Quince cider – a new experiment for 2018

This year has been our best ever for Quinces in the orchard.  Much as we love Quince Crumble Tarts there is a limit to just how many of these you can eat.

BBC Good Food

Photo Credit:  BBC Good Food

Rather than simply leave the fruit to rot on the compost heap we thought we would explore another method of preserving them and enjoying them over the coming months.  Although we make cider from our apples every year we have not tried quince ‘cider’ before so this is very much an experiment.  I have used the term ‘cider’ as I am not trying to make a quince wine.  I am looking for something that is thirst quenching, fresh and sparking and not as alcoholic as a wine would be.

The fruits have such a fragrant bouquet that they should make a very enjoyable drink in theory but I can imagine that if you use too many the flavour could be over-powering.  Having read various recipes this is the approach we decided to adopt to make our first gallon of trial quince ‘cider’.

I decided to use eight large quince fruits per gallon.  Some recipes suggest 20 per gallon but I think this would result in a flavour that might be too strong.  As the fruits are so rock solid even when ripe they could not be crushed and pressed in the same way as apples.   The quinces were washed, cored and grated (skin on).

The pulp was then added to 4 pints of water in a large pan and brought to the boil.  It was boiled for 15 minutes and then the liquid was strained from the pulp.  Other recipes have suggested that boiling for longer than 15 minutes makes it difficult to clear after fermentation.  The resulting liquor certainly had a very pleasant flavour.

To increase the sugar levels for fermentation I dissolved 1kg of granulated sugar in 2 pints of water and then added this to the quince juice.  This resulted in a specific gravity measurement of SG1080 which is perhaps higher than I might have wished for.  If it ferments out then this would be in excess of 9% alcohol which is pretty potent for a cider.  Time will tell whether the result will be on the sweet side with a lower alcohol content or drier with a higher alcohol level.

A further 2 pints of cold water was added to the must to make up the 8 pints (1 gallon) and this was allowed to cool to tepid before adding a cider yeast.  I also added 2 teaspoons of pectolase to help the cider clear.

All that is left to do now is stand back, admire and wait for the result.  Usually my apple cider is ready to rack in mid-November and it will be interesting to see if the quince cider performs in the same way.

I will let you know how it goes!

Advertisements

An easy method to provide a continuous supply of fresh herbs for cooking at the weekend

We really enjoy using fresh herbs in our cooking but if you are growing your own it is so easy to get a glut at times and then nothing at others (just when you want it of course).

Supermarket buying also has its problems with a standard pack of cut fresh herbs usually much more than you need.  It then languishes in the fridge until it becomes rather sad and limp.

However, creating your own supply of growing herbs and salad leaves is really very straight forward as long as you get yourself organised.  If you have a greenhouse or cold frame then all the better.

We use a lot of  coriander, rocket, basil and parsley in particular and grow them in the following way.

Every three weeks fill a small 9cm pot with standard multi-purpose compost mixed with some perlite for better drainage.  Water the compost and then sow a small amount of coriander seed onto the surface.  Water before you sow the seed so it remains evenly spread over the pot and does not all end up in one corner.  Cover lightly with vermiculite (or more compost), label and then cover with a piece of clingfilm until the seedlings emerge.  Uncover as soon as the seedlings begin to show.

We do the same with the salad rocket in a slightly large 1 litre plastic pot.  The seedlings of rocket will emerge in just a few days.

For the basil we tend to use a broader 9 inch wide terracotta pot/bowl as the basil likes better drainage and does not like to get waterlogged.  There are a wide range of basil varieties and these can provide you with both leaves for a salad and for use in cooking.  Once sown the technique is the same.

Just grow these on in the light and very rapidly they will reach a point where you can bring them into the kitchen, place on the windowsill and pick what you need, when you need it.

I am sure the same technique would work equally well for parsley but we find that rather than bring the pots into the kitchen we plant them out in the vegetable garden where they establish quickly and produce fresh green leaves deep into winter.

Remember:  Keep sowing every 3 weeks or so (don’t wait until you start to run out) and you will have a ready supply throughout the year.

A recipe to try:  If you like parsley then you might like to have a go at this recipe for egg, bacon and parsley pie which is a favorite of ours and makes great use of the parsley from the garden.

How to make cider from all those spare apples

We have been making cider with our orchard apples for over 15 years now. I find it hugely satisfying and it makes excellent use of an apple crop that would otherwise go to waste.

We try to use a mix of apples. Too many eating apples and you get a rather insipid cider. Too many cookers and it is rather sharp. The beauty is that every year is slightly different depending on the apples available. You certainly don’t need specialist cider apples to make a very drinkable cider.

  • First of all make sure that all your equipment is cleaned and sterilised to reduce the risk of off flavours getting into your cider.
  • Give the apples a good wash in clear water and cut into quarters making sure you take out any bruised pieces and any bugs! Some people leave the bruised parts of the apple but we like our cider to be fresh tasting and not of old over-ripe apples.
  • Put the apple pieces through the crusher. The aim is to crush the apples and not chop them as this releases more of the juice.
  • We extract more juice by a short pulse in a food processor. You don’t want to create a pulp as this simply oozes out of the press in the next stage. The pieces need to be crushed but still large enough not to escape out of the press.
  • The juice is extracted using a manually operated Vigo fruit press. You need patience for this as you need to give the apple time to release its juice. You then apply more pressure and wait again. (You can always drink the juice at this stage as well – in the interests of quality control of course!)
  • Gather all the juice together in a sterilised fermenting vessel with a bubbler.
  • We add about 1kg of granulated sugar dissolved in a small amount of water to every 25 litres of juice to increase the alcohol content of the final cider (to about 7%-8%). This means it keeps much longer and will keep up to a year once bottled with no problems.
  • We use cider yeast rather than a general purpose wine yeast. Sprinkle the yeast on the surface and allow to soak for 15 minutes or so before stirring in.
  • We also add about 4 teaspoons of pectolase to the must to get a clear, fresh cider with no cloudiness.
  • Place the cider to bubble away until around December. Keep it in a warmish place at around room temperature. Once the fermentation starts to slow decant the cider off the old yeast deposit into a clean fermenting vessel. Leave to ferment out until the bubbles stop.
  • We bottle our cider into normal, sterilised beer bottles that will take the pressure of a secondary ferment in the bottle. We add one teaspoon of sugar to each bottle before filling and then apply a crown cork to seal.
  • The cider is then left for its secondary ferment in the bottle. This is important as this secondary ferment will mellow the cider and create the natural sparkle in the bottle.
  • The cider will be ready in about February or March but will keep very well for at least 12 months.
  • Chill before drinking and enjoy!!

2017/2018 Timeline

22 October 2017 – Apple pressing completed and fermentation started

9 December 2017 – Racking the cider off the dead yeast as fermentation slows to prevent off flavours developing

31 January 2018 – Cider bottled and stored in cool area for secondary fermentation in the bottle to create the sparkle!

20 March 2018 – Breaking open the first bottle – yum😁

Quinces

One of the beauties of growing your own fruit is that you can grow things that you don’t often come across in the supermarket.  Quince (Cydonia oblonga) is something that is well worth growing both for its large, delightful pink blossom in the spring and its large yellow fruits in the autumn.

Quince fruit

The tree in our orchard was planted in 1995 and did take some years to get going but now fruits reliably year after year.  The fruits do seem prone to scab but this only effects the fruits on the surface and does not impact the flesh at all.

Quince flowers dusted with pink

At first glance the fruits might seem daunting being hard and solid and difficult to cut through.  You will need to feel strong to prepare these!  However, peeled and cored and boiled for around an hour in a limited amount of water creates a wonderful, fragrant peach coloured puree that is quite unique.  Mash up (technical term!) with a hand blender and add sugar, lemon and cinnamon and you have the most wonderful puree for use in a wide range of desserts.

The following Quince Crumble Tart from BBC Good Food recipe is one we have done many times and always works well.   The quinces will fill your house with a beautiful quince perfume.

Quince Crumble Tart

Tip: We freeze cooked fruit in large muffin trays.  When frozen tip them out into a bag, label and pop back in the freezer.  You can then take out exactly the amount you need when you need it.  One frozen block fits nicely in a ramekin dish, then topped with crumble mix and placed in the oven gives a quick pud.