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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cider and Perry, Last Fruits of Summer, Mushrooms

Apples, Pears, Cider and Perry

December/January is the time that the Tropical Apple is ready for harvest. The fruit was left as long as possible to maximise sugar content and we harvested making cider. As usual timing was poor. We hadn’t tasted last year’s cider before we bagged up this year’s crop to protect it from parrots and fruit fly. The previous year’s cider was great. Now we wished we had gone to the trouble to bag more fruit to make a greater quantity. The cider was not sweet but it was sparkling and very refreshing at the end of a hot day.
Well we still had the pear trees and the Cider Apple trees to harvest later so maybe we would still get a reasonable quantity.
On the Orchard map the harvest months are noted. Well it turns out they are wrong. The dates are for trees in Tasmania not NSW north coast. Our fruit ripens 4-6 weeks earlier. Well luckily we were checking the fruit and discovered it was ready. For some reason some of the apple trees failed to mature any fruit in the bags while others were fine. Still there is enough to make a little more cider. The best tree this year was Stokes Red.
The Buerre Bosc produced a goodly amount of fruit as it always does and we were able to make Perry for the first time. Next year a big effort will go into bagging as much as we can. There are still two more pear trees to harvest a Williams and a Packham. We may not have sufficient cider and Perry to bath in but there will be enough to taste test some more experiments.
The process is fairly simple using our Champion Juicer. The fruit is cut into pieces and juiced. The sugar level is tested. All the batches we did came in at around 15 Brix which is fine. The juice is warm and the yeast starts quickly. We used Chardonnay yeast as an experiment. As opposed to beer yeast which we tried last year.
Fermentation is done in demijohns with an airlock. Once the bubbling stops it is racked into 375 ml bottles and half a teaspoon of sugar added to create the fizz. Then leave it. It will be fizzy in two weeks but a little bottle age is better.
This year there will be four distinct (trial) batches. The trials are on pH, yeast type and sulphur addition (or not). This should give us a good feel on how to proceed next year. Very exciting.

Last fruits of the Tomato Bed

The relocating garden in the paddock that we call the Tomato bed is still producing food. The tomatoes have gone although there make be a second flush in another month. The rockmelons are still going albeit slowly. The bitter melon is coating as is the okra and capsicum. The pumpkins and squash are coming on and some were ready. The Hungarian wax capsicum is still flowering and forming fruit as is the zucchini. The big surprise is a cucumber plant  has germinated and we may get another crop before the cold sets in.


Sometimes we wish we lived in France so that all the mushrooms could be taken to the local chemist and identified before we poison ourselves. Trying to identify edible ones from a book is damned hard trying to use photographs. Every time some gorgeous looking mushroom forms we find two possible candidates in the book. One is edible and the other is poisonous and we can’t tell the difference.
A recent email to a friend at the nearby university asking if there were any experts about proved fruitful. The friend as it turns out studied mushroom as part of his science course many years ago. All we need is a sample.
Of course by this stage these massive white oyster shaped clusters weighing kilograms had finished their life cycle and nothing remained but a brownish black smudge.
OK we’ll be ready next time.

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