Stirring in the sugar and yeast to our pink elderflower wine to give us the bubbles.
This is using the traditional champagne method of creating a secondary fermentation in the bottle.
All bottles will be riddled in French oak pupitres later in the year to remove any sediment. Bottles will then be disgorged and sealed with a champagne cork.
Please excuse the corny music being played in the background on the radio in the video clip.
Early June is the season when we start to harvest elderflower to make our Elderflower 'Champagne'. Not just any plain elderflower though....purple elderflower! By using this slightly unusual garden cultivar, we produce a bright-pink sparkling wine, perfect for summer parties, BBQs or even weddings.
We harvest from a variety called Sambucus nigra 'Gerda', also sometimes listed as 'Black Beauty' And what a beauty it is, with dark purple foliage and pink florets that almost appear to froth out onto the leaves like the overflow from an over shaken bottle of champagne. For those interested in growing something similar, there is a purple elderflower cultivar, but with finely, cut serrated leaves known as Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace' that is just as gorgeous.
We've harvested from Torre Abbey, a public garden in Torquay, Devon, but we have also planted lots of these shrubs in our garden in Brixham, Devon to hopefully give us an endless supply.
Taking hardwood cuttings of elderflower is easy. Remove healthy 25cm lengths of young branches while the tree is dormant (between Nov and late Feb). Elderflower can be prone to making hollow, pithy stems, which should be avoided. Instead chose young fresh stems with solid wood for propagating. Cut to just below a bud at the base of the cutting. No need for hormone rooting powder/ gel. They strike easily without it. Insert the cutting about two thirds deep into a gritty, well drained compost. Keep the soil moist, but not too damp, and plant out in late spring.
Above - Pink elderflower champagne on left and traditional elderflower on right. Secondary fermentation in bottles before riddling in pupitres to remove sediment and sealing with a champagne cork.
Below, Annabel harvesting pink elderflower from Sambucus nigra 'Black Beauty' at Torre Abbey gardens, Torquay.
Below - Pink sparkling elderflower and plain elderflower. Looking hazy at the moment, as this is prior to riddling in pupitres to remove the sediment and then being sealed with a champagne cork.
Thinking of getting married soon? As we all know, roses have been used to symbolise and celebrate marriage and everlasting love in England for centuries. What better way to celebrate your love, then sharing a glass (or two) of sparkling rose petal wine, made entirely from Devon roses.
We've been busy in the last few weeks making sparkling rose petal wine.
All the roses have been picked by hand from local Devon gardens, including from the gardens at Torre Abbey in Torquay, Devon. To capture the gorgeous, delicate scent, we pick the roses in full bloom, literally within a day or two of the flowers opening. We predominately use red roses, to create the reddish-pink colour of the sparkling wine, and a few pink and pale coloured ones with plenty of fragrance.
Three of our our favourite roses to use in Sparkling Rose Petal wine are....
Rose 'Agatha Christie' is a delicately-scented mid-pink, climbing, double rose, named after the legendary crime writer who was born just down the road in Torquay. It is a repeat flowering-type, meaning we can pick more later in the season.
Like Agatha, a flower that adds intrigue, complexity and hidden layers of depth to our drink.
Rose 'Cardinal de Richelieu'is a traditional 'old rose' species-type with the most intoxicating fragrance you could possibly imagine. Starting off deep red, it reflexes its petals to transform into an a ball of deep purple blooms. It is an absolute favourite of ours, whether we're admiring it in the garden, or using it to make sparkling rose petal wine. Best of all, it's arching stems are almost thornless, unlike the real, Cardinal de Richelieue the prickly and thorny character, who was First Minister to Louis XIII in 17th Century France, and featured in Alexander Dumas' Three Musketeers as the cunning and ruthless villain.
Like the cardinal, this rose adds a beguiling wickedness and decadence to our sparkling rose petal wine.
Rose 'Darcey Bussell' is the quintessential English red rose which has deep scarlet, double blooms, almost velvety in texture with a fruity fragrance. It is a compact, shrubby rose, meaning it is easy to harvest the petals. Named after the acclaimed ballerina, who was amazingly appointed Principle of the Royal Ballet at the age of just 20.
Like Darcey, this rose provides an uplifting bounce to our Sparkling rose petal wine, and is guaranteed to keep you on your toes and put a bounce into your step. One too many sips though and you could be pirouetting across your kitchen floor.
All our sparkling wines are made using the traditional champagne method, whereby they are fermented in the bottle, individually turned daily (riddled) in a pupitre (wine rack) for 6 week, before being disgorged and sealed with a champagne cork.
Above - Ali Marshall, head gardener at Torre Abbey harvesting a few blooms of the Agatha Christie rose for us to use in our Sparkling Rose Petal Wine.
Left to right, 1) Darcey Bussell rose, 2) roses in a barrel ready to make wine, and 3) Ali, head gardener harvesting roses at Torre Abbey.
As everybody else seems to be baking at the moment during lockdown, we thought we would have a go ourselves. These vegan cupcakes taste amazing, even if we say so ourselves.
The recipe uses cider vinegar as one of the ingredients, and as luck would have it, we have our own stash of the finest cider vinegar in the world; YARDE CIDER VINEGAR, although we might be slightly biased.
Using cider vinegar in a cake recipe might sound a weird combo, but it works really well.
In vegan baking, if cider vinegar is combined with vegan milk alternatives such as soya, almond or hazelnut milk, it curdles and this recreates dairy -like products. Magic!
About Yarde cider vinegar
Yarde cider vinegar is matured in oak vats for a minimum of two years. It is raw, unpasteurised, unfiltered and contains the essential ‘Mother’. It is vegan-friendly and like all our products, we don’t add any sulphites. The apples used are all local Devon varieties collected from orchards rich in wildlife, where no chemicals or fertilizers are used.
Health benefits of cider vinegar (not health benefits of eating delicious cup cakes)
There are various claims to the health benefits of cider vinegar, including that it helps burn ‘belly fat’...so no need to take part in any more Joe Wicks torture sessions, we mean workouts!
Other health-benefit claims, aside from weight loss, include soothing sore throats, helping with diabetes and sugar levels, reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels, heartburn and assisting with rheumatoid arthritis.
Some people even use cider vinegar to wash their hair!
However, we would like to stress, the above ‘health benefits’ are just claims, and we aren’t medical advisers. Always seek professional medical advice if you have one of the above symptoms (perhaps not necessarily for hair-washing advice though!).
More about the health benefits of cider vinegar can be found on this BBC website.
Recipe for vegan cupcakes
Preparation time – 10 mins
Baking time - 15 to 20 mins
Icing – we made a lovely, thick, vegan-friendly vanilla icing, but you can always search for alternatives such as orange, lemon or vegan friendly chocolate icing.
A really simple recipe is just mixing icing sugar with a splash of hot water and tsp of vanilla extract.
Just to give you all a quick update.
Sadly, our expansion to Cockington Court, scheduled for early April has been delayed due to Coronavirus and lock down. We are still very much excited about opening up our cider shop and studio at this wonderful location, surrounded by gorgeous cider orchards and a walled garden. We can't wait to become part of the wonderful community there, working alongside other creative, artisan businesses and the lovely people that make Cockington such a fantastic place to visit.
We will keep you posted as to when we finally make the move. In the meantime, we are continuing to operate out of our ciderhouse in Stoke Gabriel with online sales and local deliveries, although our premises are closed to the public.
Stay safe everyone, and look forward to seeing you all at Cockington Court soon. best wishes Simon
There was a wonderful turn out for Simon Akeroyd's apple tree pruning masterclass in the gorgeous old orchard at Lupton House last week. Participants spent the day learning various pruning techniques on open-centre bush trees, and upright spindle trees, and had the opportunity to get hands on experience too.
After an introduction by Simon on the various different reasons for pruning, and which were the best tools for the job, Simon then demonstrated the formative pruning of young trees, and the restoration of older trees that hadn't been pruned for years. The training also included looking at whip and tongue grafting and chip budding techniques of varieties. Finally there were demonstrations by Simon of the Modified-Lorrette pruning technique on restricted form of trees such as fans, espaliers, oblique cordons and step-over apple trees. Participants also had a chance to master the 3-step pruning cut on some of the larger branches.
Best of all- apart from the lovely crowd of participants, was the fact that there was a lovely lunch cooked over an open fire by the Forest School's team. And an additional bonus was that it didn't rain all day. Rare indeed for February 2020.