Here at Rutts Lane Cider we source our Apples and Pears from 3 sources, commercial orchards, local gardens/small local orchards and our own orchard.
Our Orchard is still fairly young so not producing fruit in the quantity’s we need to produce a batch. Commercial orchards currently provide the fresh apples we use for most of our ciders. Local Apples and Pears provide the fruit for our Rutts Gold Cider, Pewsey Perry and Red Longdon Perry.
Collecting from single trees and small orchards provide various challenges. Not all apples (or Pears) are created equal, If the trees are stressed due to lack of water or being over loaded the tree can start shedding them early, giving the impression they are ripe. Unfortunately they have very little flavour or the all important sugar needed to make the alcohol. A simple way to tell if an apple or pear is ripe is to cut one in half and check the colour of the pips. Ripe fruit will have dark brown/black pips with no white/lighter patches. There is a further test that can be done using iodine, this method is detailed here the pip colour is sufficient for me collecting local apples.
As we only use fresh fruit we have to have enough ripe fruit at the same time to make it worthwhile pressing, about 400kg is good, although if it is a Perry Pear we would collect a smaller quantity as they are much more difficult to find in Wiltshire. With commercial orchards this is not a problem as we only collect a qty of a single variety at a time. As different Apples and Pears ripen between the end of July and the end of December you can see that collecting small quantities from gardens can be problematic.
Early fruit (July/August) don’t keep well, so collecting small quantities mean that they often rot before we have collected enough to be worth pressing. We have decided we will start collecting from mid September onwards, fruit ripening from around this time tend to keep well and allow us to build up enough to do a worthwhile pressing. We also try and limit the distances we travel collecting, 40 or 50Kg is fine if we are only going a mile or 2 but if we have to travel 10 or 15 miles then the quantity of ripe fruit must reflect the fuel and time used to collect them.
Perry Pears are a slightly different story, no one is planting Perry Pears so they are not being replaced as they die out so there are less and less around, people don’t know what they are so there could be lovely Perry Pears not being used because people don’t know what these nasty tasting pears are. We will travel further distances and for less fruit for nasty tasting pears.
Just to complicate things even further we have a limit of how much Cider/Perry we can make each year, so even if there is ripe fruit available close to us we may not be able to use it due to our production limit, also as most trees are biannual (produce fruit every other year) or frost damage to the blossom meaning no fruit that year, we could be turning lovely ripe fruit down and another year we will be taking smaller quantities from further afield due to crops suffering from a late frost.
The bottom line is If you are within 15 miles of West Lavington and have apples you don’t want to see go to waste and it is mid Sept onwards, drop us a line, we may not be able to take them this year but we will add you to our list of places for the future.
If you suspect you have a Perry Pear tree (they tend to dry your mouth when eaten) We are interested no matter qty or distance (within reason).
We must thank Wasted Apple for hosting a list of Cider makers who will go out and save Apples and Pears from being left to rot where they have fallen. You can check them out here https://wastedapple.co.uk/uk-apple-collectors-directory/