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Tristram Stuart on Making Cider and Sharing the Wealth

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Tristram Stuart is the founder of Feedback, an organization that focuses on ending food waste and organizes worldwide events called Feeding the 5000.

Tristram Stuart doesn’t do cocktails. “It’s too sophisticated, I think,” he says from his London office. “I haven’t enjoyed a cocktail when it was thrust in front of me, and I’ve never made anything that somebody could rightfully call a cocktail.”

He does, though, make beer and cider, “or hard cider, as you call it in America,” both using food products headed for the trash. The founder of Feedback, an organization that campaigns to end food waste at every level of the food system, Stuart works with governments, businesses and NGOs to change society’s attitude toward, say, wonky vegetables or untrendy fish species. And with his worldwide Feeding the 5000 celebratory feasts, he shows that this can be done deliciously. The last one took place on May 18 in Washington, D.C., where Stuart doled out thousands of free meals made from fresh top-quality produce that would have otherwise been wasted.


Now, back to that cider.…

On Cider

“The cider I drink is symbolic of everything I’m about. Every year, I and my core group of Sussex friends gather apples from the neighboring villages and gardens. Some households have a few apple trees but maybe make three or four apple pies a year; for most of them, the rest of their fruit is a waste at best and a nuisance at worst. That only a fraction of their apples is eaten bothers me for reasons that are obvious.

“So we gather those apples the first week of October, and then the second week, we open up our farm so that everyone can come over for a weekend of apple pressing. It’s one of the top fixtures in my life. We press around 1,000 liters of juice on average, half of which we pasteurize and bottle so that everyone has free access to apple juice year-round. The rest of it we pour into kegs, put an air-lock on it and leave it. Apple juice pressed from just natural, organic free-ranging apples has all of the magic that it needs to turn itself into cider without any interference or addition.”

On Sharing the Wealth

“That cider is freely available. We don’t sell it, but everyone involved in the pressing can come help themselves to bottles, and they do. It’s pure gold! I also take it to all of the parties we’re invited to.”

On Celebrating the Wealth

“The real pinnacle of the consumption comes in December, when that same group goes camping together for the winter solstice. We gather around a fire where I’m spit-roasting a deer or something that I’ve caught, we build a little sauna in the woods, and everyone drinks the cider. I like a good party, and what I really like is when everyone is enjoying the same tipple at the party. It brings everyone to a particular mood; a drink like this has a unifying effect on people’s party spirit. We go around the fire and ask, ‘Cider inside ya?’ The love gets spread.”

Tristram Stuart’s Toast Ale is made using waste bread.

On Cider Hangovers

“We do drink copious quantities of the stuff on a night like this, but when you stick to just that, you wake up more crystal clear than you went to bed. I can’t really explain it, but everyone who participates would agree. There are no additives—just pure and beautiful fermented apple juice. And it’s more than just a drink. Like the deer that we roast on the fire, which comes from the woods that we’re camping in, the cider connects us to the land. A friend of mine who’s a potter brings a load of earthenware bowls and crude clay cups that she makes; we eat and drink out of those. The winter solstice party plays a very central part in how I relate to the earth. It’s absolutely primal.”

On Something Other Than Cider

“My most recent venture, Toast Ale, is beer made using waste bread. That is another primeval recipe—the ancient Babylonians made their beer thus—because beer was really invented as a way of preserving the calories in grains that might not otherwise be used. We sell the beer, 100 percent of the profits of Toast Ale go to my charity, Feedback, and we’ve open-sourced the recipe so anyone in the world can copy it. That is the No. 1 objective: to kick off a movement in the craft brewing community akin to the food waste movement I’ve had a part in fomenting around the world.”

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