I’ve never been so pleased to come fourth.
Just to get some recognition for our cider is great, and of all places at the British Cider Championships at the Bath & West Show, in the heart-land of West Country cider.
You see we make Eastern Counties cider. Made from only eating and cooking apples, with no bittersweet cider apples. We do that because these are the apples that grow in our back garden in Marden.
But some say it’s not true cider because it doesn’t contain true cider apples. They say Eastern Counties cider has “no backbone”. What they mean is that it’s very low on the tannins that cider apples bring. But it has other qualities: many like it because it is light, it’s refreshing and, at it’s best, comparable to a good white wine. And most people I know prefer it to a West Country cider.
Our Dry Cider was “Very Highly Commended” by Bath & West judges including Martin Thatcher of Thatcher’s Cider, Nick Bradstock of the National Association of Cider Makers and Commander Rupert Best, Master of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers.
It’s a blend of five dessert apple varieties selected because they grow in the orchards around Marden and because they each have different characteristics – both as eating apples and as ciders.
Many are grown organically, all are grown for the fresh market (ie not for juice) and all are hand-picked from the tree in the Autumn.
We then ferment the apple juices separately over the Winter months before blending in the Spring. This year’s Dry Cider blend took several attempts – but we got there in the end.
We were happy with it and happy to talk proudly about it when selling to customers. But it’s also nice to get some external recognition.
Life takes some funny twists and turns. I’m still learning to open myself to the possibilities.
When I had a call from Russia last summer asking about the possibility of exporting our cider, I presumed it was a joke. I was still operating Turners Cider out of our garden shed. But my Russian caller had tasted our Dry Cider in the Harp in Covent Garden and liked it and could he come and visit my “cider factory” in Marden and perhaps visit our “tasting room”.
In hindsight I did everything I could to put them off.
You’re very welcome to visit the cider factory and have a tasting in the tasting room, I said, but please understand that both those places are my garden shed, where I also keep the lawn mower.
Anyway Konstantin and Nataly duly came to Marden on a scorching hot summer’s day and we stood in my over-heating shed and drank my cider. I then took them for a tour of Peter Hall’s orchards in Marden, where we source most of our fruit, and for a meal in The Stile Bridge, where they drank some more of my cider (I drank beer).
That day was also notable for the last minute panic of May’s lost passport and a mad rush to Liverpool to get a new one before we travelled to Spain for our summer holiday. (We think one of the children tidied the passport into the kitchen bin, though we’ll never know.)
Nine months later and Konstantin and Nataly have just visited Marden again. This time they brought vinegar factory owner Yury so May could teach him the fundamentals of chutney making.
And now we’re about to send our first shipment to their pub Hamilton’s in Belgorod. We’re in fine cider company, on the bar at Hamilton’s along side Hecks, Hallets and Hogan’s.
I never thought we’d be sending cider to Russia. But I love selling to people who love our cider, wherever they are.
We’re now fully up and running in new Turners Cider digs at Little Mill Farm in Marden. Finally we have the space to make enough cider to meet demand.
Until I grow an extra set of limbs I’m reliant on my usual supply of helpers (from various professions) in the cidery including:
- Hugh (double bassist)
- James (fly-fishing instructor)
- Sam (estate agent)
- May (preservist)
- Ross (rock star)
- Holly (interior designer)
- Rowan (surgeon)
- Bob (photographer)
They’re all cider makers now.
Between now and Christmas we’ll be pressing our apples, many of which are grown organically by Peter Hall at Little Mill. We’ve got some fantastic fruit and lots of it.
We’re pretty much out of this year’s cider, but I’ve held some samples back. So if you run a pub or shop and you’re interested in a sample, or you’d like to meet us and have a look at our operation, just send me an email or give us a call on 07825 394164.
This photo could have been taken in any decade since the second world war. It was taken yesterday in Marden. In my ‘back garden’.
The beauty of the lower Weald – the farming land broadly defined by the floodplain of the Beult – is that it’s like time has stood still. If you blot out the cars and the planes, most views round here haven’t changed much in a century.
The photo is taken at the Weald of Kent Ploughing Match, which is a bit of an institution in the Wealden farming community. There’s a trade show and a farmers’ market, displays of hunting hounds and hawking centres, and of course the obligatory terrier racing. But at heart it’s still a ploughing match (and, it seems to me, a way to get your fields ploughed for free if you volunteer to host the competition!)
We had a May’s Kitchen / Turners Cider stall in the market. Over the course of the day we caught up with pretty much everyone we know locally. We sold out of cider. May’s damson gin was a hit. The kids saw enough tractors in a day to give them tractor-dreams for a year.
It looks like next year’s match is back in Marden and Kent’s hosting the nationals too. We hope to be there for both.
It’s 50 years since the Greengrow and Hayward cider factory closed in Pattenden Lane, Marden.
In the intervening years the population of our village has been short of a decent local drink.
But, today, guess which of these delicious drinks is made in Marden?
- Herbert Hall sparkling wine
- Anno gin
- Turners cider
The answer, of course, is all of them.
And you can get them all at Crowhurst & Tompsett, the Marden village store.
This Saturday we’ll launch our 2013 cider vintage at the latest production by Beult Concerts in Marden.
Our friends Sally and Hugh Sparrow are the pioneers behind Beult Concerts. Since moving to Marden a couple of years ago they’ve put on a series of sold-out classical and jazz concerts, using their connections at the English National Opera to attract some incredible musical talent.
Saturday’s concert is in St Michael & All Angels Church in the village. Among other pieces they’ll be playing Mascagni’s Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana. While that will inevitably remind me of the the opening scenes of Raging Bull and the final tragic moments of Godfather III, it will more poignantly remind me of my wedding day in St Mary’s Church in Goudhurst, when it was one of the pieces of music we chose to play. Little did Mrs Turner know that day that she would become a cider maker’s wife. But a cider maker’s wife is she.
Over the Easter weekend, while on a trip to meet cider makers in Somerset, she mused as to when we would run out of cider conversation. Baby, we’ve only scratched the surface.
We’ll be donating some Turners Cider to the soloists on Saturday night and I’ll be available to talk about cider to anyone apart from Mrs Turner.