Simple pleasures #3 - picking apples

Sofia's favourite thing at the moment is picking fruit. Apples, pears, quinces, raspberries, lemons. Doesn't matter what - just pick it and eat it, bugs and all. A few days ago when she couldn't get a lemon off the tree she tried to eat it still attached to the tree.



While Ian has been industriously drying pears (another batch completed yesterday), I have also been looking for more calorie laden ways to make use of the fruit.

Smitten Kitchen (one of my favourite cooking blogs) has a recipe for pear bread that looked up my alley.  It was very easy and especially delicious served with some Saint Omer butter.

Oh, and when did they start calling cake "bread"?


Everything's peachy

We have a crusty old peach tree outside the kitchen window. The trunk has been chomped by termites or borers and it looks like it won't last the next decent wind but despite this it has a reasonable crop of peaches on it. We've probably had more than fifty peaches by now and they're still coming.
Rotten bark and termite riddled wood
As with most things in our garden, a lot of the fruit has been at least partly munched by bugs but there has been plenty of good fruit left for us. Sofia has been loving them - she gets the big pieces and squishes them and ends up covered in mushed peach. A new technique discovered today is to chop the peach into bite size pieces before it reaches Sofia and then she actually eats most of it.
Some peaches nearly ripe
There are some lovely ripe ones at the moment and they are also less buggy. Another few peachy days to go yet. I love this garden.


Introducing Xenia

Among the many productive trees in our yard is a walnut tree. It's a pretty big tree and in quite good condition so it produces a lot of nuts.We have to share a few of them with the sulphur-crested cockatoos but they leave most for us.
Walnut in the middle, oak on right
If you've never had the pleasure of gathering walnuts before, this is what they look like on the tree. The husk starts out completely green and fleshy and then it starts to turn brown/black and break up like the one in the photo below is doing. You then have to either get them from the tree or pick them off the ground once they've fallen. The problem with getting them from the ground is that there are lots of old empty shells on the ground from previous years and they look pretty similar. Yes, we should have raked up the old shells before now but we haven't as the ground has not really been clear enough to rake.
Walnut in its husk
Here are some walnuts waiting for the treatment on our beautiful orange laminex benchtop. Some fall to the ground still in their husks, some fall out of their husks.
Some nuts waiting to be shelled
I met Xenia in the market at Daylesford railway station a few years ago. It was love at first sight. I took her home and she has been with me ever since. And she's about to see some action.
Xenia Onatopp - my weapon of choice
Brings a tear to my eye...
A little bit of messing around to get rid of the shell and we have one beautiful walnut.
It was yummy
There are still lots more walnuts in the tree so even more to eat from our garden.


Spare Pears

The pear harvest
We picked most of our pears from the big pear tree in the back corner of the yard yesterday. We've tried a few and they're pretty yummy - Sofia is loving them. It is about 15kg worth of pears with not too many bugs in the fruit compared to the apple trees (which look a bit grim). They're not all completely ripe yet but apparently pears keep ripening once they are picked.

Unfortunately because the garden was neglected for a while, including while the fruit was forming on the trees, there is quite a codling moth problem in the apples, pears and quinces which we need to work on for next season. Apparently having chickens running around the garden is a good way to control codling moth - just another reason to get some chooks soon.

There's no way we were going to eat all of the pears so we decided to try drying some of them. That meant peeling them.
No shortage of pears to peel and slice
 Getting rid of all the buggy bits and the cores.
Some were better than others
Then slicing them and pre-treating them in a mixture of water and lemon juice to stop them from oxidising and going brown.

Sliced pears in water and lemon juice plus the scraps
Then we stuck them in the dryer for at least eight hours...
In the dryer at the start. I love the way they look like chips
Nine hours later they were ready to be stored away for later consumption. As you can see, the pre-treatment didn't really stop them from going brown so next time we might go a bit harder on the lemon juice or just cheat and buy some ascorbic acid.
After nine hours in the dryer. Ready to go
The finished product (there is another jar too).
The first jar
A lot of work for two jars of dried pears but they are seriously yummy.


Whateverberry jam

Our yard is full of berries. Apart from the raspberries outside our back door, they mostly look self-sown and we have no idea what some of them are. Picking and eating them is just another part of the adventure that is our yard - some of them taste like sweet rosewater, some of them are face-puckering. They include raspberries, boysenberries and loganberries. Over the summer we picked them whenever they were ripe and if we didn't eat them all then we froze them. Loganberries are not very sweet so they are better for cooking or turning into jam and mostly got frozen. We never really knew what we were picking though.

The berries from our garden thawing

We also have a mulberry tree (yay!). Between the birds and the wind, not many ripe mulberries made it into human hands.  The ones that did were huge and delicious and were gobbled immediately, thus not making it into the freezer for the jam.


Apart from the berries from our garden we also went picking blackberries near New Norfolk, and our neighbour Hilary gave us some blackberries she had picked too. It was around 3kg of very yummy fruit just waiting to be jammed.

Jam Recipe
1050g random berries from our garden
600g blackberries picked by our neighbour, Hilary, on her walk last week
1200g blackberries picked by us near New Norfolk on the weekend
bucket load of sugar (equal weight to the fruit)
plus lemon juice or crab apples (for pectin)

Then do the jam thing - boil, add sugar, boil some more until it is ready to set.

After adding the sugar.
We made one batch using lemon juice to set the jam and then another using crab apple. We have a crab apple tree and the fruit is notoriously high in pectin.  In fact you can make a pectin stock with them. Instead of using stock we just cut a few (unripe) crab apples in half, wrapped them in some muslin and added them to the pot with the berries.  Both jams set well, but the crab apple assisted one came together much more quickly.

The goodies
7 x 300ml jars
8 x 230ml jars

Some of the loot cooling down
The jam is very yummy and there was heaps of it. We have added it to the the cupboard with the cherry plum jam we made earlier and a few odd leftovers from previous years.