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Untitled//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsIt’s juicing time of year again, and this year the apple juice is pink Untitled//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

This is because we have had our first harvest of the variety ‘redlove’.  It make for  good garden apple tree as the leaves are dark the flowers dark pink and the fruit dark red. As a juicing apple it is interesting as the flesh and juice are also red, and only a little added to the press makes the juice a beautiful shade of pink.

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As usual, we pre froze the apples, and in this picture this is how they look once defrosted – a little sad, but it does help with the juicing, you can practically squeeze them by hand after a brief freeze.  The other variety of apple we use is an unknown apple that the previous owner grew from a pip. We call this variety ‘bejeezus’, as we have found it is not particularly good for eating or cooking, but ideal for juicing resulting in juice sweet enough to drink without added sugar, that is also good for making wine and cider with too.  This year we shall probably have it as juice, as the cider stocks are still high.  Why we call it ‘bejeezus’? because once we realised we were going to freeze and press these apples, less care is needed when picking, and our method is to hook the shepherd’s crook around branches and shake the bejeezus  out of the tree, resulting in apples raining down hard, (and sometimes painfully) – making a fast harvesting process.  Mr CIG was a little surprised the first time I did this, and hadn’t shared my plan with him, but  he ducked fast…

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Bertha produce
They say when God gives you lemons, make lemonade.  Personally, I would opt for limoncello, but we live in a cool climate, and don’t have a lemon tree… but when what was left of hurricane Bertha swept through last month, she gave us windfall apples, lots of them.  We picked plums early to take the weight off the branches, and that was highly successful, the pale plums finished ripening indoors, albeit all at once, but the apples were not ready and had to take their chances, and many were blown down and bruised before their time.

I hate waste, but we don’t have pigs at the moment, and the chickens will only eat so many… I made apple jelly, blackberry and apple jelly, apple cheese and started a batch of apple and blackberry gin.

Jelly making is an ideal way to use windfall apples as you can use the bruised fruit, and it is an easier than peeling hard unripe apples.

apple jelly

1.8 Kg/4 lbs apples – no need to peel or core, bruises are fine, but cut off any bad bits and wildlife

1.7L/ 3 pints water

sugar

Chop up the apples and place in the pan with the water, cook gently until the apples are mushy. Strain overnight using a jelly bag (no squeezing!).

Next day, measure the liquid and add the same volume of sugar.  Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then boil and bring to setting point 104 C on my thermometer – but you can also judge by watching how the mixture drops from the spoon. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

I use this apple jelly in cooking mostly – although it is nice as a jam, but works well in a steamed sponge pudding, or as a glaze on tarts and everywhere that calls for apricot jam under icing etc.  It can be stirred into casseroles and sauces.

Blackberry and apple jelly is the same recipe, substituting half the apples for blackberries.

Now the apples are ripe and we have picked the remainders – juicing the sweeter ones, and the bramleys are in the cool of the shed waiting to be cooked and eaten.

 

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apple crushing
This time of year is all about preserving the harvest, and some of that is the making of chutneys and pickles.  I have stocked up on supplies of malt vinegar, something that the village shops run out of quickly at this time of year as others are  doing the same, but this made me consider making our own vinegar, and I have been tuning into various mutterings over vinegar making on the net – in particular Andrea at Casalinho wrote a very interesting post on making vinegar from fruit scraps.

However, we have plenty of apples – not so many as in other years, but plenty, and more than we have freezer space, so the obvious thing to do is make our own cider vinegar…and for that we need cider, and before that we need apple juice.
apple pressing
We freeze and thaw the apples before pressing them (yes I know I said we had no freezer space – this space is already prebooked, we just borrowed it for a couple of days) as it makes crushing and pressing them so much easier. Then the crushed apples are pressed.
apple juice
Interestingly the first juice is white and cloudy – it goes orange as it oxidises, but as the pressing continues you get clearer juice. It’s all delicious.

 cider start

It’ been a while since we pressed our own apples, and today we have been kicking ourselves as the juice was so lovely.  How much makes it as far as vinegar remains to be be seen – we have already drunk a lot just as juice, and saved more back for that… then I might just drink the cider. Hopefully we will get as far as making our own cider vinegar too.

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raspberry flapjacks

raspberry flapjacks

This year’s raspberry harvest was plentiful, and we have a bit of a frozen raspberry mountain going on.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but new ways to eat raspberries  are being sought, and this one has proved popular with my family.  I tried a few different versions, all based on my standard recipe, as they are a bit on the soft side – due to the raspberry juice, but my attempts to make them firmer weren’t as good, so I’ve decided to accept them as they are, with their softer texture.

 Excellent cycling fuel, by the way.

raspberry flapjacks

100g/ 4oz demerara sugar

100g/ 4oz butter

100g/ 4oz golden syrup

250g/ 10oz oats

85g/ 3oz raspberries, frozen

1 lined 22cm/9″ square tin

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.

Put the sugar butter and syrup in a saucepan and heat gently until all the sugar has dissolved.  When it is ready, pour onto the oats and mix thoroughly. Stir in the raspberries and quickly pile the mixture into the tin and press down. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown on the top.  

Allow to cool before removing from the tin and cutting into squares.

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harvest autumn

apples

I’ve been watching the apples on the bramley trees.  It is always a matter of timing, picking late means the harvest will keep longer, but we have to balance that against missing the moment and having rather too many windfalls.

Each year is different, so we cannot go by the calendar. In many ways crops are late this year, thanks, probably, to the cold spring. But the weather forecast made up our mind, with high winds forecast for next week and the apples rosy and willing to let go of the tree at the lightest touch, we decided to pick.

We have twenty one boxes of apples in the cold store, and the pressure is now on to process and/or eat them before they go bad. I hate wasting any, but we have freezer space issues, so I see a lot of preserves in my future.
bean wigwam cityThe freezer crisis is in part due to the really good season we have had in the veg patch, that and perhaps planting way too many beans. I admit to 12 wigwams of french beans, and a line of runners…. but last year had proved a bit of a bean disaster so it made sense to plant more…. Annnnyway, we now have enough frozen beans to eat beans at least twice a week for a year, plus jars of pickled beans (very nice with cold meat), and we have given them away, swapping them for freshly caught pollack etc. We have now opted to let the remaining beans mature, hope the frosts hold off long enough to have beans to pod.
The stormy weather predicted might do for them yet. But at least the apples are in.

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wassail!

Tonight I made an apple themed meal.  We had  loin of pork, which I boned out, stuffed with an apple sage and onion stuffing, rolled  and roasted, with the crackling cooked to crispy wonderousness – if I do say so myself, and  that was followed with a spiced apple upsidedown cake. And I mulled some apple juice.

Why the trouble? well any excuse to  try out new recipes and make a pudding here at Colour it Green central. But also today is ‘old twelvey‘ and the day to go wassailing your orchard trees.

The process mostly involves the drinking of mulled cider (two non drinkers in the family means we opted for the tame version) and toasting the oldest tree ‘wassail!’ which means’good health’

Last year we forgot to do it – and it was the worst apple harvest since we have been here  – the year before was our first time and a bumper crop – therefore that is concise precise scientific evidence that wassailing makes a difference. Well maybe.  Anyhow, we do wish the trees good health, and particularly hope for a good harvest so  there can be many more spiced apple upsidedown cakes to come.

wassail!

 

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We’ve been planting trees again. Not the best of conditions as the ground is so wet, and snow and freezing temperatures forecast, but they were ordered back along, and now they are here – in they go.

We planted am almond, a mirabelle, a Dittisham plum and a bramley to replace the one that Betty (the sheep of  little brain) ate.

Sheep and fruit trees are not a good combination, but with  little individual fences round each one, it works, and the land can be used for both – and it seems some breeds are more tree eaters than others – we had no problem when we only had the Devon Closewools, but now we have the others, we are having tree nibbling issues.

It seems the minute we got the Shetland ewes – natural browsers and bark eaters, Betty decided she must be one of them and took to eating trees too.  I suspect it is to do with her overbite.

Yes I realise it sounds as though it is the Shetlands munching bark and Betty getting the blame – but we have seen her: she even got stuck between two fences several times, and she climbs the fence – throws her front legs over the top, squashes the fence down and eats everything she can reach – then sometimes climbs in too.

And several of the fruit trees got nibbled – which is far from good for them. Disease can get in, and the tree suffers – if bark is taken off in a complete ring, the tree will die.  The problem is she is so big – hip high before she starts climbing… and in the general umming and arring over which sheep to keep – this does not bode well for Betty.

At the moment we are trialling wool – Betty’s and the Shetlands, as that will be part of the decision. And anyway, we have freezer crisis – we need to empty freezers not fill them, so in the meantime we are fencing taller, wider and hoping Betty is held back long enough.

 

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