Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Wind in the Walnuts

it has been a funny old Autumn thus far with a very warm September and October, still in shorts and t-shirts temperatures.
We decided to go on the hunt for Walnuts; hoping that the recent rain and blustery wind would have brought some down.
We had been very busy previously, and not had time to check out our favourite trees before-hand, so we didn't know what to expect.
On our arrival, it did not look so good, but we spotted a few broken branches on the grass, signs that the local kids had been trying to knock down nuts.
We soon tuned into the Walnuts and started to find them nestled amongst the tufts of greenery. We quickly filled our pockets, and when we put them all together at home, we ended up with about half a shoebox full.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Apple Day Mansbridge Community Orchand

Apple Day 2014 at the Community Orchard in Mansbridge, was a fantastic success, everyone contributed and we all had lots of fun.
We had a big crowd of people from all walks of life and everybody chipped in to get things going, we even had a couple of ukulele players supplying musical accompaniment.
Southampton Woodcraft Folk, who are keen supporters of the orchard, pitched tents and organised pickers, tables and presses. I lugged the big press and fruitmill and more pickers (afforded through funding from the Southampton Airport Community Fund).
Once everything was set up and organised, people were dispatched into the trees, with pickers, to collect fruit. They duly returned with buckets and bags loaded with apples and even some pears.
The fruit was then chopped and milled into pulpy pommace and emptied into the presses.
The levers of the presses were turned by the hands of many enthusiastic and strong children and as the screws turned, the golden juice began to flow.
The process continued until it eventually began to rain but after a couple of hours of exertion, everyone was pretty exhausted anyway, so we packed up all the kit and took it home to be hosed down and washed. Well, I was pretty wet anyway.
I don’t know how much free nectar we squeezed out of those lovely apples but my bucket had about 3 gallons in it at one point. This was reduced to about 2 pints by the time we got home. So, I guess everyone went home happy.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Apple Armageddon

It is October, it's still boiling hot in Southampton, and the Saints are flying high in the Premiership. They do say that you should make hay while the sun shines!
So, taking full advantage of the Autumnal warmth we decided to press some of the huge quantity of apples we had collected. Naturally I had initially filled my shed store, for the winter months.
The cider press was dusted off, no mean task as it is a beast of a machine; very heavy, angular and awkward. All the buckets and equipment had to be hosed down and sterilised. Finally, my trusty stainless steel Spear & Jackson No 9 spade was thoroughly cleaned and polished.
We used the spade as a speedy way of chopping up big bucket loads of ripe fruit, before smashing them to oblivion with a branch of cherry wood. These weapons of mass destruction were augmented by the hopper fed fruit mill.
Fortunately I had a good squad of strong, enthusiastic child volunteers to help me with the processing, and the juice was soon flowing freely. As normal I had to balance the amount of sweet nectar necked by the kids, against my desire to have plenty left to bottle.
This year we have invested in a Pasteuriser, which means our precious juice can be kept for a longer time than it would last in the fridge alone. The Children’s valiant efforts produced about 4.5 gallons, a fantastically tasty achievement.
After I had filled and pasteurised 12 bottles, there was still two gallons left, so that will  become cider - unless the kids find it first.
Apple juice-straight out of the press-is the best tasting treat of the Autumn and If you want to experience this delight, you should get on down to the Mansbridge Community Orchard Apple Day on the afternoon of 12th October 2014. Bring some bags or buckets to collect fruit in, and join in with the family based fun, in the Octavia Rd Open Space.
If you have any spare fruit from your garden bring it along and we will turn it into delicious juice. The Apple Day is an open air event, so wear robust clothing and footwear (wellies are de-rigeur).
N.B.This is an amateur/volunteer/community based event – everyone is responsible for their own health and safety and parents/guardians are accountable for their children.