Thursday, November 26, 2009

'Oi be a cider drinker me'. Not.

The driver didn't actually refuse to take his bus up the lane but made it pretty clear he wasn't going any further. Than. Here.

So get out and walk. The first 50m weren't too bad - a bit of an adventure. We jostled and giggled along, our way lit by the coach's headlights. Turning a corner though had us in darkness; pot holes and pitfalls avoidable when lit, suddenly became invisible man traps. And, oh! was that a drop of rain? Oh yes, another downpour.

The Cider Farm, allegedly only 100m away, was nowhere to be seen - not even a welcoming light flickered in the distance. Ever resourceful Young Farmers switched on their mobile phones and used the eerie glow of their tiny screens as torches. It was only when I got home that I remembered the torch that is kept in the deepest, darkest recess of my bag for just such emergencies - but I, like the rest, fumbled along by phone-light. How romantic that sounds. Not.

Eventually the farm came into view and avoiding more puddles, an old mattress (?) and a couple of discarded sheep troughs we arrived at the foot of a mountain of apples.

'We' are Chirbury and Marton Young Farmers and the 'Advisory' on a visit to Berriew Cider Farm. (When I find out what exactly 'Advisory' is I'll let you know - but I think it means we 'help' the YFs.) Always nice to be invited along and as I've said before I'll hop aboard anybody's bus-trip - who knows what wonders might be discovered along the way?

A shame about the pitch black lane, the evil weather and well, the overall level of light. Under a dim fluorescent tube our cider maker - a farmer who had diversified - donned rubber apron and sinister black rubber gloves and began to demonstrate his dark art. Take one wheelbarrow of apples from the aforesaid apple mountain and using what appears to be a red plastic coal shovel teem them into an elevator/chopper-upper thingey (cost £6k) which spits out a mush into another wheel barrow. He shovels this chopped mush into layers of 'cakes' on a press (cost £10k), flicks a switch and slowly, slowly as the weight of the machine bears downward, the juice comes running. It is pumped next door into a large tank in a room also used to process apple juice. I missed the next bit of the process as the heavens opened and I ran for cover, but I gather it is then put in wooden spirit casks which retain a vestige of brandy, whisky or rum which gives his cider a unique flavour. Bottling is the final stage.We tasted too - apple juice, bright and sharp in taste and made from a medley of local apples. The cider was still and dry and probably an acquired taste. I can't say it was universally popular amongst 'The Advisory'....the more fastidious had noted the cider maker's mention that it wasn't necessary to get all the dirt off the fruit - and if they were too clean then one could throw in a shovelful of orchard soil to get the natural yeasts into the mix. Or it might have been me recounting the tale (which was confirmed later in the pub) that in the old days a rat or a piece of beef would be added to get the fermentation working.....Perhaps this was indeed a process better seen in the half-light.

We moved on - stumbling back down the lane again and onto the bus. Then to the warmth and welcome of The Lion at Berriew; a proper pub and very drinkable glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Cheers.

16 comments:

Twiglet said...

No, I'm not a cider drinker either! It sounds a bit haphazard, I'm sure it tastes fine but I will be happy to let others decide!

Wipso said...

And you call that entertainment??? Think I will pass :-)

I have memories of being a cider drinker in my youth and the regrets of maybe having a little too much of the stuff [no maybe about it really!]. Now just the smell of it makes me heave.
A x

Frances said...

Well, I don't remember ever having cider on any of my UK visits, perhaps at the advice of my friends.

Having read about your behind the scenes adventure, think that I will never be tempted.

Your writing is marvelous! xo

her at home said...

ah her they make cidre but ith ancient wooden presses that cost I imaigen somewhat less. Re odd things in beverages, when I was a student in Sussex there was a local beer called Poodle..which I beleive used the same principle as the dead rat but using a differnent beast... no prizes for guessing which!

rachel said...

Time to re-read 'Cold Comfort Farm' - not over-fussy about hygiene there either, as I recall.

It's a rich and varied life up in Marton and the Mountain Kingdom.....

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

It's probably full of vitamins and certainly full of minerals . The ensuing hangover is a bonus .
I love the idea of wimpy Young Farmers !

Pam said...

I would have liked that cider, even with the rat! But I've live in the USA for years now and here the beer is terribly boring.

Friko said...

so, you wouldn't recommend that I make my way to Berriew for the cider maker's but chose the Lion instead. Haven't been to Berriew for years. I remember
the Lion's Baileys chocolate pudding.

Zoë said...

When we stayed at EM's we discovered some very nice Welsh Cider called Taffy Apple from a Welsh micro-brewery that was sold in a Pub in Mold. Better still they do mail order, and the iGit, now had a copious supply of a favourite tipple stashed under the stairs!

Fennie said...

At the Mill the first (£6k) stage is a hunk of 4 x 4 timber and a plastic bucket and the second a screw press costing about 200 euros. We make the most expensive apple juice you've ever tasted. But there are plenty of apples. In the local market in Maurs they were giving away the juice. The apples went into the chopper-upper which looked home made and powered by a small electric motor and then into the press from which a steady stream of juice ran. But it all tends to be acid and half fermented already so I'll stick, I think, like you to the Sauvignon Blanc.

Nikki-ann said...

There's a cider farm at Berriew? I've been missing out! :D (I like the odd bottle of farm cider at a weekend).

Kari Lønning said...

I don't think you've sold me on the idea of local cider. LOL!!! (It's clever how often those cell phone screens are used as flashlights!)

Pondside said...

I think I'd like to have been with you on that trip. There's a cidery not too far from here but it is all stainless steel and sterilization - boring, boring, boring!

Tattie Weasle said...

Ity sounds wonderful! I am itching to make my own cider. Did apple juice this year but cider seems a dark art.. possibly just as well form the sound of this great post!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

A gang of us made cider a few years ago - no soil, no rats - perhaps that's why it tasted too clean!

Julia said...

I love how you write! Just read about your quince jelly, gorgeous, that! Mine stayed golden, how about that? One day I'll have a tree...