It has been an amazing 18 months journey restoring the ancient orchard to harvesting and working to rack off the first barrels of cider. Drinkable cider at that! Mike and I never forgetting how privileged we are to own and work on the North Hall Manor Site. The views are truly outstanding. The orchard completely alive through each changing season I never knew how much I would enjoy being here.
Under the watchful eye of “Harry the Thatch” our new friend with his partner Sue we took advice assisted them with their press, then borrowing the lovingly restored Mill and Press we set too with many friends first harvesting the apples. I was in charge of issuing orders to pick clean apples and discard any “friends” slugs! avoid being stung by the plague of wasps watch for low flying rotten apples being accurately aimed by Paul who was easily bored with the whole process.
Once picked stored to enable to them to convert to sugar without rotting. We fired up the Mill & Press early in December armed with waterproofs and rubber gloves set to work filling buckets to pour into the Mill. From here we move to the Press and carefully build the cheese, stacking 12 high before lower the press and continuing to screw down squeezing out all possible juice. This process is not to be hurried so time for a pasty and a glass of last yr’s cider. Harry sensible and keeps to the Lager! We finished just before Christmas, the weather warm enough for the cider to start working immediately and under our watchful eye is bubbling away.
Last year we made juice, pure apple juice. The trees are completely organic , although as yet we have not registered organic. The most the trees contend with are the sheep and lambs grazing the site. Following the directions to the letter we set too and made 120 bottles. Reports coming back in are very positive so this year we will push up the production look closely at how we can market such a pure Dartmoor product and look to somehow recover core costs. Cider Vinegar next on my to do list!