Premium cider maker brings festive cheer to TV viewers

TV viewers will be treated to a double dose of Suffolk’s finest in a festive food special next week.

Aspall Cyder, made near Debenham, will feature in Channel 4’s Jimmy’s Grow Your Own Christmas Dinner, in which Suffolk farmer and TV presenter Jimmy Doherty pits the meal and methods used to prepare a traditional 19th Century Christmas dinner against its modern, supermarket-bought equivalent. The programme will air on Monday at 9pm.

Aspall, the UK’s oldest family-run cider maker, has produced premium cider at the same site since 1728.

As cider used to be a traditional accompaniment to Christmas dinner, it was asked to create a new cider as traditionally as possible to represent Jimmy’s traditional meal – which also features a Christmas pudding recipe dating back to 1845.

To create the traditional cider, Aspall enlisted its original mill for the first time in 40 years. A combination of Jimmy’s and Aspall’s apples were pulped then pressed in the mill, which dates back to 1728, before fermenting and then riddling and disgorging by freezing the neck of the bottle and removing the yeast by means of a small plug of ice.

The result was a naturally sparkling dry cyder with a fresh fruit character. However, Aspall has no current plans to make it available commercially.

Also featuring in Jimmy’s traditional Christmas dinner are a leggy free-range turkey, pesticide-free knobbly heritage variety potatoes, sprouts and carrots, and Jimmy’s matured 1845 Christmas pudding recipe which uses silver trinkets and cow stomach. These are compared with the supermarket-bought fast-grown turkey, uniform vegetables and a microwavable pudding.

Most Read

Aspall partner Henry Chevallier Guild, who features in the programme, said: “We were delighted to be approached to produce a traditional cyder for Jimmy’s Grow Your Own Christmas Dinner. As the UK’s oldest cider producer we have been producing cyder from the same site in Debenham since 1728. It was a great excuse to be able to use our original 1728 mill and produce a cyder of such quality. Throughout the filming we learned a huge amount about past Christmas traditions and the differences between then and today.”

Mr Doherty said: “This programme is a fun look at yesteryear Christmas dinner where recipes originated from. People used to grow their Christmas dinner from scratch as opposed to buying it as we do now. It was a real privilege to be able to use Aspall’s 300 year-old mill and cider-making methods, which produced a truly authentic and remarkably tasty cider - the perfect serve for my Christmas dinner.”