JOHN Hancox has installed two apple crackers in his back yard. The first is a long funnel that swallows apples and spits pulp at an alarming rate. The other is more rustic and includes human efforts and wheel turns, for which he has many volunteers and who does the same work by crushing and chopping the fruit.
"I have always liked the idea of driving around the country with one of these, Breaking Bad style in a Winnebago," he says.
The purpose of making cider, as this scrating and press session at the Hancox House in the western part of Glasgow proves, is not just the cider.
It is the company, the fruit tasting, the chat, the coffee, pastries filled with apple slices and cinnamon. It is the light hysteria when the juice starts to flow so unstoppably that people suddenly laugh and run around to find jugs. It is the flurry of panic when a bucket of apples falls over.
In recent years there has been much talk about how, after craft beer, craft cider arrived. It has come a long way since the now hugely popular East Lothian artisan cider, Thistly Cross, was first launched in 2008.
For people like Hancox, however, it is not a new product or a new trend, but a community activity. It's about coming together and squeezing the fruit, about the kind of apple and cider day that Hancox is holding on October 20 in Partick Hill, Glasgow, where, yes, cider will be drunk, but also knowledge exchange and apple pies and cakes, with contributions encouraged .
Hancox is the maker of Clyde Cider, a traditional cider made from apples from all over Glasgow. He asks people to take apples harvested from local gardens or municipal locations to be squeezed, and instead offers them apple juice or cider – the idea is that this will save some of the many tons of apples in town that are being wasted. Part of it is fermented in cider, which is sold in selected stores such as Valhalla & goat and the Glasgow cave.
"It's not really a commercial cider for me," he says. "It's a way to use the apples and make something fun out of it. The idea is to use the harvest.
“Last year was an amazing year for apples and it actually got pretty embarrassing. My wife called one day. She couldn't get through the front door because it was piled with apples. She was not handcuffed. "
Craft ciders, he notes, "seem to be popping up everywhere." Hancox says: “Cider is also easier than making traditional beer. The cider kit is fairly accessible. It's about getting a pile of apples and squeezing them and then adding some yeast and so on – it's pretty simple, while artisanal brewing entails a lot more stuff and costs. And it's just fun to do. "
There are many reasons to love this drink, essentially a light apple wine. For those who are concerned about their strong carbon footprint, a cider produced from local fruit, from windfall, is very sustainable. A drink such as Clyde Cider reduces food waste. And in these uncertain times, while Brexit ever looms up, Hancox believes there is security in being able to master it.
"I think if people were self-sufficient in alcohol," he says, "it might be a bit of a rest for everyone."
However, Hancox never really intends to become a cider maker. "My thing is that I sell the fruit trees and I encourage people to plant the old varieties," he explains. “The cider is a way to preserve the crop, so in a certain way I really want to use apples for food and cooking, as the primary function. Then use what is left for the cider and make products from cider. "
Glasgow is littered with many apple trees, just like other towns and villages in Scotland.
Many of these were found there thanks to Hancox, who runs Scottish fruit trees and has planted orchards for schools and community groups for the past 15 years. When he started, he says, he felt it was a & # 39; lonely idiot talking about apple trees & # 39 ;.
"Now it's curiously fashionable. About a year ago I was brought back to a nursery where we planted an orchard 12 years ago. My daughter was in P2 then. But I went back and the trees are very large and the thing that really struck me was that all the children who were at that nursery were not born when we planted the trees, but there they pick apples and eat from the tree, and that dream is happening – and it's a nice thing, a gift for the future. "
That feeling is reflected by Fiona Buchanan, best known for setting up the Byres Road deli, Heart Buchanan, which helps with pressing.
"Whoever plants apple trees," she says, "and no matter how they grow, they are a gift for the future. You don't plant an apple tree for yourself next week. You do it with the next generation in mind."
In these times of climate distress, that idea seems particularly relevant
As Hancox puts it: “For me something like planting fruit trees is a positive action that people can take. It's about food security. It's about trusting the future. You do not plan for your immediate benefit. & # 39;
Buchanan has arrived with delicacies made from puff pastry and apples, as well as cider stories. Last year she remembers that she and her partner decided to make their own cider press from a washing machine barrel. "Some of our friends are in a band called Anthrax and they were over last year and we did a big press for them, heavy metal apple juice."
Hancox has set up a table for tasting apples, an aromatic display of Scottish varieties, the glowing red, yellow, green and blushing pink of James Grieve, Katy, Discovery. Among the apples we taste is the Bloody Plowman, a thick dark fruit with a fragrant afternote. "The apocryphal story is that a team squad was snooping somewhere in Perthshire and was shot by an angry gamekeeper guarding the apple," Hancox explains.
But for these apple lovers, the fermentation does not stop at just cider. A bottle of cider vinegar is shown around and thrown into the light, where its feathered, stranded & # 39; mother & # 39; dances like an alien in the green glass bottle.
It is this waffle shape that is credited with benefits for the gut microbiome and therefore general health.
Sheila Kupsch is a nutrition scientist and nutritionist and has been a volunteer with Scottish Orchards for the past eight years. Currently she is brewing an apple cider vinegar in the house that she hopes to have ready for cider day.
"There is a growing number of investigations into the gut brain axis," she says. "Some even show that you can improve depression and anxiety and improve your mental health simply by ensuring that you have a healthy gut. And apple cider vinegar is a great way to improve gut health."
Hancox is now also interested in promoting and creating a brand for Scottish apples. He would like to move us to eating fruit that is grown here, rather than the apples that are shipped from New Zealand or South Africa that we see on most of our supermarket shelves.
It is not unthinkable, he says, that we can grow enough apples to feed ourselves. "But we would need a way to store them and apples that are commercially available are kept in a cold store."
"Scottish to the core" is the brand logo that he is trying to develop. It's on his Clyde Cider label – a reminder that although cider may not seem like a very Scottish drink, it's a drink that we can develop well. We could certainly make more of it.
“We have the apples. It would be a shame not to use them, "says Hancox.
Scottish native apples rescued by students and communities
Apple days in Scotland
Scottish apple day and cider festival,
Partick Hill Bowling and Community Club, Glasgow, October 20, 1.30 – 4.30 p.m.
A celebration of Scottish apples and ciders with conversations about making cider, orchards and fruit growing in Scotland. Visitors are invited to bring apple trays.
Cardross, 5 October, 12 noon
A family-friendly event for all ages to celebrate the apple harvest. Apple juice and archery in the William Tell Dell.
Harestanes Apple Day
Jedburgh, October 6, 11 am – 6 pm
An enormous display of apple varieties, advice on organic gardening, games, music, local food and drinks – and an apple-inspired menu in the cafe.
Alexandra Park apple day
Glasgow, October 19, 12-16 pm
Organizers encourage you to take "all the apples that you can take" with you to juice in their chewing machine. Plus apple identification by expert, Andrew Lear, children's activities and walks with herbal remedies.
Dunrobin Castle Apple Day
Golspie, 26 October, 10.30 am – 4.30 pm
Pick and press apples in the garden and drink the fresh juice. Bags of apples from old Scottish varieties to buy, plus guided walks through apple orchards that are normally not accessible to visitors.
Ravenscraig walled garden
Kirkcaldy, October 26 at 1:30 PM
Guided tours of the orchard, questions answered by the gardeners and food and drinks with apple theme. Ravenscraig will also have its new apple press in action, giving people the chance to squeeze their own juice. Bring apples and empty bottles.