Saturday, 12 September 2009

market update

Thanks to everyone who came to the apple stall at Sunnyfields today, especially the people whose faces I am getting to know. Your appreciation of my apples is appreciated.
All the traders noticed it was quiet with the Romsey show on today, plus lovely weaher forecast and a lot of people on the westboud M27 heading to the Forest and beyond to enjoy perhaps the last sunny weekend of the summer. Who can blame them?
The freshly pressed juice was well received, I'll try to bring some more, it would be greatly appreciated if folks could bring clean empty bottles to re-use, getting polythene bottles on a small scale is a challenge and adds to costs. I was charging £1.50 a litre for the fresh pressed juice today, good as it was the quality will improve once we have some ripe reinette and russet cull fruit to add to the blend.
We will be at Winchester tomorow and should have a few large Orleans Reinette (for cooking) Sunset, Spartan, Lord Lambourne, Ribston Pippin, and a few odds and ends including Red Falstaff and a very few pears. Also will have a little fresh pressed juice from yesterday's pressing. This is unpasteurised and crushed from 'select reject' apples, i.e fruit that doesn't make top grade (too small, too big, slightly damaged, starting to go soft etc) but no windfalls or rots and all washed before pressing. Not being pasteurised, it wonlt keep more than 3 days or so in the fridge before the natural yeasts start turning the sugar to alcohol, whcih if you don;t know is how cider is made. I prefer it when it just starts to turn and is still sweet but very slightly fizzy, and was enjoying some today which has been in the fridge for 8 days. But its best to enjoy it within 3 days, or freeze.
Pateurised juice keeps longer, but you lose a lot of the flavour, and of course the extra cost of pasteurisation must be passed on. Hill Farm orchards do an excellent range of pasteurised apple juice.
I'm expecting to be at Sunnyfields again next Saurday but NOT the 26th September (teaching at a conference) and again on 3rd October but NOT 10th (medical school reunion). After that, hopefully most Saturdays until Christmas.
web site still a mess, no time to fix it. What a nuisance for Yahoo to pull the plug at this time of year, I ghhad hoped it moght be posible justs to transfer the whole web site to their new plan, but no, nothing so straightforward.
We've both done markets today, and have another tomorow and fruti picking with friends on Monday, so tonight will enjoy some English cider, cheese and pork pies and watch the last night of the Proms on TV

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Bishop's Waltham farmer's market

First trip to this farmer's market today. Very slow start, my stall was set up by shortly after 9 am but almost no shoppers until after 10. I took the last of the Warwickshire Droopers (our last plums of 2009) and some Ribston Pippin, Red Pippin, Spartan and Bramley, plus a single punnet of sloes which people thought were blackcurrants but nobody bought. I brought them home and chucked them in some cider I have on the go to give it a little extra colour and body.

It was nice to meet some new people and thanks ever so much to people who actually bought some of our apples.

Lots of conversations and discussion about people's memories of and problems with plum and apple trees, but very little fruit was purchased. It fascinates me how many people like to stop for a chat, talk about the fruit trees in their garden, ask for some free advice, bemoan the decline of the old English Apple varieties, then after some free tastings at my apple stall buy just 2 apples or maybe none at all. If people want locally grown seasonal English apples, they have to support local producers. I can understand it if folks prefer to get it all from the supermarket, but that's not what they say.

Another thing, I wish people wouldn't pick my apples up and sniff them before putting them back on the stall. I suppose I should take it as a compliment. The supermarkets wrap food up in plastic to stop people fingering it.

Sorry for the moan, but since the Hampshire Farmers Market company charge stallholders £50 and I barely sold £100 of fruit in 5 the math, its not a great use of my Sunday. Allowing for packing the van, driving to and from the market, allowing for other costs that's £40 for 8 hours work just for SELLING the fuit, which is below the minimum wage for working on Sunday, then you have to add something for actually GROWING it. And people were moaning about the proposed new Sainsburys supermarket planned for Bishop's Waltham. Please don't take this the wrong way, but put yourself in my shoes. I hate to moan, it looks petty apart from anything else, but folks had made lots of favourable comments about the farmer's market in the comments book, and said they want it to continue, but it won't continue unless they spend enough money.

Anyhow, I'll be at Sunnyfields again next Saturday with Ribston Pippin, Sunset, Spartan and perhaps some Kidd's Orange Red and Orleans Reinette, depending on how ripe they feel on Friday. I will bring a box or 2 of windfalls for really cheap prices since someone asked for them and will try to find the energy to press some apple juice Friday afternoon. Sorry plums finished, I may have some pears if they feel ripe. Sloes for sloe gin or apple and sloe jelly (will post recipes) on request.

Julia and I will be at Winchester next Sunday too.

Enjoy the last of the summer! There are plenty of blackberries in the hedgerows, but there won't be for long


this is arguably the best of the 'country' wines

to make 1 gallon (6 bottles)

-Take as many blackberries as you can pick (1lb will make an acceptable rose, 3lb is much better, 4lb is ideal, more is really rich and fruity)
-crush berries in a large stainless steel or food grade polythene vessel. A wooden rolling pin or a flat bottomed bottle is a useful implement to crush them with
-pour over 8 pints of boiling water
-stir in 1kg of white sugar
-add wine yeast (any wine yeast will do) when temperature has dropped to body heat. Ideally check the specific gravity with a hydrometer, you want it between 100 and 110, higher and it will get 'stuck' and be too sugary.

Cover and leave at room temperature or slightly lower for 3 or 4 days, make sure flies are kept out and gas allowed to escape (a loose fitting lid is usual). then strain off and ferment a few weeks longer in suitable vessels, the ideal thing is a 1 gallon glass demijohn with airlock.

ideally measure gravity with hydrometer. When it has fallen to about 10, rack off again. Bottle using a polythene siphon when clear. Drink within 6 months, this wine can keep for years but loses fruitiness, IMHO its best used during the winter after it was made

VARIATIONS add some elderberrries, sloes or damsons to complexify the flavour. You can also add a bit of spice, sch as cloves or cinnamon, but beware of overdoing this. If using cloves I would add no more than a dozen whole cloves to the initial fermentation. if you have access to apple juice, you could use this instead of water for a richer product, if so then use half the added sugar.

CAUTION blackberry wine contains ALCOHOL if you consume too much you will get DRUNK. this is not good and I don't recommend it.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Apple picking continues....

We sold out early last Sunday at Winchester due to coming to the end of the Epicure apples and the damsons, we also had some yellow plums and early picked Sunset apples which went well.

The yellow plums have an interesting story, the tree grew in the garden of the first house we bought, in Southampton in 1981. We liked it and took some suckers when we moved, which fruited true, indicating that the fruit was growing on its own roots. We have propagated it and believe it to be Warwickshire Drooper, but it could be Goldfinch, Yellow Egg plum or maybe even a new variety grown from a stone. Anyway, we shall have a few more at Sunnyfields this Saturday. We pick them when they are green turning yellow and they ripen to orangey yelow with red spots, at which stage they are LOVELY for raw eating you can also do anything else with them. Here's a video

Some people only ever want Victoria, but probably they hardly taste any other plums. The trouble with plums is some years you have no crop due to bad weather at blossom time, other years you have a good crop, and so does everyone else. Plums don't store or travel well so have to be marketed quickly. But they are worth it when fully ripe.

We tried picking a few Sunset as they were colouring up and frankly we have a gap due to the catastrophic crop failure of Lord Lambourne this year, due to poor pollination followed by fungal disease (3rd wet summer in a row). Once we have picked what little crop there is, I shall spray copper fungicide. Anyway, although the Sunset are very sharp to my taste, people liked them and we sold 2 boxes (about 15 kilos to a box). On Bank Holiday Monday, yesterday, we went over the trees and selectively picked the reddest and heaviest apples, gales are forecast and we don't want them to blow off.

We also picked the Ribston Pippin, they look well coloured, were starting to fall freely and campoe off easily, I posted a youtube video whcih I'll try to paste here. They will need a few weeks stored before they will be fully ripe.

I may also pick a few sloes for Saturday. I'm also at Bishop's Waltham on Sunday 10-2, our first trip to a market there.