A time lapse of one of our straw pressings which we turn into our 'Old Kirton' an unfiltered naturally dry cider. There is a unique and special flavour imparted by straw pressing. In the background you will see milled apple pomace coming out of the elevated mill, which is belt powered from a tractor pulley running outside the shed. The fresh pomace is bucketed onto the 7ft oak planked bed (sealed with wax and clay) around the traditional Devonshire single screw press.
This press belongs to the Stoyle family of Sandford. They have been farming and cider making in the parish for well over 100yrs, and there is evidence of cider making at Prowse many hundreds of years prior to this. Peter Stoyle and his sons Richard and Michael have been patiently training us in the craft of Devon straw pressing. Into our tenth year of cider making, and we are very nearly allowed to pass the buckets to the pressmen...
We build the cheese in layers made up of apple pomace, with wheat reed for strength and barley straw as the mat. In this film you will see we build up and press, then half squeeze - this is to make room on top for extra apples.
The cap has a very simple ratchet system, which works in just the same way as a ratchet on a socket set. This means that rather than have to use up a much bigger building the press can sit next to a wall, and the driving bar simply run back and fro. To achieve the very high pressure to squeeze the last of the juice from the cheese you'll see a vertical round post positioned in the beam to the right of the press. By tying a rope to the bar and two men turning the round post with an iron bar a crude pulley is created, generating a great deal of power. We know when we've put enough energy into the press, because we start to hear her creak...
The press will be left under pressure, and keep being wound down for the next day. The final shot shows a shiny flat face on the mock - this was taken at the end of the second day of pressing. Once we have squeezed the press down, the edges of the mock are still very wet and full of juice. We use a hay-knife to slice off the wet edges, build the edges back on top, and squash again. This process also has the effect of increasing the pressure on the mock, as we are bearing down on a smaller surface area. It's surprising the amount extra we yield from shearing the mock.
Whilst this may seem a charming traditional system, it's worth remembering that a press of this size would always have been a true cider makers press - and not a farm/home press. This press would is easily been capable of turning out 15,000 gallons a year, and indeed in its lifetime has produced many hundreds of thousands of gallons. And so long as we keep the thread waxed and boards tight, we'd like to think plenty of gallons more!