Thursday, 10 October 2013

Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness

Autumn finally arrived. Suddenly, my Monday morning ride to work was shrouded in mist, my feet wet with dew and more worryingly, my cycle helmet wreathed in October cobwebs. My legs and arms ached from a weekend of exertions and yet it was a very satisfying ache. The kind of satisfaction that comes from knowing you have realised, what you set out to achieve.
Carnage and Cleaning
The reason for my sore limbs, was that we (my family, plus some friends and their children) had pressed five gallons of apple juice, from the fruit off Southampton Common and from Hedge End. That’s a whole lot of chopping, milling, pressing and cleaning followed by a warm glow of contentment (and a bbq) afterwards. More about this though, in a later post.
The trouble with Autumn is that all its bounty comes at once; hence harvest festivals, pickling and preserves. The day after the cider pressing, my son and I also set off to pick Medlars; those medieval munchables that can be made into ruby red jelly or pale and interesting wine, amongst other things.
My son had been playing rugby in the morning but the tree was loaded with fruit and he was up the trunk in seconds, like a simian shoplifter. In about 10 minutes we had filled my bag with plenty of the curious looking, golden-brown beauties. Now we  need to think about how we should prepare them.
However, our day was not yet done! We thought it was high time to see if the walnuts were dropping yet. They were... We were bang on time and as we searched, you could hear the odd rattling as fresh nuts fell to the pavement. 
Competition, the Grey-Coated Gangster of the Nut World
The noise soon escalated into a clattering storm, as I shook the outer branches with my apple picker; I wasn't actually trying to get them to fall on my boy, as he scampered about grabbing them, but I managed to once or twice. I got one in the eye myself at one point.
Walnuts - Ripe and Ready to Drop
We Got Loads! Of course, Walnuts will keep for ages; especially with this quantity in our cupboard. They can be used in many recipes, including chocolate brownies. We also had a great year for Hazel or Cobnuts, so we will need to think of some interesting ways to utilise the nutty hoard we have squirrelled away. My son suggested Walnuts covered in melted chocolate... Unsurprising, but it would make a totally tasty Christmas treat/gift.
Finally, we rewarded ourselves with a quick trip to Mansbridge Community Orchard for a couple of ripe and juicy apples – I'm quite sure we deserved them after our afternoon travails.
Apple Day celebrations at Mansbridge will be held on the Octavia Road Open Space 26th October. Bring your own apples for pressing into delicious juice, or pick some from the trees on the day. More details soon - don't touch that dial!

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