Ciders Made with a Woman’s Touch

Welsh Mountain Ciders

Cider has lost its Worzels image and tomorrow cider enthusiast around the world will be toasting World Cider Day.

Cider is now a thing of beauty. Like a good wine. There is even a company called “Cider Is Wine” which specialises in high-quality, hand-pressed quality ciders from around the world.

But England remains cider’s stronghold. And not just Herefordshire.

Along with pastured eggs, Wagyu burgers, Wagyu bresaola (air-dried topside) flat irons, tomahawks, sirloins, tri-tips and picanhas, Rachel Knowles’s “Silly Moo” cider is made at Trenchmore Farm in Horsham, west Sussex.

She makes and sells Cowfold (ABV: 4.8%), Wild Ferment (ABV: 5%) and Unfiltered (ABV: 5%). Her ciders are available in bottles, cans and a 20 litre bag-in-a box. They are vegan and gluten-free.

She describes her handicraft as “unusually civilized farmhouse cider”. Cidermaking is her down-time from normal farm life.

Rachel Fellows - Silly Moo Cider

“Restoring the depleted Wealden clay soils is a long-term project. Spreading cattle manure and thousands of tonnes of green compost from the local council, low input systems and minimum tillage is helping to improve nutrient levels and soil structure.

“Our orchard has 19 varieties of traditional cider apple trees – bittersweet, sharp and bittersharp apples which we planted in 2012. These are blended with apples we source from English orchards and the gardens of Sussex, brought to us in the autumn and swapped for booze. Which means every year the cider is slightly different, reflecting the terroir – its soils, the year’s weather and the variety of donated apples.”

Rachel is one of an increasing number of successful female bud-to-bottle cider makers in the UK.

Others include Susanna Forbes of Little Pomona in Herefordshire, Isy Schulz (Barleywood Cider, Wrington, Somerset), Lydia Crimp (Artistraw Cider, Hereford), Elizabeth Pimblett (curator of Hereford’s Museum of Cider which celebrates its 50th birthday this year) and Fiona Matthews (Bartestree Cider, Herefordshire). They form the steering group of Cider Women UK to promote the appreciation of cider and cider-making among women. It is a social club and a thinktank.

Forbes says:

“Our ciders are likened to wine, and as well as appealing to cideristas, we are on the drinks lists of all types of establishments, from Michelin starred restaurants like Penson.

“It’s all about the fruit for us – rigorous fruit selection, natural yeast for fermentation, no filtering, dilution, back sweetening or pasteurization. Letting the fruit sing if you will. Plus, a deft barrel maturation programme, using a fine broker near Bordeaux.”

Emma Jordan runs the CAMRA-winning pure juice Blue Barrel Cider in Cambridgeshire.

“We began making cider from locally scrumped apples and forgotten orchards at Nottingham’s Summerwood Community Gardens. When we moved to Oakington, we renovated some old riding stables into a cidery.”

Other leading UK cider makers and women wassailers include Hannah Barton (Kniveton Cider in the Derbyshire Dales) and Beccy Leech (Wilding Cider, Chew Magna, Somerset). Manchester now has its own Cider Club.

With partner Bill Bleasdale, California-born Chava Richman, a member of the British Cider is Wine movement, runs the Prospect Orchard and apple museum in Newchapel, near Landiloes in Powys.

At 1,115 feet high, the six-acre plot is Britain’s highest altitude cidery and fruit tree nursery.

It sells hardy “little trees with big roots” from dessert apples like Devonshire Quarrenden, Rev Wilkes and Pendragon to cider apples like Brown Snout, Foxwhelp, Pertheyre, and Hereford Redstreak. Prices start at £22.

Chava also offers the Tin yr Giwydd cooker. Otherwise known as the Goose’s Arse.

She comments:

“I think that people think of cider makers as rustic types with sideburns. When I first started making cider, I often felt overlooked as people would always defer to the one with facial hair.”

Author Bio:

Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.

Photographs courtesy of Welsh Mountain Cider and Trenchmore Farm

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