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Makin’ cider

Cider making

Ugh, autumn is truly here isn’t it? I swear it got dark at 3pm yesterday, so miserable. In my mind the only good things about the gloomy seasons are of the edible and quaffable varieties: a few months of soups, stews and mulled things make it all bearable. So I was happy to get an email from Garden Trading asking if I’d like to try out an apple press from their range of harvest season products. If you haven’t heard of Garden Trading yet, they make timeless and practical homewares that look equally at home in a country cottage or a more modern setting: I’ve got their enamelled metal lightshades in both my bedroom and kitchen.

Cider making

Here’s the sweet little apple press they sent me. Crafted from solid wood and pretty sage green painted cast iron, it feels solid and well made. It’s nice and petite so fits onto the kitchen worktop easily.

Cider making

It comes ready to roll, complete with a mesh pulping bag, pressing blocks and simple instructions.

Cider making
Cider making

To give it a whirl, I bought a lovely range of apples from my local greengrocer: a mix of eating apples like Granny Smith and Gala for sweetness mixed with cooking varieties like Bramley for sharpness. Don’t they look pretty? The 9kg I bought yielded about 6 litres of juice.

Cider making
Cider making

The process is pretty simple, though you need a bit of elbow grease and be prepared to get pulpy and sticky! First wash and roughly chop the apples: I did this by hand but for a larger batch you’d probably want to use something more mechanised. Then you need to roughen/pulp them up a bit: we used a stick blender but a bowl food processor would have been quicker and cleaner. Give them a good whiz so they’re broken down but not entirely mush.

Cider making

Load the mesh bag into the barrel and fill with the pulpy apple goop. (This photo shows our first try where we hadn’t whizzed them up enough and they would not press: the right consistency looks more pulpy than this.)

Cider making

Pop the pressing blocks on top and start turning. Ta-da, out pours lovely apple juice! Of course you can just drink it right away, but I really fancied trying to make cider from it, with a little help from the live-in brewer boyfriend. It just requires a couple of extra supplies and ingredients – cider yeast, Campden tablets and PET bottles, all which I got from Brew UK – as well as the fermentation bottle and airlock which Josh already had from beer brewing.

Cider making

The Campden tablet stops any wild yeasts or bacteria from mucking up the fermentation, as well as lightening the colour. After 24-48 hours the cider yeast is added, then it needs to be tucked away away under the stairs for a couple of months, so it should be ready just in time for Christmas. Can’t wait to try it!

Cider making

We also had a bit leftover to drink straight away, to which I added some of this Morris Kitchen ginger syrup I got in Brooklyn. Delicious. The juice can be frozen too, which would be handy if you’re lucky enough to have a glut of apples to use up. All in all, top autumnal fun.

Apple press supplied for review by Garden Trading – thank you!

Brooklyn & NYC Eats & drinks

Brooklyn

This was always going to be an indulgent foody holiday. I’d saved about 200 places to my Foursquare list and Google map and was determined to plough through as many as possible, waistline be damned. I think we did pretty well! I don’t know if it was the exchange rate or being in Brooklyn rather than Manhattan, but prices everywhere seemed really reasonable, and it was a delight to have so many places on our doorstep in Williamsburg.

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Brewbacca beer labels

Here’s a fun little project I did recently – my old employer Sidekick Studios brewed an in-house beer, and I designed the label for it.

Brewbacca beer label

We called it Brewbacca because he’s a famous sidekick, and kind of nerdy…. geddit? It’s a light, hoppy IPA, perfect for summer drinking.


Brewbacca beer label
bbsketch

I hand sketched the design then finished it up in Illustrator, and had them printed by Diginate, like my Garden Party labels. This time I went for a vinyl sticker with spot varnish, and I think the end result is super nice. Plus the beer tastes good, which is a bonus!

Garden Party IPA

Beer label

Josh has been homebrewing beer for quite a while now – since I bought him this kit last Christmas. One early explosion disaster aside the brews have all been very tasty, and he’s quickly graduated from using a kit into buying individual malts and hops to make specific flavours and styles.

Beer labelBeer label
Beer label

For his latest one – a summery IPA – he let me design the label. I hand-drew the whole thing and just adjusted and coloured in Photoshop. I got them printed onto clear vinyl by the nice folks at Diginate.


Beer label

The brew was supposed to be a celebration of our new garden, but a lot of setbacks have meant that it’s still a work in progress… anyway, the labels came out nice and I’m looking forward to enjoying one in the garden when it’s finally finished. I just hope that summer isn’t quite over yet…

Brewcat

Scottish beermeisters Brewdog put up a little Twitter competition recently, asking for label designs for a new beer – a totally open brief right down to the beer type. The first prize was for a beer to made with your label – pretty cool! So I knocked up this little entry – involving cats, of course.

I think it fits right into their range, no?

Sadly I just missed out on first place in a public vote, but managed to get second place, which meant a lovely crate of Brewdog beers landed on my doorstep today. Not bad for a couple of hours’ work drawing kitties!

By the way, if you haven’t been to Brewdog’s Camden bar yet you really should – it’s got a great vibe, awesome beers and really yummy pizzas (the menu’s curated by Masterchef’s Tim Anderson).