Friday, 17 October 2008

Cider making in the West Country

Recently, with the world as we know it apparently crashing around our ears, I said to my husband "I think everyone just needs to calm down and concentrate on the basics". "There's the voice of the housewife," he replied.

I don't really understand any of the complex economics but I do think that we have lived too fast; we've wanted everything quickly, cheap and now and it's not sustainable, economically or environmentally. I wonder if my world will become fashionable, a simple life where a blackberry is free and grows in the hedgerow where you can pick it and, with a bit of work, turn it into jam.

Here in the West Country it is The Goode Life. We try to grow as many of our own vegetables as we can, hard work but very satisfying. Last weekend we took it to the next level by trying to make cider.

Cider making is a tradition within my local group of friends. When we were younger and without children, the boys created "Ole Lug", a brew so strong I drank one cup and thought I'd become paralysed - I'd passed out and they'd rolled me up in a duvet to keep me warm so that when I woke up I couldn't move any limbs.

Having not made any for a while we set out to re-kindle the tradition, a challenge as most of the helpers were under five. We started by crushing the apples, pounding them in a bucket with an old fence post. This felt very rustic, but therapeutic, I thought I should be wearing a home-spun gown and be ready to churn butter next.

The apple pieces were wrapped in cloth and put in a press which one of my friends had made for his A'level CDT project. We pressed down and brown liquid ran into the plastic drum. It was very satisfying.

Sadly, I had to leave to feed the children and put the soup on for lunch. There was talk about the sterility of the apple juice but one of the boys had got bored of pummeling apples with a log and was stamping on them with his wellies so we decided the concern was misplaced.

Gallons of apple juice are now bubbling away in an outhouse. Goodness knows what it will taste like - the last stuff we drank tasted like sherry and was best suited to unblocking drains. But in a way I don't care. We've made an effort to use our produce and had lots of fun doing it. And if the financial situation gets any worse, at least we'll be able to afford to drown our sorrows.

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