CiderFest at rob's


ciderfest - the beginnings

By this point of the year we’ve experimented with just about every possible recipe for apples.  We’ve made apple jam, apple pie, apple chutney, apple crumble, apple juice, apple cheese – the one thing we have done yet is to ferment them (at least not deliberately).

The big advantage of fermented foods is that they will keep for much longer than the raw fruit itself – so you can be drinking your cider next summer while you wait for the apples to arrive.  Once the juice has been fermented to alcohol you can also make your own cider vinegar, and homemade vinegar is fantastic for cooking with in the kitchen.


pressing and pulping

We did have grand plans for the weekend to make all sorts of apple pies, leathers, and crisps, but in the end pulping and pressing the apples to make cider was enough to keep us all busy.  Memo to self : buy a bigger press next year!

That said it was a lot of fun to press the fruit, and with a few folk round to help out, the afternoon passed quite quickly.  When our chain gang tired we we rewarded them with a break for apples, cheese, chutney, and last years apple wine – the perfect accompaniment to a day of cider making.


Amy and Russell chopping

As we speak we now have 4 gallons of juice fermenting away in a secret location.  Suprisingly only one of those is cider – this was due to the relative scarcity of eating apples in our stores – the few cooking apples we did add was beginning to make the juice quite acidic.  The other 3 will hopefully go on to create perry – 2 gallons of conference pears (they’re very juicy), and 1 gallon of what I think might be Doyenne du Comice (a fantastic pear, but these were windfalls).


Tawny spraying juice on the walls

Only now that we have started the fermentation did I bother to read some instructions for how to make cider and perry.  I can report that we have failed to obey most of the rules – but hey, isn’t that most of the fun?  I’ll keep this blog updated with the progress of our juice, and fingers crossed we might have something to drink next year when we do this on an even BIGGER scale 😉


Pears galore on Fountainhall road

Thea picking pears

Thea picking pears

So far this autumn we’ve harvested lots and lots of apples, but only small quantities of pears.  The pears we have harvested so far have mostly been rock hard, and rather than ripening off the tree most of them have tended to go rubbery.  However, this week we paid a visit to a garden on Fountainhall road which had three pear trees with perfectly ripe pears ready to fall from the tree.  The pears were so ripe in fact that just picking one would cause many others on the same branch to fall.

Alongside the three pear trees there were quite a few apple trees but unfortunately we never had the time to collect all of the surplus – after harvesting the pears of just two trees the rain came in and we had to call it a day.  Even though the rain stopped play, the fruit we had picked was enough to fill the boot and back seat of a car, so it looks like we will have to make arrangements to return!


The stores are beginning to fill up, so it may be time for us to have a distribution day. Please contact us if you have ideas for where our fruit should go.

After apple picking

My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still.
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.


Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples; I am drowsing off.
I cannot shake the shimmer from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the water-trough,
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.


But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and reappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
And I keep hearing from the cellar-bin
That rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking; I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall,
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised, or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.


One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep

After apple picking – by Robert Frost

Apple day at Edinburgh Botanic gardens


The last day of our busy weekend was spent at the Edinburgh Royal Botanic gardens, taking part in the apple day.  The Celebration of Scottish apples was hosted in the fabulous new John Hope gateway visitor centre, and was attended by the Commonwealth orchard, John Butterworth, Cuddybridge apple juice, and the Royal Caledonian Horticultural society.

The event was hugely popular with the public, with hundreds of people streaming through the doors all of Saturday to taste Scottish apple varieties, sample freshly pressed juice, and have their fruit identified by the resident expert John Butterworth.


Stephi demonstrates the apple master

Lots of folk went away impressed by the diversity and flavour of Scottish apples, and a few lucky folk were able to identify old trees that had been growing in their gardens for hundreds(!) of years.

Apple day at Bridgend Allotment


After filling up our stores with apples in the last two days, today was a day for juicing and giving them out at our local apple day.  The event, hosted and organised by Bridgend allotment community health project was a great day – small enough to feel friendly, but packed with lots of fun events and crafty things.

On top of scratting and juicing hundreds of apples, volunteers had the opportunity to try some fantastic home made pies, bake in the cob oven, and throw bashed apples at the local rodent.


We set up our stall to display our recently collected apples and a collage of fruit from our apple identification chart.  There were other groups present too – bespoke organics events had a great catering stall with some delicious vegan chocolate cake, as well produce from other local groups such as Redhall walled garden, the Engine shed, and the chocolate tree.


Over at the barbeque there were beef burgers from Whitmuir organics, and in the allotments a local storyteller told us a story about the one-eyed lady of Skye.

All in all it was a great day, and the sun shone on us too.  Well done Bridgend for hosting a great event, and heres to the next one!

Harvesting for a weekend of apple days

kristina struggles with a giant Newton Wonder

kristina struggles with a giant Newton Wonder

With a busy weekend of apple days ahead of us we arranged another picking at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Orchard.  It is difficult to for us to find an opportunity to get large numbers of people together to pick apples, so we thought picking in the orchard rather than a private garden might be a chance to do just that.

So we headed along to the orchard after work, and had some fun climbing the trees to shake some apples down.  In the end we only harvested from two trees, but we still came away with just about as much apples as our volunteers could handle.  We were also joined by a couple of folk from the Re-union project who were gathering apples for a future apple day with one of the schools bordering the union canal.


Although it had been a beautiful autumn day, the nights are fair drawin’ in, and by 7pm there was a chill in the air.  It feels as if winter is just around the corner, so we better make the most of the daylight hours after work and get picking!

Picking again in the Grange


Our apple picking continues on at full pace – last week we returned to a garden brimming with apples and pears in the Grange to pick the later ripening varieties.  This time we came with a equipped with a our new tarp, and found that shaking the apples off the tree onto the tarp is not only lots of fun, it is also one of the quickest ways of getting masses of stubborn cooking apples off the trees.


Even though we had already visited this garden before, we still came away with sacks and sacks of apples.  Now that we have a bit more expertise we were able to identify one of the nicest tasting apples as a Norfolk Royal Russet – which is apparently a very good eating apple for Scotland.

Apples at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital


Last week we were out picking apples again, although this time with the Friends of the Orchard group at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

The Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Morningside has an orchard within its grounds that was planted out after the second world war.  Originally patients at the hospital worked in the orchard for therapeutic purposes or a small income, and the apples went to the hospital kitchens.  However, with time ideas about healthcare changed and later management deemed the work exploitative, despite many patients reportedly enjoying the work.  With no-one working the orchard it came to be neglected, and interest in the trees has only recently been revived thanks to the Artlink project, who saw potential in the site for therapeutic work.


Artlink are still trying to revive interest in the orchard, and bring in members of the local community to help maintain it.  On Wednesday we came along to the open day and picked some apples for distribution at local apple days.  The orchard is really magical, with scores of mature apple trees thriving amongst a carpet of nettles.  With the trees being so old many of the apples were quite high up, but with the help of our picking pole we came away with lots of Aldermans, Newton Wonders, and a handful of sweet tasting crab apples.


If you’re interested in helping out with the orchard, or have ideas for how it could be used, please do get in touch using our email at the bottom of the page.

More juicing at painting Edinburgh green


Our appearance at painting Edinburgh Green went swimmingly on Saturday.  We were giving out apples and flyers and spreading the word.  After lunch there was an opportunity to make juice using our own apples – something that went down very well with the children.

The next events coming up will be the Royal Edinburgh Orchard’s apple day, followed by Bridgend allotments, and the Botanic gardens.  With all the pickings in-between, October is going to be a busy month…

Juicing in Craighouse

We’ve been out picking again, this time in Craighouse.  On Friday we visited a family with a couple of apple trees and helped them turn their apples into juice.  Surprisingly none of the children had ever eaten the apples, but once they had seen the enthusiasm of our volunteers they gave them and try and loved it.

We produced a couple of servings from the apples – enough for all the family, our volunteers Soraya and Kristina, and even some for the neighbours.