Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

A Weekend Escape to Niagara Falls, The Good Earth and a Really Nice Hat

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011
Just catching up after a nice weekend away in Niagara Falls.
Living in Toronto, we’ve been many times and each season has it’s perks. The mist is cool in the summer, the icicles are stunning in the winter, Niagara Parks plants amazing gardens in the Spring.

In Autumn it’s the gorgeous colours in the changing trees and bright bright sunny days. Take that sun combine it with ample mist and you get perfect double rainbows!

Our friend Sarah made Rebecca her hat from a pattern I wore as a child.  The wool is from a wool share (like a wool CSA) from  Stoddart Farms.   It’s the neatest program where you get eco friendly dyed wool from endangered and rare sheep and goats delivered to you every month.  We discovered them at last year’s Royal Winter Fair and it makes an awesome christmas present for the knitters and crocheters in your life.

I love the localness of her little hat and that she looks like a unicorn with the double rainbow.

It was all a little much for little Ms Fancy Hat and her epic nap strike ended in a cloud of mist with a bang. 3 hours! We went for a coffee.

So Niagara Falls is fun but it can be a little over the top.  The gorgeous falls and park are almost lost to the Capital Letters TOURISM!  The separation of the city of Niagara Falls and the surrounding “fruit basket of Ontario” has always been so strange to me. The subdivisions all have names like “Orchard Grove” yet finding a fruit or vegetable on your plate, let alone a local one is next to impossible.  So after a few helpful tweets we escaped to the surrounding wine and orchard country and had a blast. And a proper serving of vegetables.

The Good Earth Food and Wine Company in Beamsville, Ontario was recommended by Eating Niagara as a good place to run around and grab some lunch.  What a perfect suggestion.

We started with some peach orchard cuddles.

Then we had a good run.  She really wanted to pick fruit and couldn’t figure out where it had gone. I guess all that apple picking left an impression.

So she inspected ALL the leaves.

And then did a little dance.

We moved inside for lunch but didn’t get a single photo of our food. It was beautiful but clearly too delicious to photograph.  Ryan and Rebecca shared some duck, I had the best cauliflower soup I’ve ever tasted.  The salad had carrot spirals that went on for miles.  The wine was delicious.  The atmosphere was friendly and charming.  The two year was welcomed with a taste of local honey from neighbours Rosewood Estates and peach preserves.  We couldn’t have asked for anything more lovely.

After lunch we poked around.

There was lots of fun food and fork related art.

Ryan is inspired and determined that some day we’ll have a whole building to cook in.  This has got to be the most perfect set up for group canning projects or pressing cider.

Their kitchen side herb gardens are still going strong and Rebecca got into the grapes.

Rebecca spent about an hour looking cute in her new barrette from paperdollaccessories while admiring and eating grapes off the vine before moving on to the pumpkins.

We picked out some wine, honey and jam to bring home and enjoyed the drive back on the back roads stopping for our groceries from road side farms stands.

Amazing. Rebecca even had another nap.

Our Heirloom Apple Abandoned Orchard Adventure

Friday, September 23rd, 2011
Back at the end of our epic road trip this summer I asked Ryan if he could arrange for us to come back to the farm in the fall.  It looked like the apples in the old orchard were going to be plentiful and what better way to spend our wedding anniversary than by picking apples? I think wood is the traditional 5th anniversary gift and we aren’t quite ready to buy the barn. 

These days there are quite a few wineries in the County but originally it was known for it’s dairy farms and orchards.  This original loyalist plot had both.

Sigh.  I’d love to wake up to this view each morning.

Sigh.  Barn Lust is as bad as ever.  We really need to sort out how to make this barn ours.

Check out the daytime moon and the hops.  If we ever get through this cider project maybe we’ll move on to beer.

Anyhow, back to the apples. We all took Friday off and headed out of the city along the charming Apple Route to spend 3 days climbing around in barns and falling out of apple trees.  It was lovely.  We walked and biked from tree to tree, tasting everything and picking bushels of the best ones. Eventually Ryan couldn’t resist any longer and hooked up the tractor and trailer to hold the ladder and carry back bushels of apples

As fun as those pick you own apple places with pie and corn mazes look, I promise this was better.  Ryan says it was like the kind of exploring you do when you’re 12.  I think he’s right.  It made me want to build a tree fort and refuse to go in for dinner. We headed out in to fields in the morning only coming back to eat every once and a while.  Poor Becca was worn right out by our antics.

The trees are all a little different but quite a few are huge full sized ones and we took turns falling out of this one. Ryan is the yellow smudge in the middle of this photo.

To add to our adventure, the blackthorn has escaped the hedgerows and seems to have developed a relationship with the apple trees, scratching and spiking anyone who dares to pick too many apples.  I have read that you can use these dreadful berries to make wine if anyone wants to forage next year. (More about the blackthorn later in the week).

On a related note, check out the Hawthorn Honey Black Locust Tree (thanks Jenn and Almerinda).  There are 3 of these “antique” trees on the property.  The modern ones don’t have the spikes necessary to make the hedgerows impassable to cattle. Ouch!

I frequently look at google earth, and when standing in the orchards, I really can’t make rhyme nor reason of how it was organized. There are no tidy rows but there does seem to be a pattern of sorts.  I think they are separate orchards and that stagered rows run on an angle to the property line.  As things are rather over grown in places its hard to tell but I’m guessing soil conditions and natural grade changes factor into it.  

There are at least 5 distinct grouping of trees including these 2 orchards of smaller trees that make these fairytale like paths. The branches arch over head and the ground is covered in windfall. It’s almost magical.

There’s a perfect row of apples down a long stretch along one side of the property.

Across from what used to be a neat and tidy row are small wild apple trees.  
These ones were the sweetest most delicious things I’ve ever tasted.  There were 8 apples on the whole tree and we ate them all.

Isn’t it beautiful how the grapes grow up though the trees?  These United Empire Loyalists we certainly proficient at making libations.

I love how complete this orchard is.  There were different types of apples for different purposes like eating, baking, making sauce, making juice and our main objective, of course, the cider apples. Some apples are for eating right away and some apples will keep all winter and even through the following summer.  I think there were apples grown for their pectin and there’s one so dry it must have been for drying.

This apple was clearly grown for the dog to eat.

There are even some crab apples. This is a modern tree but crab apples were traditionally grown to add to the cider and to give colour and pectin to jams and jellies,

All in all, we picked 8 bushels of apples which is roughly 320 pounds.  Personally I would have kept going but the car is only so big and there were also marvellous heirloom tomatoes to be sorted.

The cold nights of Prince Edward County are exactly what apples need.  When we were up at the farm we could just leave them outside as there are simply so many apples that animals would rather eat the ones on the ground or on the trees.  Now that we are home in Toronto, Raccoon capital of the world (no really) we are storing them in Rubbermaid containers lined with newspaper.  They are outside on the porch. I take the lids off every morning so they can breathe and seal them up tight at night to protect them from the thieves.  So far so good and they are ripening up nicely and should be ready to press within two weeks.

We’ve made some progress today identifying these apples over in our first post. There are some truly devoted apple enthusiasts out there on the internet and also in real life.  We’ve been using the wiki apple articles along with Orange Pippin.  We have so many books out of the Toronto Public Library but are still looking for a copy of the Apples of New York and would love some insight into what the Loyalists brought along to their new Ontario farms. 

This weekend we are lucky enough to be taking 13 types of our most palatable mystery apples to an apple tasting which will certainly be fun and hopefully fruitful.  Ha. Will let you know how it goes next week.

Heirloom Apple Orchard Identification Project

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

As mentioned in some previous posts, our friend owns a farm in Prince Edward County. At Breezy Acres there are a variety of apples growing in an abandoned orchard.  Some of the trees are 150 years old and are part of the original United Empire Loyalist Farm.  We’d love to start identifying some of these heirloom apple varieties and are asking for some help.

We have many plans for them and will be using the 8 bushels (that’s 320 pounds) of apples that we picked for some really fun projects in the next few weeks.  In the meantime we have numbered 17 of these mystery varieties of apples and will be referring to them by these numbers until we make some headway in identifying them. Here they are, numbered, photographed and with our initial notes. Photos of the trees and of them on the branch will be added in future posts.

 1. No notes? I will eat one and report back shortly.

2. These are delicious and really retain their shape and colour when baked. These small apples have bumps on the bottom like “delicious” types and grew on a full sized tree.  They our one of our favourites.

3. These tart tasting fruits are probably a cider apple. Mainly green with a splash of red.  They oxidized really fast; turning brown within seconds of biting into them.  These grapes were growing within the tree.

4. These gorgeous apples have quite a bit of orange on their coats.  These were quite tart but not sour and very juicy.

 5. Gorgeous Russets.

6. Mainly yellow apples that packed a serious crunch.  There is russeting around the stem.

7. A full sized tree of eating apples growing quite close to the farm house. Love the speckles.

8. These apples are hard as a rock. They have streaks of true orange and are a little lopsided.

 9. Some Juicy cider apples.

 10.  These perfectly miniature apples are pretty tasty.

11. Nice crisp and juicy eating apples.  Gorgeous red and green streaked coats. These were growing in the hedgerow.

 12. More tiny apples.

13.  These are heavenly.  Quite sweet with a real crunch.  These are growing by the entrance to the farm and in direct view of the farm house.  These bake quite nicely, keeping their shape and colour.

14.  Rebecca loves these ones.   This very old tree is away from the main orchards and only about 15 feet tall although it has very thick branches.

15.  This tree hardly had any leaves but did have these gorgeous yellow apples that have cracked looking red shoulders.

16.  These must be for making sauce or used for their pectin. They are soft and rather bland when eaten raw.  When cooked, they turn into perfect mush.  they have bumps on the bottom like the “delicious” varieties.

17. These are from a lovely little wild tree.  A little 4 foot tree that had 8 apples on it.  We ate them all.

These crap apples have been planted recently.  we picked a few to add to our cider and have included them here to compare to the small apple craps to show the difference.  We only found 1 other true crab apple in the orchards.

We picked some lovely bartlet pears form a “modern” tree.

Last but not least there are these sour sour pears. What an earth are these for?  I’m guessing making hard pear cider?

They make Rebecca make this face. And she like s sour things and is one of those kids that will eat an entire onion.

A whole giant 40 foot tree just dripping with them. Oh they are something else!

So any thoughts on IDing any of these gorgeous fruits?  Or know of any resources I could use? Have any thoughts on what the different kinds are for?  there are also really dry fleshed ones that would dehydrate nicely and some that I think may be grown for their pectin. 

I have some good books and site and have met some knowledgable apple people recently but could really use some help.  We’ll be referring back to this post in the upcoming weeks.

Wordless Wednesday: Unseasonably Warm Weather

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
What started out as a perfectly idyllic autumn day with our new-to-us slide and flash:
quickly turned into this:

Recipe: Almost Moosewood Mac and Cheese

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Mac & Cheese, an essential autumn comfort food is really not much harder to make for real than out of the box.  The recipe our family uses started out with the Moosewood version but has changed a bit over the years.  I highly recommend any of Mollie Katzen’scookbooks; the recipes are delicious, vegetarian and very easy to follow.  I grew up with The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and personally don’t think you should even attempt vegetarianism without it.  Well, the good sort of vegetarian, not the kind in 1st year college where you eat vegetable flavoured Mr. Noodles and bread for dinner every night.  Or Kraft Dinner for that matter.

You’ll need:
1 ½ cup cottage cheese
1 ½ cup milk
1 tsp dried mustard
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1 small onion finely chopped
1 block of extra old sharp cheddar grated
½ lb uncooked elbow macaroni (this is about ½ a bag)
¼ cup bread crumbs
some parsley (fresh or dried)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter up a pyrex baking dish.

In the food processor whizz up the onion and then set it aside. Next you need to combine the cottage cheese, the milk, and the spices, mix them up in the processor. Grate your cheese right into your mixture.  Throw the onion back in.  Pulse a few times then pour onto uncooked macaroni in a mixing bowl. You’ll switch from chopping blade to grater and back again.

Once everything is nicely coated, pour into your buttered baking dish.

Last but not least is a good covering of breadcrumbs.  You can buy these but I make them simply by toasting some (stale) bread, usually twice, then puttin
g the toast in a bag and hitting it with the
cast iron frying pan (also important in the vegetarian diet).  I like to add dried parsley during the smashing stage.

Then bake for 45 minutes

Here it is, a little overdone, but delicious and cheesy.  At my house I insist that we eat at least one vegetable with it, but really that’s your call.

Roasted Brussels sprouts go really well with it.

If you don’t have a food processor you should get one.  But in the meantime; chop up your onion, grate your cheese and use a blender and this recipe will work just fine.