Tuesday, February 17, 2009

cider and sweet nelly bean

the beginnings of cider

the apple season here is in full swing, much to the delight of the parrots and lorikeets. for the past couple of weeks the valley has been echoing with their full-bellied squawkings each dawn and dusk. they are quite equitable though and only eat the sweet, sun-ripened top half of each fruit, leaving the bottom half to fall to the ground and ensuring that the worms and insects have their share.

so before the birds help themselves to the whole harvest it was time to claim some for a brew of cider. last year andrew killed my juicer while making a traditional scrumpy. we had heard that true scrumpy must be made from stolen apples and not long after, very late on a summer night, we turned the last corner before home to find that an apple truck had spilled part of a load of granny smith apples as it barrelled down our twisted road to the market. we scooted home, loaded the car with bins and by moonlight furtively scooped up all of those fallen apples.

the next day i came home from market shopping to find a chagrined andrew and one smoking juicer. he had juiced an industrial load of granny smiths with the lifeblood of one small domestic juicer. it never recovered... r.i.p sweet juicer. however, her life was not sacrificed in vain. after a false start using beer-making yeast rather than champagne yeast (one works on the sugar from fermenting grains the other on the sugar from fruit, d'oh!) we had several dozen bottles of cider. the lessons didn't stop there though. we still had to learn patience. in our eagerness to taste our own cleverness we kept sampling and sampling to see if it was ready. it wasn't. by the time the cider should've been consumable by humans we had drunk it all. fortunately i went through a minor manic phase shortly after and found a lone survivor lurking at the back of the laundry cupboard. of course we couldn't contain ourselves and opened it then and there. deliciousness! apple champagne...mmm. so this year we have all the elements for success as long as we can control ourselves. stay tuned.

this morning we picked apples from all the different varieties on our land, including the scrumptious but now sadly rare rome beauty apples. rome beauties, which are small and sweet table apples, used to be widely available in my grandparents' day but are now considered an heirloom variety. the large supermarket chains demand the large standard (and boring) varities like granny smith, red and golden delicious so growers could no longer sell the apples that they had nurtured on their properties for generations. the old trees were ripped out and new standard ones planted in their place which has resulted in a dying out of all sorts of apple varities and a huge reduction in fruit tree diversity around the world. we are very lucky to have old remnant trees as neighbours and their rarity makes us treat them with great respect.

while up on the hill amongst the apples i visited our old dog nelly bean's resting place. it has a beautiful wide view of the valley and is surrounded by the young eucalypt trees we grew from locally indigenous seed to revegetate the hillside. the photo above is of the slender trunk of a south australian blue gum.

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