29 October 2007
Fresh from a night working the apples at the World famous Chideock Cider Shed, our intrepid reporter Scoop Doggy Style has been given full access to the workings of this ancient Dorset Cidermaking legend.
A whisper sent round via the modern smoke signal…..
U R NVTD 2 CHDOCK CIDR SHD 2NITE ;-)
I checked my phone again, it was true, a good friend of mine has a house whose fallen apples are collected by the Chideock Cider makers every year, because of this he is invited to the legend that is the cider shed. I was told to arrive at 7.15PM on the dot. I drove to Chideock and managed to find the Cider shed, in the corner of a farmyard this ancient looking shed didn’t give much away, outside hundreds of sacks full of apples were queuing up to sacrifice themselves for this years apple juice & next years cider.
I entered and was confronted by a room with wall to wall barrels, a makeshift sink, a stainless steel chute, a 40 ton press and a Qualcast garden shredder. I expected the piano to stop and all eyes turn to me, this did not happen, the noise and atmosphere were overwhelming, I slid into the corner of the shed and a pint of 2006 was shoved into my hand, I kept quiet, this place was unbelievable, I grew up on Jack Hargreaves Out of Town and felt as though I was transported back in time, I was small again and black and white.
Sitting in my sponge covered garden chair my eyes became adjusted to the light of the 40 watt bulb, sacks of apples were being passed through the shed doorway and bundled into the handmade stainless steel chute, two men with big sideburns were chopping the apples using stainless steel blades welded to iron box section handles, the noise was deafening, the chopping was being supervised by a cider shed elder, black apples were rejected, the chopped apples were slid along the chute and scooped up by another operative whose only job was to feed the screaming shredder (they told me they used to mill the apples by a hand powered mill but found the new fangled electric shredder yielded more juice and a finer Pummy) another elder poked the opening of the shredder with a stick.
The shredder exhausted into a plastic 10litre white emulsion bucket and the Pummy was carried to the press, two men with gloves on packed the Pummy onto a fine cloth, they were making the first layer or cake, when the first 8” cake is complete the cloth is folded over the top and a new layer begun, the fresh unadulterated apple juice begins to flow through the cloth and into the collecting vessel which had another cloth filter to catch any stray pulp. All you could smell was apple.
It takes 8 cakes to make a cheese, over 50 bags of apples were fed, chopped, scooped, shovelled, shredded, shifted and packed into the cakes, two hours and two pints passed and I was forced to take my turn chopping the apples, they make you pay for your cider in hard labour, fair dues, layer upon layer of cloth wrapped Pummy was magically transformed into the cheese.
A man appeared wearing a leather hat and stood on one side of the press, on the other stood Colin, he explained he had been making Chideock cider for 46 years, I told him I was 44, he grinned.
The huge cast iron screws on both sides of the press were wound down slowly, juice poured out from the cheese and into the collector, the room cleared quickly, the apple processing work was done, the screws were turned at ten minute intervals, as the cheese compressed tighter they used old timbers as levers, an old British Telecom spirit level was used for the levelling of the spirit, my mouth was still wide open, I felt special and priveledged to see this tradition taking place.
2007 A Bumper Year For Chideock Cider Makers.
Colin told me that they were expecting a record breaking year, global warming? I asked Colin, he grinned, a sweepstake was taking place and I had a quid on 3,900 pints! THAT IS A LOT OF CIDER!
Long may it continue.