I had wanted to do the course last year but alas my lack of funds meant that I was unable to attend but I am so glad that I was given the course as a Birthday present this year. I am still on an apple high now, really so high, it was amazing, granted I do like apples, cider, making things and want to make cider but I think that anyone would have a great day.
Let me tell you all about my day, sitting comfortably? Well let me begin.
October 16th, 2016:
The day did start early as Waukmill Cider is around one and a half hours away from where I live but it was one of those days when you jump out of bed like a child ready to run downstairs to see what Father Christmas has left for you, well for me it was as I was a little excited.
The drive was lovely, I saw the most beautiful sunrise, in fact I saw the Moon too, it was in the sky for a bit before sunrise. I arrived in Langholm a whole hour and fifteen minutes before the course so I had a little drive around, I have never seen as many Pheasants as I did around Langholm, it was as if I had entered a computer game and the pheasants were like the ghosts in Pacman with me trying to avoid them. I was tooting my horn to get them off the road, they then run like mad little things in front of your car, it is as if they are running to the Benny Hill theme tune, their little heads jutting forward and back, their bodies running with a very slight waddle, eventually they dash to the side of the road and you think ” phewf” then another comes to join in, then another, ” arggghhhhhh” it became quite stressful for me trying to avoid them.
The road that I needed to take to the course was closed, there was a diversion in place, I set off on the diversion but as it was taking me in the wrong direction it felt wrong, I didn’t trust it so I turned around. I sat and looked at the road closed sign for a bit and pondered, do you think I could still try driving it? I decided against that, I had no phone signal so therefore no internet signal, I had a photo of a map on my phone but no actual map. Luckily on my earlier drive I had spotted a sign for a place that I knew was mentioned in the directions Chris had provided us with, so I decided to work backwards on the directions. I ended up on what seemed like a Forestry road, single tracked, eventually I arrived at a bridge, there was a man stood on the bridge, I went left then reread the directions working them backwards and realised I needed to go over that bridge, then I saw a beautiful Red Squirrel playing so it made up for taking a wrong turning, so I turned around, headed back to the bridge and then found Waukmill Cider and that man on the bridge had been Chris.
I headed in and met Chris, he showed me to where the course was taking place, it was in an outbuilding on the farm, it is a great room, it has the feel of a hole in the wall bar, it is a little tavern, bothy styled with so much character. Barrels made the chairs, all of our equipment was on the table. Chris offered me a hot drink and a Danish pastry, exquisite service.
The other course member (Course Chris will be his name for this blog) and his partner Ande arrived, they had taken the diversion and it took them 40 minutes on the diversion, so I am glad that I turned back as little did I know I was going to be visiting that detour on the way home by taking a wrong turn and subsequently ending up on that detour hoping I did not run out of petrol as the petrol light winked at me the whole time.
So back to the course, Chris gave us an introduction and showed us our equipment, which is all included in the cost which makes the course amazing value as the price of £85 includes the day course, refreshments and by refreshments I don’t mean a drink and a sandwich, I mean Danish pastries, home cooked lunch, ours was Cottage Pie, vegetables, soft bread, unlimited drinks, cake, cider to try.
Chris first showed us how to use our hydrometer which measures the specific gravity which can then tell you the potential alcohol content of your cider. Then it was outside to pick our apples, not from the tree, we were saved that task, Chris has hundreds of apples to choose from, actually thousands of apples that he has picked/ collected. Chris pointed out what each of the apples would do, e.g. some would be good for juice content, some better for sweeter taste, some better for flavour, some better for sharpness. Course Chris and I were given the choice of making a cider together or making one each, we opted to do it together and picked out our apples, we opted for a good mix of all, selecting more of the sharp tasting apples, I think I went a tad overboard on those, Chris suggested we maybe reduce those a little and then he kindly gave us some pears to go in as well.
So we had selected our apples and pears, we then hosed them down, one thing I learned that I had not realised was that the apples that are turning brown or look a tad unsightly, they need not be excluded from the juice, they can be used in the cider.
So we have the apples, next we have to turn them into a pulp, now last year I used an old fashioned scratter, where you turn a handle and there are blades that can chop/ cut down the apple. Chris has the turbo equivalent of a scratter, the big yellow one in the photo, you turn it on and chuck in the apples and boom, your apple pulp is ready in minutes. The pulp is what you press the juice from.
So we then had the pulp, Chris said for us to leave it for a little bit as it will naturally start to ferment, that is how cider is made, from the fermentation. We then sterilised our demijohn ( the glass container below) and our air locks.
Then it was pressing time, this is the part I love, last year I used a little press in photo A, again Chris has a more effective presser, a rack and cloth presser, which is photo b ( actually he has an even more advanced presser, an industrial one but as there were just two of us we used this method, I like old school methods so that was great for me, granted if I had the number of apples Chris has and the production he has, I think I would want the industrial one)
To set up this press, you place down a square wooden board onto the stainless steel surface, then you put the frame down on top of the board, onto this you place a special piece of nylon fabric, you then add the pulp, even it out so it is all level to the top of the frame, then you remove the frame, then fold the fabric like folding a parcel, then you place another wooden square on top of this, making sure it is central, this is a cheese, not an edible cheese but that is what they call them, as it is the same method used when making cheese. Then you repeat, keeping going, building it up. Then you place the top board on, which I think may be called the rack ( I could be wrong) which you then screw the frame into. Then the pressing begins, obviously the weight alone starts to press the cider and the juice is created but turning the spindle to make it press.
This gets repeated until all of the pulp has been turned into juice, the great thing that Chris does, is that he doesn’t chuck out the pulp left in the fabric, it is all put into a container and the local farmer uses it to feed his cattle in the winter mixing it with their normal food, brilliant, no waste and it goes back into nature.
We then had a break for lunch, which was lovingly prepared and served by Chris’ Mother and Father.
Then it was time to try some of Chris’ ciders, we tried 3 ciders.
The first we tried was Wallace 1305, then Muckle Toon Rosie and then the Mooseheid Perry.
All of them I would happily drink but my favourite was actually the Perry, Mooseheid, I usually prefer cider to Perry but this one was lovely, had a sweetness and very easy to drink. This Perry has won numerous awards, there are certificates a plenty in Chris’ bothy. ( ps no idea why Mooseheid choose to be out of alignment with the other images on this site, I have tried numerous times, maybe it likes to stand out from the crowd!!)
So we had our apple juice in the container, now it was time to check the specific gravity and pour it into our demi john’s. We read the hydrometer, Chris poured a sample into the tube, then placed the hydrometer in, it read in at 1047 which gives a potential cider percentage of 5.9. A good cider percentage.
Then we poured our juice into our demijohn’s, we had the choice here to add in a Camden tablet or some yeast but both Course Chris and myself were quite similar and purists like our teacher, so we opted to put neither in and as Chris says ” let mother nature take its course”, we stuck in our airlocks, sealed them in a unique way to transport them and Chris told us what to do if we hit any cider problems, like if it wasn’t fermenting or if mould appeared.
That was our day, Ooh and we were given cake, lemon drizzle cake, soft and tasty lemon drizzle cake. Chris makes good cider and his mum makes very good cake and very good cottage pie.
I was actually a little sad to leave as I loved the day and I want to do it again, it was satisfying last year trying to make cider, pressing apples and making juice, this year it just showed me how much I really do love it.
Another thing I must say, Chris is inspirational, he really is, he is also like an encyclopedia, I kid you not, he would be the man you would want on your quiz team, well if he had the time, which at the moment he may not have, you would have to get him to be a member virtually while he pressed apples or bottled cider. I find him inspirational due to how he started this business, no major investment, just determination and passion, learning along the way. This is inspiring to me, with me being a small business with dreams. Another reason to be inspired is that Chris runs the whole business by hand, by that I mean, quite literally everything, from the picking/ collecting of apples, to the scratting, to the pressing, yes he has an industrial press but the apples don’t walk onto the press themselves, then when the cider is ready, he bottles them, pasteurises them, labels them, delivers them. Chris is inspirational, it is his 6th year in the business and is great to see that he is doing so well.
I can not recommend the course enough, £85 is a bargain with what you get included and his knowledge, as I said before, he is an encyclopedia for all things cider/ apple related and more.
If you head up there, be prepared for playing “avoid the pheasant” you will see the most pheasants you will ever have seen, pretty sure the Guinness Book of Records could get up there and count the most pheasants per mile, per metre even!
Langholm is a beautiful place, lovely scenery all around, you could book up for the Cider making course and take advantage of the deal that Chris has with the local Hotel, The Eskdale Hotel, you can stay there for £50 with dinner and breakfast…yes you read that right, accommodation, dinner and breakfast, all for £50. http://www.eskdalehotel.co.uk/
Here is the Langholm town website so that you can find out more about the area before visiting http://www.langholm-online.co.uk/
In November, I shall be adding Waulkmill Ciders to my cider stall, along with his cider vinegars, ooh I forgot to mention those, loved the balsamic one and the blackcurrant one, so keep an eye out on my page to see which events I am going to be at http://www.facebook.com/itstyneforadrink
Enough of me gibbering on, hop on over to Chris’ website and get booked on that course, maybe you are a group of 6-8 friends who fancy making some cider or work colleagues, you could go for a team building day or it would make a great gift for someone and the Festive season is approaching.
Thank you for taking the time to read my little blog. Louise x