It's Autumn. That means it's time for the apple harvest. The stone fruits all matured around Christmas, but the apples have taken a bit longer. We didn't cover the apple trees with netting until a few weeks ago. The branches are heavy with fruit on some of the trees. We have five apple trees and all of them are bearing fruit. The only challenge is working out what variety they are. We have a Granny Smith. That one is easy. Glossy bright green skin and very tart! The rest of the apples are also green, but some have a pink blush on one cheek. I'm still trying to work out the rest.
A visit to the library once every three weeks or so is a great source of information. Yes, we can use 'Google', but that requires satelite time and it's costly. It's quite satisfying browsing through reference books and making new discoveries that answer questions we might have. My library basket weighs heavily after each visit. This week I've found a number of books on apple trees, olive production and poultry care.
The small orchard behind the house.
We are planning to add a few more fruit trees in this area. I have a fig tree sapling that has been nurtured by Stephen's grandfather. He took the original fig tree cutting from a house they lived in about five years ago. The fig tree gave deliciously sweet green figs. He has successfully grown another tree from the original cutting at their new house. Now I have a cutting from the cutting! I hope I don't kill it. It will be planted close to the apple trees. On our last visit to Melbourne, Nonno had saved three beauitul figs for me. He is very proud that his new tree has had about 20 pieces of fruit this year.
So back to the apples.....
We were treated to a lovely week of laughing and good conversation when Frans' Mum, Riet and Frans' sister Pauline came to visit. Being Dutch, Riet loves her appelmoes. That's apple sauce. She's the queen of peeling apples. On her very first day she insisted we start dealing with the fruit hanging on the trees. So out we went into the fine Otway drizzle and picked a couple of baskets of fruit.
It took three full baskets to make 10 litres of juice.
One of the comments Riet made was that she was surprised at the different shapes our apples have. They are not perfect round spheres like you buy at the supermarket. And they don't have little paper stickers on them! And they're not as shiny. Our apples are all shapes and sizes. They do not have a waxy gloss sprayed on them to make them look appealing! They have a few spots here and there. Some of the apples have been half eaten by birds or insects. But we know that they are 100% pesticide free and good for us. We still have plenty on the trees. I'm not sure how much longer we'll be able to harvest them before they all drop off the branches and get put onto the compost heap. So if you want some apples, come and get them! You probably have a window of opportunity of about 10 days.
Oma happily peeled and chopped for days on end. Sara arrived half way through the week and stepped up to help with the preparation. What will we do with all this fruit?
We've cooked the apples and frozen them in plastic bags. When you lay the bags flat in the freezer you make good use of the space there. This applies to freezing tomato sauce too.
We have made appelmoes and bottled it. Then used the Vacola barrel to preserve the jars of sauce. Apple sauce is great on muesli for breakfast. And of course you can enjoy it with your dinner too.
And then we've decided to give apple cider a go. We're starting off small. Let's not get carried away. Filling a 10 litre bucket with freshly squeezed apple juice is a time consuming excersize. This task required all hands on deck. The girls peeled and cut the fruit while Frans squeezed the juice in our old trusty juicer. You know the one.... it's the appliance you buy and use a few times and then it gets relegated to the back of the cupboard. Well, this one has come out of retirement. Let's hope it can cope with all the action that is required of it. I needed to buy a few bits and pieces for the cider (yeast, sugar etc) and rang a supplier in Melbourne. He advised that the best thing to do when using a domestic juicer is to give it plenty of rest between squeezings. Good tip. We now have a bucket of juice sitting on a chair in the sunny alcove off the kitchen. We will wait a couple of weeks and then we will bottle the juice. Hopefully we'll have our first organic cider. We'll see....
Riet, (aka Mum Hillege, Oma, Maria) and Sara
Mum in her element!
Frans, not sure if he's in his element.... I suspect he'd rather be swining a chain saw than pressing apples!
Sometimes the kitchen is home to a hive of activity. On this day besides peeling apples for cider, I was making sushi and Frans was gleaning the last bit of honey from a bucket of wax he has been resting.
Friends have asked us many times if we miss the bustle of city life. We can say with confidence, NO. However, there are a few little treats that we do miss. One of mine is sushi. It's not difficult to make though, so I make it occasionally. Frans loves it and has even learned to eat it with the required wasabi paste and pickled ginger! It does mean that when we do go to Melbourne, we will treat ourselves with a visit to a sushi bar.
Not too many afternoons left where we can enjoy the changing light. The days are becoming shorter and cooler. We have started lighting the fire more often. A sure sign that winter is on the way...