mstakenidentity: (Default)
I love the fact that in Australia the Christmas season and cherry season coincide. We may not have sleighbells in the snow, we may need our eggnog iced, or drunk VERY late at night, we may view the traditional hot Christmas lunch with horror, I may be getting more and more jealous of some of the cooking blogs I read, but damnit, cherries are here and yummy and a deep red and like the scent of sunscreen and pine needles will always say "Christmas" to me.

On Friday [profile] mc_shamo and I drove to Castlemaine and it's surrounds in search of cherries. Unfortunately the inclement weather of late has meant that although it's cherry season the glut usually experienced around Christmas won't happen. Quite a few of the places I'd planned that we'd visit were closed. However, the silver lining for me of all this is that at Peelers Family Orchard in Harcourt they were willing to sell me a box of water-damaged cherries for $18. This box would have held about 8 kilos of cherries (for overseas readers and those who don't buy cherries, at the moment in shops cherries are ranging from $10 to $17 a kilo) I was stoked. We bought the box plus a kilo of eating cherries (only half a kilo made it back to Kensington, and we may have been a little sticky and had red stained lips by the time we got home) and then headed to the Maldon Cherry Farm where they were also experienceing difficulty with the rain but had a few varieties for sale. We bought a bag of the firmer, less sweet cherries and a bag of sweeter cherries (which I actually think had less flavour, kinda wish we'd just bought two bags of the firm ones) and after a detour into Maldon itself for scones, cake and coffee and to pick up a cherry stoner we called it a day.

At home we moved the coffee table out of the lounge, then [profile] mc_shamo turned on the television and dvd player while I got an old towel from upstairs. We put the box of cherries on the towel and got out two large mixing bowls. I started de-stalking the cherries, keeping my eye out for ones too bruised to use or mouldy (I was actually surprised how few there were I had to chuck) and Seamus de-stoned them, putting the stones and stalks in one bowl and the cherries in another. We continued like this while having a West Wing marathon until about 3am, with me getting up periodically whenever there were enough cherries and making jam, in the end we had 17 jars of the stuff. I've earmarked a jar for each of our relatives to whom we usually give presents, which takes us down to 7 jars, which should see us through to the next cherry season.) I also had a brainwave when I realised just how MANY cherries we had and spread about 3 kilos of them out in our food dehydrator. It took over 24 hours but we've ended up with about 500gms of dried cherries, which are like cherry-flavoured sultanas.

Yesterday, with West Wing still rolling (as I said on Facebook, I think I had dreams about the defecit last night) I de-stoned the firm cherries we'd not eaten and put them on a foil covered baking tray (and there was a little bit of "one for me, one for the tray, two for me, one for the tray" going on I admit) which I put in the frzer. After two hours they were frozen solid, I picked them off and put in a freezer-safe container. Apparently they keep quite well like this and can be used to make cherry sorbet or cherry sauce in winter. I then de-stoned the sweeter but less firm cherries and put them in a large jar with some sugar, over which I poured brandy. This will make both cherry brandy and liquere cherries, ready in about 3 months, perfect in about 6.

There is now about half a kilo of cherries in the fridge for eating and that's it! The rest have been disposed of in what I hope are yummy, yummy ways.

And after all that, I forgot to bring any fresh cherries to work with me. You'd think I'd be cherried out, but no. So I guess I'll have my orange and just think about cherries until I get home.
mstakenidentity: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] mc_shamo and I just spent a lovely weekend in Castlemaine. I think it really cemented for us the idea that we could live there in a few years. We both love Melbourne so much, but we'll never be able to afford a house here and have the kind of lifestyle we want. Plus for me it was such a luxury, this amazing feeling of walking more than two blocks at a fast pace and not reaching for my inhaler. The air is so clean! In fact the only times I used my inhaler were inside that cottage we stayed in as the couch was dusty and when we climbed up to the Burke and Wills monument- that was from genuine excertion though, which I hardly ever get to in Melbourne before my airways swell up, so that was a celebration in itself.

This time around staying in Castlemaine we lunched at Saffs Cafe which was just as good as last time, then went to the Drummond Natural Soap shop next door and stocked up on shampoo, conditioner and body wash (so worth it, the stuff is amazing). We were thinking of going on a walk around the old gold diggings but the weather was not clement (I seem to have a knack of booking weekends away during which it rains almost non-stop) so instead we decided to go to nearby Harcourt and find the cidery cellar door.

Thanks to the slightly dodgy map we were using we managed to get lost. This turned out to be a blessing as instead of Henry's of Harcourt we ended up at Bress Winery who in addition to very nice wine also make cider, olive oil, honey and assorted other things. Best of all they are a biodynamic estate, which means no added sulfer (yet another thing I'm allergic to) which means I cad drink their stuff without risk of respitory attack or headache (well, I'd probably get a hangover headache if I drank a LOT, but no sulfer induced headache!) On the way back to Castlemaine we dropped in at Peeler's Family Orchard for fresh apples and pears. Yum. The weather was still awful, so we ended up spending the night in our cottage with a cheese platter, soup and pudding for dinner.

Saturday morning we breakfasted at Togs, then did the Castlemain Town Historical walk, visiting the Burke and Wills monument with a spectacular view of the town, stopping in at the Art Gallery and Museum and discovering that practically every building in the place had been a police station at one point or another. I bought a few books in the bookshop as the rainy weather meant I'd finished my novel earlier than expected. I was glad to see signed copies of [livejournal.com profile] cows_might_fly's Dad's book were still on the display table- they obviously support local authors, good news for me if I ever5 get around to writing that novel ;-)

In the afternoon we finally did make it out to Henry's of Harcourt and spent a pleasant afternoon trying ciders and vinegars and dessert cider (fantastic thing! think sweet apple brandy made with golden delicious apples, yum!) Then [livejournal.com profile] mc_shamo felt inspired and worked on Omniprop's website for a few hours while I had a nap. That evening we tought we'd check what the local pizza place was like and were very favourably impressed, we took advantage of a weekend without the cats and had pizza on the floor of the cottage while watching Shrek on tv.

On Sunday we drove to Maldon for the local winter food and wine festival. Maldon is an incredibly pretty little town, full of friendly peope. I bought a crocheted cloche hat from a lady sitting behind a spinning wheel after watching fascinated as she spun her own yarn. My hat was made by her, hand crochet, hand spun, and it would have been hand-dyed except she left it natural so it's not dyed at all. We decided after the last few days to ignore the wine and concentrate on the food, stocking up on chutneys, puddings, cheeses and sauces, as well as a few little cakes and chocolates that are mostly gone by now :-)

We got back to Melbourne on Sunday afternoon and relaxed at home for a few hours before going to [livejournal.com profile] cows_might_fly and [livejournal.com profile] clappamungus's house for dinner, during which we hatched a cunning plot to go to a swing dancing lesson on Monday, which we did. It was an absolute blast and I definitely want to go again, there were a few people their I knew too, including [livejournal.com profile] fin, so we didn't have to go in as total strangers which was nice.

All in all a fastastic weekend away.
mstakenidentity: (Default)
Friday:
-Trip to Castlemaine
-Very enjoyable car trip with Seamus
-Purchase of soap, included an encounter with two lovely old Great Danes who seemed permanent fixtures in the shop
-Pleasant browse through antique and book stores
-Awesome lunch and great coffee at a cafe- reassuring us that good coffee now does exist in Castlemaine
-inspection of some houses in what will be our price range in 3 years. All very exciting.

Saturday:
-DaySpa visit
-My aunt and uncle came over for afternoon tea and brought with the them wedding present from that side of the family, which is all the glassware we could ever need. A really useful and lovely present.
-Dropped in at Andrew's housewarming where he very nicely plied me with sangria and tequila jelly shots
-Dropped in at Sarah and Daniel's place for a MUCAAS pub with Mark

Sunday:
-Trip to Olinda
-Originally intended to be in Olinda for breakfast but we gave in to our growling tummies when we past a Pancake Parlour about half way.
-Tea and scones at the Pie restaurant in Olinda
-Browsed the shops in the village and bought lollies, chocolates and hand painted china cats (as you do)
-Checked in to Candlelight cottages, where we stayed for our first anniversary of starting to date two years back.
-Had a spa!
-Had a nap
-Had a hot chocolate curled up in the loungeroom and listened to pretty classical music
-Walked back to the village and had a wonderful dinner at Immerse.
-Walked back and cuddled up together watching Breakfast at Tiffanys

Monday
-Wished each other Happy Third Anniversary and Happy 1 Month Until Our Wedding
-Received some very cute red crystal earrings from Seamus which I am wearing right now
-Cooked Breakfast
-Showered, packed and said goodbye to the charming couple who run Candlelight Cottages and their two dogs and one cat
-set off to head back to Melbourne very slowly
-found an antique store and bought a bread bin
-found a chocolate factory and bought chocolates
-lunched at Chateau Yering in Yering which was absolutely AMAZING! I had a heritage tomato salad with goats cheese, Seamus had a duck waldorf salad and then we both had a snapper and wine, and finished with french patries. I got rather giggly from the champagne. We liked it so much we're thinking of coming back next year and staying there a few days as well as at Candlelight cottages, maybe for our first wedding anniversay...
-Got back to Melbourne and met up with our celebrant at the Quiet Man Pub so she could sight legal documents and we could finalise everything.
-Got takeaway Thai from the Asian Kitchen, the best Thai in the area
-Cuddled up on our own couch at home with our cats and watched Roman Holiday

One month left...

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