Craft Cider Making Calendar

Cider Apples

Intro:

There are many important dates in the cidermakers’ calendar, each of which are vital to producing the perfect cider. As well as the well-known processes associated with cidermaking, such as fermentation, filtration and bottling, there are also key cultural traditions that date back many centuries and make cidermaking a unique and cultural craft.

Harvest:

The cidermaker’s year begins in October, which is when the harvest season commences. Our CEO Barny Butterfield refers to this time of year as, “the cidermaker’s new year”. Harvest can begin anytime around the start of October and will run right through until the end of November.

The process itself involves collecting the fruit from the orchards, ready to be pressed, fermented, and turned into cider. When you think about collecting apples from an orchard, it’s common to picture people reaching up and plucking the fruit from the tree branches, however this isn’t how cider apple harvest is done. We wait until the fruit has fallen from the trees onto the ground, which is an indication that the tree has given the apple as many nutrients and as much flavour as it possibly can, and is ready for harvesting.

A good way to remember this rule, according to Barny, is to follow the age-old cidermaker’s saying “You pick a cider apple up, and an eating apple down”.

Apple Harvest

 

Pruning:

Barny says that pruning is the most important event of the year for a cidermaker. Pruning happens after the harvest from November to March, and invigorates the trees ready for spring. This involves cutting away any damaged limbs to develop a strong structure for fruit production and encourage new branches to grow. Barny notes that “An unpruned tree will last half the lifetime of a pruned tree.”

Wassail:

Following pruning, on the old 12th night, which falls on the 17th January, the old tradition of the Wassail takes place. The Wassail is a tradition dating back to pagan times and involves processing through the village to the orchards to scare off the evil spirits in the hope of ensuring a good harvest the following season.

At Sandford, the whole village gets involved, congregating in the orchards, where some of the procession fire shotguns to ward off the bad spirits, followed by everyone singing the song of the apple tree, pouring cider around the base of trunks and leaving offerings to the birds, to attract the good spirits. This tradition in the cidermaker’s calendar has been dating back since the 8th century and remains an important part of the cidermaking tradition to this day.

Cider Works Wassail

Franklins Night:

Another long-honoured tradition that harks back to the cultural depths of cidermaking heritage, specifically in our home of Crediton, is Franklin’s night. Franklin’s night is another Pagan tradition, where historically the head cidermaker would go to the bridge at the end of the town and fight with the devil.

Franklin’s night takes place on one of the last nights in May where you still may get a frost, which could wither the blossom on the apple trees. This is a problem for the cidermaker, because as Barny says ,“no blossom, no fruit – no fruit, no cider”. The old story goes that if the cidermaker manages to throw the devil over the bridge there’ll be no frost and there’ll be cider! These days, at Sandford, we celebrate Franklin’s Night as another excuse to get together, drink cider and have a laugh with the local community. This time of the year coincides with the previous years’ cider being ready for drinking – according to Barny, “you mustn’t taste your cider until you’ve heard the first cuckoo of Spring”, so around Franklin’s night is a perfect chance to try our latest batches of cider.

Cidermaking is a centuries old tradition which has been happening in our Crediton valley for many hundreds of years and we’re proud to say that we still honour the traditions of cidermakers gone by.

Each and every process throughout the year that goes into making our Sandford Orchard cider is incredibly important to the final product, from harvest to pressing, fermentation and bottling. We also place great importance on keeping the age-old rituals and folk law going, to honour the legacy of previous cidermakers, and celebrate the great drink we produce.

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