Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Cider making in Devonshire, 1850

An article in the Dec 14, 1850 Illustrated London News described the gathering of apples and the mills for producing cider.  In 1820 over 12,200 hogsheads of Devon cider were shipped, double that amount in 1828.  Farm laborers were given 3 pints a day.    

"The modes of procedure as regards the mill and press in the Hereford and Devon districts are very different; also the form of mill, &c. often vary in the same county.  

After the apples are gathered from the orchards they are laid on the floor (see Illustration), in which is a hole communicating with a trough or shoot, contain certain arrangement of rollers, between which the fruit is crushed or ground for the “mock.” These rollers are worked by a large wheel driven by horses, and the ground apples are dropped into a trough under the shoot.

The Devonshire mill consists of fluted rollers turned by rude millwork, as exhibited in one of the Illustrations. that this mode was pursued in Devonshire; for, in reference to mills with fluted rollers, he observes that, “in this district (Gloucester), where stone is sufficiently plentiful, the stone runner and trough seem to be the most eligible millbat present known;” adding, “though it appears to me highly probable, that, with attention and perseverance, a more perfect machine might be invented.”

Of the Hereford cider-press Marshall speaks as “a most perfect machine.” We cannot, neither do we think our readers will, say the same of the Devonshire press, after a perusal of this article, and an inspection of the Illustration.  “In this county (Devon) cider is of universal use among the rural population. The usual daily allowance for each farm labourer is three pints. It also forms a considerable article of export to London, Bristol, Liverpool, Wales, and Ireland.”  “The year 1820, one of remarkable abundance, gives the number of 10,265 hogsheads shipped from the two ports of Exeter and Dartmouth. In 1828, the same ports shipped more than double that quantity.”
Gathering apples
 The earliest dropping of the apples takes place about the middle of August. These are termed “grass fruit,” and are collected into a sack (see Illustration) or else picked up in baskets and carried directly to the pound-house. The cider from the first pounding is not considered so good in quality as that which follows the more advanced state of the fruit. As the apples continue to fall from the trees in greater numbers, they are collected in large heaps, spread over a considerable space on the grass, where they are allowed to remain exposed to the sun and air until the approach of frost, when they are all carried to the pound-house, what have remained on the trees being shaken off or else knocked down with a pole.

 In Hereford, the ordinary mode of gathering consists in sending men to beat the trees with long slender poles or rods, provincially termed “polting lugs,”followed by women with baskets to pick up the fruit. As, however, apples on the same tree differ in the time of ripening, the character of the fruit so gathered is necessarily unequal; careful persons, therefore, go over the trees twice, once with a hook, when the spontaneous fall takes place, leaving such of  the fruit to mature as will not quit the boughs with a gentle agitation, and a  second time with polting lugs, when those left are sufficiently matured, or winter is likely to set in. When this occurs early in the season, or, owing to the coldness of the summer, the apples have not sufficiently ripened, it is customary, by way of correcting the crudity of such unripe fruit, to lay the whole in large heaps, in the open air, exposed to the weather, until the ripest of the fruit begins to rot. Some allow the ripe apples which have spontaneously fallen to lie on the ground for ten days. This practice is objectionable, as exposing the fruit to rain and dews.
Pound house
   Manufacture.–For this purpose, we first visit the pound-house, a building which contains the pound, the cider-press, and an elevated floor on which the  apples are laid previously to being pounded, or rather ground, as the present  with a heavy transverse beam at the top, through which pass two iron screws which by means of wheels work another beam, the ends of which are fitted into grooves on each side of the uprights. This beam carries a wide board to press upon the pile of crushed apples, technically called a “mock” in some parts of the county, and in others a “cheese.” The base of the press has a ledge with a mouth in the front, from which the expressed juice flows into a vessel placed underneath, from which it is placed in the usual casks. 

As the liquor flows it is exceedingly sweet and luscious, and the new cider has a strong aperient effect when drunk. The pile of “mock,” of a square-form, is made with alternate layers of reed or straw and crushed apples: some manufacturers substitute a hair cloth for the reed, in which the apples are folded

When the pile is sufficiently high, the flat board over the heads of the figures (see Illustration) is brought down upon it, and screwed tight by means of a long lever. The cider now-flows freely; and after having been subjected to this pressure the necessary time, the press is unscrewed, the edges of the mock-pared off and thrown on the top, and the pressure put on again. This process is repeated several times, and, finally, the whole pile is disturbed-and-made up for the last squeeze, until no more cider flows out of it. 

The use of the “mock,” when dried, makes an excellent backing for the winter fire. It is naively remarked by our correspondent, that a fastidious spectator of a portion of this process would, perhaps, feel shocked at observing the men walk into the pound-house from the dung-court (it maybe), and at once, dirt and all, mount the trough at the base of the press, over which the cider flows, in order to give their necessary attention to the “mock,” but, as there are extensive fining processes carried on subsequently in the cellars, no fear need reasonably be felt on this head; in fact, the brilliant and sparkling appearance of a glass of good cider will at once dispel every apprehension. In this opinion we certainly do not coincide; and we feel sure that the gorge of many of our city readers will rise when informed that it is no unusual practice, according to our-correspondent, for men to walk with their dirty boots from the manure heap to the cider-press. The thing is the more disgusting, as it may easily be avoided by employing a properly constructed press, such as is used in Hereford. With this passing remark we proceed to the management of the liquor after it has been expressed. 

With some it is preferred to leave the crushed apples for twelve or twenty-four hours previous to sending the mass to the press. Flavour from the broken skins and seeds is this way obtained. In any case, the juice, after expression, is carried to casks, where, in a few days, fermentation spontaneously commences, on the due management of which the subsequent strength and quality of the cider depends. Cider and perry, strictly speaking, are wines, the one being produced from the juice of the apple, the other from that of the pear: the fermentation-in each case is that ordinarily known under the name of vinous, and is precisely analogous to that which obtains in the manufacture of wine from grapes. 

In cider producing counties, what is termed “dry cider” is preferred. The exported cider is sweet and effervescent. A palate accustomed to sweet cider would consider, in many cases, the rough cider of the farm-house a mixture of vinegar and water. The production of acetic acid, or vinegar, in making dry cider, is one of the great evils of the ordinary modes of manufacture, productive as it is of a loss of strength in the cider, for every particle of vinegar produced is obtained at the expence of an equivalent amount of alcohol, or spirit: A purely dry cider ought to be almost free from acid, devoid of sweetness, not effervescent...The strength of cider is in the first place dependant on the quantity of grape sugar (glucose)...

The spontaneous fermentation which arises in the saccharine juices of vegetables, as grapes, apples, &c., is owing to the presence of certain azotised compounds, which have received the name of proteine. Fermentation can only be excited in the presence of the atmosphere or oxygen but, once commenced, it will continue until the whole of the sugar is decomposed, independent of any further accessto the air; alcohol and carbonic acid being formed, yeast or ferment is at the same time produced. The yeasts produced from beer, wine, or cider, if examined under the microscope, and otherwise tested by alkalis-and-acids, are found to be identical. This yeast, once produced, is not only capable of converting the remaining saccharine matter into alcohol; but, from its quality of absorbing oxygen, converts the alcohol (spirit) into vinegar: silence the propriety of fermenting in close vessels, having only an opening sufficiently large to permit the escape of the carbonic acid gas which is evolved during the process. In musts (the juice of grapes, &c.) rich in sugar and proportionally poor in proteine substances, the decomposition of the latter during fermentation becomes complete, and their separation in an insoluble form is effected by or previous to the conversion of the whole of the sugar into alcohol and carbonic acid. In such a case, if the liquor now converted into wine be carefully-drawn off or racked from the scum and lees containing the ferment, and excluded from the atmosphere, it will keep for ever. Such a perfect exclusion of the atmosphere is, however, impossible; besides, it is known that alcohol is capable of evaporating through the pores of the staves. 

The cause of cider undergoing such frequent fermentations, moth withstanding constant rackings, arises from-the-circumstance of the juic. of apples containing a proportion of azotised compounds capable of conversion into ferment, beyond the quantity requisite to convert the whole of the sugar present into alcohol; and this proportion is greatly increased in cold years; , hence, at such periods, the rapid conversion of cider into vinegar, and the necessity of using, in addition, saccharine substances from extraneous sources. In the juice obtained from the fruit of apples, and oftentimes of pears, these proteine sources of ferment are always found in excess of the saccharine materials: hence it becomes an object, when the sugar has been wholly converted into alcohol, to get quit of this source of spontaneous fermentation; and this can generally be accomplished by using tannin (the extract of galls or oak bark), by which means the soluble gluten present forms an insoluble flaky precipitate (leather). The remedy will probably appear a singular one. 

It may, however, be mentioned that in France it is sometimes found that wines deficient in tannin become viscid or ropy- a frequent disorder with champagne, owing to the mutual action of sugar and gelatine-for the removal of which the remedy above named has been found effective. 

Another means of preventing a second active fermentation is by using a sulphur match (locally called “stumming”). These matches are made of thick linen cloth, about ten-inches-long and an inch broad, thickly coated with sulphur about eight inches of their length. Every vent in the cask is tightly stopped, except the bung-hole; the match is kindled and lowered into the cask, and held : end until well lighted, when the bung is driven in, then wedged in between the bung and the stave. A more effective plan is to allow eight or ten gallons of cider to remain-in-the-cask, and suspend the match in the cask, occasionally agitating the liquor and withdrawing the bung to admit fresh air; the sulphurous acid thus becomes absorbed by the liquor. The effect of sulphurous acid is somewhat similar-to-that of tannin, viz. rendering insoluble the soluble gluten present, and also a property similar to that of many essential oils, in arresting fermentation and decay."

©2019 Patricia Bixler Reber
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