Soil Association No 6!

Aspall has a nearly 70 year association with the Soil Association and were recently honoured at the Soil Association Conference by Chief Executive, Helen Browning, for being organic pioneers and longest-standing Soil Association symbol holders. We’re honoured to have received a plaque from the Soil Association to mark this.

In 1946 Perronelle Guild, Grandmother of Aspall owners Barry and Henry Chevallier Guild, and after whom Perronelle’s Blush is named, was inspired by Lady Eve Balfour to become a founder member of the Soil Association and since that day all the orchards at Aspall have been organic. Aspall’s Soil Association accreditation number is 6 and the next closest brand number still in use is into the hundreds!

 

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The King’s Ginger Parlour, 5-8 December at The Hoxton Hotel

To celebrate the start of the Christmas season, we’re excited to have teamed up with The King’s Ginger Liqueur and The Hoxton Hotel in east London to create an Edwardian style pop-up bar in the hotel’s courtyard garden. There’ll be festive songs, food pairings and, of course, fantastic drinks.

The Hoxton Hotel Garden

You can choose from five winter warmers, specially created by drinks expert Dan Warner, to show off the ginger liqueur to best effect including The King’s Ginger mulled cyder made with our own Suffolk Cyder and served hot or cold over ice.

The King’s Ginger is a unique ginger liqueur specifically formulated by Berry Bros. & Rudd in 1903 for King Edward VII. Rich and zesty, it has been appreciated by bon viveurs and royalty!

A King's Ginger Cocktail

The King’s Ginger Parlour Edwardian Christmas pop-up bar will open on Thursday 5th December 2013, for four days only. If you’re in London get down there to get in the festive spirit and enjoy some cocktails that are bound to leave you glowing all Christmas!

The King’s Ginger Parlour, The Hoxton Hotel, 81 Great Eastern Street, LONDON EC2A 3HU

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World Pickled Egg Championship 2013 sees eggs from the UK to the US!

From bright orange to deep black and bright pink the entries to the second annual pickled egg championships sponsored by Aspall made for colourful viewing for visitors at the Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival last weekend. 24 entries from amateur cooks to professional chefs and from as far afield as the USA, judging was no mean feat.

We roped in the expertise of celebrity chef, Valentine Warner a self-confessed pickled egg junkie, award-winning chef and writer Madalene Bonvini Hamel of the British Larder and Emma Crowhurst, cookery teacher and former TV chef and of course Aspall’s Henry Chevallier Guild.

Judging was a serious business using paper plates and disposable forks we set about tasting each one, with a glass of Aspall Organic Cyder to cleanse our palettes between eggs! The criteria were appearance, aroma, taste and texture – 5 marks for each and then a final out of 10 score for “overall egg mojo”. So, a total of 30 marks up for grabs.

First impressions are everything and the almost luminous colours of some eggs were enough to put us off. Aroma is second – Dark Horse Eggs really did smell like they’d been pickled in horse manure, while the blackberry vinegar pickled eggs were a striking colour but smelled and tasted far too sweet!

There’s far more to pickled eggs than the flavours in the pickle though – some eggs were tough skinned and dried as you might imagine a dinosaur egg that had been pickled for millennia. Others were perfect, soft-centred, fresh – surely because of the quality of the eggs used and how they were boiled!

Totting up our scores and comparing notes it all boiled down to two in the end  – Guys Gourmet which although the pickle was a slightly off-putting grey, Valentine Warner said it was ‘everything a pickled egg should be’. But in the end we agreed the spectacular Egg Cup had to go to Sherri Singleton, chef, restauranteur and cookery teacher from the Mistley Thorn in Essex. Her eggs were a beautiful saffron yellow with green and red chilles, the flavours were strong but not overpowering and the eggs had that perfect texture.

Sherri was thrilled to be presented with the Egg Cup by Valentine Warner in front of an audience of hundreds!

Congratulations to Sherri and we look forward to eating more pickled eggs next September! Start planning your pickle now!

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Aspall commemorates pioneers of the organic movement

Aspall has unveiled a blue plaque to commemorate two pioneers of the organic movement and the Soil Association’s original headquarters, at Walnut Tree Manor, in Haughley, Suffolk.

The two Soil Association pioneers, Lady Eve Balfour and Alice Debenham, carried out work from Walnut Tree Manor into organic growing and nutrition which led to the founding of the Soil Association in 1946. Perronelle Guild, a successful fruit farmer and grandmother of Aspall owners Barry and Henry Chevallier Guild, was also a founder member of the Soil Association, as a result of which Aspall Cyder became an organic producer – a tradition it maintains to this day.

Since its beginning, the Soil Association has grown to become the UK’s leading organic organisation, supporting over 4,000 producers and certifying over 80% of organic produce in the UK. The blue plaque is a result of a campaign by local historians and has been funded by Aspall, Haughley Parish Council, Ipswich Organic Gardening Group, Suffolk Organic Gardening Group and Suffolk smallholder Hugh Wilson.

The event, on Saturday 6 April, was attended by local dignitaries and hosted by Hugh Wilson, Alan Shaw, chairman of Haughley Parish Council, and Henry Chevallier Guild, Aspall partner.

Giving more of an insight in to his grandmother, Henry tells us that “Perronelle Guild was inspired by the example of her close Suffolk neighbour, the legendary Lady Eve Balfour, and it is due to Lady Eve that she became a founder member of the Soil Association. From that point onwards the orchards at Aspall became organic, and we today remain committed organic growers. At the age of 99, Perronelle Guild was a poster girl for Sainsbury’s Organics, as one of the Soil Association’s last surviving original members.”

For more information about the Soil Association visit www.soilassociation.org

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Ade Edmondson visits Aspall

Ade with Aspall owners Henry and Barry

Aspall is to feature in the latest series of ITV’s Ade in Britain, which sees actor and comedian Adrian Edmondson travel the length and breadth of the country meeting the people at the heart of the community and celebrating everything’s that great about Britain. The programme in which we feature will air on Friday 8 March at 4pm.

In each episode of the second series of this popular TV show, Ade drives to a different part of the country, from Cornwall to Cumbria, Suffolk to Yorkshire, sharing his own personal observations, wit and warmth with the British public. With his mobile kitchen in tow, Ade learns all about the food, drink and rich heritage that makes each area so distinct.

As well as investigating the legends and landscapes of this historic country, Ade immerses himself in its unique cultures and traditional crafts, such as cyder-making at Aspall. Founded in 1728 by Clement Chevallier, Aspall is now owned and managed by the eighth generation of the Chevallier family. Taking its inspiration from the apple for three centuries, we produce a range of award-winning cyders, vinegars and apple juice; and are now the UK’s oldest independently-owned cider producer and last remaining English family owned vinegar brewer.

Ade was taken around Aspall by Henry Chevallier Guild, who showed him the old and new production methods Aspall has used over the years. Henry says of the visit by Ade: “We were delighted to be approached to take part in the new series of Ade in Britain. The Chevalliers have been making cyder, vinegar and apple juice at the same site in Debenham Suffolk for 285 years, and it was a pleasure to welcome Ade on site and share our passion with him. We took Ade through the production process of our cyders, from watching the apples being picked to grading them by eye, before they are pressed, fermented and then blended.”

The new series of Ade in Britain is back from Monday 4th March on ITV at 4-5pm. Aspall features on Friday 8th March at 4pm along with several other Suffolk based companies.

 

 

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Cider vs wine, the votes are in.

The Thatcher’s Arms in Mount Bures hosted the Cider vs Wine evening, pitting five superb ciders against five great wines to accompany an equally impressive menu. Here Henry shares his account of a very eventful evening.

As many people know, I have long advocated the rich scope of cider, and how when made from the finest ingredients with love, care and passion, it has as much right to its place both on the dinner table and drinks menu as any other drink.

Nothing like a bit of healthy competition.

So when Susanna Forbes of Drink Britain suggested I put my money where my mouth and take on wine over a 5 course meal, I didn’t need much persuading. The wine team was made up of Emily O’Hare – sommelier at River Café and newly crowned wine writer’s sommelier of 2012, and Dan Probert – wine blogger and manager of the Adnams Cellar & Kitchen in Holt. In the cider corner, I joined up with Pete Brown – blogger, writer and whilst more often associated with beer, he himself has become a cider advocate as he puts the finishing touches to a book on the definitive world story of cider.

Mitch Adams, our host for the evening at The Thatchers Arms in Mount Bures had forwarded both teams the menu for the evening. Not only did we match 5 great ciders to the food, we tried to second guess what the wine team would line up against us. As it turned out – we got every wine match wrong. But more of that later.

The running order was fairly simple; 60 odd diners would be served 5 courses, with an accompanying cider and wine; each would be individually introduced by each team with a rationale as to just why the respective offering was such a good match. Eat, taste, sup, swirl and choose which was the better pairing. After each course Mitch would call upon the diners to vote; red card for wine, green card for cider. Game on.

Course 1 – Broccoli and parmesan soup with chilli focaccia. Wine went Spanish with a Vallobera Rioja Blanco; soup is often described as the graveyard for sommeliers, so I thought we stood a good chance. We went Spanish too, choosing an Asturian cider called El Gaitero. There is a rich heritage of cider making in Northern Spain; as with France they operate to a strict appellation controlee, and in Spain’s case, this can often lead to a slight volatility that gives the cider a pepperiness that we thought would complement the chilli focaccia well. But crucially, it has residual sweetness which helps the cider marry with the saltiness of the parmesan. The wine was very decent but I was convinced from first taste that El Gaitero would win through. And so it proved – about 2/3rds of the diners agreed. An early lead – very welcome.

Course 2 – Fresh Mackerel Fillet with a Fennel, Mint & Parsley Salsa & a Pont Neuf Potato. Emily and Dan came up with an absolute stonker of a wine – a Gougenheim Torrentes from Argentina which was both light, fruity with an unexpected sharpness that would stand up beautifully with the mackerel. For our part, I went native and chose Aspall Premier Cru; a little more full bodied which meant it married well with the salsa and potatoes, though despite its racy acidity I wasn’t sure it would win out with the mackerel vs the Torrentes. All round, I still maintain it was the better match, but sadly the rest of the room largely disagreed and we suffered a complete reverse of Round 1. All square.

The main course – Slow Roast Blythburgh Pork Belly with a Homemade Duck, Pork & Sage Sausage & a Tomato & Mixed Bean Cassoulet. A dish full of contrasting flavours for which we chose Henney’s Vintage 2011; a magnificent still cider that reflects the tradition of cider making in Herefordshire in a very accomplished way; a rich yet mellow astringency and soft acidity complimented the tomato sauce of the cassoulet, didn’t do battle with the sage and duck sausage, and sat comfortably as all cider does with the pork belly. Emily and Dan chose Quinto do Crasto Tinto, a Portugese red from the Duro valley – we expected a Cotes du Rhone Village, or even an unoaked Chardonnay.  Their choice was very full bodied, and packed with massive tannins. Too tannic in my view; it’s a beautiful wine in its own right, but this big red from Portugal ended up wrestling with both the sausage and the cassoulet. Not the clear win I expected, a close match but we still edged through with a smidgen over half the votes.

A worthy winner for any dessert

Course 4 was a sour cherry cheesecake  there’s a very general rule in food matching that goes the sweeter the dish the sweeter the drink to accompany. Expecting quite a rich pud, we opted for Aspall Imperial, defined very much by the use of muscovado sugar in its making we thought it would be perfect with the richness of the cheesecake. On reflection, I would have chosen Aspall Perronelle’s Blush as the cheesecake was a lot lighter in texture than we anticipated; wine took this gamble and at the same time wheeled out a seriously big gun – Billecart Salmon’s Brut Rosé Champagne; could the humble English apple square up to the mighty French grape and come out on top? I certainly had my doubts. I thought the mix of the Champagne and delicate cheesecake was unexpected but hugely intriguing. The Imperial brought a little too much to the party in my view, and its rich fruitcake tones threatened to overpower dessert. Credit where it’s due, Champagne got my vote. The response from our fellow diners was mixed; some believed neither was a good match and so abstained from the voting. However, the basic premise of sweet for sweet proved to be right in practice as well as theory. Cider surged in to a 3-1 lead.

For the cheese course we were matching against Suffolk Gold & Binham Blue Cheeses with Chutney & Biscuits. Lots of saltiness in there, and we also needed some big apple flavours to complement the Suffolk Gold. Our choice was an Ice Cider from Herefordshire. Apples are left to over ripen on the trees and so the juice naturally concentrates in the fruit before pressing. This is followed by a long, low temperature fermentation which results in a rich, naturally sweet and luxuriously full bodied cider. Ice Cider is a relatively new concept in England and we chose Dragon Tree Blenheim Superb from Once Upon a Tree. For their part, the wine camp made a very unusual decision. They chose a sherry. I love sherry – I feel camaraderie with sherry as we have both lived for many years under the heading of overlooked and forgotten drinks – they tainted by Harveys Bristol Cream, we by a tramp juice association of days gone by. But sherry with cheese when they could have had a Port, a sweet Montbazillac or any number of other fantastic wines? And here is where I think wine got it wrong on the night. Rather than going for the ‘safe’ and ‘obvious’ choices, Emily and Dan treated us to a broader array of lesser known grape varieties. Underestimating what cider has in its locker, they took the risk and were much more adventurous on the night – for which we all thank them as I for example am now a Gougenheim Terrentos fan. But the risk was to be too great. This round was a virtual whitewash of votes for the Blenheim Superb. 4 – 1 to cider; who would have thought?

And as for the celebrations; well, whilst it’s always good to win, we were never in truth going to lose. Did I think we could take the night? Well, of course, but the result for cider is that I suspect every person in that room will now consider a cider when they’re dining, when previously they wouldn’t have. Do I think we would win another match with wine? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not really the point. There is talk of a re-match though. Bring it on!

Take a look at the review by Susanna Forbes  of DrinkBritain by clicking here as well as The Thatcher’s Arms blog for their highlights of the night along with a short video.

 

 

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Cyder vs Wine

Cider takes on wine in a battle for the diners’ glass at renowned foodie pub, The Thatchers Arms, near Colchester, on Saturday 2 February.

Publican Mitch Adams has teamed up with DrinkBritain.com’s Susanna Forbes to stage the first such tournament. Diners will sit down to a five-course meal, each paired with both a cider and a wine, before being asked to vote at the end for their favourite match.

Cider will be represented by Henry Chevallier Guild, eighth-generation cider producer at Aspall, and Beer Writer of the Year and author of Shakespeare’s Local, Pete Brown.  In the wine corner, River Café Sommelier and the 2012 Best Sommelier of the Year, Emily O’Hare, will be teaming up with the Dan Probert, manager of Adnams Cellar & Kitchen store in Holt, Norfolk.

The Cider vs Wine evening will start with a glass of Aspall’s bottle fermented sparkler, Cuvée Chevallier, before dinner itself, comprising soup, fish meat, pud and cheese courses, with vegetarian options available.

In drawing up his menu, Mitch is focusing on local and seasonal produce. He has come up with some punchy flavours for the cider and wine advocates to match, for example, fresh mackerel fillet with a fennel, mint & parsley sauce. “We are currently looking to develop our cider range anyway,” says Mitch. “I thought this would be a fantastic way to find out which ciders our customers like.” “I’ve been amazed at the range of flavours that cider has to offer,” adds Susanna. “I can’t think of a better way to see what everyone else thinks.”  

We think we’ve got a pretty good chance of winning with Henry putting together some impressive challenges to the wine argument. An evening not to be missed. Tickets are selling fast. Starting at 7pm, 2 February 2013, tickets cost £38 and are available via hello@ThatchersArms.co.uk.

 

 

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Aspall leading the way for vinegar in Europe

Newly appointed as chair of The Vinegar Committee of Culinaria Europe

We’re delighted to announce that our  Chairman, Barry Chevallier Guild, has been appointed chair of the Vinegar Committee of Culinaria Europe, a European food association, in recognition of his substantial experience of the sector and long-standing commitment to the vinegar market in the UK. As part of his role Barry will also be on the Board of Culinaria Europe.

The Vinegar Committee of Culinaria Europe supports producers by voicing its members’ interests and concerns to the European Commission and Parliament. It provides and monitors information on vinegar in the scientific, legislative, technological and economic fields and helps provide standards for the quality of the category.

Barry says of the role: “I am delighted to have been elected chair of the Vinegar Committee of Culinaria Europe and am looking forward to both sharing my knowledge of the UK sector abroad, and benefiting the UK trade with my learnings from the Continent.

“Aspall has been at the forefront of cyder vinegar making in the UK for over 40 years and we are now the UK’s leading speciality vinegar producer. My appointment is a great opportunity to make a relatively small voice heard within the wider European community.

“My main objective is to raise the profile of vinegar production within the European Commission and ensure that there is a common definition for vinegar making. This will improve the quality of vinegar and consistency of vinegar sub-sectors throughout Europe. Retailers will have access to a greater range of vinegar with more consistent credentials; consumers will be able to expect a consistent product quality; and producers will be able to compete on a more level playing field.

“For example, we are in the process of ensuring a common definition for the standard of wine which can be used for vinegar production, to ensure that all wine vinegars are produced to the same standards under current legislation.”

In October Aspall Organic Cyder Vinegar scooped a highly commended award at the Soil Association Organic Food Awards, which recognises and celebrates the highest quality organic food and drink available in the UK. Aspall Apple and Cranberry Balsamic Vinegar and Aspall Organic Cyder Vinegar also picked up Gold awards at the Great Taste Awards in the summer.

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World Pickled Egg Championship is no yolk

Our very own Henry Chevallier Guild, Aspall Partner, participated in an egg-straordinary competition at The Brewery Tap in Ipswich recently – The World Pickled Egg Championship. They hope this to be an annual event at the pub and Aspall supported the occasion with Henry taking his part on the judging panel.
Here is what he had to say about his egg-citing experience…

I’ll let you in to a secret; when I was asked to be a judge for the World Pickled Egg Championships, it was with a clear understanding that I was completely un-qualified. I can’t even remember the last time I ate a pickled egg, but I do remember there being a bag of crisps and some vigorous shaking involved. And quite a lot of beer.

What I do have, is a lifelong interest and passion for vinegar and its vast array of uses. Though not quite dipped in a vat at birth a la Achilles in the River Styx style, I can claim to be ‘man and boy’ in this ubiquitous and oft overlooked store cupboard hero.

So the opportunity to be involved in this inaugural event was too tempting to resist, and I headed out one grey afternoon to the Brewery Tap in Ipswich with a mixture of curiosity, nervousness – would I be found out? – and excitement.

My fellow judges, Gary and Nigel both appeared much more familiar with this forgotten bar snack which was quite reassuring.

Our host, and organiser of the event, Mike Keen – patron of The Brewery Tap, had whittled a long list of 17 eggs down to 9, and they sat invitingly in front of us.

Armed with a cocktail stick, score card and a pint of Crouch Vale Brewers’ Gold, we

Henry choosing his favourite

set about the task in hand; our judging criteria were appearance, aroma, taste and texture – 5 marks for each and then a final out of 10 score for “overall egg mojo”. So, a total of 30 marks up for grabs.

The first thing that struck me was the array of colours before us. Pickled Eggs are always white right? Wrong – whilst there were a couple of brilliant white eggs, there were shades of beige through to a deep brown / black egg.

I went in reverse order to avoid a bottle neck – something I was hoping I would personally avoid after eating 9 pickled eggs….

As with all food competitions, the tasting of eggs is a serious business, and I was overwhelmed not only by the quality of some of the eggs, but also the breadth of aroma and flavour; on top of that, there is the obvious skill that goes in to getting your egg to the right consistency – a rubbery egg with a dry yolk is no fun at all. A firm though forgiving white with a creamy centre on the other hand….

We ended up with a top 3, at which point we conferred. Whilst each judge had his personal favourite (mine was the curried variant), we did all agree that one egg had what it takes to stand ahead of the crowd – and that egg was pickled with Aspall Cyder (hurrah) and Marmite. It pretty much scored a bullseye in all criteria, and it certainly had the egg mojo to win the day.

Whilst this inaugural event was relatively low key, it has the makings of a quiet revolution – both for making in the home and consuming at the bar. By the end, we were asking questions such as “which egg would be best in a salad”; “which would lift a curry the most effectively”; and of course, my (dubious) specialist subject in this field “which would be best shaken in a bag of crisps”.

I’ve only just begun; I’ll be back next year, and maybe we’ll have some more categories – and eggs – to review. Can’t wait.

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Aspall brings home more awards!

Awarded for design and packaging

Aspall has always had great success in winning awards over the years and 2012 has been no exception. We continued our achievements by winning awards from The International Cider Challenge, The British Bottlers Institute, The Great Taste Awards and The Soil Association. Imperial, one of our newer cyders and available in Sainsbury’s and Bookers stores nationally, won its first awards this year including a gold in for the stunning bottle and label design. Our distinctive moorish Mulled Cyder, which is available in the pubs now, also won its first awards claiming a silver and gold for taste. We also gained gold stars from the Great Taste Awards for Apple Juice, Imperial and Organic Cyders and Organic Cyder Vinegar, all available via our online shop, with Apple and Cranberry Balsamic Vinegar also securing its first win with a gold star from The Great Taste Awards. Check out our recipes section for a delicious toad in the hole recipe with Apple & Cranberry Balsamic onion gravy.

And finally, our ever popular Organic Cyder Vinegar also got a highly commended award from The Soil Association, a regular winner at these awards throughout the years, why not also try our pork shoulder steaks with apples in Aspall Organic Cyder Vinegar from our recipes section, lovely served with mashed potato and seasonal vegetables, a perfect dish to keep you warm this winter.

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