Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A Christmas card you can drink

    Office Christmas rituals can be a little tedious at times. Over a long career in the tech industry I've seen them all, the secret Santas, the dull office parties with tinsel round the monitors, and the yearly challenge of getting the right Christmas cards to the right colleagues.
    So a year or two ago I hit on a simple solution: instead of cards I'd give out bottles of cider. Nobody finds that an unwelcome gift, and I've removed in one fell swoop the need for both card and present.
    On Sunday I labelled this year's round of Christmas cider bottles. All from 2010 pressings, I had a comparative tasting session last week to decide which ones my colleagues would receive.
    The labels are standard Avery inkjet labels and were produced using their free DesignPro software. The main panel says "Full juice dry cider" in a large font, with "Real cider from Oxfordshire 2010 pressing" underneath it, and the rest of the label has the following explanatory text and a Happy Christmas message from us. "This cider has one ingredient: apple juice. It's made from eating apples so you'll find it tastes a little different from West Country ciders, and since all the natural sugars are fermented to alcohol it's pretty dry. We like it that way!" Plus an instruction to let it settle before drinking, and a request to return the bottle.
    As every year, my colleagues and friends seem to appreciate the gift. I get nearly all the bottles back, as well as a lot of praise for the cider. Which is very good to hear.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

December: Let's start with a glass of cider

    As befits a blog from a ciderist, I'm starting with a glass of cider.
    It's December, and a lull in the cidermaking year. Not much to do except sample last year's pressing. In a few weeks I'll be pruning in the orchard, but having finished my pressing last month there's no cidermaking work on the go. The juice from the 2011 pressing is slowly fermenting in plastic drums, so I've opened a bottle of the 2010 cider and sat down to make a start at this project.
    So why blog about cider? Simple. I make cider, and I like writing. I spend my days behind a desk in Oxford working on the web presence of the Oxford Dictionaries and I sometimes write for the OxfordWords blog, so why not combine the two here?
    I've made cider in various forms since I was a teenager in the 1980s. I grew up on a small farm in North Oxfordshire with a good-sized orchard, so it seemed the natural thing to do. I can't say I'm proud of my early efforts as I was more concerned with illicit teenage inebriation than quality, but over the years my interest has evolved and now I aim to produce a high quality full juice real cider. I don't hold any form of licence so my cider is strictly for private consumption only, but I still manage to turn out several hundred litres a year as well as a freezer full of bottled apple juice.
    My cider is made in the Eastern Counties style, which is to say that the apples used in its production are desert apples rather than cider apples. If you are used to the tannic bite of West Country ciders or you prefer cloudy cider you'll find mine a little different, the 2010 pressing in the glass pictured is clear, dry and slightly acid, and has an ABV of about 6%.
    This blog follows the cidermaking year. If I do something with my cider, I'll write about it here. This means updates will come in fits and starts, as sometimes not a lot happens in the life of a cidermaker. Look forward to pruning tales in January, racking a few weeks later, blossom and bottling in May, young apples in summer, followed by harvest and pressing in Autumn.
    Meanwhile, enjoy good quality real cider wherever you find it, and Wassail!