Somerset-based Pilton Cider has rediscovered the age-old method of keeving, with maker Martin Berkeley now producing a sparkling whole juice artisan cider in Shepton Mallet, a town that has recently witnessed large scale cider mill closures. In a market awash with farmhouse, fruit, flat and fizzy ciders, a handful of artisan producers in the West Country are now breaking the mould with the keeving process that dominated cider-making in Britain over 400 years ago.
Containing no added sugar or water, keeved cider is naturally sweet and has an amber gold colour, with its refreshing, delicate and distinct apple flavour achieved by preventing full fermentation of the natural apple sugars. Low nutrient apples are milled into a pulp and left to oxidise for 24-hours, a method known as maceration, which results in the release of naturally occurring pectin. A dense pectin gel forms on the surface of the juice soon after and this is then discarded. Essential nutrients are removed in this separation process and the wild yeast fermentation gradually dies out, leaving residual apple sugars to sweeten the cider as it matures slowly for six months before bottling.
Martin explains: “Keeving once dominated cider-production in Britain, but we have lost so many of our artisan skills to industrial methods over the years. With very little relevant knowledge in the UK, I had to travel to Normandy to master the subtle techniques of keeving and have been perfecting it ever since. There has been a great upsurge in keeved cider’s popularity of late, so we’ve doubled production for 2016, with our cidery now home to nine 6,000 litre keeving tanks.”
Pilton Cider is available in 75cl bottles, 37.5cl half bottles and 150cl magnums. It can be purchased from independent grocery stores, farm shops and delis around the UK, as well as online at www.piltoncider.com.
Pictured: Pilton Cider maker, Martin Berkeley, standing in front of the 6,000 litre keeving tanks at his cider works in Shepton Mallet, Somerset
16 March 2016 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor