The Cider Makers’ Tale

Tales from End to End
The Cider Makers’ Tale

by Chris and Andrew Hecks

At a census in 1841, John and Mary Hecks were said to be farmers and cider makers… different John and Mary Hecks (our parents are still in the cider making business today).

All sorts of different cider apples are grown on our three orchards – perhaps you have never heard of Yarlington Mill, Tremlett’s Bitter, Morgan Sweet, Brown’s Apple, Improved Dove, Porter’s Perfection, or even the Fair Maid of Devon and Slack-ma-Girdle (what a great crossword clue that makes) – but we grow all of these different varieties of cider apple trees.

Hecks Cider
Hecks Cider

We also grow and produce eighteen types of apple juice trees including Ashmead’s Kernel, Cox Orange Pippin, Worcester Pearmain, Jonagold and Tom Putt.

Cider can be produced either as Single Variety ciders which means they are the special sorts from the particular trees, or sweet medium and dry ciders can be produced by blending the half a dozen different varieties. It is possible that we produce the biggest variety of singles anywhere in the country.

A cider tree needs twelve to fifteen years before producing a crop and an individual tree life lasts about 50-60 years. We pick the apples by machine from the beginning of October to the middle of January. Each year, we produce about 25,000 gallons of cider as well as perry. After picking the apples are pressed or crushed in a modern press then they have 6-8 weeks fermenting in big, 300 gallon plastic barrels. Then the racking process takes off the cider leaving the sediment sludge in the bottom of the plastic barrel. The cider now goes into wooden barrels called pipes for six months to allow it to mature. After this it is pumped into different barrels called ‘pumpkins’ and they are left to be drawn off when ready for sale. We sell most of our cider as draught but also produce bottled drink.

Chris, Mary and Andrew
Chris, Mary and Andrew

The cider barn as been in our family for six generations. We have won well over 200 prizes for our cider, but our most renowned variety is our Kingston Black. Hecks’ Kingston Black has been voted the best cider in the country by CAMRA (doing for Real Cider what it has already done for Real Ale). The judges said ‘Kingston Black has a rich fruity aroma providing a complex rich experience.’

As a notice at the farm store reminds us John Worlidge said in 1676 about cider:

‘Constant use of this liquor hath been found by long experience to avail much to health and long life, preserving the drinkers of it in their full strength and vigour even to a very old age.’

We couldn’t have put it better!

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