I've made many friends on this cider adventure and today was definitely a highlight. One, for meeting up with a few of the North West's cider makers but, two, for having the chance to raise a glass of the good stuff in memory of the guy who brought us all together in the first place.
Today was all about grafting trees (joining a new rootstock to a scion - which is a cut twig from an existing tree) with our good friend Samuel Bolton from Grafting For Orchards. He's featured in earlier posts and his expertise on horticulture, flora and fauna is to be marvelled at.
Due to delayed trains, Samuel and I ended up sharing a carriage from Manchester to Huddersfield for our meet-up at The Rat and Ratchet with fellow cider makers Udders Orchard, Grumpy John's, Mad Abbot and Nouveau Cakes (not sure of the cider link there, forgot ask them). Samuel carried with him a plethora of graft wood and scions from trees recently pruned. "New growth is key for grafting as you want scion wood that's from the last year's growth," says Samuel.
Once the first pints were ordered we hastened to an upper room at the Rat and Ratchet ready to watch and learn from the master.
It's such a simple process, really, albeit with some careful precision with a good pair of clean shears and a craft knife. Clean, sharp tools are paramount so as to avoid problems and potential spread of canker (fungal disease). On my first attempt my church window - the small arch of cut wood that should be visible when joining scion to rootstock - was more of a closed window but Samuel assured me that the join was good. I did find it hard getting a straight cut through the scion wood but I "mooned it" meaning my cut curved too much. Samuel explained that you want both your cuts to be the same angle so that the graft has the best chance for fusing. I like to think I improved for the other graft I made.
In the time I had, I walked away with a Yarlington Mill (Grafted by Samuel), a Kingston Black and a Bloody Ploughman all on M27 rootstock.
Alas, I had to leave the hard graft (pun intended) to the guys in order to get my train back home to the family but before I left there was just enough time to charge a glass to Matt at Nook's Yard Cider who sadly passed away last year. He's the reason our little North of England Cider Association AKA NECA (and friends) meet up and share local cider news and stories.
Matt was a true legend and Joe and I called upon his knowledge and expertise on numerous occasions and we're sad to have lost one of our own. Here's to you Matt... "clink"
We'll continue to pursue the things Matt held dear, such as pushing for a national recognition for Northern Cider. From what I tasted today (Udders Orchard Whisky Cask) there's a lot to shout about. Also for all NECA members to be clear in our labelling as to the percentage of fruit in our bottles. Ours, like Matt's is 100% apple juice, unless it's our Pyder - our pear and apple mix (still 100% juice!).
Thanks Matt, we missed you today but your memory and dedication to Northern cider lives on through us.