Wednesday, 31 July 2013

End of the month....

Now our summer neighbours are here,  life isn't so quiet as it usually is.   What with children in their plunge pool,  the general chit chat of another family close by,  the tv on during the afternoon - why the Spanish love to have it on during their mealtime is beyond me,  they don't seem to be watching it if you go round there,  just more background noise.   And they can make a lot of noise.....Marie gets stressed about something and shouts,  the eldest - a son now aged 14 gives as good as he gets,  Miguel sometimes gets involved,  the dogs bark then our dogs start too.  Still having them here does have it's compensations.

Miguel and son have been here alone this week.   Marie doesn't finish work for the summer break till today and she and the 11 year old daughter went up to Granada on Sunday evening,  she obviously left  the men enough food till she gets back,  or more than enough as on Tuesday morning Miguel came round with 2 bowls of food that he said they'd eaten what they needed on the previous day,  and had plenty for that day so would we like some for tapas.  A bowl of albondigas in tomato sauce and a pasta salad with cheese, ham and tomatoes. 

Then he and John got to discussing work on the land,  Miguel is out bright and early - 7.30ish - strimming terraces and the track down to his bottom land where there is a very large tree which is growing at a rate of about 2 or 3 metres a year.  Unfortunately although it's a lovely eucalyptus tree,  it is too close to the electric cables now and he said if we cut it down we could have all the wood for the winter.  John went down about 8am yesterday and I could here the chain saw going,  then about 9.30 he rang and said could I go down with the 4x4 as there was more than we expected.  By 11am we'd filled the car with logs,  sticks and split wood.  Back up the road,  we dumped it in through the gates and stacked it to dry.  All done by midday,  I was dripping in the heat and went in the  pool to cool down but John was all sawdusty too so had to clean up in the shower.

Another batch of strawberry wine started on Sunday,  today I strained the first batch and it has made just over 5 litres of wine.  Went picking this morning and there was another 1.7 kilos,  not quite enough for a 3rd batch but probably by tomorrow night.  Also did a taste test of the pickled cucs last night,  delicious!    Picked 3 cucumbers last night and started another jarful this morning,  sliced slightly thicker to get more crunch though.   We counted 19 cucumbers coming on the 5 plants,  but nothing yet on the courgettes or squash even though there are 7 plants and loads of huge yellow flowers.  Very odd.

And finally today, some photos that I took and forgot about so a bit of colour for you.

First up, one of our mimosa trees which has been blooming for weeks now.  Home grown,  we collected some seeds on our 1st anniversary here.  It's over 2 metres high and the branches probably arch over a wider distance than that.  Beautiful.

 What appears to be a dandelion but isn't.  I think it's an Oyster plant,  also my book calls it Salsify.  The seed head is about 3 inches across and very pretty.

These are bigger than the wild garlics,  they are a wild  leek.  Each one grows about 2 or 3 foot high and the heads are a similar size to the Oyster plant seed head.

And a field of drying grasses, just as the sun caught them early one morning.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Bread, wine and pickles.

A late night post from me,   just come inside as we've been sitting out by the pool enjoying the cool evening.  But now it's dark so time to come nearer the lights.

I spent most of the morning in the kitchen,  bread making,  wine making and pickling.  The bread was relatively lazy - I put the bread machine on to the dough setting and left it to knead and prove and rise while I got on with the wine and pickles.

The strawberry glut continues,  having got jars of dried strawberries, jars of jam,  pots of frozen puree,  and made and drunk the vodka version,  we are now trying strawberry wine.  I googled yesterday for recipes and today started this one,  partly because there are pictures of it looking oh so colourful.  2 kilos of fruit,  1.3 of sugar plus a few other bits and it's already bubbling.   Then I found some places that sell strawberry wine......£8 a bottle for something that is only 4.5% - that's the same amount of alcohol as beer!!  I think ours may end up with a little more kick than that!

The cucumbers that I sliced and salted and soaked yesterday have been rinsed and rinsed and are now packed into a jar with a sweet vinegar.  I sliced one and a half pepinos yesterday,  now we're going to wait a week - or maybe less - I counted about 9 or 10 more pepinos on their way this morning so we need to know that these taste nice pretty soon.

By the time I'd done the cucs and the wine,  the breadmaker was beeping that the dough was ready so I rolled it out into 8 mini baguettes and baked them.  One each for lunch,  maybe one more for breakfast tomorrow, but maybe not.  We don't tend to eat breakfast,  a very large strong coffee sets us up for the morning.  Sometimes we have breakfast ie cereal and fruit at lunchtime,  seems to be enough for us till the evening meal.

This afternoon I spent a couple of hours out by  the pool reading and swimming,  60 widths equals  480 metres,  followed by my back stretching exercises.  Not that I have a problem now but better safe than sorry. 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Pickled cucumbers.

It's been so hot  in our side vegetable garden this week that we have had to make a large shade tent-like structure.  We'd collected lots of caña from when Miguel took the old roof down from the corral next door,  John has trimmed the caña, fixed it to the fence, lashed it all together so it's really sturdy, then covered it with an old white olive net.  Even so,  the sun is getting through at times and the plants are wilting.   A good long drink of water in the late evening perks them up .....until  about 5pm    
the next day.   The cucumbers seem to be withstanding the heat better although they have their floppy moments too.   Hasn't stopped them producing more than we can keep up with though.  The pepinos we grow are not like the long ones,  they are about 6 to 8 inches at most.  Today I've started to do a jar of pickled cucs,  tried before without using a recipe and got it wrong,  too vinegary as I didn't salt and soak first.  Better luck this time.  Sliced and put to soak this afternoon,  will do the vinegar and sugar solution tomorrow morning - the recipes I've looked at say to leave for a few weeks before eating but then I found another recipe which was basically the same but to eat straight away.   With the number we've got growing we need to taste sooner rather than later and get some more pickled before they get too big and bitter tasting.  We've only got 5 plants in,  thanks heavens I didn't grow any more!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Yet more strawbs!

If there's one thing that is growing well this summer, it's all the strawberry plants.  Last Sunday we had enough fresh ones for 7 of us to eat,  Monday there were enough for John and me to have with ice cream in the evening,  on Thursday I puréed and froze another 400 grams.  I pour the purée into plastic drink cups, the sort you buy for picnics.  The ones we got last time are more bendy than usual and don't split, so I'm able to wash and reuse them.

We've just been up checking on the progress of our top veg patch where we have chillies, peppers,  celeriac, potatoes, sweet corn,  courgettes, squash,  apple trees - heavily laden this year - and the very productive strawberries.  Luckily I'd taken a big bowl with us.........

There are now 440 grams sliced and in the dryer,  440 grams to go in the dryer tomorrow, 360 grams which need another day to get a bit riper and a bowlful sliced and sugared in the fridge for after dinner tonight.

Last winter we put the dried ones with muesli,  or cornflakes,  some were soaked in a bit of booze and added to the Christmas trifle,  they can be soaked in water too and used in pies or crumbles,  but drying and storing in a jar is more economical than using freezer space.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Watering and wining.

Inbetween the early morning watering and the last thing at night  watering,  we are still making wine.  Last weeks fig is ready for pressing now,  that's on tomorrow's job list,  I'm also hoping to pick enough figs when I go for the morning dog walk to get another batch started using some of the current brew as a yeast starter.

The pear wine is still eating sugar - not sure that's the technical term for it,  but we still need to add sugar every 4 days or so.  The grapes still look good,  this time last year we had much more intense heat and they had started to shrivel,  but we've only had a few days of temperatures of more than 30 ...... so far.

On Sunday friends came and joined us for the day,  lunch, drinks, lots of cooling off in the pool,  afternoon strawberries -both freshly picked and vodka-y - and ice cream, plus I'd made strawberry vodka again.  Not much, just 300mls, but this time we left it in the fridge to soak as that's the coolest and darkest place I know.  A gorgeous colour and flavour,  and the strawberries were vodka-y too.  No photo because there's none left!   Luckily they'd all walked up from Yátor, although they arrived very hot and out of breath, they soon cooled down in the pool and didn't have to worry about driving home later on after the slightly boozy afternoon.

A couple of years ago I came across a way to make lemonade using the whole lemon, skin and all,  the recipe is on this blog if you go to the search box,  we made it again recently but without the sugar as the gaseosa that we buy here has enough sweetness to make a long cool fizzy drink.  Gaseosa is - according to the label - just carbonated water with citric acid and sweetener.  But it's almost calorie free and is cheap too,  usually 26 cents for a 1.5 litre bottle.  So good for the waistline and the wallet!  Also bought a kilo of limes and made a lime version.  It isn't green like limes for some reason but has the taste of limes though which is what matters.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

A pressing time.

After a week of fizzing,  the pear wine got pressed this morning,  and we now have almost 30 litres.  It will be fizzing again pretty soon and we have sugar and water to add over the next week or so.  Then as it settles and clears it can be siphoned into clean bottles.

The actual pressing doesn't take too long, it's the preparation and clearing up afterwards that is time consuming.   Although the kitchen floor is tiled,  and spillages don't really matter,  sticky pear juice will only get trodden through the dining room or at worst,  I'll slip on it.  So first I put old towels down on the floor in the work area,  make sure there is a bucket of hot soapy water and a mop handy,  and a bowl of hot soapy water too, then first wash and rinse the wine press along with the bottles, funnel and assorted other stuff.  Then all that has to be sterilised as well before the fermenting pears and their juice can be poured carefully into the press.  At first the liquid comes out really fast,  we put a large pan - washed and sterilised of course - underneath,  2 pans actually,  1 to catch the juice then the other slips into place while the first is being poured into a 5 litre bottle.

So after about 3 hours work we have the beginnings of this years wine selection.  We also started some fig wine,  we had nearly 6 kilos of figs, both black and white which we've mixed as there weren't enough of either to do separately.   The figs have to be chopped up but I put them in the food processor as it is quicker.  That should give us about 5 litres,  sometimes we've just used the figs on their own and sometimes added sugar water as well but the price of sugar has gone from 47 cents  2 years ago,  to nearly 1 euro  now,  not exactly free wine anymore but still cheaper than we can buy.  Actually I'm not sure you can even buy fig wine, or pear wine,  so price isn't really an issue.  At least grapes don't need sugar adding so that really will be free wine when it comes.....fingers  crossed!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

It's been a while....

A few days since I was on here so a catch-up tonight with things...

The wine is fizzing nicely and there's quite a yeasty smell in the kitchen in the morning when we first go down to make our breakfast coffee.   Another few days and we will put it into the fruit press to squeeze out the juice and then continue the fermenting in plastic bottles adding sugar water gradually till it has finished.

The majority of our bottles - anything from 1.5 litres up to 25 litre ones - are stored in the corral.  This is actually our neighbours storage area but we have use of a large corner for those things that we only need to use occasionally.  We also have our grape crusher up there - it looks something like a wheelbarrow base but with holes,  rubber paddles and a handle - as you put in the grapes and turn the handle so they get squashed  and  burst and go through the holes into a bucket underneath.  The grapes continue to look good so fingers crossed and we'll get the crusher out and cleaned up for October.

There is an extra bit to the corral where Manolo used to park his car but over the last 8 years it has been neglected and the caña, wooden beams and plastic sheeted roof have mostly fallen in,  the walls have cracks with daylight showing and there is a definite lean to them.  This  weekend John and Miguel have taken down that section of the roof and very early this morning John cut up all the old beams - mostly olive wood - and we brought them down to our wood store.  A couple of hours dusty work today for at least 2 weeks fire wood.

Later in the year Miguel plans on a big tidy up and sort out of everything thing that's left - I know John doesn't like to throw things out "just in case" but having looked at all the bags and boxes in the corral that were Manolo's there is a lot of stuff to be sorted.  I hope it gets thrown out - but  not our way!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A bumper crop.

We have a small pear tree in our front garden,  not so big that we need steps or ladders to pick the fruit,  but for it's small size it produces a lot of fruit.   Normally that is.  Last year there was only enough to eat and the occasional windfall for Pip and Monty.  The year before last it seemed to be quite laden and as we're not sure that too many windfalls are good for dogs  we picked all the fruit and made wine.  That year we got 18lb of fruit.

These pears are only small,  only a bit bigger than bite-sized,  and are available in the local shops so next time I see them,  I'll try and find out which variety they are.

This year is another year that it's produced lots,  and again the windfalls are dropping.  Last week we put an olive net under the tree starting  from the fence and clipped it onto the lower branches.   Every morning there has been a dozen or so pears in the net but they are not keeping well so today I decided to pick them all off and make the first of this years wine.

38 pounds of pears.  And such a small tree. 

I spent a couple of hours chopping the fruit up,  into sterilized buckets,  added water and sterilizing tablets,  this afternoon we've added sugar water and yeast,  and covered with shower caps. 

Those long term readers of my ramblings may well remember the shower caps...for the newbies we use them to cover buckets of brewing fruit and also bowls of bread dough while it's rising.   In the  days before el crisis these shower caps were freely available at hotels,  nowadays I'm not so sure,  but we still have a stock of them. They aren't designed for long term use but will wash and dry - with care - and usually it's the elastic that goes long before the actual plastic tears.  But a very good way of protecting your brew or dough and see-through too so you know what's going on in the bucket or bowl.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Dampening the dust

Lovely sunny warm starts to the days at the moment,  but yesterday huge shiny white clouds built up to the north of us during the afternoon and thunder rumbled around but it didn't amount to anything.

Same start to today but late this afternoon thunder rumbled back and forth for ages,  then came the lightning,  and huge splodges of rain plus  hot gusty wind......we were out covering seed trays, putting down parasols, taking in chair cushions, suddenly remembered the new table out by the pool....would it be alright or turn upside down and get scratched.....decided to leave it and keep fingered crossed.

A couple of hours later and it's all calm again.  We ate dinner indoors, Pip crawled out from her hidyhole under the bed,  and we've been for a short walk.  Not too far as its all overgrown and I get wet legs from the damp long grass.

And it's still 25 degrees which is what we woke up to - shame about the bad bit in the middle!