Orchard Origins’ first apple juicing course was a huge success. The first half of the morning session focussed on the harvesting and storage of apples including the difference between ready to pick and ripe to eat. Some apples – mostly early season varieties – are best picked and juiced on the same day. Late season apples, such as the Bramley Seedling, benefit from storage to allow their more complex flavour to develop.
After coffee, Laurence Green Orchard Origins project manager, conducted an apple tasting session in the orchard behind Lower House Farm. A bit like a wine tasting, apple tasting is an art that develops with practice. Recognising the different layers of taste in an apple – sweet, sharp, bitter, sour and savoury – is the key to producing a distinctive blend. A single variety juice can be delicious, but blending different apple cultivars will create a more complex juice with layers of flavour.
In the afternoon, the course moved on to the nuts and bolts of processing and juicing the apples. Using the hand scratter and press, five apple cultivars – Tom Putt, Tillington Court, King of the Pippins, Worcester Pearmain and Merton Worcester – were juiced separately. These were then mixed in different quantities and combinations until the group was happy with the flavour. It was then back to the orchard to pick the apples for the final blend. To juice a larger quantity of apples and speed up the whole process, the electric scratter and bladder press were used.
Finally, the juice was bottled, pasteurised and labelled. Everyone went home clutching bottles of Orchard Origins’ first Lower House Farm early season apple juice, a blend they had created themselves.
Orchard Origins are running more apple pressing courses in the autumn as well as courses on cider-making. If you are interested, you can find out more here Apple Juicing and Cider-Making Courses.
Orchard Origins was back at Houghton farm this week to finish pruning some two year old apple trees. While we were there, the farmer was keen to get our thoughts on his attempts at pruning a small orchard at the entrance to the farm.
Mixed orchard after pruning
The orchard, a mixture of apple, pear, plum, cherry and greengage, had not been pruned for a number of years and most of the trees had become severely overcrowded. Pruning had successfully opened up the centre of the trees which will improve air circulation and allow in more light.
But, there were also some useful learning points that we thought would be helpful to share on the blog.
- Stone fruit trees, such as cherry, plum and greengage, should only be pruned in the summer to avoid silver leaf disease.
- Restrict branch removal to one third of the total canopy in young vigorous trees; a quarter in old trees
- When cutting a large branch back to another branch [rather than the trunk] ensure that branch is at least one third the thickness of the branch you are cutting. We will blog more on this.
- Always cut branches at the branch collar.
So what and where is the branch collar? Continue reading
Chestnuts, walnuts, dates and clementines are fruit and nuts traditionally associated with festive cheer. But the apple has also had its part to play in Christmas celebrations. In fact, the apple may have been the inspiration for a popular Christmas decoration. Continue reading
Orchard Origin volunteers have been giving the Hereford Community Farm a helping hand to settle in to its new home at Warham Court Farm at Breinton. Set up in 2007 to provide a range of supported therapeutic activities in the natural environment, the Community Farm has ambitious plans for its new site including a farm shop and tea room.
We have been invited to help with the two orchards. About 9 acres in all, the orchards are not large enough to be commercially viable but still crop well. Continue reading
How raised are your lenticels? Is there puckering on the basin wall or radiating ridges? All critical questions, we discovered, when it comes to the dark art of apple identification.
With over 7500 known apple cultivars identifying individual varieties is quite a challenge. Last week we took a break from orchard maintenance to learn some of the basics.