Quinces and crabapples

Ian had five days off over Easter (a lot of Tasmanian companies have Tuesday as a holiday as well), so we took the opportunity to do a bit more preserving.

The quinces have been ripe for a while, but I had been lacking a bit in motivation as they can be quite hard work (especially as they looked like they were going to be buggy).  Ian volunteered to pick the fruit and also cut them up - he is becoming quite the de-bug expert.  They ended up being surprisingly bug-free, but a lot of them had flesh that showed a brown discolouration so we discarded quite a large percentage of the fruit we had picked.  Googling after the fact came up with a theory that the discolouration may be caused by too many fruit overloading the tree.  This would make sense as the tree had a huge amount of fruit and has been neglected for a while (like most in this garden).

I decided to make quince paste as it lasts well, is delicious with cheese and can also be used as a glaze. A few of Christmas' ago, I glazed the ham with quince paste. Yum!

I used the recipe in my trusty Stephanie.  You have to cook the paste for ages, but it turned out well and is a beautiful "quincy" colour.

The crabapples were also ready to pick.  They were so pretty on the tree.

This jelly was easy to make, after cooking the apples whole you strain the liquid through muslin (I strained it overnight), then add your sugar and cook until it reaches the setting point.  Crabapples are high in pectin, so it doesn't take too long for the jelly to be ready.  Again, the colour of the results was very beautiful.  Unfortunately there are a lot of tiny air bubbles in my jelly.  Not something that will affect the taste, but it means the jelly isn't as clear as it could be.  It is a fairly common problem and can apparently be circumvented by adding a small amount of butter when you add the sugar. A tip for next time.

1.5 kg of fruit yielded just under 4 x 250ml jars.


Keeping warm

Our house is quite big and old, so keeping warm during the winter is going to be a challenge. There are five fireplaces in the house. There is a fireplace in the living room and a wood stove in the study (which may become the new living room until the renovation is done). The other three fireplaces are in bedrooms and closed up. We had the two functional chimneys cleaned a few weeks ago and have already cranked up the wood stove a few times since.

There is lots of wood in our yard. There are some huge heaps around the garage which had been there for a long time so there's rotten wood, leaves and mummified rats (really! - two so far) all mixed in with the good wood which often hasn't been chopped. These wood heaps trapped all the dead leaves which then trapped moisture and this has rotted the fence and garage so there is good reason to clean them up. The biggest stack of wood went all the way down the side of the garage and up against the back fence. In fact it wasn't until a few weeks after we moved in that we even realised there is a wood shed next to the garage under the oak tree as it was hidden by all of the wood. After several months trying to tidy up the main wood heap, I finally admitted defeat and hired a uni student to help out.We both spent last Saturday working through what was left and we can now start restacking all the wood we pulled out and chopped.
Wood from the big heap of wood waiting to be restacked
This whole area was covered in wood and leaves when we moved in
While it was very satisfying to get this done, there are still smaller heaps behind and on the other side of the garage that need to be cleaned up and plenty more wood lying around the yard. We're not going to run out for a while.

The side of the garage roof near the wood shed has an oak tree growing over it and this has landed a lot of junk on the roof and in the gutter. (The other side of the roof has a walnut tree growing over it). So while we were at it I also cleaned the garage roof and gutter, and cut back some of the oak branches hanging over the roof. You can see from these photos that the gutters had been neglected for some time - there was stuff growing in them!
The gutter was overflowing with leaves and acorns.
The woodshed roof was thick with sticks, leaves and acorns.
One of the really funny things about this yard is that it breeds garden tools. A few weeks ago I bought a block splitter to split the big pieces of wood in the wood heap. While we were cleaning up the stack of wood next to the garage we found another two splitters which had been left there over the years. One of them is still definitely useable, the handle on the other one looks as though it's seen better days. This continues the tradition of finding a garden fork, watering can, leaf rake and secateurs so far while tidying up the garden.


The endless harvest

We're now in April and we're still finding things to eat in our garden. Apples, nuts, a bonus round of raspberries, and some other more obscure fruits like medlars still to come. There are two apple trees. One looks a bit like some kind of pippin - you may have seen Sofia picking them and they're now finished. These apples are delicious and much less buggy than some of our other trees. The other apples look more like a cooking apple but they are ripening a bit later. We have used them a few times including to make an apple pie and the apple and walnut palmiers. The second round of raspberries is a real treat. There aren't a lot of them to go around and Sofia loves them so we've only had a few each.
The chestnuts over the two litre line in the bucket
Chestnuts are now ready but for some reason (neglect?) most of the nuts are a bit runty. We have a few kilograms of good ones but we will probably give these away to someone who will appreciate them more.
Chestnuts have a really nasty prickly layer outside the brown shell which you may be more familiar with and they hurt even with leather gardening gloves on. Sofia discovered this for herself when she tried to pick one up. She's now quite scared of them and eyes them suspiciously as she walks past them.

On top of all these, the quinces are ripe and ready to be pasted and of course Sofia was keen to pick some.

The medlars are waiting for the first frost so we can blet them. If you don't know what a medlar is then you're not alone. We'll probably experiment at some stage and put up a post then. Oh, and there's also jerusalem artichokes. And crabapples. And cumquats. And figs. And feijoas.


Apple pie

An old favourite. Take a bunch of apples freshly picked by Sofia. These are the cooking apples from our yard, but they are not a really hard cooking apples like a Granny Smith and are quite nice to eat. Some of them looked a bit buggy from the outside, but there was barely a bug in the whole lot.

Still life with orange laminex

Chop them and stew them for a little while with some sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. They could have done with a bit less cooking to keep some more texture.
Ready for the lid

Cover with some puff pastry and decorate with the leftovers. The decoration is essential.

Bake until golden brown - the photo makes it look slightly overdone but it was just right.

Douse with really thick cream.



Apple and walnut palmiers

It was Stephen's birthday at work and time to do some baking for his morning tea. Apples and walnuts are two current ingredients fresh from the garden so, after a bit of searching, this recipe for Apple & Walnut Palmiers looked like the best choice. There was a bit of interpretation as I hadn't prepared at all and didn't have all of the ingredients.

The first step was to chop up some walnuts. No need to chop them too fine as they get chopped more later in the process.
Coarsely chopped walnuts fresh from the garden
Miranda stewed a few apples and this was all mixed together with some honey (and maple syrup because we ran out of honey) and some cinnamon. This was then spread on a sheet of puff pastry,
Puff pastry ready to roll up
rolled up and put in the fridge for a while to firm up. The roll was chopped into 16 slices per sheet
Roll being cut into slices
and each slice becomes a palmier. These are spread out on the baking tray (sans plastic, of course).
Plenty of room just in case they expand
Half an hour or so later they came out looking totally delicious.
The finished product
Actually the first batch was a little burnt caramelised underneath as our oven is a bit fierce, but the second batch was just right. Very delicious. The walnuts were subtle combining beautifully with the honey and the apple offset both of them perfectly.