Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Days Cottage on River Cottage: Perry for Beginners

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the River Cottage crew descended on the Gloucestershire orchard of Days Cottage last month to film a segment on the fine art of making perry. It should be in the first episode of the new series, showing on 12 November.

The perry pear is a strange and wonderful thing. By tradition a tree will only prosper if planted within sight of May Hill, but a healthy tree can grow as tall as an oak, live three hundred years and produce a ton of fruit or more annually - the tree in the top picture is a perry pear. The one below, at Holme Lacy, was described in 1790 as covering three-quarters of an acre and producing 5-7 tons of fruit per year. The Blakeney Red is the best-known variety; curiously it was once used to dye military uniforms khaki...

The fruit is not for eating. Each small brown pear is a stone one day, a bag of mush the next. This is one tree you don't want to walk under in late October, when the grass underfoot is slick with pear mush and missiles are constantly dropping from above.
Perry is made in much the same way as cider, in that the fruit is first milled or 'scratted' to break it into small pieces, then pressed to get the juice out. A few months' fermentation in a barrel does the rest. A good perry is a fine drink, dry and light, and better than many wines. So good is it that the Slow Food Foundation has recognised Three Counties Perry (made in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire) as the UK"s foremost artisan drink.

Try the perry made by Days Cottage (available at Bristol or Stroud farmers' markets) or Olivers.
Dave Kaspar of Days Cottage
Find out more about the county's orchards and local varieties from the Gloucestershire Orchard Group, which conserves, promotes and celebrates traditional orchards in Gloucestershire.

And if you want to know more about orchards and their history, then have a look at this.


  1. Have to contradict myself... had a bite of a Brown Bess perry pear at the Days Cottage stall today and it was quite nasty but definitely edible.

  2. Great to come across a fellow Perry fan. With the help of Ian Roger(of RV Roger) I'm currently trying to extricate as many trees as I can from the sadly defunct Scott's of Merriott. Ian is very kindly taking on as many different varieties as possible in order to try to make sure they continue to be available from a commercial nursery. Hope it's ok if I carry a link to you from my website (