Homemade apple juice and cider

We’ve fifteen apple trees and one pear tree in our garden, I’ve always felt guilty that we’ve not made the most of the fruit. We don’t buy dessert apples in September and October, a few apple pies are made, but, the majority fall to the ground waiting to be picked up and put on the compost heap. Past attempts to store apples have always attracted mice or rats, resulting again in the whole lot going on the compost heap.

So this year I treated my husband who has a September birthday to an apple press and crusher, with the idea that we’d make lots of juice and cider from our apple harvest. So yesterday we spent a productive day, picking, juicing and bottling our apple crop.

To my amazement the whole family joined in! We had a great day crammed into our boot room (three boys, two dogs, my husband,myself, the dog beds, laundry and apple pressing paraphernalia. No doubt those of a hygienic disposition will stop reading at this stage), everyone taking on a role in the production process, and sticking with it!

Apples on the treeDessert apple ready for picking

Cooking apple harvestPicked cooking apples, dog beds and clean laundry in our boot room yesterday! 

Crushing the applesThe apple crusher. Apples were cut in half and put in the top where they were the were grated ready for juicing.

Pressing the applesThe crushed apples were then put into the nylon bag in the apple press, the wood chocks inserted and the press screwed down…

The apple juice flowing…and the juice flowed

Once juiced it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. We had 36 litres of the stuff so we decided to pasteurise and bottle the dessert apple juice and some of the bramley apple juice. The rest of the cooking apple juice was to become cider.

How to pasteurise your apple juice

To pasteurise you add 5 grams of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to 10 litres of juice and then put in glass bottles. The bottles (uncapped) are placed in a large sauce pan of simmering water. A digital thermometer is placed into the bottle and when the juice reaches 75 degrees C remove the bottles and place the caps on tightly. This method should ensure the juice has a two year shelf life.

Pasteurising the apple juicePasteurising the juice, the wire coming out of the bottle joins the digital thermometer

Dessert apple juiceThe dessert apple juice bottled 

How we made our cider

The majority of our cooking apple juice was placed in a fermenter for cider. A packet of cider yeast was added and this will be left for a couple of weeks until fermentation is finished, my husband tests for this with a hydrometer. The juice is then transferred to another container where campden tablets are added to sterilize. The cider is then transferred to bottles and will be ready for drinking in 6 months.

The apple juice in the fermentor, destined for cider

All in all a very productive day, the boys loved crushing the apples, the husband has a ridiculous amount of cider to look forward to next spring and I have fewer apples to pick up and compost this year and that warm satisfying feeling that I’m making the most of what my garden has to offer.

Autumn produce from the garden and a bit of magic

The low, warm, golden, autumn sun has lured me out into the garden, the morning rays highlighting blooms, transforming them into beautiful jewels.

I tried to capture the magical atmosphere with pictures, but sadly they don’t quite compare to the real thing.

nasturtiumA nasturtium radiating the golden light

dahlia-paul-emoryDahlia – Paul Emory

dahlia-halloweenDahlia – Halloween, looking as spooky as a dahlia can get!

dahlia-cafe-au-laitDahlia, Cafe au Lait, shouting ‘put me in vase’!

dahlia-light-yellowDahlia, unknown. Looking very elegant.

dahlia-selinaDahlia Selina, which was glowing in the sunlight

dahlia-rip cityDahlia Rip City, looking mighty fine!

dried-articoke-flowersDried artichoke flowers that will give sone winter structure to the kitchen garden

We’re enjoying the autumn bounty from the garden. Squashes are not only a delicious kitchen delicacy that’ll store throughout the winter. They also make gorgeous table decorations. The usual bunch of garden flowers have made way for a platter of squashes, their colours are inspiring, with fabulous depth, more enticing than a Farrow and Ball colour chart!

squash-table-centreMy squash table centre

squash-honey-bear-crown-princeCrown Prince and Honey Bear, ready to be harvested

the-autumn-squash-bedMy Squash and courgette jungle!

butternut-squash-hunterThis fella sucessfully took my chair out of action this summer!

Every year I grow a few Cape Gooseberry (Physalis) plants; there orange fruits encased in a paper lantern have a unique zing which I find very moreish. They can also be served as an indulgent treat by pealing the paper lantern back to reveal the berry which can be half submerged in melted chocolate then allowed to dry, delicious!

cape-gooseberries-physalisA few Cape Gooseberries, a yummy garden snack

cape-gooseberry-physalis-growingThe delicate Cape Goosebery lantern

My apple thinning quest earlier in the year has paid off. The boring tedious task of thinning bunches of apples down to a pair has meant we have a lovely crop of apples this year.




applesA few shots of this years apple crop

Thinning apples

I consider turning compost heaps, picking up hedge cuttings and thinning baby apples to be boring, laborious and tedious jobs; they’re essential but I’ll try desperately to avoid them! Thank goodness I don’t have an orchard, but I do have sixteen apple trees, so I’ve made a deal with myself to try and thin fruit on one maybe two (if I’m on a roll) trees a day.

Thinning apples down to two fruits per spur at this time of year has a variety of advantages: space is made for large fruit to develop, you can discard any unhealthy looking apples, and it allows air to circulate reducing the chance of pests and diseases to establish. Just pull by hand the apples you wish to discard from the cluster.

Apples to be thinnedA group of apples ready to be thinned

Apples after thinningThe same apples after thinning

Apples before thinningA very congested group of apples

Apples after thinning The group of apples after thinning

To make the job even less appealing I stupidly dropped the apples to the ground; tomorrow I will come armed with an apple thinning bucket!

Discarded applesDiscarded apples that need collecting up for the compost heap; before my boys find them for ammunition!

After completing the removal of apples from the first tree I wandered back up the kitchen garden, and was rewarded with my first Gladioli buds of the year.

Gladioli Purple Flora in budGladioli Purple Flora in bud


The kitchen garden in August

Gardeners spend much of their time working towards their goal, a productive season where you can sit back and reap the rewards of your work. August is often the pinnacle of that season, huge gluts of produce, too much to be used at once, so shared between the kitchen, freezer and friends. It’s also the month when I throw my arms and trowel in the air and say ‘Sod the weeds’. Whilst indulging in my garden bounty, my mind is drifting off, pondering this year’s successes and disappointments, plotting and planning for next year. This year my courgettes, have not cropped as heavily as I’d expect, it’s been okay, but I’ve not heard the tell tale glut statement ’not courgettes again mum!’ I think the current watering system, which sprinkle from above has not been sufficient. Next year I am going to point the water system directly at the base of the plants, soaking their roots and hopefully this will ensure a larger crop. My bean crops (french, runner and borlotti) have been magnificent and the tomatoes and basil have thrived in the green house. I’m starting to plan which hardy annuals I’m going to sow this autumn in the cutting garden, with the hope of an earlier flower crop next year. I’ve already planted out my Sweet Williams, sown earlier in the summer and will be getting round to planting garlic, broad beans and bulbs in the next month or so.

Below are the pictures telling the story of August in the kitchen garden.

RaspberriesThere’s been a constant steam of raspberriesplumsGrape like bunches of plums have weighed down the treesApples on the treeThe apple trees are also ladden, we’re looking forward to a good harvestPear on the treeLast year we had just one pear, this year the tree is fullSweet williamI’ve planted out my sweet williams in the cutting border reday for early blooms next yearDahlia BedThe dahlia bedDahlia Paul EmoryDahlia Paul EmoryRunner beansThe runner beans have thrived in the gloomly wet weather we’ve had the last few weeksTop Veg patchThe top five vegetable bedsBottom veg bedsThe bottom three vegetable bedsChilli'sChilli’s in the conservatory, once picked we keep a couple fresh and freeze the rest for use over the next year