Monday, June 16, 2008

Winter Harvest

Hanging nutsWinter Harvest has commenced. That’s the harvest of 4 of the macadamia trees that are ready in the middle of the year. In Winter, in fact. There’s another harvest later in the year, we call that one the “Not the Winter Harvest”.

Some macadamia trees drop their nuts. These are the Winter Harvest trees. The nuts on the other trees hang tight until Not Winter.

Last year, we harvested 49.9kg from all 4 Winter Harvest trees. That seemed like a lot at the time. This weekend, we harvested 62.5kg from two of the trees (not counting some 20kg of windfalls picked earlier in the month). That was two trailer loads (ok, small trailer). We only had time for two of the trees because as soon as they’re picked they have to be run through the smelly & noisy de-husking machine, or the husks will taint the nuts.

De-husking is a long & tedious task. My arms hurt today from hours & hours of cajoling & wrestling nuts through a tiny opening. But there’s something satisfying about the 6 sacks hanging in the drying room now. They’ll hang for 3 months, before being given a bit of a booster drying through the ovens (very low temperature). I expect them, at that stage, to weigh about 45kg.

Harvesting any kind of home grown produce is satisfying, Mrs Llew managed to find time this weekend to finish picking the granny smiths, about 5 20 litre buckets full, she’s given a fair few away, and stewed & frozen what she’s kept. We enjoyed apple crumble the other night, first apple crumble in decades for me.

We’ve also now got a pantry well stocked with quince jam, quince paste, quince & apple jelly, crab-apple jelly. Mrs Llew bought herself a stainless steel preserving pan which sits proudly on the stove top (because we don’t have a cupboard big enough to put it away.)

I remember my mum doing all this stuff when I was a kid (she still does, actually), but I was still staggered at how much sugar goes into preserves... I can see we'll be buying it by the sackload next year.

Aside from processing our own produce, the other old worldey sort of thing we do is make our own stock – in fact, there is a large stainless steel stock pot sitting proudly beside the preserving pan, every few weeks I simmer the collection of chicken carcasses that we keep in the freezer, along with whatever else I can find to chuck in – leeks, celery, herbs , carrots, onions, salt & pepper. I simmer the whole lot for a day or two, before straining the stock off (the sludge gets fed to the dog, by now any chicken bones are the consistency of chalk.)

The stock will set to the consistency of jelly. We freeze it for later.