Allotment, Charlie, Composting, Current Issues, Gardening Year, Grow Your Own, How To, Recipe

Nothing says autumn like the sight of earthy, delicious apples falling from the trees. But have you ever thought about turning those same apples into something a little more refreshing? Yes, I’m talking about cider making, and how it can be easily done even in your own back garden. Follow these steps and you’ll soon be enjoying a rewarding glass of cider of your own creation.

Step 1 – Collect the Apples

apples on the grass

While the ideal is to have an apple tree or two in one’s own garden, don’t despair if you don’t – market bought apples will do, or even wild apples from the roadside or country lanes. If you do have your own apple tree, a good tactic is to place a sheet under the tree and then shake the tree onto the sheet, this will ensure only the ripe apples fall from the tree. You’ll need approximately 2kg of apples for every 1 litre of cider you want to produce. It is worth spending some time here thinking about what kind of cider you’d like to produce, as the kind of apples you pick for the cider will, naturally, have the biggest impact on this. Sweet or sharp depends on the apples!

Step 2 – Preparation for Pressing

It never hurts to give the apples a good wash before you do anything else. The apples may have pesticides or bacteria on them which could harm the brewing process. Then, it’s crushing time. You can use a fruit crusher available here from Primrose, although if you are aiming for a lower quantity of cider a normal kitchen fruit juicer may also do the job – you could even try simply smashing them up in a bucket with a piece of timber if you’re so inclined – watch out for splinters though! At the end of this stage, you should end up with a mushy substance known as pulp.

Step 3 – Pressing the Pulp

Apple Press

Once your pulp is prepared, the next step towards making your cider is to press it. This can be done using Primrose’s range of fruit presses. Simply put the apple pulp into the provided mesh and place in the fruit press – then squeeze! Not forgetting to place a container below the press to collect the apple juice and always remember to perform this step outside – things can get a little messy! One good tip is to let the pulp “breathe” for a while after pressing, let the juice pour out then come back and press some more – this way you’ll ensure you get all the juice out of your apples that you can, and you let the press do the work.

Step 4 – Sterilisation

This is where things can get a little complicated. Firstly, you might want to sterilize your juice, particularly if many over the apples are over-ripe or have many brown and rotten bits in them. This will help kill off any harmful bacteria that might spoil your juice. You can do this by adding sodium metabisulphite (also known as E223) in the form of a Campden Tablet. You CAN skip this step, especially if you want to produce an all natural product, however this is not really advisable. All natural cider is very difficult to get right. If you want to try it though, good luck! If your goal was simply to make delicious homemade apple juice – then congratulations! You’ve made it. If you’d like turn it into cider, however, then read on.

Step 5 – Fermentation

Cider Fermentation

Once you’ve got your sterilised juice, the next stage is the fermentation itself. If you’re going for an all natural brew, you can simply leave the juice in a plastic or glass sterilised container and wait, hopefully, with enough time the natural yeasts already present will start to ferment the apple juice. However, the safer bet is to add some yeast yourself, remembering, however to wait 24 hours after sterilising to do this, otherwise the sterilising agent may kill off your yeast before it has a chance to turn those sugars into alcohol. Any wine or beer grade yeast should do the job. Bread yeast does not yield such good quality cider.

Fermentation should take between 5 and 21 days and be in a sterilised container at a temperature of about 20 – 27 degrees celsius. If you’re going the techie road you could use a hydrometer to measure when the fermentation is finished, otherwise you’ll have to go by taste. It might also be a good idea to conduct most of the fermentation in a demijohn or similar container with an airlock or fermentation trap. This will prevent oxidisation of your cider, which leads to vinegar being produced. You’ll only want to use an airlocked container, however, after a few day of leaving your brew exposed to the air, as at the start the yeast will need some air to do its job.

Step 6 – Bottling

Once the cider is fermented, you’ll want to get the cider ready for drinking. Ensure that the sediment left at the bottom after fermentation doesn’t get into the bottle. You can achieve this by either pouring carefully from whatever container you used for fermentation, or by using a sieve. If you’re a purist like me you’ll be wanting flat, not sparkling cider, in that case remember to give the cider a good stir to release any extra gas before storing it.

And that’s it, enjoy your cider!

cider glass

CharlieCharlie works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

When not writing for the Primrose Blog, Charlie likes nothing more than a good book and a cool cider.

How To, Kathryn, Recipe

Chestnut RecipeIt’s that time of the season where the roads and paths are littered with browned leaves and twigs, the sky is largely grey and there’s a new, chilly wind which bites at your fingers – Autumn has arrived.

But before you sulk and mourn for summer, take a harder look at the ground next time you walk through a rural area and notice the treasures the season has brought for us. I speak of course of those spiky green balls which will soon plummet to the ground from the tree tops, our old friend the chestnut.

Chestnuts ripen around October – November and can be enjoyed raw, roasted and used as ingredients in various delicious dishes.

If ever you should fancy a little natural nibble whilst walking in the wilderness, ensure that the chestnut is good, firm and healthy looking before peeling back the brown skin, revealing creamy greenish flesh. Raw chestnut flesh has the texture of a carrot and tastes a little bit like a nutty pea with a slightly smokey aftertaste.

If you’re looking for a more traditional and less Bear Grylls approach to enjoying our favourite wild nut, then collecting a pocketful ready to roast at home is a classical option. Roasting chestnuts around an open fire has been a winter past time going back centuries. So whether you just want a tasty treat or fancy reminiscing your time with the scouts, here’s how to roast a chestnut, the sensible, indoor way.

  1. Preheat your oven to 400ºF (205ºC).
  2. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut an ‘x’ into the nuts to allow steam to escape.
  3. Spread the nuts across a rimmed baking sheet with their cut side up, and slide directly into the oven.
  4. Now you have fifteen to twenty minutes to wait. Make a cuppa or pour some scotch and ready a hot towel and a large bowl. Ensure that the nuts don’t burn by moving them frequently.
  5. After 20 minutes, wrap the chestnuts in a hot towel and squeeze them in order to loosen the skins. Leave wrapped in towel for five minutes.
  6. Now, take a chestnut and peel the skin while the nut is still warm.
  7. Take a bite and enjoy the warm, nutty goodness.

Best of all, unlike other nuts, chestnuts are low in saturated fat, so that’s at least one guilt-free winter indulgence.

KathrynKathryn works on the marketing team and spends most of her time making our website read better.

She has a degree in English & Creative Writing and loves classic cars, 1970s music and ginger beer.

She writes our fictional stories and seasonal posts.

See all of Kathryn’s posts.

Joycelyn, Recipe

A basket of apples at Primrose
Who could say no to these apples?

By the chill of the wind, it seems like summer’s now gone for good. Just as it started to fade, I decided to do a bit of cooking and whip up a pudding celebrating the transition: Apple and Peach Crumble.

I took home some of the apples that had been brought in to the Primrose office and I had a punnet of peaches I hadn’t yet eaten. I wanted a simple way to make use of this fruit – I’m not much of a cook, so it had to be something I couldn’t screw up – so baking a crumble was an easy choice.

I based my recipe off this one from the BBC, tweaking it to my tastes – adding far more than “1 pinch” of cinnamon, and a little bit of vanilla as well.

My fruits before adding the topping. I put only apples in one half of the pan, and both fruits in the other half.
My fruits before adding the topping. I put only apples in one half of the pan, and both fruits in the other half.

I took the peaches and added in about half of my apple chunks, tossed them together, and put them in one half of the pan. The rest of the pan was just apple without peach – my Other Half is notoriously picky, and I didn’t want him to miss out on crumbly goodness if he wouldn’t eat peaches.

Then I sprinkled on my topping, with another generous shake of cinnamon, and into the oven it went! I kept the pan in the oven for longer than the recipe called for, to ensure my crumble was perfectly crispy and crumbly.

I didn’t have any custard on hand, but I did have some vanilla ice cream. Crumble à la mode – magnifique!

Apple and Peach crumble with ice cream
My finished crumble, topped off with a scoop of ice cream. Yummy!

And how was it?

Simply scrumptious. I would recommend this dish to anybody with some fruits to use up – I hear this has been a very good season for big apple harvests, and blackberries too. My mouth waters at the thought of experimenting with plums, gooseberries, rhubarb, pears…

Have you gotten to taste the results of your autumn harvest yet?

Joy PrimroseJoycelyn is a member of the Primrose marketing team.

She is a novice windowsill gardener but hopes to graduate to larger plants one day. She enjoys British food (despite its sometimes bad reputation) and British scenery.

At Primrose, when not tending to office plants, she deals with online advertising and social media.

See all of Joycelyn’s posts.