This Saturday, our Bayleaf Orchard will be a hub of activity, as our Interpretation Team and knowledgeable volunteer Roger Brown – Roger also works with The Steyning Community Orchard Project – will be picking and pressing apples using traditional methods.
The drink of Britain for nearly 1000 years, cider has deep roots in the history of our working farms where it was used to supplement the pay of farm labourers. The cider created for this purpose was made on site from apples grown on each farm and created using a traditional apple press. Ensuring reasonable quality of this drink was important as it deterred labourers from leaving one farm for another (in search of a better brew!), but also, as the cider had no direct financial gain, farmers didn’t want to spend too much time making it, so the creation process was a bit of a balancing act.
We have a number of historic, farmhouse apple presses here at the Museum. These include one press acquired from Mrs Kenway in Rudgewick which we have used for many years to press apples in order to make apple juice or cider in the traditional way.
To authentically recreate the historical process, we keep the production process to a minimum to mirror the level of effort traditional farmers would have applied. After picking, we pulp the apples using our apple scratter (or crusher) and press them with our historic farmhouse apple press. For making cider, we would then transfer the juice to large fermenting containers, with no additional yeast or sugar. The juice then ferments using only the yeast present in the skins and the natural sugars in the fruit.
We use whatever varieties of apples we can acquire, but have found that having a real mix of apple types produces a better drink than only one or two varieties.
Visitors to the Museum on Saturday 23 September will get to see the apple pressing process for themselves as we make fresh apple juice using traditional methods. Visitors are welcome to join in the fun and sample the juice created. As well as picking and pressing our apples, we will also be making the traditional 16th century pureed apple dessert, Apple Moyse, in the Winkhurst Kitchen.