Monday, 11 April 2011
Last September a few members of Birmingham Friends of the Earth went apple picking and returned laden with the fruits of our labour. The walk home with several kilos of apples was a genuinely painful experience, but it was all for a worthwhile cause - making cider. None of the three varieties we picked were technically cider apples, but this seemed a minor inconvenience and we had enough enthusiasm to give it a go regardless. Armed with my National Trust book on apples, what could possibly go wrong? By happy coincidence the very next weekend Birmingham FOE held a major event in Kings Heath called Edible Birmingham, celebrating all aspects of locally produced food in Birmingham. This had produce stalls, vegetable swaps, talks, cooking demonstrations and most excitingly, an apple press. Various volunteers had a go at chopping, squeezing and pressing the apples throughout the day and I am grateful to each of them for the substantial amount of juice we were able to walk away with at the end of the day. We left the juice in a demijohn for a few days until its initial fermentation had subsided and plenty of bubbles and scum had appeared; then added some brewers' yeast, fitted an airlock, and waited. Six months later we were finally ready to sample the wares and it was not without trepidation that I took my first sip. I was fully prepared for it to taste unpalatable, and I wouldn't expect my first foray into cider-making to be an unqualified success, but i would still have been disappointed to have to pour it all away. The verdict? Not bad at all - I don't think Westons need to worry just yet, but I was pleased with the results of a first attempt. The main criticism would be that it's a bit sour, and I think this is more down to the variety of apple than anything else. I just need to find some surplus cider apples before this autumn's harvest. Making cider requires patience and a bit of luck, but it's not all that hard and I hope to experiment more with it in the years to come. Now I have several bottles of homemade cider all grown and produced within two miles of my house, ready to quaff in the sunshine - although I have no idea how strong it is, so may need to proceed with caution!