Drying times

I’ve spent the last weekend catching up with jobs I should have done several weeks ago, particularly preparing the persimmons for drying.

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Persimmons peeled and strung ready for air drying

This year we got a bag of persimmons when we went to Myrtleford, where the local markets are held every Saturday. I also got a large bag walnuts as I really enjoy buying nuts in season direct from the grower, over those sad specimens, as old as Methuselah and well past their use-by date, which seem to be what many shops offer.

Despite being neglected for several weeks, most of the persimmons were still easy to prepare for air-drying. Unfortunately some had ripened past the point of being useable for drying so I’m about to check out some fruit leather recipes, so we don’t waste any of our fruit.

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The persimmons drying in the shelter of our carport exposed to the cold winter winds

Apart from prepping the persimmons, we also had another session of managing our latest batch of foraged mushrooms. After a disappointing start to last weekend’s forage, where we found nothing but dry old Slippery Jacks, we decided to head back to the car. Much to our surprise we found a bountiful supply of Saffron Milkcaps less than 100 metres from where we had parked. Of course they were in the opposite direction to where we first looked!

We’ve taken to cleaning the mushrooms outside so the pine needles and scruffy bits can just be brushed onto the ground. I’ve already stacked the dehydrator with one load of mushrooms, but I expect there will be at least another dehydrator load to go before they are all processed.

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Cleaned Saffron Milkcap mushrooms, sliced ready for the dehydrator

We did save some of the best mushrooms for a soup made on chicken stock, with onion and garlic, blended and then topped with sliced Saffron Milkcaps, fried in butter.

Moving right along!

With autumn moving swiftly to a close there is no time to be worrying about what has gone because what is happening now needs our attention. The winter crops we’ve been planting over the past few weeks are starting to make their appearance – purple-podded peas and broad beans are breaking through and the garlic that TB planted only last week has already leapt out of the ground.

Garlic_may

We are still seeing plenty of cabbage white butterflies and I’ve even sprung them laying eggs on our new seedlings. So be vigilant because even those 2 & 3 mm caterpillars can demolish your young plants. Keep on squishing your butterfly eggs and young caterpillars now and your brassicas will come through with new undamaged leaves over the next few weeks, as the butterflies are be killed by the frosts.

Over the past week we have started the arduous, but ultimately rewarding task of preparing this years crop of persimmons for drying. If you want to understand why you can check out our efforts last year on this front. We were far too successful in converting our friends, not to mention the owner of the tree, to the joys of dried persimmons so that we are processing a much larger amount of fruit this year.

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We’ve been working of our threading technique and have settled on using a needle to sew the thread through the stems to make hanging strings.

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Next will come the peeling and drying!

 

Use it or lose it

Well our freezer literally went into meltdown yesterday. Unfortunately we didn’t notice until late in the day by which time all that remained of our once lovely fruit leather was a rather unpleasant sticky mess. It did at least prompt us to have a good clean out of the whole fridge so at least I’ve now found my two remaining jars of blackberry curd which I will attempt to eat in fairly short order.

Our breadmaker, which has had a good workout in recent years also passed into mechanical heaven a few weeks ago. I was rather shocked and it took me a while to remember that I would actually need to go and buy some bread at the shops. Yes I hear you say why didn’t we hand make a loaf? Well sometimes even in the suburban idyll that is Chez Fork we are just plain disorganised. Anyway a replacement has been purchased and we are making our way with learning how the new beast works. TB has cooked a sourdough loaf and my first offering is a fruit loaf made with some of our dried persimmons, some home-candied citrus peel and a good slug of mixed spice. The only problem was that as I didn’t quite follow the recipe it didn’t quite cook completely. Anyway I ended up flinging it into the oven for an extra 30 minutes and it worked out just fine.

Persimmon_bread

On another topic I see that ABC1 will be screening a documentary based on Micael Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire this coming Thursday at 9.30 pm. Pollan’s premise it that plants have actually used humans to help them spread around the world and not vice versa. The focus is four familiar plants, apples, potatoes marijuana and the tulip. The book was really interesting so I’m looking forward to seeing it on the small screen.

The Pleasure of Persimmons

Way back in April we started drying persimmons to produce what we hoped would be the winter delicacy that is enjoyed in Japan.This week we have been eating the resulting produce and I’m happy to report that not only has the drying been successful, but the result is definitely worth it.

I started out with some 70 persimmons. We lost some at the beginning to mould because the weather, at the time, was a lot warmer than expected. In the end TB suggested running the fan on low to help dry the fruit out. This worked very well. We more or less forgot them for a while, until it was time about a month and a half later when I started to massage the fruit. The idea is to redistribute the moist juices in the interior to encourage further drying.

We ended up with a full bowl of the dried fruit. Definitely a bowl of small treasures to be savoured.

Dried_persimmons

It was a bit difficult to decide when to start eating them as it wasn’t clear whether they should be fully dried or still somewhat soft. We’ve now tried the fully dried as well as some that are still soft and we definitely prefer the latter. The resulting persimmon is very much like a high quality date – both in texture and flavour. Our friends, neither or whom like the ‘fresh’ persimmon, found the dried version incredibly tasty. This could backfire on us as our persimmon supply comes from R’s mum’s tree. Next year we’ll probably have some competition for the fruit!

As we tasted the fruit we discussed whether using a dehydrator would yield the same results. We concluded that there might be some difficulty in fitting the full-sized fruit onto the trays, but cutting up the fruit would not give the same result. Given you need to peel the fruit before you start to dry them they would also need to be started off at least on baking paper to avoid them sticking to the trays. Ah well an experiment for next year.

So here are the before and after photos. Don’t worry the bloom on the dried fruit is the natural sugars that have come to the surface of the fruit not mould.

Kakicompare

Hanging by a thread

It’s persimmon time (or kaki for those who prefer the Japanese term) and we have access to plenty of fruit via our friend’s Mum who lives several blocks away from Chez Fork. We are happily eating the bletted fruit but are also exploring drying persimmons Japanese style.By way of explanation the fruit of the astringent varieties of persimmon must be allowed to go beyond ripe in a process known as /bletting/ before they can be eaten. This process is also applicable to other fruits such as medlars. I thought that this term sounded like something from Old English but discovered via Wikipedia, that is in fact a fairly recent borrowing from the French, coined by John Lindsay in 1848 in his book /Introduction to Botany/.

As for the Japanese they traditionally preserve persimmons by peeling, sun drying, kneading and brushing them, over the period of a month to produce a naturally sugar-coated product. These end up being a highly-prized, not to mention extremely expensive gift item. Given the amount of effort we???ve been through so far just to get them to the hanging to dry stage I think the cost is quite justified. Details of the history and the methods involved can be found via the links.

I spent over an hour the other day tyeing strings to the stems of the fruit. I was halfway through tyeing loops to hang them by when TB pointed out that the strings were too long and wouldn’t fit in the drying box. As we do not have a house with lovely wooden eaves to hang our fruit from we have resorted to the insect-proof box we usually use for drying herbs. This needs to be taken out during the day and brought back in in the evening. There didn???t seem to be much happening with the fruit but when compared the fruit we hung last week (on the left) and that which we prepared yesterday the first batch has already shrunk by about a quarter of it???s original size.

PersimmonstringPersimmon_contrast