How Borough Market’s community cider project is set to provide a welcome home for any of your apples that might otherwise go to waste
When making their signature brew, Kingston Black, the cidermakers of New Forest Cider use just a single variety of fruit: a bittersharp cider apple of the same name, high in both tannin and acid, first grown in orchards around the parish of Kingston St Mary in Somerset. When making Borough Market’s community cider, those same cidermakers will be confronted by something altogether different: a complete melange of apples of every shape, size, tone and character, gathered not from their own orchards in Burley, Hampshire but from a random collection of trees and fruit bowls all around London. The resulting drink will be as much a reflection of the diversity, colour and chaos of the capital city as the Kingston Black is of rural England’s centuries-old farmhouse cider culture.
Starting on Thursday 24th October, Borough Market is hosting a three-day Harvest Celebration in the Market Hall. One of the most intriguing elements of a packed programme of family-friendly events is the chance for visitors to contribute to the creation of a small batch of crowdsourced apple juice and cider. Bring with you any apples that might otherwise go to waste—picked from your garden, allotment or schoolyard, or found sitting in fridges and fruit bowls—then watch as the team from New Forest Cider’s Borough Market stall, The Cider House, demonstrate how the fruit will be transformed first into apple juice and then into cider.
Cidermaking leans heavily on the natural microorganisms that live on the fruit and play a vital role in the fermentation process, so anyone contributing apples should be careful not to clean them too thoroughly. “For cider, we don’t like our apples polished!” says Mary Topp of The Cider House. “There will be an element of natural yeast on the skins of the apples and by rubbing them to polished perfection you will be taking all those airborne, natural yeasts with it, and they are vital for kickstarting our ferment. All that’s needed is a quick dunk in clean water and a gentle dry with a soft cloth.”
Care should also be taken over their storage. “Ultimately, you want to be keeping the apples dry and with a good airflow, so don’t store them in plastic bags,” continues Mary. “After you have got all the apples nice and dry, store them in an open cardboard box or wooden crate. Keep an eye on them for a couple of days—apples that have split or are badly bruised are likely to start to rot and that will spread through the whole harvest.”
The cuckoo’s call
Contributors will be given a token entitling them to money off the finished drinks, with all proceeds going towards supporting Borough’s community work, but they will have to wait a while before they’re ready. “Cider can take as little as 13 weeks to fully ferment. However, we like to wait a little longer. We follow the old rule ‘never drink the cider until you hear the first cuckoo calling’. We like to be patient and allow the juice to fully finish its ferment, and then rest. We won’t touch a drop until we hear her sing in mid-April 2020.”