We now have a few years of experience with our apples so I think it’s time to consolidate this knowledge – ironic really, as our crop was almost totally destroyed by frost this year. Luckily there are plenty of freely available windfall apples growing by the country roads around these parts.
You can dry apples by slicing them finely and using your oven as a dehydrator, if the sun is not strong enough to put fruit in your car to dry it. These make excellent additions to muesli and also very nice apple tea. You can also use dried apple in berry jams to provide the necessary pectin so that the jam will set.
Again, a great way to preserve apples. I recommend that you create a lot of different flavours though as this really encourages people to make use of it. We use lots of different berries, herbs& spices, and also use apple as the base of fake Lime pickle and a fake Mango chutney which we serve alongside curry. If you are able to offer people the choice between blueberry and basil compote, cinnamon and raisin compote, blackberry, rhubarb, etc it is a delight to serve. Also, when I make oatmeal porridge I heat up a jar of compote to go alongside. In Belgium it’s very common to serve hot apple sauce with a meal, and not a tiny teaspoon full but a healthy dollop.
Alongside the pasteurised juice which we serve with breakfast, we have finally cracked cider making at .
Firstly, DO NOT WASH YOUR APPLES IN BLEACH. You’ll never get it all out. Washing off loose dirt with water is just fine. If your apples have chemicals sprayed on them I’m sorry but I don’t know what you can do about that – even if you peel them, which would be a massive amount of work, they’re probably contaminated inside. Buy organic?
It’s important to crush up the apples before you put them in the press. They are just too strong and will withstand many pounds of pressure meaning that you get a paltry quantity of juice. For the task we have a baseball bat shaped stick, which we use to pound one apple at a time in a rubber bucket with a wooden board placed inside it. Once the apple is a mash, it’s much easier to extract the juice in a press. Even if you cut up the apples with a fine slicer they are still too strong, it really needs to be a mix. We tried using a purpose bought paint stirrer drill attachment, but this was really not nearly as effective as a big old stick and some muscle power (not to mention – excellent exercise).
Once we have the juice we do the very first part of the fermentation in the bathroom – which has a slightly sloping drained floor. We put the juice in plastic containers with wide mouths – during the first couple of days the process will create a lot of froth which you can allow to spill out as it will carry out with it any tiny solids which have made their way into your juice. After a couple of days we then pour the juice into the very large glass bottles we keep on the stairs in the winter. This makes it easier to syphon the juice out in the spring when you need to put it away in airtight containers to age. It’s important to keep the temperature above freezing so you don’t end up with shattered containers.
The glass bottles are stoppered with a one-way air valve so that nothing comes into contact with the cider – if it is in contact with the air you’ll end up with vast quantities of cider vinegar – which is no bad thing, and has a reputation as quite the cure-all. We have a recipe for a balsamic style apple vinegar which is a really tasty addition to salads.
You’ll be able to see when the first fermentation stops because there will be no movement in the air valve. It’s perfectly fine to leave it as is – we tend to decant the cider into five litre screw top demijohns in the spring, and then put it on shelves in the cellar to age. At this stage, the cider is extraordinarily dry as all the sugars from the fruit have been turned into alcohol. Most people will not like it because we’re used to sweet and fizzy commercially produced cider.
The next fermentation you can do a week before you want to drink the cider. This gives the cider a little bit of sweet and a little bit of fizzy. You need clip-top beer bottles & honey & water mixed in equal parts and heated to a good boil. You wash the inside of the bottles with the hot honey & water solution so that the whole of the inside, including the lid, is coated, but there is no excess. You then fill it to an inch from the top with the cider, close it, and leave it for a week.
After a week it should have a nice fizz, and can be kept without danger of explosion. It can be consumed as is, though some people will prefer the more familiar taste of commercial cider – to achieve this, just mix it half and half with lemonade.