Apple picking time

At last we’ve made it out to our favourite foraging spot to pick this year’s feral apples. It’s a good year with the trees slumping over with the large number of apples on them.

One of the trees we picked from
One of the trees we picked from

Its clear that others have also been picking, but there is so much fruit at present that even after we’ve had a go there’s still plenty left. Three of us managed to pick about 100 kilograms of fruit in under two hours. We picked from some 10 different trees and there were easily twice as many we could have choosen from. From here we will move to pulp the bulk of the fruit to make apple juice and apple cider.

Literally bags of apples from our foraging foray
Literally bags of apples from our foraging foray

There are also a small number of quince trees that sit alongside our favourite apples trees. For once, the person who normally picks them out before I get there, left quite a few quinces behind. I plan to make some quince and vanilla jelly, I may even try a quince vanilla and rose geranium variation. I need to get onto this quickly as I just finished eating my last batch of the same.

A bag of lovely quinces
A bag of lovely quinces

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Cider day at the markets

We headed out to Fyshwick Markets yesterday for a cider tasting session as part of ‘apple and pear’ week. there were quite a few producers and suppliers there. This particular event was hosted by Plonk, a retailer which has an interesting and wide range of both ciders and wines.

Cider tasting at the Fyshwick markets.
Cider tasting at the Fyshwick markets.

There was plenty on offer from both the international producers, Stassen and Magners, as well as some new local offerings. I did try the Stassens Elderflower & Lime Cider, definitely one for those who prefer sweet style, and way too easy too drink. Much as I can drink a sweet cider I’m afraid that these days my taste has been informed, or is that de-formed, by drinking our own ciders which are definitely on the dry side of the spectrum.

I’d tried the Bilpin’s the previous week – a nice style with a very distinct apple flavour; and Small Acres Cyder I have bought and enjoyed previously, particularly their ‘Sparkling’ which is a very dry style indeed. I also thought that the Small Acres ‘Norfolk’ still cider had a nice apple aroma, without being overly sweet.

More on offer from the cider tasting.
More on offer from the cider tasting.

What most interested me were a group of small producers from up and down the east coast who are making some very fine products indeed. I started by tasting the Hillbilly ‘Crushed Apple’ and ‘Crushed Pear’, they are another producer from Bilpin in the NSW Blue Mountains. Both were very fine tasting products. The apple cider is made from the Julian apple, but to my taste the Crushed Pear edged it out.

Darkes Cider had their ‘Howler’ on offer, which was the most distinctive cider I tasted on the day. The Darkes product comes from their own orchards which are located at Darkes Forest, near Wollongong. This is definitely a drink for those who are looking for something other than ‘run of the mill’ ciders.

Last but definitely not least was Willie Smiths Organic Cider from the Huon Valley in Tasmania. Again this is the product of a family farm. The cider is partially matured in oak barrels. The flavour definitely has ‘depth’.

This was a great introduction to a range of suppliers and when we run out of our own product, or are looking for something a bit different, I’ll know where to go!

What a mother!

The morning/afternoon after a big party you may be thinking what can I do with all those little bits of wine left over in those bottles strewn around the dining room? As the tradies say ‘too easy’, don’t toss them down the sink, or your throat, make some vinegar from them! As far as home production goes this is one of the most straightforward things you can do and the results are not only tasty but very useful in the kitchen.

Step 1 – put your wine, (you can even use a bottle or two you’ve bought for the purpose), into a large bottle, such as a demijohn from your local brew shop.

Step 2 cover the opening with some cheesecloth artfully held in place with a rubber band to allow the liquid to be exposed to the air while keeping those pesky vinegarflies out of your vinegar (you know those tiny ones that annoyingly breed in your indoor plants).

The aceto-bacteria that will convert your wine into vinegar are naturally occuring in the air. If you can’t convince yourself that this will happen then you can get some non-pasteurised vinegar and whack that in along with the wine to act as a starter, just like you do with yoghurt. You’ll most readily find un-pasteurised vinegar at your health food or organic food shop rather than your supermarket – check the label before you buy.

Vinegar

Red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar happily developing away

Step 3 leave for about three months, hey presto! vinegar. *Time of production can vary depending on how the temperature varies – faster in warm weather and slower in cold.

Please don’t panic when you see this next photo, it’s not something unmentionable from a B-grade sci-fi movie, its a vinegar mother!

Vinegarmother

Vinegar mother, see not so scary after all

This is what will develop in your vinegar over time – don’t panic, it’s a good sign, really. Your aceto-bacteria are happily living on this cellulose raft, all you need to do is strain it off when you are decanting your vinegar into bottles for keeping. You can save some of the mother to start off future batches of vinegar. Excess vinegar mother will keep in the fridge for some time, I’m not sure about how it likes being frozen, but it could be worth experimenting with this.

All of the above also applies to making cider vinegar. As we made quite a bit of apple cider this year we have been able to put quite a lot aside for cider vinegar production.