Reprinted from the Journal of the Bath and West Society 1898/99 Volume VIII pp 92-96
THE awarding of the Champion Gold Medal at the Southampton Meeting of
the Bath and West and Southern Counties Society to the cider made on the
Home Farm of Sir J. H. H. Amory, Bart., at Lythecourt, Tiverton, N. Devon,
led to an opinion being expressed by the Society's Stewards that a short
account of the process by which this success was obtained would be useful
to those who are interested in the production of pure and unadulterated
cider. I propose, therefore, to give as concisely as possible a sketch
of our system of manufacture, touching principally on those points which,
from my own experience as manager of the business, seem most important.
In cider-making, as in most other industries, it is necessary to begin at the beginning and no man can expect to make good cider unless he attends to his apple-trees. I may say that we do not owe our success to any special selection of vintage fruits, the condition of our orchards precluding this; we have had to take the apples more or less promiscuously, as the time and labour required for sorting would make any such attempt far too costly. Blending the cider in a large vat, so that the bulk of the liquor may contain a mixture of all the various bitter-sweet, sweet and sour apples, seems to be the easiest plan.
Some three or four years ago, having been struck by the dilapidated and neglected state of the orchards in the district, we arranged with Messrs. Richard Smith and Co., of Worcester (who are large fruit-tree growers in the West of England), to send down a first-rate pruner, who gave us excellent instruction. Since then we have regularly pruned the whole of the thirty acres of orchard on the farm, and with the most beneficial results. The first pruning of neglected trees is a somewhat serious matter, but after it has once been done a man can run over an acre in a few hours. We prune severely - not merely cutting out the dead wood, but thinning the heads of the trees regularly, so that no branches can cross or touch. The advantages of this plan are manifold:
GATHERING AND STORING THE FRUIT.
The next points to be attended to are the gathering, storing and ripening
of the fruit. We pick the orchards over three times - the last time shaking
down the apples still on the trees. The first gathering and the windfalls
are kept separate, and made into second quality cider for farm consumption.
Where possible we store under cover, using a granary - an old pound-house
chamber - and a cart linhay for the purpose. When storing in the orchards
we always make hurdle-stores, such as are recommended in this Society's
Journal for 1893-94, page 87. This is an excellent plan, as the fruit is
kept off the ground, and will keep for a month or six weeks without heating
or rotting. We line the hurdles with rabbit-wire, to keep the apples from
falling through. As far as possible, the apples are ground before they
get at all rotten, and all black, rotten fruit is carefully picked out.
No cider should be made before the middle of October, as experience shows
that it keeps better when made after that date.
Our factory at Lythecourt is a large disused barn, light and well ventilated. This and the cellar beneath are whitewashed every year, and the presses, mill, &c., are at the beginning and end of the season thoroughlyscrubbed and washed with sulphite of lime powder. The motive power is a six-horse power steam-engine, which drives the elevator, mill, press, and two rotary pumps. The apples are thrown from the carts into a shute, which conducts them to the elevator. This elevator takes them to the mill. Beneath the mill is another shute with a trap-door at the bottom. This shute holds enough pomace to fill the cage-press beneath. The pomace is pressed once in the cage-press and then transferred to a large hand-power press, where it is pressed a second time - the juice from the second pressing being generally inferior is kept separate. The juice is pumped from the presses into four large vats, holding about 200 gallons each, and thence, if necessary, into a large blending-vat, which holds 1,000 gallons. The vats have loose covers, and are not filled above 9 inches from the top. The head is skimmed off the vats once, twice, or even three or four times, as the case may be.
The next and most important step is filtration. Lumley's "Invicta Fibre
Pulp Filter" described in the Society's 'Journal', for 1894-95, pages 141,142,
is, to my mind, the most valuable of all inventions for the cider-maker,
and it is a pity that its high price places it out of the reach of farmers
and small makers. When thoroughly understood, it filters even fresh pressed
juice as clear as sherry, and stops or checks fermentation, without diminishing
the flavour or body of the liquor. As a rule, we can filter six or seven
hogsheads a day, packing and unpacking the filter four or five times. The
cider is forced through the filter by a steam-pump, at a pressure of from
10 to 25 lbs to the square inch. It is important not to try and force it
through too fast. After various experiments and alterations, we found that
forty-five strokes a minute was the proper pace at which the pump should
be worked. We have also a tap on the supply-pipe to regulate the flow of
cider to the pump. Of course, the cider will not always go through the
filter well: it requires practice, and the use of the testing-glass and
saccharometer to ascertain when it is ready; but, as a rule, we find that
after keeving for two or three days and skimming off the head once or twice,
it goes through satisfactorily. Sometimes fresh juice will go through the
day it is pressed; at other times it has to remain in the vats a week or
more. When the cider is fermenting fast, it is impossible to clear it;
but forcing it through the filter checks the violence of the fermentation.
TREATMENT AFTER MANUFACTURE
From the filter the cider runs by gravitation through an india-rubber
pipe into casks in the cellars below. A cider-maker cannot be too careful
about his casks. The heads of all casks should be taken out every
three or four years, and the casks should be thoroughly scrubbed out and
scraped if necessary - all our casks are also steamed and sulphured before
being filled. To sulphur a cask a strip of cardboard should be dipped into
molten sulphur and dried. This match is lighted and let down by a piece
of wire into a freshly washed cask, the bung is then driven in,
and the match burns out filling the cask with fumes. It is, I think better
to wash out the cask again with cold water, unless it is wished to stop
fermentation entirely, in which case the cider can be pumped into the cask
at once, and will absorb the fumes without giving the liquor any offensive
taste. When the filtered cider is in the casks it is at once bunged down,
and a small composition tube is inserted in the bung - the other end of
the tube is taken into a bottle of water suspended from a nail in
the cask. This acts as a perfect syphon-trap; the carbonic acid gas given
off by the fermenting cider escapes through the tube and forces its way
through the water in the bottle, but the air cannot get back again, and
the cask is effectually sealed. Notwithstanding all this care the cider
will continue to ferment slowly throughout the winter. All that can be
done is to make it ferment as slowly as possible. The cellars should be
kept cool, and the cider should be tested occasionally with the saccharometer.
If it is fermenting too fast it should be filtered again. Our practice
is to filter all the cider a second time between Christmas and Lady-day,
and to sulphur the casks again if necessary to check the fermentation.
This, which should be done early in April, requires great care. The
cider should be absolutely brilliant when bottled or it will leave a heavy
deposit in the bottles. Tastes differ as to sweetness, but we bottle when
the cider contains from 3½ per cent to 5 per cent. of sugar. All
bottles should be wired and laid on their sides in a cool and dry cellar.
Bottled cider should keep and improve for several years.
THE CHAMPION SAMPLE OF 1897
Having now shortly sketched out the plan of manufacture followed at Lythecourt, perhaps a few details as to the particular sample which won the Champion Gold Medal may be of interest. This sample was in no way different from the bulk of the year's make. In fact, it was almost by a chance that it was sent to the Show. Three lots were chosen by me and my foreman as being the pick of the cellar - the one finally selected not being among them. We did not quite agree as to which was the best of the three, and on returning to the cellar tried yet another sample, which was finally selected and sent in for competition. The following are the details about this sample as taken from my Cellar Book:
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