The apple pressing at the Sunday market was a great success and a lot of local apples were turned into delicious juice. I went to a WOO member's home afterward and they had just finished bottling dozens of bottles of cider. I won’t divulge the location though. It is perfect timing to make cider in autumn and to drink the crisp, clear, cold, sparkling, perfectly aged cider on a hot summer day.
Waitati does have a good climate for apples, and fortunately they are a very versatile fruit. If you chose a selection of trees when you are planting to ripen at different times through the season, you can harvest perfect eating apples over several months as well as having some to store for later use. You will be eating your own apples all year round.
My favourite method of preserving apples at the moment is to dehydrate them as leather and as chips and making amazing, cheap, delicious muesli. To make apple and pear chips, we peel the fruit, slice finely, and soak in either pineapple juice or water with lemon juice or citric acid. The acid stops the fruit from turning brown. For the leather I lightly cook the peeled and chopped apples with very little water and put in a food processor alone or with some of the following: blackberries, raspberries, black currants, red currants, elderberries, strawberries, plums, or whatever else you have. You can add some sugar or honey if you want, but dehydrating intensifies the sweetness of the fruits.
We use an electric dehydrator because it’s a good way to use the daylight electricity glut from the solar panels, but it is possible to use a passive solar dehydrator, an oven, or the heat from a fireplace or hot water cupboard, though these methods may require some experimentation. I have often thought the dashboard of a car on a sunny day would make a good place to dehydrate fruit.
I have been begging lemons from North Island friends. I send them a courier ticket so they can send down a box of citrus from their tree. I have been preserving them using two methods recently: the Moroccan method of packing them with salt and lemon juice in jars, and preserving in sugar syrup using the overflow method. Something I have not tried but that would be amazing for treating winter sore throats is bottling sliced lemons in honey syrup, then diluting the syrup with hot water for a soothing drink.
It’s time to plant garlic and shallots from now on. I experimented with planting shallots in mid-winter last year and it was a total success, yielding lots of extra big bulbs. Planting in winter also means you can plant all your biggest bulbs and get them away from the temptation to eat the biggest ones first, as they are so much easier to peel and use and it takes some discipline to keep the biggest for planting.
The shortest day has been and gone, so it’s time to think about next year’s food garden. Spread plenty of manure, pea straw and compost around, dig in your cover crops, and get a few potatoes sprouting on a sunny window sill in anticipation of an early crop of sweet waxy potatoes. Anticipation is the greater part of pleasure.