Cider with everyone…

Now is the time of year that I get unfamiliar faces coming up to me and saying “Are you the bloke that makes the Cider? Want any Apples?” The answer to both questions is definitely “Yes!”

Cider making, I have found, is not the exact science some of the books and articles you may have read make it out to be. Basically, you take what apples you have, wash them (well, mainly!) crush them and then press out the juice. After gathering this in a suitable, sterilised, fermentation vessel (I use 5 gallon plastic jerry cans that have either been used to ship catering ingredients or distilled water, sterilised with Milton or thin bleach solution.) I don’t do anything else, the natural yeast on the apple skins gets going in a day or so. After that it’s just a case of loosening the cap two or three times a day to stop the pressure building up and waiting for the fermentation to come to a natural halt.

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Once the Cider is ready (You have a day or 2 where there is no build up of pressure) it’s time to decide if you want a sparkling or a still cider. I usually rack (siphon) the cider into a clean vessel at this point and let it start to clear. After 4 or 5 days I rack to sterilised PET pop bottles (500ml or 1 litre are a handy size) and leave to clear completely. If you are after a sparkling cider add 1/4 teaspoon of sugar per 500ml when you bottle and leave somewhere warm for about a week and then move to somewhere cool and dark. Still cider can go straight to a cool, dark place to store (A fume free garage is fine or even a weather tight shed at this time of year) I use PET bottles because they are built to resist a far higher pressure than glass bottles and, should they fail in an extreme case, they do less damage! Once the cider is clear (In the case of the sparkling the bottle will be hard when squeezed) you need to chill and then pour carefully, keeping the bottle level and angling the glass. The trick is to get as much cider in the glass as you can without pouring the deposit of dead yeast and apple pulp that will have formed at the bottom (This will do no harm but will cloud your cider.) You will end up having to chuck a centimeter or so of cider away but at this price it’s no hardship!

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To avoid disturbing the sediment you really need to pour the whole bottle in a single pour so I decant into a large jug (I use a 2 litre jug for 1 litre bottles as this allows space for foamimg) and serve from there.

Bottoms up!

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A green flag and a mysterious fruit…..

Well, that was Summer for the year, it’s now officially Autumn and time to get cracking with the wine making! So, what happened this Summer? Well, we had a busy time at the LCAA, as well as raising enough money to have electricity connected to the site we’ve been working hard on our entry to the annual Green Flag Awards and. I’m very pleased to say, we did it! The first Allotment Site in Derby to achieve this and one of a select group in England.

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I’ve also been taking on more responsibility, rather than just being “Committee Member without Portfolio” or the spare pair of hands on the Maintenance Team I’m now the, rather grandly titled, “Wildlife Co-Ordinator” and I’ve also taken on the role of official “Pond Warden” for the two ponds remaining on the Associations site,

Phew! Not much time left for gardening, and certainly not as much as I’d like for blogging! Anyway, just one garden related post for this entry…What do you think this is?

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I’ll not keep you in suspense, it’s an African Horned Cucumber, grown from a packet of seeds I found in a seed swap bag, I’ll let you know what it tastes like!

 

Hot house summer

I don’t know about the rest of you but it’s been a funny old season so far. First off the soft fruit was lush and abundant. My blackcurrant bushes have never been so productive and my neighbours have had a massive glut of strawberries. However, in the rest of the garden things have not been anywhere near so successful, the runner beans on the majority of the plots (including some of our veterans who are normally well into their first harvest by now) are creeping up the canes with lethargic apathy, sweetcorn has come into flower when barely hip high and my cauliflowers, whilst tender and delicious, were barely enough to do a single portion of cauliflower cheese per head. Courgettes are starting to come in but not in their usual rush. I chose a round variety this year called Eight Ball which doesn’t turn overnight into a marrow.

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Fortunately, in the microclimate of the polytunnel, things are thriving. My tomato jungle continues to thrive and is covered in small, ripening, fruit.

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Finally the squash and pumpkin plants I germinated from saved seeds continue to romp across the other side of the tunnel. I keep them in check by lopping off any tendrils that attempt to sneak across the path but it’s an up hill battle and I shall think twice before growing even one pumpkin in the tunnel in future!

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The last sowing of cut and come again salad has to be regularly checked to prevent it from bolting and the mysterious african horned cucumber is setting it’s first fruit so we wait, with bated breath……

Coming soon: Birth of an Empire! Plot 13b joins the Compost and Courgette estate!

It’s all happening in June.

Well, mainly it’s weeds, which I don’t seem to be properly on top of this year. This plot suffers badly from three main perennial nasties; Couch Grass, Marestail and Hedge Bindweed. All of which are difficult to deal with whilst you have crops in the ground so I’m either letting the crops compete or pulling out what I can, when I can and hoping for the best.

So, how are the crops we talked about earlier in the year? Well the Occa trial is still a bit hit and miss, I only got plants from about half the tubers but those are well established and growing strongly.

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The first Tomato plants (Moneymaker) are rampaging away and covered in flowers although no fruit has been spotted yet.

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The accidental Pumpkin that germinated inside one of last years fruit as not only survived but has set fruit which are already almost ripe! It’s taken up about a quarter of my polytunnel space however so I don’t think I’ll be repeating the experiment unless I end up with considerably more undercover growing space.

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There’s more to follow later in the week but I’m going to weed a bit before I show you the rest as, currently, it’s a little bit messy….. ; )

Whoa! What happened to May?

Been a busy month or so since I last posted, work, family and every thing else conspiring to stop me blogging. Never mind, we’ve done plenty of work in the garden and the bare beds are now overflowing with growth…and Couch Grass…and Marestail! Oh well, these are things I’ll have a go at dealing with in the fallow months, in the meantime I’ll keep pulling and hoeing.

Anyway, it’s tipping it down with rain today and we’re due a thunderstorm that’s making my head ache so I’ve not got much from the plot to show you but I do have some pictures of my Carolina Reaper Chilli plant. I bought ten seeds of this record breaker on the internet and sowed seven, giving the final three to a lass from the allotments whose boyfriend is a big chilli freak.

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I only got one to germinate, as did Sarah but, since these are a fairly new variety that isn’t really stable yet I guess that’s better than nothing. It’s grown away strongly and been repotted twice and it’s now in it’s final site in our double glazed porch. I decided to keep it isolated from the other peppers in the polytunnel for fear of cross pollination as I’ve had a lot of success saving chilli seed in the past and hope to save an envelope full of these. Anyway, here’s the plant.

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Always makes me smile…

I love growing tomatoes. They’re very forgiving plants and they grow like mad if you’ll let them. I usually start my first batch at the end of January and sow a couple more batches through to the middle of April. I always sow far more plants than I use and give some to friends and family, any surplus by early May end up in the Society’s annual plant sale.

Anyway, I digress, here’s this month’s eye candy: Healthy tomato seedlings ready for potting on over the Easter weekend.

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In the first shot, nearest the window, we have “Gardener’s Delight” an old favourite and one often provided as a cover freebie. Closest to the camera we have “Bambino F1” a packet I had FOC from Vegblogs.

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In the second tray I’ve got “Golden Sunrise” which is an example of one of the more interesting types that sometimes pops up on a magazine cover. This is a regular sized tomato which ripens to a lovely golden yellow. In the kitchen I also have “Venus” A vividly orange cherry variety and “Super Marmade” which is a good reliable beefsteak type. “Venus” was another Vegblogs voucher purchase and “Super Marmade” from the cover of one of the cheaper, weekly, gardening mags.

Welcome to Plot 14: A sad start….

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Like many others I have arrived here today because of the imminent demise of the excellent Vegetableseeds.net and their “Vegblogs” site. Over the last couple of years I’ve been posting the trials, tribulations, stunning successes and crashing failures on my little allotment site in Derby and, I have to say, I’ve got the Blogging bug good and proper so, here we are again!

Right now is probably the best time of year to start a Gardening blog, the first sowings of the season are bursting into life and the busiest, most exciting, time of the year is just around the corner. Hopefully I’ll share some of that excitement with you all.

Above you can see the entrance to my little Kingdom, from the polytunnel in the foreground to the blue bins on the other side. My plot is on a site in Derby, the Little Chester Allotment Association. I’ve had a plot here for about 5 years now but I only moved to plot 14 in November. I’ve been on the Committee for about 2 years and I’m proud to be part of the Maintenance Team (Rank: Tea Boy and Unskilled Labour!)