To celebrate Eden’s Harvest Festival this September, we’re bringing you a selection of recipes, ideas and creations to celebrate this special season. Today Bill Bradshaw of IAMCIDER shows us his beautiful cider photography.
Bill will be giving a talk and tasting session at Eden today (Monday 10 September) at 1pm.
I might just be the luckiest chap I know. In fact, I sure of it: I am the luckiest chap I know because I get paid to travel to far and wide to drink cider, photograph it, blog about it then talk about it afterwards. If I wrote that into a plot of a story, people would say 'change that bit- it's too unrealistic' yet the good folks at Eden have asked me to come and talk about this strange phenomenon on Monday 12 September as one of the guest speakers in their brilliant Harvest Food Festival which I’m very excited about.
Day to day, I’m a freelance photographer based in Somerset with a passion for real cider and have spent the last eight years documenting the UK cider scene and more recently, beyond. I blog about my adventures at IAMCIDER and this year have been commissioned to co-author World's Best Cider, a book about just that due to be published in 2013. I can’t show photos on the day, I thought I’d give you all a visual taster of what I do here. Click on the images to see larger versions.
Try making your own cider
Whilst adventuring, I take great inspiration from enthusiasts who make their own using whatever apples they can lay their hands on and I like to encourage people to follow suit, even if it's just for fresh juice. Who doesn’t love fresh apple juice? Recent times have seen a resurgence in doing-it-yourself: growing your own veg, curing/smoking your own meat, baking your own bread etc. and making your own cider is as much fun as the rest of them.
Large batches are best done as a team because there is a LOT of work involved but it's one of those activities that never seems short of volunteers and lends itself to social interaction rather well. You’ll need a good dose of patience and discipline as well as a good sense of humour and lots of apples! The process itself is straightforward if slightly intensive and slow, but it's fun and doing it once really makes you appreciate the skill and patience of a good cider maker.
Find some apples
True cider apples will always give you the best chance of a great cider and you’d be surprised how many cider trees there are scattered throughout the south west of England whose fruit goes to waste each year. However, any apple will give you juice and one of lovely things about living rurally in the West Country is that you're never too far from apple trees and free apples, even if they’re just pressed for fresh juice to drink straight away.
If you pay enough attention to the hedgerows, farmland and quiet corners of the wild places you visit, you’ll spot them. Some will be true wildlings sprung up from long abandoned cores via a car window, some may be the remnants of a once proud orchard and others will be native or ornamental crabs, all of which produce fruit you can use.
The right blend of apples
Some will be more suited to cider production than fresh juice so a judicious bite will indicate what kind of fruit it is and what combination of it you need to add to a cider blend. If it's just sweet and appley then it’ll make great fresh juice too.
For cider, the greatest chance of something tasty comes from the widest variety of flavours in the fruit blend, bitterness and tannic dryness included. Other factors that can add to the taste can be the wild yeasts found on the skins and trapped inside core from when it was a flower.
Pressing the apples
You may even get away without actually needing a press. The second time I ever made cider, I befriended my local cider maker and offered to leave him with a few extra bags of cider fruit in exchange for him pressing mine, although I did need to transport the juice somewhere safely for fermentation.
There are plenty of cider homebrew books (I’m writing one for Haynes presently) and you can make any amount to suit yourself from tiny 1 gallon batches in a demijohn, right the way up to 1000 litre plastic tanks if you’re feeling particularly thirsty.
I know a community group that presses once a year and sells the cider on May Day to raise money for local projects. I know one chap who made enough to serve at his wedding the following year. So why not give it a go?