I woke in my chair just after midnight on Monday morning, feeling stiff and misshapen I’d missed the chance to post on the day I was describing so I forced myself to stay up long enough to add photos, but couldn’t be bothered with captions. Then I posted and realised, too late, that then I I’d forgotten the title.
Fortunately Albert Schweitzer was there to supply the deficiency.
Things got worse when I started to get ready for work. My first clumsiness was to knock the sliced beef off the kitchen counter, where it landed with a slap on the floor. It probably picked up millions of bacteria despite my application of the Ten Second Rule. This, as most of you will know, states that food is still fit to eat if you pick it up less than ten seconds after it hit the floor.
I’ve also seen it described as the Five Second Rule. No way that’s going to happen. It takes me longer than that to bend these days.
Thinking sensibly, for once, I decided the risk wasn’t worth it and, regretfully, binned the meat.
Then I remembered what a doctor had once told me when I was discussing unpasteurised apple juice. According to an American website I’d read you have to pasteurise juice before drinking. We’d been happily pressing for years and feeding to all and sundry from 5 to 95 years old. He said that if you drink it immediately after juicing, the microorganisms haven’t time to multiply and cause problems, and told us there was no reason to stop doing it. So I thought. And I decided that if I ate the beef immediately I should be OK. Fortunately I’d just put a new bag in the bin so that was clean.
Anyway, with the addition of horseradish sauce I enjoyed beef sandwiches for breakfast and suffered no ill effects.
The second thing he told me was that I could safely disregard most food hygiene advice from Americans as they worry too much.
Of course, this was the same man who cut his finger tip quite badly with a power saw and tied it all back with a bandage which became quite grubby over the next few weeks. When I mentioned the possibility of gangrene he just muttered that it would either heal or drop off. And, remarkably, it did heal.
I also dropped the phone, knocked it out of Mark’s hand (twice) as we both tried to pick it up, rendered the scanner inoperative, dropped stamps all over the floor and generally had an uncoordinated sort of day.
All that was as nothing compared to the day suffered by the mother of the owner of the Chinese Takeaway between the old shop and the new shop. She was burning cardboard boxes in the back garden when the fire spread to a pile of dry conifer trimmings. It then spread to one of the dead conifers.
When the opticians on the other side noticed flames higher than their roof they decided to call the Fire Brigade.
That’s why today’s photographs show a fire engine, ash on top of my car, and some grumpy firemen. It seems they had better things to do.
The group came and the group went. They fed the chickens and said goodbye to the ones that are going to market tomorrow. They did some tree measuring for the Woodland Trust monitoring project and some tidying too, but I hardly noticed them because I was juicing apples.
It can be a drawn out job at the best of times, but when the people who put it away last year put it away (a) dirty and (b) at random it can be a trial. I still haven’t found the siphon tube or the filter for the funnel, so we improvised. We used a kitchen sieve for a filter and when we had to transfer the contents of one barrel to another we used that old male stand-by known as brute force and ignorance. It worked.
We also suffered delays whilst I found the powdered Vitamin C – if you don’t add it you end up with brown juice. It’s still good, and it’s all natural but the oxidation makes it look unattractive. Three teaspoons in thirty litres of juice (or 52 pints if you still use them) reverses the oxidation and turns it back to a nice golden colour
We now have 40 bottles of juice and another barrel that needs bottling tomorrow.
Things would have gone better if I’d remembered how to use the steriliser, but the temperature control dial is a bit misleading – an embossed black mark on a black dial, which isn’t great for a short-sighted man in a dimly lit shed. Yes, I used the wrong end of the pointer and set the temperature far too low. By the time we’d found that out we had to wait an extra half hour to sterilise the juice in the bottle.
Of course, you can get by without sterilising the juice, as long as you either freeze it or drink it within 3-5 days. After that the natural yeast on the apples builds up enough gas to blow tops off and cause all sorts of problems. A few years ago we had a customer who had his juice put into a 10 litre bags and then went on holiday. I didn’t do the sterilising in those days. The juice fermented, blew the bag up until it started to leak and came back to find his kitchen floor covered with juice and a fine selection of insect life.
That’s why I got the sterilising job.
Towards the end we had bottle cap roulette, which is a game played with a variety of hot recycled bottles containing hot juice. Not boiling, but 80 degrees C isn’t very comfortable. The game consists of heating up the bottles and juice then finding a cap that fits, lifting the bottle out, tightening the top and laying it on its side.
It’s always a relief when you finish that bit with no spills, burns or seepage.
Hectic again, so this is the Monday morning catch-up post from Saturday.
It was a long day on Saturday. We set up early and pressed the Lord Derby for our single variety juice – twelve hours later we locked the gates and went home. So much for my work/life balance.
Between those two events we managed to eat several cobs containing pig products and pressed a lot of apples for the community, plus a couple of lots of pears.
In contrast to previous Saturdays people arrived with boxes, builder’s bags, assorted carrier bags and even a hand cart. Bearing in mind the educational aspects of the day, I was happy to allow everyone a chance to experience the hands-on aspects of the job, though nobody showed any interest in the cleaning up. I must think up a killer sales pitch for next year – the Full Farm Experience to go with the Full English Breakfast.
Everybody seemed to go away happy, despite the incident with tea urn. That occurred when someone brought some 10 litre bags to fill. In order to get through the pasteurising quicker I was using two tea urns plus the pasteuriser (which is just a big urn). Unfortunately I overlooked the possibility for damage to the bag from the absence of a trivet. Or, to put it another way, I welded a bag to the bottom of the urn.
So, a fused urn, a punctured bag, stickiness, apologies…
You get the picture.
Despite that, a local orchard owner has just (Monday morning) asked if I can pasteurise 150 bottles for him.
Today’s learning: Remember to put a tea towel in the bottom of the urn next time.
Today’s tasting notes: The Lord Derby juice is a lot sweeter than I was expecting from a cooking apple, also a bit thicker, more orange and more prone to producing sediment. I’m hoping it’s going to be popular because we have twenty trees and once they grow they are likely to be heavy croppers.
You can’t see it so much in the photo but the Lord Derby juice is a different colour (see small bottles and large bottles on right of picture
We’ve been drying apples ready for the weekend. The intention was to bag them up and sell them but we’ve just hit a snag (apart from the one where we eat loads of them) – they just don’t weigh much!
At the current rate, which includes using the group and the Applemaster, we will have about £6- £8 worth of apple rings by the weekend.
It’s not going to make much of a dent in the funds. On the other hand it will be easier to store than the apple juice, which is beginning to make the shelves bend under the weight of bottles.
I’m still thinking about storage for the next lot – which is going to include 50 small bottles of Lord Derby as single variety.
We have a plan to sell Apple Punch kits at Christmas in an attempt to reduce stocks. We’ve mastered the art of producing apple juice, we just need to sell more than the four to six bottles we get through every Saturday. As they always used to say when I attended sales conferences – Nothing happens until somebody sells something.
You wouldn’t believe how many small steps there are in producing a decent bottle of apple juice.
Apart from the preparation and pressing there’s the bottles – wash, dry, heat to 140 degrees Centigrade, fill, put lid on loosely (after boiling lids for 5 minutes), pasteurise, screw tops down, put bottles on side so that hot juice covers the inside of the lid, wash so that you don’t get sticky bottles or mould growing round the cap, apply labels.
That’s eleven operations. With Saturday’s production that’s over 700 individual operations, without taking temperatures, stacking, moving, burning fingers, swearing and mopping the floor. And printing the labels, recounting the labels, realising you don’t have enough and ordering more from Amazon.
And I thought it was all about good quality fruit, the right scratter and plenty of elbow grease. How wrong can you be?
It’s the same with sloe gin. What is basically a simple process – bung sloes in gin and add sugar, shake, wait, drink – becomes much more complex when you start reading the various recipes.
How much sugar, whether to prick the sloes and whether to wait for the first frost are all matters of debate. Extensive debate,
Here’s my answer. Do what you want. We used to buy sloes from a grocer in Bakewell at the end of the summer holidays, drop them in gin or vodka (we often didn’t prick them all because it’s tedious, and possibly even dangerous), shake them when we remembered, leave them till Christmas and it always tasted good. Once someone told us about freezing – thereby splitting the skins and simulating frost – we never looked back.
There is no mystery to sloe gin. There is no need to spend two hours looking at recipes. All I learned from that two hours is that I know all I need to know about sloe gin (that’s not being boastful – there just isn’t much to know) and that it is very easy to waste the best part of an afternoon browsing the internet.
If you look at the last line of my last post you will see the words “I’m slightly worried that things are going too well.”
That state of affairs lasted for around 12 hours, until the car ground to a halt on the way to work. It started again fairly easily, cut out a few more times and then didn’t miss a beat for the rest of the journey. Annoying, perplexing and, as the interval between incidents is decreasing, worrying.
That was just the beginning.
The cook for the Saturday cafe, who is supposed to be there an hour before me was decidedly not there. |As I turned into the drive I noticed the absence of car, which wasn’t a good sign. The kitchen, when I walked round, was dark and cold and quite clearly not open for business.
Time for a decision. I opened up, consulted my list of numbers and woke up a man who sounded like he had been having a lie-in until some idiot woke him by ringing a wrong number.
Not a good start.
The second attempt was almost equally fruitless – right number but they were already doing something else.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, we did get a stand-in, I got the sausage and bacon ready for them and it all went reasonably well for the rest of the day. We did another 55 large and 10 small bottles, plus two demijohns for cider. In just three pressing days we have now produced as much as we did in the whole season last year. Modesty prevents me saying that the new man in charge of pressing is more efficient, harder working and better looking than the one we had last year. However, if you want to draw your own conclusions feel free…
People brought a lot of Bramleys and Lord Derby , taking away gallons of healthy juice and leaving us a lot of apples donated for our own use. So all in all the day turned out to be productive, enjoyable and worthwhile.
Well, it will be as long as we can sell the juice.
The evening meal passed off without incident and nobody has been in touch with threats of legal action so I’m assuming all is good. It wasn’t my best planned meal but people seemed to like it, the plates mostly came back empty and we got it on the table while it was still hot.
By the time we’d tidied and got back home it was just past 11.00. Number One son was already in bed after a trip to the theatre (oh, the student life!) and we had a sandwich because it was all we felt like. That means it’s minced beef cobbler for tea, with thyme and mustard dumplings.
This morning called for a trip to the Citroen dealer, where we looked at cars (including one where my head touched the roof and the sun visor cut into my forehead). That figure hugging second-hand car could be mine, it seems, for slightly less than a brand new Berlingo.
It’s a sobering thought that any car I would like costs far more than I can afford. And any car that I can afford isn’t necessarily one I would like. It’s only a box on wheels and if you strip out the frippery (and the computer) it’s technology from 100 years ago or more – just a stagecoach with an internal combustion engine.
Meanwhile things like trays for your change become design features and they no longer have spare wheels. I note that the cup holders on the new Berlingo are now much shallower than the ones on ours – meaning that although they will hold a cup they won’t hold it at 30 mph whilst cornering.
That is what they call progress.
This afternoon we did the apple presentation at a local care home, where people were mesmerised by the Applemaster and started giggling after an inch of apple juice, as if it was a gallon of cider. A 95-year old lady told us about the first time she went to Goose Fair (in 1926) and another told us what she remembered about her father growing liquorice in Pontefract – one of our once great (though slightly strange) industries that have fallen by the wayside. Checking for links I see that one man is looking to restart commercial liquorice growing. Good to see.
Sadly, each time we go back it seems like one of the old characters is missing.
Since the intervention of the AA the car hasn’t missed a beat and, in the way of intermittent faults, if the fault won’t show itself the garage can’t correct it. At the moment I’m driving round trusting to luck and hoping this faultless performance continues until I can get back to the garage on Tuesday. It may be more sensible to leave it in the garage until then but the reality is that at £10 each on the bus, or £30 in a taxi, it makes economic sense to drive to work.
It was Community Apple Pressing Day today again, and we had a variety of people discussing apples, neighbours, juicing, pigs, compost, rugby and recycling containers. That’s Community for you – always plenty to talk about.
By the end we had 55 big bottles and 45 small ones. I make that 52 litres. It isn’t much compared tothe 90 gallon capability claimed for the large press but allowing time for talking and pasteurising it too plenty of time. Producing juice, it must be said, is the easiest bit of the process with an industrial size scratter. Cleaning, sorting, washing equipment, sterilising bottles and pasteurising all seem to be endless tasks compared to the simple act of tipping apples into a machine and pressing the juice from the pulp.
Juklia bought me an Apple Master – it peels, cores and makes the apple into a spiral all at the same time. I’m not sure what its practical use is but it’s great for engaging people. She is a wonderful woman and I’m lucky to have her. (That’s a voluntary statement – she didn’t tell me to say it!)