**UPDATE – the 2016 #apples4cider swap has now closed – thanks everyone!
Swiftly following on from Scotland Food & Drink Fortnight 2016, Scotland’s Original cidermaker, Thistly Cross, wants to rediscover all abandoned, overlooked and neglected local Northern apple trees to put their fruit to good use, hand-pressing them at their Cidershed, near Dunbar in Scotland. And what’s more, they’ll swap those donations, big or small, for real fruit cider or apple juice!
Thistly is just as happy with a bucketful of good fruit as an orchard full (around 7kg of apples usually equates to a bottle). Last year’s “Bucket for a Bottle” scheme harvested well over a 160 tonnes of apples and this year Thistly would love to top that with its 2016 #apples4cider campaign.
One of the things that make Thistly Cross Cider so unique is its blend of Scottish heritage apples, hand-pressed on Belton Farm, East Lothian; establishing a proud tradition of using apples grown across the country from a wide range of sources, including local schools, professional apple growers, estate owners and the general public. And so, proud of its Scottish roots and northern heritage, Thistly Cross invites the public to donate their spare fruit.
Peter Stuart, Head Cidermaker at Thistly Cross said: “The apple season is the most important time of year for Thistly. This year’s harvest is looking bountiful. As apple donations are already flooding in, we’re hoping to exceed the 2015 crop. Thistly wants to give Scottish fruit a chance to really prove itself!”
Based in the heart of East Lothian, Thistly Cross was established in 2008 as a collaboration between farmer, Ian Rennie, and artist-turned-cidermaker, Peter Stuart, and has rapidly gained a growing reputation for making ciders that people love.
Peter added: “Thistly’s popularity is growing year on year, but we can’t make all the cider we want without the help of the public. Every year, we accept fruit donations from all over Scotland, ranging from a bucketful to a truckload, and to say ‘thank you’ we offer the choice of cider or apple juice in return”.
By using as much locally sourced fruit as possible, Thistly has eliminated the waste that is all too often associated with the food industry of modern times. Apple growers can also help by donating their unwanted and excess apples that would otherwise go to waste.
He continued, “We’re on a Thistly mission to combat food waste and encourage everyone to get involved. We also hope to encourage the planting of fruit trees and orchards across Scotland, especially heritage varieties and those less commonly found in commercial growing”.
Apple donations of at least 7kg are welcomed for swapping at Thistly’s drop-off point at The Store, Belhaven Fruit Farm, Thistly Cross Roundabout, Dunbar, East Lothian, EH42 1ST just off the A1 outside Dunbar, which has a cafe and farm shop. Open regular hours, seven days a week (please avoid lunchtime if possible as they can be very busy!).
Follow Thistly’s #apples4cider campaign across social media.
Here’s all the info you’ll need:
Which apple varieties are accepted? Thistly accepts most apple varieties (apart from crab apples – sorry!). Part of the reason that Thistly has such an authentic flavour is its unique blend of apple varieties. Thistly also accepts pears, providing these fit the same criteria.
How do I know if my apples are ripe? Very simply, healthy apples should drop to the ground of their own accord when ripe. However, the wind in Scotland makes this a little tricky to gauge, as big gusts can knock apples down too early. Once a few ripe, healthy apples have fallen to the ground, this is an indication that the rest of the apples are nearly ready for harvest. A ripe apple should come off the branch with ease, when twisted lightly. Once ripened, apples become slightly softer and sweeter.
What condition of apples does Thistly accept? Thistly needs good ingredients to make good cider – that means clean, sound, rot-free apples. It really is true that one rotten apple can ruin the barrel. The fruit is weighed and sorted on arrival, but it saves time if bad or heavily bruised apples are taken out beforehand.
How should I store my apples? Apples should be stored in a breathable container – paper bags, tattie sacks and crates all work perfectly for this. Please don’t store your apples in plastic bags as this causes them to sweat and rot.
When should I bring them? The short answer:as soon as possible after harvesting. The longer answer: this depends very much on the variety and condition of the apple. If you pick your apples directly from the tree, it’s best to get them to Thistly within one or two weeks of harvesting. The most important thing, though, is that they meet all of the criteria above. Apples are milled at Thistly on Wednesdays and are pressed on Thursdays and Fridays. Please bear this in mind when arranging drop-off. As we are very busy during the harvest, Thistly can’t always process your apples in the same week that you drop them off, so it’s important that they’re fit to be stored for a few days.
Brilliant – my apples fit the criteria, what next? Please drop your apples off at The Store, Belhaven Fruit Farm and enjoy a cup of tea and look around the farm shop whilst you’re there. It is open from 10am to 4pm, seven days a week.
Note – obviously over-18s only for the cider swap
For any enquiries about apples, call Thistly on 07960962510 or email Head Cidermaker, Peter, on firstname.lastname@example.org.