Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Haye Farm

From time to time as a photographer, you decide back-track through your catalogue and look through it again with fresh eyes. Occasionally something you didn't notice before stands out for some reason. Reflection  and 'time to consider' is a luxury that personal work brings, which is why I think its crucial to do if you want to develop, alas, its something clients will rarely buy.

Its early evening, early autumn 2012, and I'm visiting Cornwall for some public speaking about cider at the Eden Project Harvest Food Festival. I was born in Cornwall so spent alot of my early years here and we have a long pleasant relationship. It has an rough charm about it, much like Brittany. When you mix in some folklore, local stories and cider, the mystique builds and the places becomes a bit fairytale too: smugglers coves, speculator coastline, ancient Celts, tin mines, its Kernowek language. It becomes wilder and more magnetic.

Andrew Ormerod, one of my hosts and the reason I was asked to speak, has invited me out to visit a cider farm the evening I arrive before my talk. Doctor Ormerod works in Economic Botany Research and Development for the Eden Project so knows his apples from his pears. He could be described as an archetypal English professor: a well educated gentleman working at the forefront of science as well as the kind of bloke who, after a visit to his favourite cider farm, you can have a couple of pints of local farmhouse with at the Ship Inn, and enjoy a plate of fresh Mackerel.

We headed out to a local peninsula, stopping briefly to look at an old press he knew about in a shack overlooking the estuary before heading over the water and down the other side of it to our destination. Haye Farm is a small cider farm situated at what feels like the end of the earth. Here in Westcountry, places like this are affectionately described as 'proper job'. This place feels real, and earthy and they make some amazing cider.

The maritime climate carries alot of moisture in air, its heavy and damp at this time of day and everything is wet. The grass in the orchard is unusually long; its over my knees and I'm aware that its the first time I've been this deep in grass in any orchard, ever. Its sodden with water that has collected from the cooling air and the bottom half of my legs are soaked, but its worth it. Such places are a gem to find and really are the heart and soul of cidermaking here in the UK. They're scattered amongst the countryside, nestled beneath hills, at the end of deeply hedged lanes in places you'd ordinarily feel lost. A visit is like making a pilgrimage, a return to the source of ciders magic. A traditional cider farm is a quiet, place and when shrouded in evening mist, Cornwall itself becomes a mysterious place where ancient wizards can perform their magic in peace. The kind of place you remember visiting as a child that forms a memory so intense, it remains with you because when you saw it something stirred in your soul and intrigued you enough to stimulate your memory. Its feel a bit different; other-worldly,  authentic, wise; the kind of place that gives cider its personality, and me living.

Other than soaking feet and a great opportunity for some photos, the next reward is waiting patiently in a simple glass for me. Its sharp, tangy cider with a pleasant barnyard mustiness to it, big and juicy - its really fresh and satisfying.

Cooking with apples & cider image

Mark Hix

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

#Cider #Granita anyone?

The following is an extract from the Cider Enthusiasts Manual I'm currently completing:

I love this recipe.

It has to be one of the easiest things to make as long as you have time to check on it regularly. Its the kind of thing that you can prepare in advance for an evening with guests and whip it out of the freezer to serve it. 

The quality of cider you use is important and I believe it works best with a naturally sweet, earthy cider. I believe a wild yeast, keeved cider (which has a particularly distinctive taste) that retains alot of residual sugar, tannin and acidity creates the most balanced falvour. The addition of some grated apple give it the all important freshness granita needs. When ready, it tastes just like a ripe cider apple fresh from the orchard on a cool autumnal morning and is SO refreshing in the mid-summer heat. Leave it to sit for 2 minutes before serving so it just begins to melt and the cider starts to pool at the base.           


  • 750ml bottle conditioned sweet cider - such as a 3% Normandy demi sec (if you don’t have any sweet cider you can use use some apple juice, or even sugar to sweeten it).
  • 1 Gala (or similar) apple
                          (serves 4-6)


Open the bottle and pour it into a suitable tray or flat bottomed bowl, sediment included. Using a medium cutting size, grate the outside edge of a sweet apple (like a Gala) into it. 
Don't grate more than half an inch in from around the outside of the apple (this is the sweetest bit) and discard the core. Stir the mixture evenly and distribute the apple pieces throughout the cider and place it all into the bottom of the freezer. 

After 50 minutes it should start to freeze - check it then and stir it gently with a fork to an even consistency - being sure to spread the apple bits around. Every 30 minutes, check it again - keep scraping the edges and stir the mix returning to an even consistency. It should start to look like rock salt - see picture below) before putting it back into the freezer. Repeat until ready (5 or 6  times) - its that simple!

Serve it in a steep sided glass such as a martini glass or a tumbler, with a teaspoon.