Tom Stephens on Wobblegate Cider
I knew I’d be in the Brighton area for a day or two, and so I began researching to see what sort of foodie delights there might be to explore while I was there. One of the treats I turned up as I read through the Sunday supplements was Wobblegate. Wobblegate began by making fruit juices but it was its range of cider that was hitting the headlines (well, at least for me). Wobblegate produce has won many awards, and now even has the Royal Warrant. The company is a father and son co-operative, and I was delighted when Tom (son of Glyn) told me he’d be glad to give an interview.
Tom is on the left in the featured image above, with colleague, Chris Blin-Stoyle, on the right.
TS: I originally got the idea to set Wobblegate up after my father stopped growing fruit commercially on our farm. I came back from uni and wanted to do something productive with the apples which our orchards were producing but which were just left lying around.
The first step was to use an old apple press we had here. Initially we began by making apple juice, which has gone down a storm! We have now won 30 awards and counting.
A few years later we launched our cider to the local market. We grow eating and cooking apples, which results in low tannin, dry and crisp style ciders, which are naturally cold-fermented over a period of four months using the natural yeasts found in the fruit. A true South East style cider.
SD: Setting up a new business is often daunting – what were your main challenges?
TS: We had the same problems as any growing company I suppose: production capacity and equipment. In 2012, with the help of a LEADER grant, we were able to buy a new larger press and bottling equipment…..which we now need to upscale again!
SD: How did you come to move onto cider from apple juice?
TS: We have always made ciders as a family, and when we were making the juices at the beginning, we were always being asked for cider. One evening, as we were drinking our home-brew with some friends, they asked again, “why are you not selling this, its great…?”
So we did.
SD: You have quite a range now – how did you develop the cider?
TS: We’ve had the recipes and made some of our cider for years, however we get a lot of ideas and develop our techniques by researching, trial blending and showcasing our ciders at outside events.. If the public likes them and we get a really good feel, we put them into bottle. Our cider is still very small batch which allows us to experiment more. Our most popular ciders are our Brighton Rocks which is a medium/ dry session cider 4.5% and our Pink-With-Blackcurrants medium 4%. They are just good honest and refreshing ciders, and also because of their low alcohol content, people seem to enjoy having a couple at a time!!
SD: You’ve won myriad awards – which are the latest?
TS: The latest awards we received were awarded last month [March 2017 at the time of writing], two for our juices at the National Fruit Show juice competition, and two for cider from CAMRA.
SD: How would you recommend pairing your cider with food?
TS: East Country ciders always traditionally pair well with white meats and seafood. My particular favourites are Brighton Rocks with shellfish, and Sussex Scrumpy with a juicy pork chop.
Recipe for Tom Stephens’ Wobblegate pork chops
These go particularly well with wild rice and German Blattspinat. (spinach with onions – post to come)
- 2 big, juicy pork chops
- 120 ml/½ cup dry cider, Wobblegate Sussex Scrumpy for preference
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- a few chopped tarragon leaves
- 120 ml/½ cup double cream
- butter for frying
- Pan fry the pork chops slowly in butter so they are nice and coloured and sticky on both sides.
- Remove them from the pan, keep them warm, turn up the heat, and deglaze the pan with the cider, reducing the liquid a little so that it becomes a little syrupy.
- Turn the heat down and add the mustard, mix in, and when much cooler add the cream, and mix.
- Return the pork chops to the pan, turn so as to coat on both sides, and serve immediately, garnished with the tarragon.
This post is dedicated to Tom Stephens and Chris Blin-Stoyle, with thanks for all their help.
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