I started writing this post back in June, but it is finally the right time to finish it.
We have a little orchard at the wood, and a few years ago I realised that the trees weren’t having the attention they needed and a couple were looking pretty forlorn. Coming from no experience or knowledge of looking after apple trees, and having a very convenient October birthday, both J and my mother bought me books on apple trees and pruning and I got stuck in.
In autumn 2017 I pruned them all quite heavily, thinned them out appropriately in the following early summer and got a great crop from the bigger trees, but there was one that still looked small and sick, gave maybe 6 apples and this year was a last chance for it. I did the best pruning I could do, and this year this happened:
I’m really pleased, and it means it will be allowed more time to prove itself!
Given the time we moved house, I did a brief thinning session, and it turns out I didn’t do that great a job. We still got an ok crop of Bramley and Discovery apples, but the others, including Russets have stayed pretty small, next year I need to do better.
In addition to the usual combination with foraged blackberries for crumbles, and just adding to yoghurt or custard, last weekend the press was dug out, washed off and sterilised.
I really love using things that we’ve grown, or foraged (a word I struggle to use as I don’t really think ‘foraging’ being something I do, but I guess that’s what picking blackberries/sloes etc is….?) and I find it really fun using things like the press.
I’m not really a cider drinker, and don’t have the energy or funds to put together everything I need to make cider at the moment, so I decided to go with simple apple juice. While you can include the pips/core in the pressing, it does add a slight bitterness to the juice, so we went with peeling/slicing the apples using my favourite tool ever! It’s so simple and so effective I think it’s brilliant.
Before pressing you need to have the apples in a bit of a mush, with the slicer, we went with just breaking the pieces up by hand, which seems effective, but I’m not sure it’s enough. Next time I’m going to use the food processor as well.
J came to help me out, we’re currently missing the lever that comes with it, and our makeshift lever doesn’t make things easier! It’s quite a messy business, and it was great having the outdoor space to do it in; last time we were in the flat and keeping it clean was…er…interesting!
I prepared the apples, considering the mix of bramley and dessert apples as I went, and J did several half presses to get the press as full as we could.
And then we tightened it….and on and on ….
The apple juice we got at the end, wasn’t very much, but was amazingly delicious!
I was going to pasteurise the bottles if we had enough, as last time it only lasted a couple of weeks, but with just a litre and a half, it didn’t seem worth it. I know it’s a lot of effort, for not a huge amount of reward, but to me it’s worth it.
However, a colleague at work has brought in home-dried apple pieces this week, so next year, I think a dehydrator may be on the cards.
What do you do with your apples?