Our nearby allotments are my local source of food and regenerative inspiration. Sharing my thoughts from this weekend’s visit when I was helping with apple pressing.

While Bristol is well served by local a scene of craft breweries, if you really want to get local alcohol, then cider is the hyper local choice. Whereas the ingredients for beer are gathered from around the world to be brewed in here, in Bristol you can drink cider under the tree that the apples came from.

Picking the apples brings people of all ages to the allotments. It builds community. Participants are fascinated by the array of apple trees and become interested in the upcoming apple tree grafting workshops – building local knowledge. The spare produce is given away to neighbours and food banks – sharing abundance. And the profits from cider sales support the people the local community. That is a regenerative system in action.

Pasteurising apple juice

Today some of the apple juice is to be kept for pasteurising. My job is to get the equipment ready. I take my briefing from Mike Feingold, permaculture expert and daily inspiration. The bottles have been sourced from a local Indian restaurant. They are all the same size, which in turns out is important for this low-tech system to work.

I sterilise a motley assortment of many-gallon plastic containers, funnels, taps, trugs and precisely 21 bottles. My instructions are to fill each bottle with apple juice to two centimetres from the top, or precisely to the level of the label on the bottle. Meanwhile my neighbour gets a fire going with scrap wood. We will a large saucepan with bottles – it fits exactly 21 and surround these with water.

Over the heat, the apple juice in the bottles expands. When the juice has expanded enough to reach the top of the bottle we know it is at pasteurising temperature: 75 degrees. Clever. No clever digital thermometer needed. Just a timer for twenty minutes.

We then cap the bottles, let them cool and that’s another batch of the summer’s bounty saved for winter.

The features of the regenerative system

I note the following:

  • Inputs (from waste products to labour) are drawn from the neighbourhood and the community.
  • The whole system is hyperlocal. The only element that isn’t is the bottle caps.
  • Elements brought in from outside the system (bottles, containers etc) are used and re-used many times.
  • The way of using precise bottle and expansion measurements instead of using a thermometer is a good example of using first-principles thinking when you don’t have a particular piece of technology available.
  • Work is done together