Words: Grania Howard [insta] @cob_cider
Cob came about in early 2017 when I went on a little road trip around Somerset with an ex. We stopped at a few of the cider houses, such as Wilkins and Burrow Hill, and decided that we should try to make it. I was in LA for most of that year, and started to create cider there; it was a lot of trial and error! In autumn I came back to the UK and produced 1200 litres with apples from the orchard at Castle Howard and from friends’ gardens – all of which would have gone to waste.
I love making something that would otherwise not be used. When I see loads of apples on the floor I’m like, ‘oh that’s a waste’, but actually the wasps, birds and mice all enjoy them too, so maybe its not so bad. It’s just mad that we’d go and buy apples from a supermarket in autumn when they are everywhere. There is basically food on every grass verge!
Last year was our first making all single variety apples. A friend and I would go after work or on the weekend and pick as many as we could from an orchard near York and from Castle Howard, then another evening we’d press them all. After letting them sit for about 9 months, we open the barrels, taste, and get friends to see what blends they think are nicest – everyone has such different opinions – before bottling them.
It’s really fun! Each batch has its own little character and personality. It’s cool to think about those certain trees you picked from for a particular batch and what they’ve produced. All of my cider so far is still, I’ve not wanted to add sugar or sulphites, just 100% pure fermented apple juice. I think it’s important to use natural ingredients because apples have so much flavour in their purest form. Whenever I’ve done markets, you get people who love it and people who hate it!
This might be a sweeping generalisation, but I think a lot of people see cider as the sweet, light, fizzy stuff you get in pubs. Proper cider is much more complex, perhaps as complex as wine. But there are some great people out there, like Felix Nash of Fine Cider, changing that perception.
Sometimes I’ll speak to a south west cider maker and they’re like, “do apples grow up north?” Er yuh!! I think Yorkshire is totally suited for making cider, the trees just might be a couple of weeks behind the southern trees. Husthwaite Cider in North Yorkshire, for example, is reeeeally delicious! I’m hoping to get a grant to plant a small orchard with some specific trees, but that wouldnt be ready for about 15 years….. it’s a long game!