Pure North Orchard Tour
PURE NORTH – local, organic, great-tasting cider. On 12th June we joined Rob North for a behind-the-scenes look at this very Yorkshire enterprise.
Once better known for its nineteenth-century workhouse, Deanhouse is a rural area of outstanding beauty – a world away from nearby, bustling Holmfirth.
We wander through the orchards, closely watched by cows in a neighbouring field. Rob tends over 400 trees like a flock and tells us of the different varieties from Yorkshire and further afield – their strengths and individual characters.
The sunny aspect and sloping hillside provide good conditions for these rain-loving trees that don’t like their roots in water.
The wind turbine stands eerily still on this calm, warm June evening as we listen to Rob wax lyrical about lesser known facts: “In the eighteenth century Yorkshire was the biggest producer of cider. Indigenous bees in the four hives work the dandelion-rich, ungrazed orchards, and pollinate some of the apples along the way...”
We learn that cider apples are hard, fibrous and high in tannin – bitter to the taste. One hidden benefit is that the birds and squirrels don’t seem to like them either!
Much of the fruit is allowed to drop naturally – an indicator of maximum sugar content in the apple. The remaining fruit is harvested by hand – gently shaking the branches.
In the former stable, Rob takes us through the journey from apple to cider. The apples pass through the mill to pulp the fruit and create a pomace. This pomace is then layered between wooden racks and cloths to create a ‘cake’ to be squashed by the might of the press. Juice then flows from the press and starts a long, complex fermentation process.
There’s lots of science here – measuring devices, natural yeast levels etc – but artistry and alchemy too. Nothing is added – no chemicals or sulphites or colourings. Rob is passionate about the whole enterprise and the environment, from the benefits of being organic to local pigs eating the pulp after pressing!
We sample some of the wares – and choose our personal favourites!
Hailing from Bradford, and working in printing and marketing in a former life, one senses Rob has truly found his forté in these Pennine hills. We are lucky to have such an ethical, top quality producer as Pure North in our area. Make sure to sample the draught ciders in local pubs and bottled ciders from Fair Trader.
Kathryn Sheard, 13 June 2018