Melbourne HellWeather MMXV, Bout the First
I planted the nectarine the day after we moved to Lalor, in the rain (sigh), just over four years ago. Pam from up the road popped down to introduce herself and invite me over for tea (nice work, Lalor Welcoming Committee). Someone whose name I've never learnt but who lives in the next street along warned me sternly that if I put a fruit tree in my front garden kids would steal my fruit. Oh no!, I thought, Not the national scourge of fruit-eating children! and then I continued on with my row of alternating apples and stone fruit along the front perimeter, imagining the occasional youngster helping herself to afternoon tea on the way home from school. Had I known that "kids will steal your fruit" would mean "some audacious individual of unspecified age will strip your entire crop", maybe I'd have grown a thistle hedge, sunk a moat and installed a pair of lusty piranhas. Or maybe not. I have mixed feelings about this fruit theft. I myself am an A-grade salvager of abandoned fruit, for one thing, and if someone thought our under-ripe nectarines were so delicious that she/he/they persisted in denuding the entire tree, then happy Christmas, someone. More to the point, we're lucky it was just fruit we lost. There's some serious loot in our house, just waiting for the burgling. A sack of alpaca fleece, for instance. The complete set of the Season Eight Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic books. Several hundred bottles of variably potable homebrew. A 1940s sewing machine I found abandoned on the verge in Preston and lugged home at great cost to my dorsal muscles only to find that it didn't function. The $0.99 lounge suite from ebay. The coffee table snaffled from hard rubbish. So, nectarines schmectarines.
It has also helped reconcile me to my nectarine loss that we happen to be, right this minute, rather rolling in fruit. We found a wild apple in Bright (as you do) with precociously juicy apples. Who knew apples could ripen in December? Go, you good tree! Accompanied by my trusty nieces-in-crime, K and H, and the Tim-meister, we picked almost 15kg, without making much of a dent in this tree's fructifying.
7.5kg of Moor Park apricots. Was pleased to note that Mount Alexander organicky Moor Parks are selling for $10/kg, which means that these kids have already more than paid for their insect/bird exclusion netting. In foreground: remains of my lentil deluxe dinner, eaten outside to maximise benefits of cool change. In background: dwarf peach (fruiting for the first time this year, yay!) and water chestnuts in blue pond thingy.
Eleven jars of apricottery with a dollop of honey per jar, all rustically packed. Ain't winning no CWA awards for handsome fruit-packing anytime soon.
Excess apricots (is there such a thing?) safely preserved, we got down to the serious business of making out first cider of the year.
Which, once the apples are assembled, begins with apple crushing. The apple crusher is a spendy bit of kit that is entirely worth its spendiness (say I, having laboriously crushed the apples in my 2L blender the first year we made cider). Of course, as with all positive spendiness to worthiness ratio calculations, this one assumes regular and passionate use (a fair assumption, as I'll be in the cider-making lark for many years to come, dog willing, and may yet manage to cultivate friends who want to borrow the crusher (or The Crusher, to give this fine article its due Arnie-Schwarzeneggerisation)).
The Crusher in its most fearsome aspect.
You can't see 'em, but underneath those apples are teeth on wheels. They bite the apples up and spit them out into a bucket below. Then we take the apple spit bits and stuff them into the apple press and press away and out oozes the juice. No photo of this stage, because all hands are either engaged in manipulating the press or covered in bits of apple.
It turned out that while these apples were perfectly juicy and while they tasted (to me) sweet, their sugar content was pretty low, according to our trusty hydrometer. Our juice would have made the light-beer equivalent of cider, which sounded fine to me, but my co-vintner was having none of this namby-pamby barely-fermented, cideresque excuse-for-a-drink, and promptly poured a 600mL jar of our honey into the juice. Voila! Cider turns to cyser, i.e., apple-honey wine (at which point, it behooves me to point out that mead-making, aka, mazing, has all the best vocabulary: mazer, metheglin, pyment, cyser, melomel, hippocras), and its future alcohol content approximately quadruples.
5 litres of cyser-to-be
But on that I'll have to get back to you in the fulness of time. Five years or so should do the trick.