Juicing grapes is a slow process. The first year I attempted to juice our first crop of grapes, in my pure ignorance, I spent two hours trying to pass them through a muslin bag. Or a white pillow case actually. It took hours to release the juice. This years bumper crop of grapes would have taken a couple of days. Anyhow, this year I cropped the vine in 4 stages. The total weight of grapes was in excess of twelve kilograms. Anyhow without child labour this year, I washed the black grapes and filled the very large saucepan I use for jamming then squeezed like mad with my hands. Once juice is released I kept topping up the pan until seventy percent full then to help release more juice I heat until boiling. Now with my trusty new sieve, I’ve gone through three so far this year, I start scooping out the pith and seeds and press firmly on the mixture with a spoon and the final juice is released. I discard the pith. Once boiled and the scum is skimmed, you have pasteurised juice that is fit to make perfect ‘Grape Jelly’.
I thought back to last September, we harvested early. It was a weekend and the weather was mild. Not sure how sunny it was, but I remember John and I had a Pims and lemonade poured. All five little ones had their swimming costumes on. We had been playing ‘The water slide’! Don’t mix up ‘water sliding’ with ‘water boarding’ now. We put down a ten metre strip of black tarpaulin and someone holds the hosepipe at the top of the children’s green slide. The kids love it, so much screaming and shouting and above all sliding. And it’s competitive too. I’ve gone off focus, back to the grape vine. Secateurs in hand and the children’s small paddling pool besides me, I’m pruning away and throwing the bunches of grapes directly into the pool. It’s not long before Tara comes running up screaming ‘Aaliyah hit me, Aaliyah hit me’, then she sees what i am doing. The vine is fifty percent done and the pool is filling up slowly. Tara doesn’t give it a second though. She jumps in and starts squishing with her feet shouting out ‘Ritza, Ritza’ to Amritsar ‘come here it’s fun’. Within minutes the others are over to investigate. First Amritsar and then Thor joins Tara in the paddling pool, both also jumping up and down laughing and screaming. ‘It’s squishy Dadda it’s squishy’ Thor screams and fists clenched tight he stamps harder, one foot after the other. Aaliyah and Caleb were bemused, sat with Daddy at the table on the terrace, under the parasol. Daddy raised his Pims and lemonade and said ‘cheers’. I continued pruning and throwing in the bunches…
So this morning we finished off the ‘Bear Bear Boulders’ and ‘Cheerios’ (we don’t have a pet name for those! I saw the scissors on the counter as I had just used them to open a frozen block of ratatouille. I don’t know why but I started cutting the flaps off each box and then both boxes into three even strips width wise. Then one by one I cut zig zags along one side of each strip. And low and behold, we had six very regal looking crowns. Needless to say the not so famous five all went off to school thinking they were princes and princesses.
The three little ones back for their lunch from preschool had elevated themselves to two Kings and a Queen. And unlike Yesterday’s fiasco, they all three of them ate all of their crunchy toast and salami. No more ‘camp run a muck’ please. Both Sindy and I had a serious word with all three of them and they are now sleeping soundly. All is quiet upstairs.
Yes it certainly is Autumnal. The mornings are dark and it is as dark as Remus’s inky black spots when the children march up the stairs at bedtime . The house has a partial view, out on to woodland. There is even a spill over into the bottom of the garden. One of these trees is a very old oak tree. It is very large, so I guess it is really quite ancient. It’s leaves turn an amazing burnt orange in early to mid September. It really is quite beautiful. It’s leaves have all shed at this point. All of the other trees are just starting their preparations for leaf fall. The vast pallet of greens are yellowing slowly, a few hints of orange, but none look as magnificent as the oak tree at the bottom of the garden…
Just before the not so famous five marched up to bed I had an altercation with Aaliyah. In recent times, since we arrived home from our summer in Provence, she has become so close to Remus and Gracie our two Dalmatians. I guess she actually missed them an awful lot! A friend of the family Jo came in thrice daily to run, walk, water and love them, so they did not have to go to kennels. Aaliyah did not see them as anything but troublesome before the holiday. Since our return home she only has love for them, insisting on hugging Gracie and Remus as much as she can. Of course, Gracie and Remus love the attention very much and they lick and lick lots. No more kissing we always insist. But Aaliyah and Gracie are the best of friends. I do love nick names and each of our five children have their own ‘baby names’… as do Remus and Gracie.
When Tara and Amritsar were just one year old we had a brilliant au pair in London called Essie. And back then she lovingly referred to Remus as Remo (something I picked up on) and I often call Gracie ‘Grace Grace’ as I do with ‘Thor Thor’ (it’s a Thai thing)!
Anyhow – the story is that I referred to Remus and Gracie as ‘Remo and Grace Grace’ and Alliyah was not happy. ‘Their names are Remus and Gracie Dadda’ she shouted and started to get very upset. ‘We all have baby names’ don’t we Bee Bee I insisted. She thought for a moment and said ‘Yes we do Andi’ (Thinking Andi was my baby name) and she giggled. Dadda had to smile.
Firstly I want to roundup my days of the week and their meanings. I completely forgot yesterday as I was so in awe of the fried torn potatoes and a big thumbs up for the deep fat fryer (sorry all). When I do fry, which is no more than once a week, I usually end up patting the excess oil off with countless pieces of kitchen towel. Using the fryer allowed me to drain and shake a few times. I tipped out on to kitchen towel and absolutely no excess oil. There is kitchen science at work here that I won’t go in to, but food absorbs less oil when immersed in very hot fat opposed to cooking in a method such as sauté! Well, back to finishing my summing up of the names of the origins of the days of the week and you probably have figured it out already! Yes, Monday is the day of the Moon, another commodity of time in our lives. Not only do we enjoy it every twenty eight days but we also have a constant reminder of it at the beginning of each and every week. And so now we come to Tuesday, so named after the Nordic god Tiw (also known as Tyr), so Tiwes daag in old English became Tuesday in modern English. Tiw is a pretty cool God and is in fact a brother of Thor and son of Odin.
I am now sat in the kitchen with a full sink of grapes immersed in water. There were a few mouldy bunches that I splatted on the terrace floor, but I think I just about caught them before the last of the crop was doomed. As I said earlier, I will juice tomorrow. The immersion in water is obviously to clean them but also it gets rid of the earwigs who love to make their homes inside these sweet, seeded vine fruits.
My thoughts have returned to the little ones nap time earlier today. Their midday sleep is almost at an end and today is proof of that. Once Sindy went on her lunch, they didn’t settle. I went up three times in the first hour to try and corral them to their beds, but they weren’t having it. On the third visit, I thought it strange that Caleb was holding his duvet completely covering himself. On closer inspection, duvet lowered, he was wearing one of Tara’s out- grown red and white polka dot dresses… it’s not the first time we have caught him in a dress, I think it has something to do with his admiration of big sister Tara (who looks out for him with much care and tenderness) I’m sure he’ll grow out of it. Though it is a worry…
With the two days of constant rain and drizzle now behind us, I am today harvesting the last twenty percent of our ‘Concord’ grape vine. This has been a bumper year due to the phenomenal amount of sunshine and heat. On the other hand, the Apple harvest from the trees in the kitchen garden was appalling. I want to simply juice the remainder of the grapes and then I am planning to freeze it for jamming at another time. If the provisions cupboard could talk, it would say ‘not another Grape Jelly, i’m so full up’!
I have just made the little ones lunch consisting of chunky bread, cheese and Branston pickle and a chilled glass, rather plastic beaker of black current juice. Sindy is on the pickup from preschool and it’s a quarter to midday. Car pulling up so I will get back to this blog in twenty minutes… well twenty minutes have passed and the little ones are settled in their adjoining rooms at the top of the house, our nanny has just exited and gone home for her lunch break. I’m smiling, remembering Thor pulling away his chair from the table leaving it a metre or so behind him, in preference to standing whilst eating his lunch. I took a couple of photos as it seemed quite funny at the time. I was told by Sindy that he had been a bit naughty at preschool and was made to sit on their ‘Thinking Chair’. Probably the reason he wanted to stand. Well with all the theatricals he wasn’t doing much eating. Talking mostly or posing for his photos. Well Aaliyah and Caleb has finished by this time and Thor was making a joke of something. He spun around and his black current drink splashed all over his sandwich. Thor didn’t seem too bothered, he told us that he didn’t want to eat it anyway. He’s funny with cheese, he likes it one day and hates it the next. But he nearly always eats it with pickle, nearly always…
Off to harvest those grapes now. But I will leave the juicing until tomorrow. And maybe I’ll reminisce on last years ‘Grape Harvest’ them.
Well all the children were a bit sleepy at dinner time. But all finished their lasagne as one house rule is that if you leave good food on your plate there’s no room for dessert. And today whilst Sindy went to pick the girls up from school, the little ones and I made jam tarts using my homemade preserves. Thor filled the raspberry jam ones, Caleb filled the black cherry jam ones and Aaliyah filled the pineapple jam tarts. A great contrast of colour, dark purple, red and yellow. Everyone enjoyed!
The three little ones had a shower tonight and the girls will do tomorrow’s hose down. We forgo showers on Saturdays and everyone baths on a Sunday. Then through the week the girls and the little ones take turns on a nightly cycle. All is quiet now and Sindy has gone home. The dogs are quiet on the sofa as they are on weekdays from 5.30pm until 7pm when John arrives home.
A roast dinner is usually the Sunday finale of the week but my assertion on cooking Indian last night and John loving his roast, I have decided to do a ‘Mock Roast’ tonight. Roast pork in home made pork gravy with steamed/sautéed Savoy cabbage and deep fried ‘torn potatoes’.
I think you get the gist that I love my chest freezer as cooking and portioning in bulk makes big meals easy. The sizeable piece of pork – leftovers from the last roast leg of pork meal was defrosted this morning with a freezer bag containing the pork jus (gravy) made with old fashioned Bisto gravy thickener and all the meat juices that the joint submitted. The cold meat is easily sliced thinly or thickly, whichever is your preference and then after whisking the gravy with a little water to become a velvety smooth texture you can add the sliced meat. Simmer on low heat for maybe an hour, but keep an eye on it.
Savoy cabbage shredded with the omission of the hard veiny bit and place in a frying pan with a good spoonful of butter and a little water, salt and pepper. Place on the lid and steam first for maybe 10 minutes stirring occasionally. When the water has evaporated and the leaf is tender – but still with a slight bite, you’re there – just sauté for a few additional minutes. Now ‘Torn Potatoes’ you may ask! Just microwave Maris Pipers or King Edwards (in their skins) for however long they take to cook and leave to cool a little. Remove the skins and cup both of your hands around then apply slight pressure towards the sides and slowly push until the potato breaks into two halves (practice makes perfect). Then break each half into two or three wedges lengthwise. And there you have it – torn potatoes. You can shallow fry and turn after the down side is Golden brown – but if you dare to deep fry, go for it! After a lifetime of caution on deep fat frying – I remember my fathers dependency on it, we only deep fry or sauté maybe twice a week st very most, ((John and I). I just purchased my first ever deep fat fryer and am using it for the first time ever tonight. The multiple ridges of the torn cooked potatoes give a much larger surface area so cooked at a high temperature – these are the best ever potatoes you are ever likely to eat.
Well time to eat. Still quiet upstairs and John and the hounds are perched on the opposite sofa. I am pretty hungry now! So Bon Appetite…