Saturday, 8 October 2011

feeding the hoardes

After the total wipeout that was yesterday, I had high hopes for today, and I was not disappointed.

True, I was up at 6, having been woken up by my son and father-in- law sneaking downstairs to watch the rugby, and, unable to get back to sleep was out walking the dog by 6.30. I was hoping for a beautiful sunrise - not quite on offer, but, daybreak, although reserved, was lovely and peaceful. I went a new route in a bid to avoid rabbits (admittedly an impossible task round here) and ducks and my effort was rewarded. Fred did however have a really good choffle, and was suitably exhausted by the time we got home. For anyone not familar, 'choffling' is the closest I can get to a word to describe the noise the dog makes when he is running flat out with his nose to the ground following a scent. It's a noise from his nose/mouth, and it sounds like 'choffle' - chofflechofflechofflechoffle....

But I digress. I was about to describe the catering arrangements for today, the cider day. After various cider making efforts last autumn, and given the bumper apple crop that we've had here, there appears to have been a collective decision amongst the local menfolk to pool apples and resources and spend a day making cider - or rather, pulping apples and bottling the juice. The father-in-law had brought down an enormous cider press and 'scratter' (think that's what it's called - the thing to chop up the apples, anyway), purchased by the husbband's older brother, and the scene was set.

Menu for the day - soup and hotdogs followed by gingerbread or bakewell slice. I made the fresh gingerbread with lemon icing last night (Nigella of course) and collected 50 sausages from our local butcher (25 Cumberland, 25 straight pork) on the way back from walking the dog. Had a quick turnaround to make the Bakewell slice before taking the kids swimming. The Bakewell slice is another Nigella recipe, this one in Feast. It's what she recommends as a pudding to follow roast beef, but frankly, I'd eat it anytime. It's a winner in my book because the pastry base is one that you press into the tin rather than rolling out, so no annoying broken pastry. Once it's baked, spread on a jar of raspberry jam and pour on a really easy frangipane mix (melted butter, eggs, ground almonds, caster sugar), top with some toasted almonds and bang in the oven for 35 mins.

The first of the cidermakers arrived in time for the England/France rugby match, and I was slightly concerned that this was merely a ruse to sit round eating bacon sandwiches for the rest of the day, and the pounds of apples secreted about the place would stay unpressed, but my fears were unfounded. By the time the kids and I got back from swimming, the press was up, and a system was developing - apple slicing on tables set up on the lawn, scratting, then pressing.

My what a big one...

We had 3 apple presses on the go at the height of production, and even the kids were proving useful - if not working their own production line ("This is to be apple juice, NOT for cider, Daddy") then acting as ballast to hold the various machines in place while they were being operated. I expect the H&S executive would have had a collective heart attack.

Given that everyone was working so hard, I thought I'd better get on with some soup and as planned made Hugh F-W's lentil and bacon soup for lots of people (that's what he calls it in the Family Cookbook).

The sausages from the local butcher were definitely the stars of the menu today - they took a bit longer than I was expecting to cook in the oven but they were really meaty and delicious. Feeding just over 20 adults and children, hot dogs were definitely a good way to go. There were several takers for the soup, although admittedly, it was probably a bit tricky to eat al fresco and standing up, but no matter - all the more for us to put in the freezer for another day. Both cakes disappeared with indecent haste - no suprise as far as the Bakewell was concerned but the gingerbread was a surprising hit with the kids too.
...more apples...

By 4 p.m. the house was restored to order, approximately 90 litres of apple juice ready to be fermented into varying ciders, in various households around the village - watch out for the tasting party - and many sore heads...

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