The Reverend Mr George Turner's method of making cider. 1756. (Rector of Milor, in Cornwall)
The reverend Mr George Turner lived for many years in the South Hams in Devon, greatly respected for his learning and integrity, he wrote a treatise on cider making from his own experience. Mr Turner became a respected figure with the well known agriculturalists of the day. His treatise on cider making, if followed today, would make a very drinkable cider. Very much a staunch English patriot, he wrote:-
“But its being manifestly calculated for the benefit of my native kingdom, is that which hath rendered this little treatise on cyder acceptable to some others of my judicious friends, for as their hearts are entirely English: so they would no more consent that the health of their countrymen should be impaired by French liquors, than that their understandings should be subjected to a French religion.
As for those who are already captivated, both in body and mind, and who will swallow French brandy in spite of their experience, as they do French principles in defiance of their reason, I do not pretend to reclaim them: their constitution, in each capacity, is broken, and they are past a cure, the sight of multitudes dropping into their graves, through an immoderate use of strong spirituous liquors, can no more convince them of their pernicious quality, than they can be persuaded of the monstrous absurdity of transubstantiation itself...That the liquors of our own growth, and the juice of the apple in particular, if well managed, would supersede the use of foreign wines, and prove more conductive to health than any of them.
If this essay hath its desired effect but upon the two western counties of Cornwall and Devon, (much drinking of smuggled French brandy within the western counties in the 18th century) I shall be content, for their sake, to draw the displeasure of the whole kingdom of France upon me; especially at this favourable conjuncture, when the whole navy of England stand ready to guard and defend the rights of Great Britain both at home and abroad”.
England and France were not officially at war at this time, but the English navy were making preparations. James cook, serving on HMS Eagle, probably as boatswain's mate, recorded in his log, “The brandy room was located in the hold to contain the spirits that would be drunk by the crew”. No doubt, reverend Turner would have prefered cider on board HMS Eagle, rather than spirits.
The reverend turner's initial advice was, “In the improvement of cyder the first rule to be observed is, that all apples be permitted to drop from the tree; that they may have the full benefit of the stock on which they grew, and of the sun their foster father, for striking down the fruit before it is ripe, the buds are struck off with it, the tree is injured, and the cyder that is made is tart and harsh, for want of time to meliorate the juice.
Let your apples (especially in windy conditions) be gathered up once or twice a week, and thrown together in some secure place without doors: for hoarding the fruit in a house is apt to give the juice a musty taste, for want of a free and open air. It also prevents the cyder from quick refining, by rendering the juice flat, dead, heavy and unapt for fermentation.
Let your apple heap be made on slanting and open ground towards the south, that the falling rains may be fleet from it and that your fruit may be exposed to the eye of the sun. To erect a slight covering of reed over the apple-heap, supported by four tall sticks...By the shed so contrived and situated, your fruit may at once have the refreshment of the air, be defended from rain, and be also visited by the sun. But let the bottom of the apple-heap be covered or paved with broad stones, and edged round with the like sort, to keep the fruit clean and close together. Let you apples lie in the heap a longer or shorter time, according to the nature of them. Mediates for instance, being of a hard kind, and their juice austere, do require a month in the heap, or more: wheras whitesours, being of a softer and more early sort, a fortnight or less, for them may be sufficient”. (it was recommended that the time in the heap would depend upon the ripeness of fruit, the weather etc)
“When your apples are pounded, let the muck lie a day before it is squeezed. It will improve the colour of your cyder, and render it a deeper complexion.” It was deemed a good idea, if making a tun of cider at one pressing, to use a large vessel, “so that it may all become fine at the same time, and be fit for racking”.
“When your cyder is fine, which it sometimes happens to be within a day or two, especially upon a dry, northern, or eastern wind, then by a cock placed within half a foot of the bottom of the vessel, always alowing room for the dregs to settle in, it must be racked off into hogsheads. But although cyder be racked never so fine at first, it will ferment again and become foul, especially in rainy and tempestuous weather, and upon southern and western winds; (just as the humous in a man's body are set on float, and put in motion when the winds are in the same position; and therefore laxative potions are wont to be administered at such critical conjuctures) and then your cyder may require several rackings before you give over your care about it: for all wet seasons are injurious to new cyder, by causing a constant fermentation for a month or six weeks, and longer too, if the rough winds and fowl weather do so long continue”.
A watchful eye was needed at this point of proceedings and frequent racking, “whether your cyder be fine or not; in order to prevent its over fermentation, and to keep it quiet.”
The first racking was rather important, and the recommendation was “to set about it when the thick, red head, or crust, which covered the cyder, (like a mantle upon a patient under a course of physick) that so by its kindly warmth a fermentation may be promoted, begins to seperate, and white bubbles do appear. For although your cyder be foul at this juncture, it is yet very proper to rack it: otherwise your cyder (like a man wasted by an incorrigible diarrhoea, or a violent super-purgation) may become incurable: for it will then (especially in hot weather) instead of a gentle fermentation, be put upon the fret, and (in the South-Ham phrase) sing; the wild notes whereof may be heard at a considerable distance till it becomes pale, thin and languid; and ( like the swan) hath sung itself to death.
A critical racking, therefore, is like a critical bleeding in a fever; or a well-timed cathartick emetick, or clyster in a violent fit of the cholick; and both the liquor and the patient are preserved by evacuations adapted to their respective disorders”.
To help the cyder becoming fine sooner, also, to prevent wastage, it should be put through a “Flannels, enough for five or six bags, each containing five or six quarts”. The bags were made into a conical shape, like the shape of a sugar loaf, and the cider was put through them. “Let the upper and open parts be edged or bound round with Inkle; (a kind of flat woven braid) that they may the better support the weight of the liquor. When your bags are thus prepared, get a strong hoop, and having fastened two sticks across in it, tie up your bags to them. The centre, where the two sticks meet, having a rope fixed to it, and the bags being made to hang perpendicular over a large vessel, pour that cyder into them, which remains at the bottom of each hogshead after racking; and which is too foul to be mixed with the rest. By this method, abundance of cyder (and fit for common use) may be preserved, which must otherwise have been thrown away with the lees”.
An empty hogshead was kept nearby, to pour the strained cider and a close fitting bung was stopped into the hole after each time the cleaned cider was poured into it.
“The percolated cyder must also be racked when there is a good quantity of it together, and it is become tolerably fine.
To adapt your cyder to all palates, you may, either at your last racking, or just before you bung and stop it up, mix several sorts together, and to render your cyder rough or mellow, to what degree you think fit. By thus mixing your cyder, you may give all that you intend for your own table, the agreeable taste of the White-Sour. The juice of this Pom-Royal being of such a predominent quality, as to communicate its flavour, in a very distinguishing manner, to all the cyder with which it is in any due degree mixed, providence seems to have ordained it for this very purpose.
I know, indeed, that in the parts about Modbury and Kingsbridge in Devon, where the White-Sour fruit doth much abound, the peaple are more tormented with the gout, than in any other part of the country. This they attribute to the use of White-Sour cyder. But ought they not rather to impute their gouty complaints to their grout ale of several sorts, with which these parts no more abound than any other. Are not these liquors too foul to have a clear passage through them; and what becomes of their foul contents? must they not of course rack and torment the bodies that harbour them? but if these gentlemen are so in love with their gouty liquors...Before they appear in open rebellion against the king of cyder fruit, and take up arms to lop of the heads of their White-Sour trees, and to graff them to another kind, (which I am told, they are confederated to do after many years muting) it is no bad advice to them to suspend their intended hostilities, and to try the difference by racking their White-Sour more and by drinking less of it unmixed than they are wont to do”.
Reverend Turner thought it best, depending on the pounding and nature of the fruit to leave the stopping up of the cider or keeping it open untill christmas time, but he recommended that, “A board, which may reach from hoop to hoop, ought to be put over the bung hole, to prevent the dust, rats, and other annoyances, from breaking the thin film, an unctuous substance, which investeth the surface of the cyder; as a guard intended by nature for its preservation, like oil upon a flask of florence wine”.
The hogshead should be filled to the very top of the bunghole, at the last racking; “that if light or flying lees remain in the liquour, they may be removed at the bung: for this is frequently the case of mellow cyder”.
preserving rural bygones
Cider making - 2