Cloudy cider & cover crops

These past two weeks we've been spending some time in the cider shed experimenting with blending and flavourings, and taste-tasting the results of different fermentation styles. One of our scrumpier test batches has come out a bit cloudy (top left photo), and we've been pondering whether we want to release a "cloudy" cider next year. As Sandra and Noel discovered on a trip to Australia where they picked up the Young Henry's cider pictured below, "cloudy" is often marketed as a good thing--in England, too, you'll find cloudy ciders marketed as "farm-style" or "authentic."

In reality, there are a few ways in which cider becomes cloudy. One is rather non-authentic: resulting from a fast fermentation that has not had enough time to clear with or without the aid of pectinase or clarifying agents. Thus, the cider has not finished fermenting to dryness. This is evidently true of Young Henry's, looking at the 4.6% ABV (a finished cider without chapitalization will be around 7%). It was fairly tart, very sweet, a little insipid, and lacking tannins, but not unpleasant--an approachable cider for ale drinkers.

On the other hand, cloudy ciders can also result from being left "on their lees" (pulp and dead yeasts) for longer than is generally recommended. Ours was left for six months. The result is a much scrumpier cider with a bit more tannins, complexity and farmyard funk--something we quite enjoy.

But lest it sound as if all we do is drink cider, here's what has been going on in the field: with all the sunny weather, our cover crop in the planting area has reached the point of scything. The lower left photo is a good shot of all three crops: field peas (round leaves), vetch (the small feathered leaves), and oats (the grassy-looking plants). Aside from helping keep thistles, blackberries and other weeds out of the soil, the peas and vetch will add nitrogen to the soil as we mow them and allow them to decompose. The oats (lower right) have substantial-enough roots and shoots to give the soil more tilth.

Other updates: all of our 1200 cider trees have been planted in the nursery, mulched, and are leafing-out beautifully. We're happy to find we have about a 90% take-rate which is much better than our first grafting attempts last year. Now we're daily rubbing off rootstock growth to focus all of each tree's energy on growing one leader shoot from the scion which will be trellised and trained next spring.

Aside from that, well, you'll have to follow us on Instagram @twinislandcider if you aren't already--there's too much going on for only a bi-monthly blog post!