How it all began…
One of the first events for Congleton Sustainability Group was a seed swap at Astbury Mere Country Park and at a the very successful event in October 2009, over 80 people came along, amongst the bartering of plants, seeds and produce people bought apples to swap. At the end of the event most of the apples were left because they weren’t very pretty apples.
In conversation it was said that surely we could make apple juice?
We talked to Eddisbury Fruit Farm who then made Cheshire fruit juices commercially and they said if we took them more than 100 kilos of apples they could keep our apples separate through their production process and bottle and label our juice just for us. And so, Congleton Apple Juice was born.
We made just 109 bottles which we sold at the Christmas Lights Festival that year.
Congleton Apple Juice was born!
From the beginning of 2010 CSG campaigned hard for people to give their surplus apples and more than 150 residents responded! CSG celebrated everyone’s hard work by organising a Congleton Apple Week to coincide with National Apple Day which was on 21st October 2010. We made 1820 bottles of Congleton Apple Juice that second year.
This was so successful that its now an annual event, usually the 3rd Sunday in October where we still have our seed and produce swap but now we juice and press donated apples for everyone to see the production process and they get to taste the fresh apple juice, it’s a great hit with children of all ages!
So, now each year we encourage residents to donate their windfall, misshapen apples to the scheme by taking them bagged and labelled with their contact details to Astbury Mere Visitor Centre. Each week those donated apples are taken to be juiced and bottled, recently by Dunham Massey Apple Juice, see here (link to http://www.dunhammasseyapplejuice.com/) as Eddisbury Fruit Farm has closed down.
The apples varieties given are many and varied, cooking and desert apples, all shapes and sizes, good and unremarkable but all donated by Congleton residents, and everyone who donates apples receives a free bottle of juice.
As each batch of apples is made up of the wide variety of donated apples each pressing produces a different flavoured apple juice. So, each pressing is labelled differently – ‘Early Variety Apple Juice’, ‘Mid Variety’ and so on!
Our best year so far was 2011 when people donated 7 tons of apples which made over 4000 bottles of apple juice; apples that would otherwise simply have gone to waste on to compost heaps or into our green wheelie bins.
All profits we make we put back into the community. Over the years we have planted more than 250 fruit trees in Congleton Schools so that each school now has its own mini orchard, a community orchard has been planted on Astbury Mere and now the profits go to fund our energy reduction projects such as the Sustainable Living in Congleton project.
The project has only been made possible by a series of grants from The William Dean Trust, Congleton Inclsoure Trust and Congleton Partnership.
And now at long last Congleton Cider!
Over the years that we have been making apple juice an often heard remark has been ‘do you make any cider’? And the answer has always been ‘no sorry the juicers don’t make any cider’ but now that’s all changed. In 2013 Chris Hewitt at Dunham Massey Organics said he would retain some of our apple juice to make some cider for us. Suffice to say the experiments were very successful and so now we have Congleton Sustainability Group Medium Dry Cider, Medium Dry Cider & Blackcurrant and Medium Sweet, in 500ml bottles available to buy at Barley Hops on the corner of Swan Bank ( http://barleyhops.co.uk), and at Bojangles Brasserie in Bridge Street (www.bojanglesbrasserie.co.uk/). New this year is cider on draught at the Olde Kings Arms in High Street (http://www.titanicbrewery.co.uk/p/our-pubs/the-olde-kings-arms.html) and Daneside Theatre (http://www.danesidetheatre.co.uk).
Donate your excess apples by 8th November!!!
Memoires from the last few years of Congleton Apple Juice (click on the picture to enlarge)