Monthly Archives: September 2018

A lot to be thankful for

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Our corner of Fife, bordering onto the Tay, is very fruitful and there’s been a lot of pickling and potting going on. Above is a bowl of windfall pears I was gifted, and made into chutney. More on that later. Meantime, over the weekend, I’ve enjoyed a bunch of events which were set up as fundraisers so here, for the record, are some details:

At work (Lindores Abbey Distillery) we joined in ‘the world’s biggest coffee morning‘ and raised £250 for Macmillan Cancer Support. Lots of people brought in some home baking and our visitors put a wee donation in the box.

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In the TICC (Tayside Institute and Community Centre) there was the usual Saturday coffee morning which on this occasion was to raise funds to fight our cause to have our railway station reopened: and we raised £600. A couple of weekends ago a small group of us also put on a wee music-and-words event, with the support of the artist in residence, and raised £150 for the same cause. It would be brilliant to have the line open again. The picture below is of a hamper put together by small individual donations – just normal day-to-day stuff that makes all the difference.

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And last night the Troubadour and I attended a concert in Dysart, near Kirkcaldy, to support our singing friend Alan.  We were entertained by two great community choirs – Healthy Harmonies, an NHS staff choir; and Capital Voices, from Edinburgh. The minister made a few introductory comments about having attended ‘Food Crisis Summits’ over the last 20 years – her first was in Botswana in 1998; the most recent in Kirkcaldy. I honestly don’t know what to say about people going hungry in this day and age, either in Africa or in Scotland – or anywhere else for that matter. It’s not just about poverty, it’s about politics. We could all be doing far better in sharing out the bounty. Anyway for the record, those two choirs last night raised £1,200 for the Kirkcaldy Food Bank, and that was a brilliant result.

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Finally – here is a beautiful loaf, handformed and baked like a sheaf of wheat – complete with wee mousie having a nibble. It was made by Barry and his staff, of the Wee Bakery, and gifted to the church for Thanksgiving. I’ll use the words of Robert Burns to sign off and wish you always enough food to enjoy and share:

May the moose ne’er leave your girnal wi’ a tear-drap in its e’e’

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Juicing for Beginners

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Perfect autumn weather this weekend; so we went down to the community orchard yesterday morning, and gathered in a big pile of apples – lots of varieties, and we didn’t even have to pick them off the trees as last week’s winds had shaken them right down onDSCN3374 (2)to our path. They were just lying there waiting to be chosen. I’d helped friends recently and they’d shown me how to work the scratter and press, so this was my second juicing session this year – which is to say, my second juicing session in 62 years.

There’s a certain amount of prep you have to do if you’re planning to juice, so let me just tell you something which should be obvious but wasn’t to me: start collecting your empty wine bottles, with screwtop lids, now (or preferably six months ago). Scrub the labels off them (I’ve just been told off for not taking a Brillo pad to the leftover label glue so, depending on how much your juicing partner nags you, you might wish to be more thorough than I was). Then sterilise them. I used Milton fluid which is usually used for babies’ milk bottles – I wouldn’t know as the Wunderkind was fed on draught, and one’s boobs don’t need sterilising. You just put a capful of Milton in a sinkful of water, and soak your bottles and lids for 15 minutes.

IMG_0135Because I live in an orchard town, we have a community-use scratter and press. A scratter is basically a big chopper – you feed the apples in the top and they go through a couple of blades, reappearing in a bin below as not-quite-mush. You empty the NQ Mush into the press, which is round and wooden with slatted sides, lower the bar and turn the handle, and beautiful amber juice flows out into your bucket, over which you have placed an old net curtain to catch any bits of escaping flesh. You have also added a teaspoonful of citric acid, or vitamin C, to the bucket, to preserve the juice and prevent it browning. Today we juiced three boxes of apples and got about 24 bottles of juice – so that one teaspoonful of citric acid is the only thing in the entire batch that isn’t apple. It’s an incredibly pure product, and tastes wonderful. So sweet and fresh!

Finally, assuming you aren’t going to drink all that juice in the next 72 hours or so, you can pasteurise the bottles – either in a custom-build pasteuriser which is just like a big boiler with a thermostat, or just in your biggest pot on top of the stove. Our pasteuriser fused today, so I brought mine home and went stove-top. It only took an hour, and I believe the juice will now last up to a year.

I had been thinking I might try making cider but I found this really informative article by George Monbiot in the Guardian which gives further detail on how to juice your own apples – and was very entertained by the cautionary tale about the risk of turning your gorgeous juice into Toilet Duck. It seems that cider making is a special skill all of its own. So I’ll just stick with gorgeous juice, and buy my cider (and Toilet Duck) from the Co-Op as usual.

 

Scotland’s other drink

Not Irn Bru; not Lindores Aqua Vitae; and not, of course, Scotch Whisky, single malt or otherwise. All of these are magnificent in their own way and at the right time, but for the moment I’m talking about gin.

There are over 50 gin distilleries in Scotland and some of them are good to visit.  I had the pleasure of a couple of days in St Andrews recently with good friends, and we partook of a little tasting to while away a quiet Monday afternoon. If you look up ‘gin St Andrews’ on social media you will probably find Eden Mill first – and I have to say, that is also a delightful set of gins with a good tour. However we were on foot and strolled into the St Andrews Gin Company‘s bar on South Street. We had booked in advance and our table was waiting for us.

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Our delightful and knowledgeable host Mike conducted us through a very pleasant tasting of their three gins – Pink Grapefruit, Lemongrass and Ginger, and Orange, Cardamom and Tonka Bean. Each was paired with a different Fevertree tonic water; wedges of citrus; and we also had little jars of sprinkles to add as we pleased. These included black peppercorns and cardamom pods. 

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I would never call myself a gin expert but it was really pleasant to take a relaxed and no-pressure hour or so to sample the gins, pay attention to what I was tasting, and try the different additions. I’m pretty sure that as soon as you start sipping, you lose 90% of your faculties to spot any differences – but it’s a very enjoyable way of losing! I liked the grapefruit version very well – it was light and refreshing and knocked back beautifully. Then when I tasted the lemongrass and ginger, I thought that was better – it had a little extra layer of spiciness which I really enjoyed; and the black peppercorns gave it a grand wee bite. By the time we came to the final gin, the Orange, Cardamom and Tonka Bean, my taste buds were confounded by (a) obviously, the fact that I already had two good measures inside me; and (b) Mike’s comment that this was his personal favourite and in the company’s view, the most sophisticated of the three. Now you’re not going to sit there in your middle-aged bliss and argue the toss with a fine young man dispelling good cheer, are you? Shallow, I know. A couple of weeks later I couldn’t say whether I preferred the lemongrass or the orange, though I think I liked them both a bit better than the grapefruit. They were all lovely and this is why I will never be a sensory expert!

After our tasting we had a first-class haddock and chips and mushy peas, chosen from a good fresh bar menu; and our whole afternoon – tasting and lunch – cost £19 which we felt was excellent value.

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We’d had a great walk on the beach before the tasting, with Rosa the cockapoo-wannabee-mermaid; and afterwards we hit the charity shops which are definitely a cut above – it comes of having the most affluent students in the land living there half the year and clearing their wardrobes out at the end of every term. So you see, it’s not all golf, Wills and Kate in St Andrews. Other flavours are available.

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