It's all in the family
The Long Meadow is part of our farm which has been owned by the McKeever family for three generations. Through our stewardship, we have focussed on Bramley apple production, but each generation of our family has also had a policy of growing a mix of varieties and using different planting processes to further refine the apples we use. Each generation has passed on different methods and traditions to the next; from Peter (Senior) to Patrick to Peter (Junior) in order to grow and produce the perfect apples on our home farm. Our cider is pressed and fermented naturally by both father and son; Pat and Peter McKeever.
Pat and Peter McKeever
For many years, the orchard in The Long Meadow was known locally for the quality of its Bramley apples. In addition to all of the wider benefits enjoyed by County Armagh, The Long Meadow has an added advantage of being right beside the waters of the Upper Bann River. This river, which is the longest in Northern Ireland, rises in the Deer’s Meadow in the Mourne Mountains (the meadow itself nestling under Slieve Muck). From there it flows into Spelga Dam, before meandering past The Long Meadow on its way to Lough Neagh. From there it becomes the Lower Bann, which reaches the Atlantic Ocean beside Castlerock. When in flood, the Upper Bann has long provided silts and minerals to the lands surrounding The Long Meadow, which gains, in our opinion, an intangible benefit to the trees growing on our farm. More obviously, its waters permeate our soil, this in effect being the water of life to our trees.
The business, which was established in 2013, has grown from strength to strength and is blossoming with success. The awards we have received over the last three years are a result of an ambitious diversification programme by both Pat and Peter. We take care of the apples from pruning through to blossom and harvest and right up until the finished cider product is delivered to the customer’s premises. Our experience has been extended beyond just quality apple production, and our move into cider, apple juice and cider vinegar has been accompanied by a significant level of research and development.
We only use pure pressed apple juice; we do not use concentrates, chemicals, or added water which we understand some bulk producers of cider and/or juice in Ireland and other countries have been claimed to do. Most importantly, before refining the optimal blend of apples to be pressed (which differs for each of our products) we carefully test for any taste variations. Each apple can be affected by obvious factors such as the amount of sun or rain, but frost and wind can also impact each harvest. We carefully allow for this in the blend to be pressed. Equally, apples that we source from a selected number of nearby trusted growers require similar sampling before they are moved onto the pressing process.
Our expertise and the skill of our team is judging the flavour of the Bramley harvest, and then optimising the blend of other apples which we use to adjust the “edge” of the pure Bramley juice, which some find a little tart.
We also decided at an early stage, not to use windfall apples which can start to degrade with an obvious impact on the end product. This all costs more from a production perspective.. All of these, from cider, through juice, to cider vinegar, are craft based; so one blend is not always exactly the same as the next, but they all demonstrate the quality of the apples we use. Through all of this, we hope that you will see that quality is our watchword. We produce in smaller quantities as we have a slow fermentation process (between 4-6 months), resulting in each bottle being an ambassador of Long Meadow Cider, Apple Juice (Still & Sparkling) or Cider Vinegar. Not only do our ciders tickle your taste buds but they can also be used during cooking. We often cook with our cider (a Christmas ham tastes deliciously different when baked in our Medium Cider). Local chefs also used our Blossom Burst Cider to make custards and sauces!
We produce a variety of ciders at Long Meadow Farm. The largest sellers are our Medium, Blossom Burst, Rhubarb & Honey and Berry Blast with the more limited volumes of Oak Aged Cider that we press appealing to a more discerning customer (it taking longer to produce anything from 18-24 months so consequently is only available in smaller quantities). Our Mulled Cider is a seasonal product which is available at Christmas.
The taste of each cider has been refined initially through in-house taste-tests, but customer feedback was also taken on-board in the early stages. Subsequently, awards and comments from judges have confirmed that the decision to use solely Long Meadow grown and selected apples, and reject apples that have in any way degraded (windfall apples) has resulted in a differentiated and high quality end-product.
We have won an increasing number of awards and these can be found in various blogs in our News section and also on our Facebook and Twitter pages. This success is equally being reflected in our range of apple juice and apple cider, both of which are comparatively recent additions to our range.