to "lay down" your Scrumpy! by Paul
on suitable containers to keep
draught cider in, and how to keep
it in good condition over a period of time.
(but not all - see below) of the suppliers will
sell you draught cider and/or perry in plastic
containers. These are fairly cheap, and once
you've got them you can take them back for refills
and save money - a gallon is a typical size, and
is suitable for most users, but smaller (and larger!)
ones are often available. Don't forget to take the
containers with you though; I ended up with - literally!
- a shed load of empty cider containers because
I kept forgetting to take 'em with me whenever I
went down to the West Country and ended up buying
new ones. I now keep a few empty gallon containers
on standby in the back of my car in case I just
happen to drive past a cider farm unexpectedly...!
some suppliers sell their products in metric containers
- typically 1-litre, 2-litre, 4-litres or 5-litre
containers (note that a UK gallon is around 4.5
litres). I've found that many suppliers will happily
fill your gallon containers even if they normally
only sell metric ones, and adjust the price accordingly
- but I can't guarantee this will always apply everywhere!
If the worst comes to the worst you will have to
buy a new set of metric containers - but they'll
be reusable in future, too!
suppliers sell cider in various fancy containers
including earthenware jars, which look very nice
but are an expensive way to buy it - although you
might consider they make good presents. Be warned
that some of the very small producers may not have
containers for sale at all but expect you to have
your own. Other producers will only sell quantities
of 5 gallons or more, sometimes in 5-gallon polycasks
on which a deposit is payable. These are a good
idea if you're planning a party - or just planning
on drinking a lot!
It's a good idea to ensure you get your containers
by visiting one of the larger producers the first
time you go scrumpy hunting. In an emergency, you
could use some of those large 2 litre pop [soda]
bottles - some producers are happy to fill these.
I remember driving by chance past one small cider
farm on a Sunday afternoon and tasting their excellent
product, a quantity of which I indicated a desire
to purchase. They were happy to oblige but I didn't
have any containers and they didn't sell 'em. Luckily
they found a couple of pop bottles their kids had
just emptied - that was a close one!
The best advice I can give is: once you've got some
of your own containers, take some of them with you,
just in case you need them; and before visiting
a producer for the first time, contact the supplier
to find out what containers, quantities etc. they
are prepared to sell. David Kitton's book Guide
to Real Cider used to state all this useful
information, but this is something missing from
the 1996 edition (see the Cider
Books section for references).
Many of the producers also sell cider, perry and
other drinks (typically mead, wine, cider brandy,
etc.) in bottles - not necessarily all of these
are made on the premises - ask or check the label
before you buy. Many of the bottled ciders on offer,
while being very pleasant to drink, may not qualify
as real cider as they may have been pasteurised
and filtered. Again, the best advice is to ask before
buying. Some producers also sell other items such
as cheese, eggs, honey, fruit & vegetables,
pottery, gifts, etc.
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If you buy gallons of draught
cider or perry, it will (in my experience) keep
pretty well for many months - up to a year and even
beyond - providing:
it remains in full unopened containers,
- you keep it somewhere cool.
Like real ale, farmhouse cider is a living
drink and if it gets too warm the secondary fermentation
can cause containers to split, burst or explode
(depending on what they're made of) if the pressure
is allowed to build up too much. Also, once opened,
the cider will go off in a few days - it's the contact
with the air that does it. Cider kept in plastic
gallon (or other size) containers will sometimes
swell or "balloon" with the pressure.
In this case a good idea is to briefly slacken the
lid by unscrewing it slightly, and then immediately
to retighten it - this will relieve the pressure
by allowing the excess carbon dioxide gas to escape
without letting any air in. If this happens try
to find somewhere cooler to keep the cider to prevent
it happening again. In hot weather the fridge may
be the best place if you don't have a cool enough
cupboard or cellar.
I've found the best way of ensuring your cider doesn't
go off is to pour the cider into smaller containers
(say, one or two pints) soon after you get it home
so you can drink it at leisure. Alternatively, each
time you drink some, pour the remainder into a smaller
container so there's very little air at the top.
I've successfully used all sorts of containers,
including the 1 or 2 pint plastic fruit juice or
milk ones (make sure they're thoroughly clean before
use). After use I find that just rinsing them out
is usually sufficient to keep them clean so you
can use them again. My own favourite containers
are those old-fashioned screw-top beer or cider
bottles (flagons) with internal screw stoppers -
if I can get 'em - unfortunately they're a bit scarce
these days. Some people use beer bottles and put
crown caps on them (available from Home Brew shops/suppliers).
Whatever you do, make sure any containers you use
- especially if they are made of glass -
are intended to withstand pressure - don't
use ordinary wine bottles, sauce bottles, etc. -
be it on your own head if you ignore this warning.
And remember not to leave your bottled cider
Of course, if you're lucky enough to live round
the corner from a decent scrumpy maker, you don't
need to go to all this trouble - just pop round
for a gallon refill when you run out!
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