When we moved to the farm in 2017 we were lucky enough to inherit a fantastic orchard. It was planted around 12 years ago and the trees are now coming into their prime. The orchard boasts a huge selection of rare apple trees from all over the country; mostly eating apples with a few cooking varieties mixed in for good measure. In the last year alone, we’ve expanded the orchard by planting over 200 new fruit trees!
For the first two years we struggled to find the best use for our apples. We ate as many as we could, we used them at our events, made jam, incorporated a few in our perry production, but we soon realised that we had many more apples than we could possibly process in this way. This year however, we made the decision to turn the majority of the apples into delicious apple juice.
As such, we collected our fallen apples and temporarily stored them in our barn for a few weeks until we had enough to press - we ended up with around 500kg. Some of our varieties include; brambley, russet, golden delicious, and a personal favorite, Cpt. Toms.
The process of pressing apples is simple. First, we load the apples into a scratter (a giant blender) leaving us with pulp, then the pulp is filled into a hydropress where the juice extraction takes place, separating the liquid from the apple fibre, or pomace as it’s often referred to. With the juice then filtered into bottles, we start the process of pasteurisation in order to preserve the juice and stop it from turning to cider.
We are lucky to have some great friends in the Sussex-based Old Tree Brewery who are always innovating drink-based technologies. Together we come up with new ways to ferment, store, and promote the produce we love. This year they donated us with a biochar pasteuriser! This allows us to pasteurise our juice over a raging fire whilst at the same time allowing us to produce biochar as a byproduct.
Biochar is a charcoal-like substance that is made from burning wood in a process called pyrolysis. We produce lots of scrap wood in our workshop which is perfect fuel for the big burn. During pyrolysis the wood is burnt with very little oxygen and not many particulates are released into the atmosphere. To finish the burn we quench the fire with water, putting out the last of the embers and as a result we capture all of the carbon left in the wood, rather than allowing it to smoulder into ash. We then mix the charcoal with organic matter, activating it into biochar, and then use this incredible substance as fertiliser in our vegetable garden.