Cider has been drunk in Britain for more than a thousand years. There is evidence of cider originally being made in Mediterranean areas, becoming established in Brittany, Normandy and Spain in medieval times and finally arriving in Britain.
Cider was made in many parts of the midlands and southern England with the prime area being in the South West. Cider production extended from Devon and Cornwall through Somerset and Dorset, northwards to Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire and eastwards to Hampshire, East Anglia, Sussex and Kent.
In the south west most farms had apple orchards, cider apples as well as dessert and cooking apples and made cider each autumn. The cider was used to pay rent and frequently included as part of the farm workers “wages” often called “truck”. Most of all cider has been drunk and enjoyed by generation upon generation of English men and women.
Green Valley Cyder is a beacon of craft cider making in the South West of England, Dedicated to continuing and developing the best traditions of cider making in the county of Devon.
Green Valley Cyder is made only from freshly pressed Devon apples. In a county with near perfect conditions for apple-growing we see no sense in bringing in apples or juice from outside. One of our aims is to encourage the development of farm orchards locally, particularly the replanting of traditional old cider apple varieties. Most of our farmers and suppliers do not use chemical sprays or fertilisers.
Cider can be described as a fruit wine and is made in a very different way to the brewing process to make beer. The craft cider maker is far more like a winemaker than a brewer.
At Green Valley Cyder we follow the traditional, craft cider making traditions. Each autumn fresh cider apples from our selected farmers and suppliers are delivered to our cider making area and checked for quality. The apples are stored for a few weeks to concentrate their sugars and flavours. The process starts by moving the apples to the mill area and loading the apples into the hopper supplying the apple mill, an electrically powered wheel with course blades which rotate against a fixed surface. The apples are roughly chopped or milled into a pulp which falls from the mill into a stainless steel collecting vessel.
The milled apple pulp is allowed to stand for 15 to 20 minutes which starts the process of releasing the precious apple juice from the cells of the fruit. The apple pulp pumped to the make up station of the apple press and layered onto cloths and boards. Each layer is wrapped in the cloth, another board and fresh cloth placed on top and a further layer of apple pulp pumped in.
The process is continued to give 11 layers and forms the “cheese”. The complete cheese, half ton of apple pulp, is moved onto the base of the press and the apple pressing starts. Our press is about 80 years old, built by S Stowe & company in Bristol. The juice, which is released from the apple pulp “cheese” as the hydraulic pressure of the press is slowly increased, is collected in the tray supporting the “cheese” and run off into a tank. The fresh apple juice is pumped to a fermenting tank were the natural apple sugar is slowly fermented by the naturally present yeasts.
The fermentation tanks are held at the natural ambient temperature so fermentation is slow and steady and can take 3 months to convert all the apple sugar to alcohol. The spent pulp or “pommace” is removed from the cloths and fed to the livestock here at Darts Farm, nothing is wasted.
As the fermentations finish, between January and Easter, the yeast activity stops with the yeast falling to the bottom of the tank to form the lees and the cider begins to clear.
The cyder is pumped or “racked” to a clean tank and tasted by our cider makers. The cider markers blend various ciders together to arrive at the distinctive character and appley taste of REAL Devon cider from Green Valley Cyder.
Come along and see how Real Cider is made at the Green Valley Cyder Works and Ale House at the award winning Darts Farm Shopping Village near Exeter.