Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter 2011

To us Easter is hot cross buns on Friday and chocolate eggs and/or bunnies on Sunday.
The co driver had never seen HCBs before her travels to Australia. They are a UK thing with a bit of an interesting history.
She likes the newer chocolate chip version while I prefer the traditional spiced currant and raisin type.
They have been available in our supermarkets for months now, almost as soon as the Christmas decorations were taken down. Some bakeries produce them year round.
Sort of spoils the uniqueness of them but, hey, that's the way things are these days.
Easter is also crowded beaches, long supermarket queues and traffic snarls trying to get around and especially into town.
The big deal in town is the Blessing of the Fleet Ceremony and Easter Parade on the Sunday morning followed by Beach Games in the afternoon and finally fireworks around the harbour just after dark. There is always a range of carnival rides, displays and activities throughout the afternoon and plenty of live entertainment.
This year at home we had a female invasion.
The daughter brought down some friends she had met on her travels, one from Mexico and one from the UK.

Four to one is a bit of an unfair ratio but I survived.
Isabel made us wonderful Mexican food and Andrea kept us entertained by her amusing stories of teaching English in China over the last year or so.
Both leave for home soon. Come back to see us sometime!
And yes I know the daughter 'owes' us more Italy trip reports.
She is "getting around to it".

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jerusalem Artichokes

Neighbour Gail, up the back, has a huge permaculture garden.
She supplies us with the freshest salad vegetables and herbs on a weekly basis.
She is also growing a few unusual things.
One, for us anyway, is Jerusalem Artichokes.
Having not come across these before we did some research on how to cook them and found out that they are a native plant of North America. The tuberous root is the part of the plant eaten.

We also read that they contain inulin which cannot be broken down by the human digestive system and this can cause flatulence.
In fact Gerard's Herbal, printed in 1621, quotes the English planter John Goodyer on Jerusalem artichokes as saying "which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men."
Believe us this is more than true!
Be warned!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vintage 2011 Ends

We picked the Cabernet Sauvignon which came in at 12.1 Be' and 3.7 pH.
The fruit was in pretty good condition.
The grapes were crushed and inoculated with same Italian red wine yeast culture that was used on the other reds. French oak mini staves and MLF culture were added to the must.
Fermentation began within 12 hours.
After a week of punching down the cap four to five times a day, the wine was pressed and drained and the free run together with the pressings transferred to a stainless steel tank.

The oak staves were recovered from the marc and added back into the wine.
The marc was returned to the vineyard rows.
The wine was allowed to settle for a week and then racked off the fermentation lees. We established that MLF was complete so the wine was sulphured and egg white added to begin the fining process.
In the coming weeks and months, all the 2011 wine will be racked off their fining lees, sulphur added and in the case of the reds, pH adjusted.
The Semillon should be ready to drink by June and the reds by the end of the year.
Hopefully 2012 won't be as difficult a year, viticulturally, as this one has been.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Black Cockatoos

Everyone is pretty familiar with the Australian white or sulphur crested cockatoo. They are a favourite pet around the world. Its range extends throughout the northern and eastern part of the mainland as well as Tasmania. Its popularity as a cage bird has increased its range as these birds either escape or are released deliberately in areas where they do not already occur. The species has become a pest around urban areas where it uses its powerful bill to destroy timber decking, railings and panelling on houses. I once saw one for sale in the USA in a pet shop at a price that I estimated that sometimes I could have around half a million dollars sitting in the surrounding trees. They are particularly fond of our lemons. The black cockatoo is less well known however.

There are five species with a number on the endangered list eg. the red tailed black cockatoo. We have visits from the yellow tailed black cockatoo which is a pretty large bird and is easily identified by its mostly black plumage with most body feathers edged with yellow. It has a yellow cheek patch and yellow panels on the tail.
They love to eat the new pine cones from our huge radiata pine growing beside the guest house. They have a distinctive mournful call and fly about in flocks of around ten or so. They always remind me of a squadron of Lancaster bombers, with their slow cumbersome flight.
When they descend upon our tree there is always some chaos. Lots of noisy screeching and squabbling over the cones and a definite lack of table manners as they drop the half eaten fruit onto the metal roof.
Sometimes it sounds like a machine gun going off.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Jude's Jelly

The Lilly Pilly (Syzygium sp.) is a genus of rain forest trees growing in Australia and South East Asia. They come in all sizes and have been adapted well to cultivation and are seen in a lot of gardens and as street trees.
Most have dark green glossy foliage with red to bronze coloured new growth and lots of colourful flowers in summer and eventually small round fruit in bunches during autumn.
We have them growing in profusion, wild, along our creek banks. Ours usually have bunches of white fruit. What this exact species is, is hard to say.
One of our ex neighbours planted many of these trees (species again not known) around his property boundary.

This year due to all the rain they have fruited prolifically. Huge bunches of purple berries are weighing down the trees.
We 'oldies' in the neighbourhood realized what a bounty this was.
So neighbour Judy was out collecting them to make Lilly Pilly jelly.
And how delicious is it!
Took me back to my childhood as we had a tree growing in our backyard and my mother always made jelly from the fruit.

I guess this brings up the jam/jelly/jello language issue.
Jam to us is any fruit boiled up with water and sugar and allowed to set, then eaten on bread or toast ie. the USA jelly. Also sometimes called conserve here while the result of this process with citrus fruit is called marmalade.
Jelly to Australians is first and foremost the dessert made from flavoured gelatin ie. the USA jello.
Another jelly to Australians is jam that has been strained through a cloth during the cooking process which produces a clear fruit spread eg. Jude’s great Lilly Pilly jelly.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

A Nocturnal Visitor

When you are being lazy and not taking the garbage and recycling to the bin, expect to have an alternative clean up service arrive during the night to help out. In this case it was a brush tailed possum. He/she showed no fear. Guess the taste of a week old rye bread crust was just too good to resist. There are lots of these little guys living around us. We just have to make sure they don't find their way into our roof space during the winter. One took up residence in the top of the chimney of the guest house one year and was not happy at being physically removed. I now have a spare pair of thick leather elbow length gloves should anyone want to try this.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Fish, Milk, Eggs and Nuts in Wine?

For those that bother to look closely at wine labels, it may be a surprise to see sometimes written there in the small print 'may contain traces of fish, egg, milk and nut products'.
What's this all about?
Newly fermented wine contains a lot of solid material in suspension. This can settle out naturally but will generally take a long time. To make the process quicker a process called 'fining' is used.
Fining means the addition of either natural or synthetic materials to wine to clarify and stabilize it. Particles in suspension are carried down with the fining agent to form a deposit on the bottom of the holding vessel, in our case a tank. The clarified wine is then racked (decanted) off this layer.
Historically, a wide variety of agents have been used for fining eg. ox blood, egg whites, milk casein, fish bladders, horse gelatins, seaweed, clay and others. In fact, almost any protein will work to some extent by binding to other proteins and forming the solid deposits.
During the prebottling filtering stage most of the remnants of these fining agents are removed but minute quantities can remain. In this litigious age however, wine companies will put a warning on their labels to cover themselves.
Here we use bentonite, a special clay, to fine white wine. Not only does it aid in clarifying the wine but it also removes heat unstable proteins which can cause hazes in the finished bottled wine. We make up a water slurry of the material based on 0.8g/L wine and add it to the ferment.
I guess this clay is not an allergen so it's never mentioned on labels.
For fining red wine we use egg white which is carefully mixed into a solution with water and a little salt which helps dissolve the protein. One egg white/200L wine seems to do the trick. The yokes we use in omelettes.
Other wineries in the area use milk to clarify their white wines. Here it is the casein content that does the work.
Isinglass is made from the swim bladders of certain fish and is also used to fine white wines.
So what about nut products?
This was new to me also.
It is allowed to add tannin to wine, predominantly reds, that are lacking it. Tannins come from the grape skins (and seeds and stalks) as well as the oak and give that dry puckering feeling in the mouth after swallowing red wine. They are an important component as they help give the wine structure and texture. Most tannin products used in the industry are grape derived but some are indeed tree nut derived eg. chestnuts.
Hence the allergen warning for the latter, not the former.