Somerset has been famous for making good scrumpy for hundreds of years. The local dialect for a strong or sharp tasting cider, made in Somerset is ‘scrumpy’ and has been consumed and made within Somerset as well as being distributed around the world for centuries. With Somerset being one of the biggest cider counties in the UK, the West Country is known for the traditional method of cider making, using original, sharper types of cider apples. But, where did the cider process come from and how did it become so vastly enjoyed in Somerset?
Cider and cider production have been established in the UK since the Roman era, with Cider being recorded in history from the 11th Century onwards, with Kent, Hampshire and Somerset being the three main apple growing and cider producing counties in England. Since the 11th Century, most houses were producing cider and selling cider to the public as well cider being used as a wage for workers. Also being noted in various medical folklore as a health supplement, cider and cider apples were enjoyed not only as an alcoholic beverage, but also as a beauty luxury, with ointments and facial washes being created and sold due to apples having health properties which was used to smooth and clean the skin, causing a boom in the sales of cider.
Being loved throughout history, there is no surprise that cider is still very popular in Somerset in the present day. Despite most cider producing companies now farming their apples abroad, true Somerset cider can still be enjoyed with some famous cider companies such as Sheppy’s and Thatchers still using their apple orchards and cider breweries in Somerset. Good on them!
Cider is produced using a pulping, pressing and fermentation process, where the juice is extracted from the apples and mixed with yeast. The first step taken when creating cider is crushing the apples in order to remove all pips from the apples and to make the pressing stage easier. This stage is carried out within a large mill, with the pulp almost resembling apple sauce.
The extraction of the apple juice is the second stage, with the pulp being placed in a tank and mixed with other pulps from other variations of apple. Up to as many as 6 different types of apple can be combined in this stage in order to create the desired taste, depending on what type of cider is being made. The pulp is then layered in forms, a piece of nylon cloth with apple pulp on top, ready for the extraction process to take place. The nylon cloth is removed, leaving behind a square of apple pulp. This stage is repeated around 10 times in order to create a stack blocks of apple pulp, also known as a cheese. This stack is then placed in a tray and pressed by a hydraulic pump.
Preservatives are passed through the juice as the mixture cools down as well as the juice being pasteurised if it isn’t being fermented. If the juice is being fermented, the chemicals needed to start the fermentation process is added to the juice, which can take up to a month to fully ferment. After fermentation, the last stage is packaging ready to be shipped to the stores that we love. So next time you sip an ice cold glass of scrumpy, remember that you a drinking a little piece of Somerset history!