We had a spot in the Wells farmers market, where Sir Terry Wogan himself sampled our ciders and chatted to us about how we make them. His favourite was the Special Reserve keeved cider, which he liked a lot, and we really enjoyed meeting him. Lovely chap, thanks Terry.

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We’re back!

Welcome back to the Worley’s Cider blog. It’s been a while since the last post, but we’re going to be posting more regularly from now on (we promise!) to let everyone know what’s going on at the farm and the latest cider news from the Mendips.

Brand-new quality ciders

Red_Hen_clip_web_smFirst off, we launched some great new draught varieties in 2015 that have gone down a storm. You might have come across them at your local, but if you haven’t here’s a run down. Our Red Hen has been hugely popular – fruity, spicy but incredibly mellow – we won a Silver at the British Cider Championships with this little chicken and it’s been flying ever since.Rocky_Road_Med_clip_sm

Next up is Rocky Road, light, balanced and easy-drinking – medium tannins give it a more delicate flavour, but it still packs a whopping apple punch. We also introduced our first ever Sweet cider to the world in spring 2015. Beatnik Billy has the qualities of a light, sharp Eastern-style cider, and its powerful fruitiness is more than capable Beatnik_Billy_clip_smof standing up to a sweeter treatment and still retain the characteristics of real cider.

Last of the new draughts is big brother Harvest Moon. This heavyweight only just finished maturing in August 2015, so it’s relatively new to the range. Harvest_Moon_clip_smMade from slower-fermenting late season’s apples, we’ve taken a punchy bittersweet apple and blended it with a relatively rare bittersharp variety to make a strong but delicate cider with bags of character and a sherbety-citrus note.  At ABV 6.8%, the brave will be rewarded with a cider that truly makes the taste buds tingle. All real cider, of course, made with 100% fresh-pressed apples and no concentrate.

Sparkling new bottles

RH-webpicOur bottled ciders have undergone a bit of a revamp this year, with all-new label designs, a new name for Premium Vintage – which is now called Red Hen – and the unveiling of our special cider for 2015.

You might have noticed our new Worley’s branding in 2015. While we’re happy to let the cider do the talking, we also wanted to create a more solid MH-webpicidentity for our growing on-trade custom. Working closely with our great friends at Inkcap Design, we came up with a whole new look. And we had fun coming up with some new names – which was much harder than we thought! We said goodbye to the Worley’s apple, and hello to some new icons, such as the Mendip Hills sheep (based on the Rock Flock sculptures of local sculptor Jeff Boddy in Shepton Mallet), and our daft-but-lovely Red Hen farmyard chickens. Both Red Hen and Mendip Hills have been awarded several gongs this year, but more on that next time.HM-webpic

Still going strong is the Worley’s Cider Special Reserve, our keeved and bottle-conditioned cider that continues to gather converts wherever it makes an appearance. This is truly a special cider and gathered a Gold Medal at the Taste Of The West awards and a Silver Medal at the Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition in the US.

Our ‘Special’ for 2015 is a bottled version of Harvest, and with its sherbet characteristics it makes a wonderful sparkling version of its draught namesake. It’s all a bit new at the moment, but early feedback has been tremendously encouraging.

Don’t forget that all these ciders are available from our online cider shop at

Next up, we’ll tell you about the smashing awards won in 2015, and there’ll be an update on the 2015 apple harvest and plans for pressing season.

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Powerstock – the friendly festival

Nestled in a tiny fold of Dorset countryside is a village hall that hosts one of the friendliest little cider festivals going. Powerstock is the location of this super little event, and it has been run for 11 years by local resident and cider maker Nick Poole.

This is a day that simply has to be experienced – it’s a charitable event so it has a lovely relaxed feel, but it’s great fun with music, crowds and of course loads of different ciders to test. Cider makers from all over the South West and beyond donate their cider to be sold to a varied and interesting evening crowd numbering 500 cider enthusiasts, with all proceeds being donated to the village hall.

Before that, though, the makers gather for a relaxed lunch and a cider competition. There are only three classes to enter – Dry, Medium and Sweet – but the key ingredient that makes this a useful indicator of quality is that the judging is carried out by all the other makers who have entered. This year we were honoured to win Second Prize in the Dry category.

Then the evening swung into life. A raucous blend of cider makers, Scrumpy and Western band Skimmity Hitchers (click the link to see more pics) and a horde of 500 thirsty drinkers slurped, talked and danced through the rest of the evening.

An excellent day – and once again we’d like to thank Nick Poole and his team for a great effort on getting the organisation bang on for another year. See you there next year!


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Chicken in cider

Slow cider-cooked chicken with crispy skin, tender meat and flavour-packed sauce

This is a simple, thrifty meal using chicken legs and Worley’s Cider. You’ll end up with chicken that’s crispy on the outside but soft and tender underneath. There’s also a rich cider and mushroom sauce to go with it. It’s not quite a one-pot affair, but gets close!

4 large chicken legs (or 8 thighs)
1 pack chestnut mushrooms (any kind really, but chestnut are tasty and not too watery)
400ml approx Worley’s Cider (medium)
Knob of butter
Bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
Double cream or cornflour (optional)
Chopped parsley
English mustard


Brown the seasoned chicken in batches before putting in casserole dish

1. Season the chicken with plenty of salt & pepper and brown on both sides in a frying pan. Put chicken in a shallow, ovenproof dish.

2. Pour about half the cider into the frying pan and let it bubble while scraping the crispy chickeny bits off the bottom. Pour in with the chicken, and add the rest of the cider – till it reaches about half way up the chicken. (this depends on the size of your dish really, so use your discretion)

Pour the rest of the cider around the chicken and mushrooms

2. Chop mushrooms into chunky slices and fry in a generous knob of butter till the juices run and the mushrooms brown slightly. Tip into the dish with the chicken.

4. Tuck in the bay and the thyme.

5. Cook at 140 degrees C/Gas mark 1 for one and a half hours. The skin will crisp if you just leave it and don’t baste or turn the chicken.

Ready to serve - or take the next step and add the mustard and cream

6. It’s ready to serve like this if you want a broth-like sauce. Adjust seasoning and sprinkle with chopped parsley. A bowl of plain rice would be perfect to accompany.

Pour the sauce into a pan and add mustard and cream

7. For a more sumptuous dish, pour off the sauce into a pan. Whisk in a few tablespoons of double cream and a teaspoon of English mustard. Adjust seasoning, and add more mustard if required. To avoid the cream, mix a few teaspoons of cornflour with some cold cider or water in a teacup. Add till you get your required thickness.

8. Serve with mash & veg and a drop of Worley’s Cider to wash it down.

(There are only 3 left at this stage because I accidently ate one)

Chicken in a cream and cider sauce - an antedote to the cold


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Keeping it sweet

As we head into the New Year, the hard graft of collecting and pressing fruit is at an end, and its memory slowly recedes for another year as that incessant pain in your back starts to dissolve and you discover it’s once again possible to stay awake after 9:30pm. Attention now turns to looking after your vats of fermenting juice, monitoring pertinent variables and – if you’re that way inclined – trying to steer things in particular directions.

Sweet, sweet cider
It seems to me that the modern craft cider maker is always trying to resolve an intractable conundrum: real cider has a strong tendency to ferment to dryness – that means all the natural sugars present in the juice turn to alcohol – but at the same time the vast majority of cider drinkers want to drink cider with some degree of sweetness present.

You’ll always get a few die-hards who want a totally dry cider, but serve at a cider bar for a few days and you soon realise they are a relatively small minority, especially once you get out of the traditional cider producing areas of the UK. There’s little doubt this is at least partly down to habit – the majority of cider presented for sale in the UK is at least quite sweet and much of it very sweet indeed. Our pint-drinking culture also tends to mean easier-drinking (ie sweeter) products find more favour.

For many of us, it’s not until we try drinking cider with food that the advantages of the drier end of the spectrum become apparent – unless, of course, you sampled your first farm scrumpy on your dad’s knee back in the 1970s, in which case you’ll probably be thoroughly used to the subtle pleasures of dry cider. But believe me, if a cider maker doesn’t offer sweeter ciders in their range, they are seriously limiting the number of people who will buy and drink it.

So what are the options?
There are only three approaches you can really take to increase the level of perceived sweetness in cider:

First, you can wait until your cider ferments to dryness then add a fermentable sweetener like sucrose (ie sugar) or glucose and pasteurise (kill all yeast cells) or micro-filter (remove all yeast cells) to prevent fermentation re-starting. This method pretty much results in a ‘dead’ drink. Pasteurisation kills everything stone dead and has a profound effect on flavour. Micro-filtration removes a lot of colour and flavour components. And added sugar is an evident flavour in its own right.

Or, after the cider had fermented out, you can add a non-fermentable sweetener such as saccharin or sucralose. For me, this isn’t a brilliant solution as sweeteners all have flavour drawbacks of one sort or another. However, at least the drink is still living and hasn’t had the bejeesus squeezed out of it by filtration. Purists don’t like this approach too much, though, but it does comply with CAMRA’s current definition of ‘real cider’ (which, I might add, is under review).

The third way to resolve this craft cider conundrum is to attempt to manipulate the fermentation process and try to disrupt the lifecycle of the yeast so it ceases to function (almost entirely) while residual fruit sugars are still present in the fermenting juice. This is where we prefer to try to operate, but it’s a more technical and higher risk approach to the problem.

Naturally sweet?
So how is it possible to stop yeast fermenting in the presence of sugar? Well, fermentation is a three-legged stool: it requires the presence of yeast, sugar and nutrient (which the yeast needs to remain alive). Remove any of these three and fermentation isn’t possible. So as you can probably guess, in our approach yeast and sugar are both present, so we must be trying to remove the nutrient leg of the stool.

There are a few aspects to carrying out a depleted-nutrient fermentation. For a start, it helps tremendously to use the right kind of apples, at the right time of the season, correctly ripened and from a low-nutrient orchard. You’ll certainly need to deplete the nutrient further, but it’s a great start. It also helps to be using these techniques when the temperature is quite low: 10 degrees C or lower. Last September and October were very warm, and the chance of slowing down a fermentation at 20 degrees C is remote, to say the very least.

The French way
In northern France, a process called keeving is the standard way of making cider and it involves nutrient depletion. In this process, before fermentation starts an enzyme is added along with a small amount of a calcium salt such as calcium chloride. If you’re lucky, a gel forms at the bottom of the vessel, rising to the surface buoyed by small CO2 bubbles as fermentation slowly starts. As it’s charged, the gel attracts oppositely charged nutrient particles (among others things, such as apple solids) on its journey to the surface of the juice.

Once it reaches the top, this solid layer becomes what is called the Chapeau Brun. The slowly fermenting and now clarified and nutrient-depleted juice is then syphoned from beneath the crust and should run a slow and controllable fermentation that retains some element of sweetness at its conclusion. We have tried this method and the results can be good. However, you can lose a high proportion of your hard-won juice, and it’s by no means a forgone conclusion that it will work. Last year we made a lovely bottle-conditioned cider that shared many characteristics with a good bottled cider from Normandy or Brittany, so we have done a bit more of that this year.

Keeving in cider making
A nice, solid Chapeau Brun forming on 25 gallons of late-season cider during last year’s keeving process. Looks a bit horrible, but this bit gets left behind.

The English way
There is another little-used method that was apparently popular in England in the past. It’s called cold-racking and relies on repeatedly racking the fermenting juice off the gunge at the bottom of the fermenting vessel during bouts of very cold weather.

As I understand it, the theory goes that when it gets cold, the yeast slows to crawl in its work and tends to drop to the bottom of the vessel. As the yeast has attached itself to its nutrient already at this stage, racking from above leaves both yeast and nutrient behind.

Again, it’s a bit wasteful in terms of juice loss, but you don’t have to add any foreign substances to the juice and it’s a bit less fraught with timing issues than keeving, which has to be constantly monitored until the Chapeau Brun has formed.

We’ve had quite a bit of success with the cold-racking process in the past, yielding a lovely medium-dry cider with bucket-loads of fruity flavour from the residual fruit sugars in the drink. It’s an approach more akin to real ale making, as the fermentation never quite stops, so the cider keeps itself fresh and alive with a good quantity of CO2 retained as well.

This year, we’ll be trying to cold-rack all but the very earliest of our pressings from last year – I’ll let you know how we get on with it in the coming weeks!

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Real cider making starts here

As November gets underway, the industrial ‘cider’ makers are starting to run towards the end of their apple supplies for the year – most of the pressing is done and the concentrated juice tucked away for the monthly making cycles of the year ahead. Makers of real cider, however, have only just started the main bulk of their work. This is the prime time for us; the starch in the apples is turning to high levels of sugar, the honeyed aroma of very ripe apple surrounds us – and importantly the temperature will usually start to cool down.

The big boys buy their apples from large-scale fruit growers. These growers understandably want to get their apples off the tree, picked up and delivered as soon as possible to prevent the possibility of rotting and, of course, to get their payment nestling cosily in the bank. That tends to mean the trees are shaken just prior to that particular row being mechanically collected and the apples dispatched for immediate processing at the mill. Often the resulting apples are under-ripe, meaning lower levels of sugar and flavour, and higher levels of starch to mess up the mill’s evaporation equipment.

Porter's Perfection on the tree

A Porter’s Perfection tree on 1st November, its fruit still ripening in the Autumn sunshine.

By contrast, the craft cider community likes to collect its fruit gently and store it until all the starch has turned to sugar, or at the very least wait until the fruit hits the ground naturally. Our aim is to mill and press the fruit at exactly the right moment, when maximum ripeness has occurred, just before the whole thing dries out or turns to a brown slurry that can’t be pressed. That way, you get the minimum level of starch in your juice, a high level of sugar and the full flavours of a super-ripe apple imparted to your cider juice. The majority of the apples we tend to use are only starting to come properly ready to mill around now at the start of November.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog how craft cider makers dislike warm weather. Most of us like to see our fermentations proceeding at a leisurely pace, reputedly resulting in a better-tasting cider, and certainly giving us more opportunity to manage events should they run out of control at this stage. It’s another important reason to hold fire on your pressing for as long as you dare.

Picking up apples in a standard orchard

Picking by hand may be laborious, but there's no better way to monitor fruit quality.

So yesterday we were picking up apples from a lovely little house orchard containing young standard trees around 10 years old. And I was reminded again of what we’re striving to achieve at Worley’s Cider. Apples from late mid-season bittersweet fruit such as Harry Masters Jersey and Yarlington Mill were lying happily in the long, cool grass waiting to be collected, alongside the last of earlier sweets and early fallers from those varieties that will mark the end of the season, Dabinett and the deliciously sharp and late Porter’s Perfection.

Cider apples bagged up

Only the ripest fruit is collected and pressed

We could so easily have shaken everything off the branches and gathered it all up, but the apples there will need pressing at three entirely separate times to get the best from them. And varieties such as Dabinett, we know from experience aren’t ready to press yet, even if they are on the floor, and their tough hides mean they’ll happily sit in the grass for a fortnight yet before being picked up. Muddling them all together would mean compromising the quality of the cider, some fruit would end up being pressed too early and some too late. We picked up the fruit most ready to press and will return once or twice more to gather the rest.

It may seem like a lot of work to keep running back and forth to get apples at their best, and hand-picking most of the fruit, but quality in means quality out. And that means you should be enjoying the benefits of that extra attention to detail by early summer next year.

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Worley’s Mulled Cider

Mulled Worley's cider

Warming, aromatic mulled cider

There are few rules about making mulled cider. It can be fruity, spicy, sweet or dry. We like ours with plenty of fresh orange flavour, easy on the spices and slightly on the sweet side. Best drunk on a chilly night around a fire.


Fresh fruit, spices and Worley's Cider

Here are the basic ingredients. Add extras and experiment with quantities, but don’t add too many cloves and orange skins, or you’ll get a bitter taste.

2 litres Worley’s Cider (medium)
Juice of 3 satsumas (1 satsuma skin optional)
1 sliced apple
3 tbsp sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp cloves
4 allspice berries
A good grating of nutmeg
Drizzle of honey
2 tbsp Apple & Cider Jelly (optional)

Put all the ingredients into a large pan and bring up to a simmer for around 20 minutes. Don’t let it boil.

Adding honey to sweeten

Add honey, sugar and Apple & Cider Jelly to sweeten

Adjust sweetness and add more juice if required. Strain as soon as possible and serve in mugs rather than glasses (it’s hot!).

You won’t warm your hands on anything finer than mulled cider served in these lovely wood-fired vessels from Mark Melbourne


Worley's Cider and Mark Melbourne's wood-fired pottery

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Apple & Cider Jelly recipe

In apple season, there are only so many apple pies you can feed your family before they start to revolt. But you can’t just let all those lovely apples rot, so if your family are getting twitchy and your freezer’s jammed, make some Apple Jelly for a change. Better still, try making it with cider for a deeper flavour and richer taste.

Apple & Cider Jelly

Apple & Cider Jelly











We made ours with some dessert apples, a little sugar and a few pints of Worley’s Cider.

You’ll need

4lb (1.8kg) dessert apples
2pts (1200ml) Worley’s Cider (medium)
½lb (225g) jam sugar per pint of strained apple juice
1 lemon

(If you’d like to use crab apples or cooking apples, increase the amount of sugar to 1lb per pint of juice, and use normal sugar rather than jam sugar. Omit the lemon)

1. Wash the apples and chop into quarters.

2. Place in a large heavy-based pan, skin, pips, cores and all.

Apples in a pan

Quartered apples in a pan with Worley's Cider











3. Add the cider and bring to the boil. Put a lid on and gently simmer until the apple quarters have broken down and the fruit is pulpy.

Apple pulp in the pan

Boil the apples in the cider until pulpy











4. Ladle the fruit pulp into a jelly bag and hang overnight. You can of course buy a proper one from a shop, but we had much more fun using some nylon mesh and a broom handle.

Straining apples through jelly bag

Strain the apple pulp in a jelly bag overnight











5. Put a saucer into the freezer. Measure the juice into a pan and heat gently. When warm, add the required amount of sugar (½lb sugar per pint of juice*) and the squeezed lemon juice. Stir till dissolved.

* Because apples vary so much in sweetness, you’ll need to adjust the amount of sugar to your taste. Start with half a pound of sugar per pint of juice and add more if you want to.

6. When dissolved, turn the heat up and keep on a rolling boil for about 10-15 minutes. Test the jelly by dropping it onto the cold saucer and pushing your finger through. If it wrinkles, it’s ready. If you like a harder-set jelly, boil for a bit longer, but not too long or it’ll get gummy.

7. Pour into clean jars straight away and put the lid on. (We run our jars through the dishwasher to clean them and don’t specifically sterilize or boil them – it seems fine, no mouldy jelly as yet).

Finished jar of Apple & Cider Jelly

Jars of Apple & Cider Jelly ready for the long winter months











Use in gravies and sauces, as an accompaniment to roast pork, or spread on buttery toast.

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Steamy start to the season

The one thing you can count on in the cider making season, is that you can’t count on anything. Every year is different in so many ways that you spend your whole time trying to work out how to re-create that excellent cider you made last year / decade / century.

It might be the timing of the harvest, the sugar levels, the availability of that particular apple variety you desperately want to include in your mix or your new Single Variety product, or simply being floored by an unexpected event at exactly the wrong time. But this year, the biggest bind has been the temperature.

Hot, hot, hot
Although there’s no denying how much more pleasant it is to be harvesting in warm, dry conditions than when the orchard resembles a scene from WWI but with trees, it does tend to mean you have to HURRY UP! The earlier-harvesting varieties tend to have thinner skins, so are more easily damaged. Add in temperatures of 25 degrees, and you have a recipe for very fast decomposition. By the time you get back to those lovely Kingston Blacks you found and picked up in a long-forgotten orchard in a little-known corner of Somerset they’ve turned to smelly brown sludge.

Early apples
A selection of early-maturing apples

We prefer to work with the later varieties as their sugar levels are more predictable, they have thicker skins, and by the time they’re ready to be picked up the weather has usually turned colder, giving you a bit more leeway on the pressing need to press. Cold weather slows everything down, it gives you time to consider your decisions, it sees fermentations starting and proceeding at a more leisurely pace – and generally helps you make better cider.

Blending your way out of trouble
But of course nothing’s ever that easy. The late apples tend to be much stronger in flavour, and for producers of full-juice ciders such as ourselves, this can leave you with a product that the mainstream cider drinker finds just too powerful to stomach. We feel that late apples need to be blended with sweet and sharp varieties to lighten and sharpen their flavour. The sharps also help keep the ferment safe from bugs while giving that all-important tang to the final product.

Trouble is, those sharp and sweet varieties are much more prevalent at the start of the season, so you have to deal with them about now. And this year that has meant lots of dashing around trying to get the early varieties picked up and pressed before they turn to mush in the unseasonable heat. And there’s little you can do to control the fermentation – each batch takes off like a rocket in these temperatures.

So with a good chunk of our early needs collected and pressed – about two weeks ahead of last year – we’re hoping for a brief respite while we try to assess what we’d like to go with all those fast-fermenting thin, sharp early batches to blend into 2012’s Worley’s Cider. But who really knows what going to happen? There’s no point planning things too precisely, because the one thing you do know is that the end of the season is very unlikely to be the same as last year…

PS: Why not come along to an introductory talk on cider making we’re giving at Dick Willows’ Apple Day near Bath next Saturday 22nd October at 1:30pm

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