How much cider is in your cider?

As an artisan cider maker, I join with others in frustration that so many cider drinkers are lured by the “made-from-concentrate” options that dominate the market.

Frequently at shows, when offering people a taster of my cider, they look up with a surprised expression. “Wow, that tastes very applely”, they say. I explain why! It’s because it is 100% cider, made from 100% apple juice. Not the mass-produced stuff accounting for maybe 85%+ of the sold “cider”. This 85% includes all the adulterated (a.k.a. flavoured) ciders, as I think of them, such as Kopparberg, something I see as more akin to alcopops!

But, I hear people say, the consumer is always right! Oh no they aren’t! They have been duped by promotions and advertising, including lots of sponsored music and other events, sports teams, etc. As they are selling lots of water and sugar they have additional money to throw at maintaining or boosting their (as I think of them) “fake ciders”.

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Did you know that the legal minimum apple juice content to qualify as a cider is only 35%? Dowdings Cider contain 100% apples’ juice.

Whilst people continue to call anything with only 35% whole juice ‘cider’, the big cider makers will continue to create “cider” which is 1/3 of the real deal, either from UK apples or from imports of cheap apple concentrate. They will pass off their wares as cider!

How do they make it? Generally they start with the full 100% apple juice in a huge which goes into a large fermentation tank. The yeast is added and the fermentation process begins. However, rather than let it take a more traditional 6 to 9 months, maybe even longer, they force the process. They don’t want to use more tanks than they need, and they want speedy turnover for cash flow etc.. This speedy fermentation is achieved by constantly adding sugar to the vessel and keeping it warm. This allows them to achieve a very high alcohol drink in maybe 3 weeks. It could easily be 13% and more likely up to 15%.

At this level it is of course unmarketable and would create many issues with duty rates! Thus, their next step is to “kill” the fermentation. After that they dilute the very strong “cider”, making sure they leave at least 35% in order to meet the specifications for cider as laid down by law – it cannot be less than 35%.

After that there is a need to dilute the “concentrate”, add sugar to get the sweetness desired, and finally neat alcohol to give the right level for each “cider”. Then it will be pasteurised, carbonated and bottled. Bingo!

Consequently these “cider” producers only need 1/3 of the apples that people like me, producing a genuine proper cider, will have used. Those drinking it have no idea this is the process!

Meanwhile, some cider apple growers are facing a serious surplus of crop as fruit ciders gain popularity, putting the future of many orchards at risk. Plus, as explained above, because they make each litre of juice produce 3 litres of cider. This is well explained here by Little Pomona with reference to one cider maker, Bulmers, who use c.100,000 tonnes/year of apples. Did you know that Bulmers have been owned since 2008 by conglomerate Heineken?

Lastly it is worth noting that some cider makers are using Polish (et al) “concentrate”. The tankers are seen outside their production bases, and each load will have undercut UK growers. The “cider” they produce will not say it’s made with imported “concentrate”. It may even have a Union Jack on it!

The bottom line is that we smaller producers, who are producing cider ethically and as it should be, need to do all we can to support each other, and to make our drinking customers aware of what the “big boys” cider actually is!

Despite that here’s 3 cheers to all artisan producers and hoping we all have a successful 2019.

Show season - here, there and everywhere!

This is the season of shows and events. I've been to many in the first part of the summer. There was the superb Wells Garden Festival in the Bishops Palace with the same weekend seeing a wonderful 2 days at the Longleat Food and Drink Festival - topped off with the Wurzels closing set on Sunday evening! There is good news as there are many more to come.

Having said that, if you're reading this and have a show planned, however big or small, and think that I could be a positive adornment and improve your show, do please get in touch!

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With the weather being so conducive to outdoor events (but not much help to farmers - especially those with grass not growing and animals to feed), you really should get along and enjoy it while it's here. That will give you and excellent opportunity to taste and buy cider and apple juice that I will have on offer.

I will be doing the sweltering while you will be free you to do the drinking! I have always got nice chilled bottled cider on offer. Next stop is Yeovil Show (14th & 15th July), Wells Summer Spectacular (14th July), Taunton Live (21st July) Shaftesbury FC Gin and Cider Festival (28th July) and many more. Check out the events calendar to keep up to date!

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Now we have 3 litre pouches!

After a while deliberating, we are now able to provide the Dowdings dry still Tower Brue in 3-litre pouches. This is ideal for those wanting some quality cider to take to festival, to events, to parties and a multitude of other occasions.

This will also be available in some local shops and direct from the website. Those close enough will always be welcome to colletc, but please email or ring first - we don't want you to waste a journey. If it isn't in your shop, do ask them to contact us to see how they can stock it.

The process of filling them is entertaining, a.k.a. frustrating and  some colourful language! It required the barrel, into which the cider is pumped, to be placed at enough height to get the cider to flow into the pouch. But, not too fast that the pouch can't expand to take it. Then it needs to slow when nearly full, or there is spillage to clear up! The pouch has to be fully stretched to accomodate the full 3 litres so needs care and diligence.

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Special offers for December - local only

If you live in or want delivery to any of these postcodes, I will bring whatever you want to your door during December!

BA7, BA8, BA9, BA10.

You can do one of the following:

  1. Email with your order. Pay on delivery or in advance.
  2. Order through the website and please select the "no shipping" option if you are seeking delivery to one of the qualifying postcode areas.
  3. Phone 01749 812652 or 07966 456244 with your order and delivery address.
  4. Phone and arrange to collect from here – you'll get a bonus for that!

Please hurry to help us meet your needs as this is a busy time of the year for me!


Cider and juice all made

I've been very dilatory about updating what's been going on. I will make this a little general overarching post which I will add to subsequently.

The campaign this year wasn't very long. Apples became ripe much earlier than in the last two years (which were late harvest years), and we had so many offered that, sadly, we weren't able to use anywhere near all that we could have done. Very disappointing! I don't like to see waste.  Trees like the ones below at Bruton School for Girls did get harvested but others were not. For harvesting these trees I had the assistance of some members of staff and a lot of the students!

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Once harvested we take everything back to our base where all the juicing is done. The space available is a little cramped, but we make it work. Crates are unloaded, apples washed, the pulping mill started up (it's very sharp bladed and fast) and the process begins. Once we have the pulp, everything goes into the hydropress. This takes six large buckets of juice per press. The central bladder is expanded by water pressure squeezing the juice through the outer neoprene and aluminium exterior which are both sieves. The juice then is pumped either into an overhead tank when we are doing apple juice, or directly into fermentation tanks for cider.

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Apples in the holding water tank being washed, and below, Oliver pouring apples into the juicer. The buckets of pulp will be next into the press (with the orange lid).

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Patrick, above, minding the pasteurisation process where every bottle is taken to over 73C. Then they are washed and dried, caps applied (as Harry is doing below) and labelled.

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So, here it is!  The juice made and ready for more happy drinkers.  You can, of course, come and get it from Southdown in Shepton Montague, or order online. For very local or for larger quantities, delivery is possible. Please contact us.

Organic v non-organic apples

I've come across the most amazing book. It's called "The Invisible Power Within Foods". But, surely all foods are the same, albeit they are produced by differing methods? No! What this book does is highlight to all of us the invisible energy contained within foods, and how certain production methods can decimate that.

You could better understand what they are trying to do by reading their "forward".  this isn't a box that's been rushed to produce, as it's taken them over 30 years to get to the position where they can publish. When the author tried to get support from the Swiss authorities, they showed interest but (eventually) dismissed it on the basis that it wasn't accepted by "mainstream science". The conclusion was that they would have to do the work themselves, but that has taken a long time to materialise. We are incredibly indebted to people like this who dedicate themselves to getting the information we need.

The pages cover a multitude of common vegetables, grains and more, with the photos taken showing the beautiful organised way in which nature assembles plants, and that awful alternative disorganised chaos when artificial chemicals and fertilisers become involved.

So, let's look at the apple. You make your mind up which one you would be happiest to eat, or drink the juice from. One has clear life energy, the other simply doesn't. As ever, remember, you are what you eat or drink.

Here are two stunning close-ups, the first is the non-organic apple, and the second is an organic apple. I doubt you'll find these photos on the supermarket shelves illustrating the difference between the products they are selling. But with this information, you can make your own mind up.  I know which apple juice or cider I would like! 

Chaotic inorganic apple

Chaotic inorganic apple

Organised symmetry in an organic apple.

Organised symmetry in an organic apple.

Summer bliss

We've been through the blissful springtime blossom, and trees heaving with bees buzzing, and now the apples are quietly growing.

The new trees don't have many apples, and will be thinned (or where small trees) all removed to ensure the tree itself grows.

We've also had lots of attack from deer! Much as I am sure everyone loves Bambi, I have reservations when their numbers are swelling, and then they meander into the new plantation and nibble off the tops of the young trees!  Once that has happened, unless the tree is resolute and can put up a new strong leader shoot, it will instead need replacing next winter. That means needing to ensure the replacement is the same variety as everything is in blocks to aid many harvests to come, and juice and apple differentiation.

The bar has been travelling to shows and markets! It's been really inspiring to hear many people offer praise with every glass of juice or cider drunk!  It has also resulted in a number of people ordering it for their shops or catering businesses.  Wonderful!

Do give a call (01749812652) or email if you have an event where you think we could be a positive addition.


Apples - One the top 5 fruits for juicing

Here is a great little piece from Liz Earle Wellbeing. She quotes the five best juices there are for juicing.  These include grapes, melons, oranges and pineapples, but valuably there is only one which principally comes from the UK. 

"Apple juice is a wonderful cleanser, great for weight-loss diets and useful as an all-round general tonic. It also mixes well with most other juices and can help thin out strong-tasting juices, such as beetroot, or thick juices such as prune and strawberry. The harder, crisper varieties are the best fruits for juicing but all apples are good sources of pectin, tannic acid and malic acid, which help remove toxins from the intestines and regulate the bowel. Their potassium and phosphorus content help keep the liver and kidneys working healthily and the skin looking fresh and clear, and as a good source of beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, together with vitamins C, K and magnesium, they can also help ward off colds and infections."
I saw this on her Twitter feed @LizEarleWb

I'm just pleased to think about all those apples picked in October and November, and our harvesting their excellent juice which you can enjoy all the year round! To check out how you can do this, simply, take a look at the shop page. Thank you.