Gordon Johncox, the chair of the National Association of Cider Makers (NACM) and the chief executive of Aston Manor Cider, addressed MPs, government officials and industry figures to outline a British success story in need of support.
Gordon outlined how collaboration across the industry by cider makers of all scales is a positive feature, though the hard-pressed sector still needs support from government.
As a relatively small industry, representing the best interests of every cider maker informs all aspects of activity of the NACM. The vision of the association is that all producers can operate successfully and fairly in a competitive market, whilst continuing to support their communities, employees and apple growers.
To enable this, he called for a balanced regulatory environment for cider makers reflecting the unique circumstances of producers. In particular, MPs, Ministers and officials were urged to deliver a consistent application of regulations.
Gordon challenged the Government’s willingness to understand the specific situations of cider makers. While headlines from the Autumn budget stated that cider duty was frozen, ciders in the middle duty band received a 25% tax increase, impacting many small cider makers.
Following his speech, Gordon commented: “Cider businesses of all sizes are working hard to deliver a sustainable future for the benefit of consumers and the rural environment. The industry is a significant part of British heritage.
“We need the support of politicians to work with us to return cider to more positive results, remove red tape and the unnecessary rules that limit innovation and investment. This support can enable cider makers produce fantastic products that interest in our category.
“We work to see every cider maker flourish and grow in line with their ambitions, whilst maintaining the highest standards. We firmly believe that with our collaborative nature and how we support one another this can be achieved when we can rely on consistent and sensible legislation.
“In recent months we have seen members providing orcharding experts when others experience weather related problems, large companies have supported smaller producers to expand their packaging ranges. When something is challenging or if advice is needed, small producers will always be supported, and to me, this is why the UK cider industry is so very special.”
The Parliamentary Cider Group Reception was an opportunity to showcase the best of British cider, which is home to the largest cider market in the world. The evening was attended by cider makers from across the South West, Midlands and further afield, as well as many MPs that represent cider making regions within their constituencies.
The NACM is the UK cider industry representative body, working on behalf of large and small producers:
2 corn on the cob, corn sliced off the cob (retain cobs)
250ml whole milk
150ml double cream
200g cod fillet, cut into large chunks
150g haddock tails, cut into large chunks
2 bay leaves
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper
Crispy cayenne leek garnish
25g leeks, finely sliced
½ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp garlic salt
2 tsp plain flour
4-5 tbsps. oil for frying
Optional Soup thickener
15g plain flour
Place the cider and stock into a medium sized pan and bring the liquid to the boil. Add the mussels and cook them on a high heat with the lid on for a few minutes or until all the mussels are open.
Remove the mussels from the pan and set them aside and place the corn cobs into the pan and simmer to extract the flavour.
Meanwhile, add 20g of butter to a large pan and melt on a gentle heat. Add the onion/shallot and sweat for 6-8 minutes until they are translucent and soft. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes.
Remove the corn cobs from the stock pan and sieve the liquid into the onions. (Do not add the last 2 tablespoons in case gritty from the mussels).
Add in the diced potatoes and bay leaves. Simmer for 5-8 minutes with the lid on until almost cooked and soft to the touch.
Pour in the milk, cream, sweetcorn and season with white pepper and salt. Warm the chowder for 2 minutes.
Take 3-4 ladles of the chowder out of the pan and blitz it with a stick blender or food processer until smooth. This will give your chowder a thick, velvety texture. Be mindful not to blitz the bay leaves! Then add the blended chowder back into the pan and stir and set aside on minimal heat.
Prepare a frying pan with the oil and heat on a medium to high temperature ready to fry the leek garnish. Place the leeks into a bowl and add the flour, cayenne and garlic salt. Rub the leeks into the seasoning and when the oil is hot drop the leeks in to the oil and fry for 3-4 minutes until golden and crispy. It’s best to do this in 2 batches. Set the leeks aside to drain on kitchen roll. Retain the spiced oil for later.
When you are ready to finish the chowder. Bring it back up to a gentle simmer. Check the seasoning at this point and adjust if needed. Remove the bay leaves and add the fish to the chowder. Depending on the thickness of the fish it will only take a short time to cook, just 3 or 4 minutes. Add in the mussels and warm through for a minute.
Ladle the chowder into some warmed bowls. Sprinkle with the leek garnish and a little of the cayenne oil.
Fuss Free Tips!
It’s is best to cook the fish slightly under (looking translucent) as it will cook on in the chowder. It should take a few minutes. It should feel firm to the touch but not hard. Just keep an eye on it!
If you want to prepare this ahead of time, you can, just prep up until stage 8. When you are ready to eat, start again on number 9.
If your chowder is not thick enough, rub together 15g of butter and 15g of plain flour to make almost a dough/paste. Drop little lumps of this into the chowder and it will make it rich and thick.
Feel free to use a can of tinned corn to make life more fuss free!