Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Grapeo is reborn

Some say the best time to harvest is by the light of a silvery moon, or at least when there is a full one. Biodynamic principles are linked to such fancy/fanciful things as lunar cycles. So we decided to hit the grapes last time we were in Sokolka as with the wedding approaching we had no idea what amount of time we would have free to return and pick.
Marty looks not only super skinny here but like she has the worlds biggest hands!
Behind every skin there is a fleshy lining. hmmmm that quote/analogy doesn't sound right....
They almost look wine worthy if you shoot them in black and white.
Actually in colour they don't look so bad either.
So about 8kg or so later we have all the grapes. It isn't enough to make any form of wine, and as we picked them a little early probably too low in sugar anyway. So we decided another liqueur this year would be the trick. Now to the bottle shop for Vodka and Brandy!
After some pruning earlier in the year, I was able to get quite a lot more grapes than last year. I have also since the picking and after all the leaves fell, I pruned them back really hard, I hope it increases the bounty next year. It was running through the car shed, the tool shed and into the nearby trees.... yes it needed it.

So we got home pulped the grapes and now they are stewing away, I have since added some brown sugar syrup to give it some sweetness as they were picked a touch too early. Either way come Christmas time we should have some nice tipples.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cider House Fail

Now to something I had stupidly pinned my highest of hopes to, maybe even as a future money earner for me and the Magnificent Model Mart, and also if we were very, very lucky, a way out of the metropolis rat race. But, alas, it was not to be.

This world was, the world of Cider. So to start the process we need something important..... apples. Luckily Sokolka has a large amount of them and as I type this I am in Sokolka and there are still plenty of apples here, in fact, I just made an apple and pork fillet stew. It is cooking away in the oven.
So the main reason we started it was because the beautiful red apples were actually nearly gone, from both the family and the birds.
The other apples we used that were coming into their own quality were the Papierowka. It is a breed of apples I can't find anything about in English nor for that matter much in Polish. They are similar to Antynowka from Russia, but these are a Polish strain.
That is how you do it.
They are really pale green and tend to be the same size as a red delicious.
So we threw in some nice ripe ones, and also some unripe as I had read that you need some tart in your apple cider.
I kept climbing and picking too.
Also wondered if I should take all of them from the tree, or just go on a diet. That there is a man who eats a lot!
And we are done.
The work is done, time to take everything home and think about what to do.
Now the little buggars, it is time to attack them.
Give them a little bath.
Chop em up.
And squish them! So we used our fantastic juicer to put the apples through from Sokolka to juice in a few hours, then we also processed the pulp to make sure we were getting lots of liquid so that we would have lots of cider.
We got a decent amount about 8 litres from 10kgs. I added some steriliser to kill off wild yeasts and then let it rest before adding the yeast and telling it to bubble which it did for quite some time.
Then about 3.5 weeks later we bottled.
As you can see it looks really lovely, nice and fresh yellow/lime colour.

I then tasted it, and it was, hmmm, well, dry. Then when it had finished being bottled and rested for a few weeks, it still was very very dry, almost tart. Ok, not almost, but totally tart! Quite horrid. A large sigh was heard in Ursynow. It is something you can drink a bottle of, but that is about all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Automatic Autumnal Analogies

Autumnal days are seriously up there with the main reasons to live in a place like Poland. Autumn is when the best of the berries are available, when the leaves start to change colour and when the magical, and previously unknown to me, world of mushrooms. I was banging on last year about Kurki and Rydz, or Chanterelle and Red Pine. Well, this year we also got very lucky, it was Mushroom-arama! There were mushrooms growing everywhere, some would even suggest from between Marty's toes, and they would be right, too! First things first we toured the house block, as the land has many birch, conifer and oak trees. All favourite habitats of mushrooms.
We found an old Boletus at the front of the house in Sokolka
A Bay Bolete forest dwelling shroom.
The underside is all spongey and gores blue when you cut them.
This one was a touch too dry to eat.
Like this one also being too dry to eat. But it does show you the spongey internal structure well.

So I had been bugging Marty for ages to take me mushrooming, but she is always scared because she isn't totally confident with identification. So we pulled in the big gun, Marta's Uncle Tomek. He is THE man when it comes to finding anything. Whether it be a new car part, a custom made staircase or mushrooms in a tick and mosquito infested swamp. He knows it all. People like Tomek are the reason that I wish I knew more Polish as I can tell that he has a million stories. So Tomek piled us into his van that is normally only for Al Pacino and Iskra, his French Bulldogs. We went off hurtling down the road, turning off onto a dirt road in the middle of the forest, still hurtling, narrowly avoiding trees, logs, rocks, huge swamp like puddles and then slamming on the brakes. Tomek says get out. So we do. There are mushrooms sitting in the middle of the road! How he saw them when going at about 50km/h, I will never know. They were Opienki or Butter Mushrooms.
The first bunch we stopped at. I thought it was huge.
Some looked small but they are the best of all.
Tiny equals tasty told Tomek to Tush and the tourist.
You just take the tops as the rest can give you an upset stomach apparently.
These are a little old and dry, but just look at those layers.
Then more old and dry ones I thought were a lot.
Then you find a tree like this! This is up to about 2m off the ground.
So after little over an hour we had a good haul for us and the family.
We found loads and really quickly, but that was mostly thanks to Tomek. He was joking that he saw more people in the forest than in the church on Sunday. Of course hunting mushrooms isn't as easy as you think, not because you will never find any mushrooms, but because there are many poisonous ones.
What pretty red and white! It doesn't mean something nice like the red cross or the Polish national team, but certain body cramps and death.
These ones may look like somewhere the smurfs would live, but are basically death in a fungus, a Panther Cap.
I had no idea what this was, but it had to be poisonous. Well it isn't, it is a Parasol mushroom and because I am no mushroom guru I left it. But it is actually a very highly sought after mushroom.
This one is called the Sulphur Tufts.
These actually look really similar to old butter mushrooms.
I don't know what these are, but they look scary, and the yellow thing could be a muppet! Either way if you want to know more about Mushrooms, Shrooms, or Mushies as people might call them click here. A great resource and maybe you can even find a completely new species!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I was jamming, stoutly with the apple of my eye

So, by now you all probably know that I love to spend time making edible things. I would love to think of myself like some kind of cottager, one that can bake, preserve, brew and maybe one day, even distill. Oh, that would be something! Probably something to kill me, but certainly something else altogether different! However, this post is about some things that I have already done. Some were done well, very well in fact and others, hmmmm, just ok, i.e. our home made cider.

So to make things start happily, I will tell you about my Stout. It was good old Coopers Stout, you can buy it here in the hardware shop OBI or online as well, which I was extremely surprised about. I am actually drinking one as I type this up. As opposed to the Cider (which will be the next post), the Stout was a resounding success!! So much so that I am almost already out of it! So there will be another batch that needs to get done soon.
The Coopers family do great community work around the world. Making my belly swollen and ready for a tough Polish winter ahead.
It looks like vegemite mixed with coffee! Yum!
Into the trusty demijohn.
Add the yeast, seal the airlock and happy days!

So the other things we have made have been working on/with:
Blueberry Jam:

Also Raspberry Jam:
When you boil your fruit, remove the foam at the top so that you don't end up with an ugly jam, and to be honest, it makes a superb icecream topping.

We also made Apple Jam and Plum and Cinnamon, but we didn't photograph them at all.
So at the end of a happy day of jamming, we have lots of things to keep us and our toast warm over winter. Without having to jump on a plane.

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