A rare sight in my garden in October. I know these little guys are common elsewhere in the world but not in my patch….
In case you were wondering, the apple cider vinegar saga started in the latter part of this post has rumbled on gently for a month; from our heat wave in the early part of the month till the cooler wetter weather we are currently enjoying the house has been swamped with apples.
The fruit flies have been and gone, lured into the laundry room by the sweet smell of sugary apples, only one managed to fall in one morning – now the first batch is on the way to becoming vinegar slowly but surely. I have a second batch of apples bubbling away cheerily, a small sup of home made cider in the mornings definitely wakes you up!
We peer in most mornings and have a sniff to see how it’s changed and it’s coming along nicely.
Vinegar production, from what I understand from conversation and a little bit of reading, is a slow process and relies ultimately on acetobacter landing on the liquid to convert any alcohol to vinegar.
Like many of these fermentation projects the trick is to get the right bacteria in there at the right point in the process, so like sourdough starters, sometimes it’s good to have a little help from your friends.
I was given some acetobacter (it looks like a semi translucent bit of jelly) by Mitch and popped it into the brew and it is working beautifully. I asked a cider seller at the local market whether they had it, but he looked shifty and claimed that vinegar took five years to make and was less than helpful on the subject. Maybe some special aged balsamic variety takes that long and I have no doubt that vinegar matures and evolves over time too, but it would seem possible to get something serviceable within a few months. For much more detail and delightful writing on this exciting process I recommend visiting Miskmask’s Vinegar Diaries now on Day 30. and also the guy who kickstarted us all making it, Carl Legge whose blog is looking very smart, all kitted out in its new theme.
My neighbours’ apple trees are still chucking them down and I still keep getting gifted more. It has been an outstanding season for apples here, the long mild autumn weather allowing fruit to ripen fully on the trees.
Over last weekend we finally dealt with the outstanding Concorde pears from our garden tree. We peeled and quartered them, left them in a bowl of salted water with citric acid while we puzzled over the mysteries of the screw top Kilner jars, and I think, hope, have successfully managed to bottle six big jars of garden pears in a vanilla sugar syrup. Brian took on the job of packing, saying it reminded him of Meccano. I think he did a great job! We followed Pam Corbin as usual from her book Preserves and used an oven water bath method.
While slowly doing this I thought about the women who must have spent weeks preparing and bottling fruits not so many years ago. I grumble at peeling pears for an afternoon, I don’t know if I could do it for days and days at a time, but if needs must then one finds a way I suppose and the satisfaction from knowing you have preserved something you have grown yourself, even in relatively small quantities as a townie like me does, is immense.
I also made a lovely olive oil and apple cake – quite different in texture from the Ottolenghi cakes I made recently and much simpler in method, though it does take an age to prepare the fruit if you’re me, easily distracted. This cake’s recipe was shared by Carla Tomasi on Facebook and is based on an Anna del Conti recipe so it has an excellent lineage. I hope I did it justice. Carla has kindly put the recipe on her new blog here.
It uses a huge quantity of fresh fruit and has a wonderful light pudding texture. I have put one in the freezer and distributed others to the neighbours who promptly give me more apples back in return. Hey ho. Apples everywhere.
NB I found some left over chopped apple from this cake in the fridge, I had doused them in lemon juice and they had kept well. I fried them in some bacon fat, Mr Misk Style, and slapped them with the bacon between two pieces of sourcream sandwich bread and a
dollop of home made tomato ketchup, again the recipe for that is in the Pam Corbin book and several people have blogged their versions. Please see the comments on this Tomato passata post if you want to follow this up.