With New Years Eve over and many people nursing headaches and thinking “never again” here’s a sobering story of the pitfalls – and joys of alcohol – but the production rather than the consumption of!!
The story starts in Wakefield in September 2018 when an idea for Incredible Edible Wakefield to piggy back the local community orchard’s juicing day to “have a go at making cider” led to 7 hours in a village hall, 40 plus volunteers coming and going, a lot of hard work washing, chopping, pressing and cleaning up spilt apple juice and IE Wakefield Founder Andy Austerfield repeatedly muttering the words “never again” under his breath.
Cut to 6 months later and 6 or 7 people were in a room bottling the resulting 70 litres of cider, and of course, testing the product. Andy turned his back for 2 minutes, and the initial members of what was to become IE Wakefield Urban Harvest had decided to have another go – only this time aiming to producing 400 litres!!
To be fair, in the meantime a Facebook post asking for those interested in saving the districts surplus fruit from landfill, had brought a reply from Mark Williams – an amateur cider maker who turned out to be extremely knowledgeable from small scale cider production with his mates, and the group also had the offer of mentoring from Leeds Urban Harvest’s Roland Miller, kindly funded by The Orchard Project, so the group were feeling a bit more confident this time.
A second juicing date was set for a Sunday in early October 2019 and over the following months a small producers licence was obtained from HMRC, allowing the group to produce up to 7000 litres of apple cider duty free, 20 free tickets for an “Apple pressing and Cider making” event for those wanting to learn the skills had been placed on “Eventbrite” and fermenting barrels, yeast, Camden tablets and various other equipment had been bought and stored.
An electric scratter along with other essential equipment had been rented for the day from Leeds Urban Harvest, supermarket crates borrowed from the Real Junk Food project were distributed to those with fruit trees in the garden with the promise of a share in the spoils and surplus compost bins donated by Wakefield Council had been set up in an adjacent garden area to receive the expected 400 litres of waste pulp the exercise would produce.
In the week before the event volunteers armed with telescopic pickers, hard hats and tarpaulins had collected apples from roadside trees identified from the “Wild Food Map” on IE Wakefield’s website and as a result of their picking and other donations, 45 crates of apples were sitting ready for pressing.
Unfortunately when the juicing day came it was pouring it down with rain and the electric “scratter” was refusing to do its essential job of breaking down the apples to pulp – no doubt due to the damp conditions!! Everyone was valiantly washing and chopping the apples and using manual scratters to create the pulp but it was a slow process and with only a couple of hours left the volunteers huddled under the gazebos were in danger of losing patience and leaving the group with over 20 crates of apples and a major headache!!
Electrician Steve had taken the scratter apart, cleaned it and put it back together again but to no avail – then someone had a brain wave!! Clare was dispatched off home to pick up her hairdryer and, when she returned with it, a continuous flow of hot air on the scratter’s electrics was sufficient to get it going again and in no time at all 45 crates of apples had become 280 litres of freshly pressed apple juice, yeast was added and the concoction was fermenting away and on its way to becoming cider!!
Not quite 400 litres but enough to give back 80 litres to volunteers and apple donors and leave 200 litres for the group to sell to pay for the equipment – and leaving surplus monies left to go towards group funds!!
After the event Andy said “If any other IE groups are thinking of having a go at making their own juice or cider there is a lot to think about and I’d recommend finding a nearby organisation to observe first before giving it a go. Having said that there are a lot of positives to be gained – it’s a great way to bring volunteers together, it makes use of a local resource that would otherwise go to waste or worse landfill and done right it can also raise funds for your group.”
For groups that are interested then Leeds Urban Harvest’s Guide to Community Group Apple Pressing is a good place to start and you can see a short video of IE Wakefield’s apple pressing day go to the groups Facebook page here: