Oh I do like to be beside the Seacider!
It’s cider making time! And this autumn Spiralseed have teamed up with Southend based social enterprise and community activists The Cultural Engine to produce Seacider – limited edition batches of cider made from apples hand picked, scrumped and pressed from gardens and public spaces around the town that would most likely otherwise have gone to waste as they end up in garden rubbish sacks or simply rotting on the floor. There’s a real diversity of varieties ranging from the sweetest Coxes, through reliable Bramley cookers to the sharpest wild crabs. The finished product therefore features blends that share a distinctive urban and estuarine twist, with no batch tasting exactly the same as another, yet consumers can be assured that all were grown within the bounds of the Southend on Sea district.
It’s a project that is at once celebrating the often under-appreciated local food culture of this corner of south east Essex, whilst at the same time raising awareness around food waste, and the potential edible food (and alcohol!) overlooked under our very noses, as illustrated by this collaboratively produced map of fruit trees in the area.
Fermenting into alcohol is what apples do – unlike wine and beer, they don’t even require the addition of sugars or yeasts – those that occur naturally in and on the fruit being quite sufficient to get them brewing once fallen from the tree. It’s best to use a mixture of apple varieties for cider making, as well as any damaged or bruised apples that can’t be stored. The fruit should be well washed, then roughly chopped, discarding any particularly manky bits, and crushed into a pulp.
This is achieved by using a scrappler, a piece of equipment with a funnel feeding into a set of hand turned metal teeth that grind the apples up. For small amounts you can do this in a food processor, or by using a bucket with a special fruit pulping drill attachment.
The apple juice is then be extracted from the pulp using a wooden fruit press, and poured straight away into sterile demijohns. Fit airlock to exclude unwanted microorganisms. Fermentation will begin within a few days from the wild yeast on the apples, and should take a couple of weeks. Siphon the cider from its lees (the sediment that collects at the bottom of the demijohn), return to the demijohns and continue to ferment for another couple of weeks.
When fermentation is finally finished siphon into sterile 500ml bottles, seal with metal beer caps and store in a cool dark place for a few weeks to mature. Cider pressed in October should be ready for drinking by the Winter Solstice season, and should keep for a year or two.
Spiralseed and Cultutral engine would like to offer big thanks to Ron Bates for the loan of equipment, and everyone who donated apples, also to Dave and Fi at The Railway Hotel for offering the pub courtyard as a pressing space, plus everyone who mucked in to have a go at working the scrappler and the apple press – we’re looking forward to sharing the fruits of our harvest with you soon!
When he’s not pressing apples and making Seacider, Graham Burnett is the author of Permaculture A Beginners Guide and The Vegan Book of Permaculture. His next Design 4 ACTION Permaculture course begins at Furtherfield in Finsbury Park, London, this weekend. Book now to avoid disappointment!