Preserving apples as dried slices

Our apple tree is so out of control that we’ve filled an entire compost bin with windfall, and still it comes. We’ve given it away at work; we’ve made apple cookies: still it drops.

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In slight desperation, we’ve turned to simply preserving them. A straightforward recipe for drying, taken from Alys Fowler’s book, involves cutting into 5mm slices, dipping in a citric acid solution (1tsp to 3/4pt) to minimize browning, and then drying; either in the sun for three days:

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Or (especially if the weather should abruptly change part-way through your drying process) in a cool oven for six hours:

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I think there were about fifteen or sixteen good-sized apples initially, resulting in three containers of dried fruit.

The proof of the drying is in the eating, of course; well?

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They’re smashing: really sweet and appley now that they’re concentrated down. The oven has slightly caramelized them but as far as I’m concerned that’s all to the good. I’ll definitely dry some more if I get the chance: but maybe do them entirely in the oven this time rather than faffing with bamboo canes and chairs. After all, the nights are drawing in….

If you like peas, then you’ll love: more peas!

Once the Latvian peas had gone over, I was wondering what to plant in their place. Imaginatively, I decided: more peas!

This has been a year of succession planting, with some of the planting after the solstice. Here are our new peas:

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I suppose a number of things can now happen to these seedlings:

  1. They get confused and die off.
  2. They grow until the first frosts and die off.
  3. They bolt, and produce flowers but not any peas in time.
  4. They bolt, and produce flowers and more peas.

It’s a little bit of an experiment, to see exactly what’s going to happen next.

In a similar vein, I planted new Lettuce Tantan and Buttercrunch, only a handful of each:

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The Buttercrunch (right) has tended to go to seed faster, whereas the Tantan (left) is still hearting up. In addition, when we’ve pulled up the blown Buttercrunch, they’ve also tended to be full of slightly bitter sap, although immersing cut leaves in water for an hour really helps and leaves the buttery flavour behind: in comparison, the Tantan seems to still be not too bitter. With this in mind, Tantan would make a good successional crop, next year.

This year, I’ve no space guaranteed untouched because of the landscaping, so I can’t really plant any overwintering crops. In their place, then, these trials are as good as anything!

Eyam well-dressing

A bit over a week ago, a few of us stumbled across the well-dressing festival in Eyam. It was the Welsh Rose’s birthday

Gwenfar has already written about the dressings, but here’s a few more pictures. There was quite the crowd, including a brass band:

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The main well-dressing celebrated a number of Eyam anniversaries, with the number of years since they happened:

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The detail is mind-boggling: the bay (or hebe?) leaves behind Peter Rabbit, and the hydrangea flowers for his smock:

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I love this cat, but I can’t work out what leaf could be used to make that black!

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The dressings were huge temporary structures: like old wooden doorframes with a classical surround. In contrast the wells were very small, but this second one was especially very much like a hole in the ground:

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Detail again:

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Like the weird guy/diorama competitions in Cotswold villages, well-dressing appears to have turned into an excuse to decorate your house with, well, whatever you fancy:

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I think that might be Kevin the secretary sat on the doorstep. Elsewhere, a maypole was being decorated:

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I can’t tell if maypole dances are more or less eerie than Ghostbusters dioramas, but luckily the cafe was calling us away.

I didn’t actually kill the jasmine

After what looks like years of neglect by the previous owners (spot a theme?) the jasmine pulled itself off the wall a few weeks ago, and collapsed over much of the front garden:

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I did try to trim it over winter, but didn’t want to do too much as it tends to flower on the last season’s growth, so any trim would reduce the number of flowers. It clearly wasn’t enough, though. Even before the Great Collapse, the jasmine had apparently invaded the old boiler through its vent, strangling it. We only discovered this when we replaced it.

Sadly, when I started cutting the plant back hard but—I hoped—selectively, it all started to fall forward, making ominous cracking noises as the remaining few wires holding it back pinged like guitar strings:

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As I found myself vainly working my way around the damaged areas, the sprawling areas, and combinations of the two, I realized the only solution was to hack it back utterly, and it was a shadow of its former self that ultimately sagged and whimpered against the wall:

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As a few more branches died off in the subsequent weeks, I’d reconciled myself to the fact that I’d basically killed it with the shock. But! only yesterday, we spotted considerable new shoots, budding off every part of it, including the old wood:

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I’m still reserving judgment on whether it will put on enough growth to survive the winter. But I now have my fingers crossed that we’ll still have a jasmine by the front door next year. And flowers in 2018!