We use old varieties of cider apples such as Kingston Black, Foxwhelp, Dabinett and Yarlington Mill, grown without any pesticides in small orchards around the Golden Valley close to our farm. They are harvested in autumn in the traditional way, with a team of helpers shaking the trees.
At Fair Oak the apples are washed before being put in the mill chase a few buckets at a time. Tommy goes round steadily in the groove in the cobbled floor where generations of horses trod before him. After a few circuits he gets to rest, while the crushed apples are scooped out and pressed, and fresh ones are added.
The crushed apples are wrapped in squares of hessian, which are stacked up on the massive press stone to form a ‘cheese’. The cast iron screw brings the ‘shooter’ down to squeeze out the juice. It is stored in barrels through the winter and spring, fermenting quietly.
When the fermentation is over we ‘rack’ the cider into clean containers, and then taste each barrel, deciding whether to blend it with another, or to produce it as a single variety. By early summer the cider is ready to be bottled.
The following summer the cider is bottled ready for sale.
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