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Archive for the ‘Apples and Pears’ Category


WRONG!

True, our small apple tree might not produce a crop big enough to warrant a large juice-making session, but when I went out there yesterday and started picking I did get a large bowl of apples. (The bowl is 40cm across, so it holds a fair few apples.)

The tree was here when we bought the garden, so it is now the apple I’d have chosen. It is a Lobo, which is all right, but I’d have preferred either an Ingrid Marie or a Cox’s orange, the former being – to me – the quintessential Danish apple and the latter being sweet like candy. When I was a child I preferred Cox’s orange over any other apple, and the dog we had at the time agreed with me. In fact, she wouldn’t eat ANY other apples, which was a bit bizarre for a dog that otherwise seemed to eat anything she could lay her paws on…

Lobo apples

So… Does anybody know if lobo apples will keep well? To me they seem rather like the sort of apple you need to eat straight-away, but I might be wrong.

I’ll bring the lot back to Copenhagen with me, since The Flâneur Husband has requested an apple pie, and if the internet provided me with NO information whatsoever about how to store lobo apples, at least it told me that they are very popular for making apple pie with in Canada!

Speaking of storing apples…

We took a small field trip during the family juice making, visiting Ørskov Frugt, the fruit whole-sale company that my uncle delivers his cherries to. Wow… That’s fruit on a completely absurd scale!

Ørskov Frugt - boxes of apples

Each of these huge crates is full of fruit waiting to be processed before it can end up in a neat plastic bag in your shopping cart, and it really was an amazing sight. In the Danish plant alone they process 36,000 tons of fruit each year; that’s a LOT of fruit salads, pies, jams, cakes, and whatever else you could think of!!!

The company started out as a small family farm with an orchard, and the present owner’s father had the idea to collect fruit from neighbouring farms and sell it to retailers back in 1943. It’s still a family business, but now they also have processing plants in Poland and deliver to most European countries as well as to Australia, Chile and other far-flung places.

But I was talking about apples… Remember how I showed you a picture of two small kids throwing apples into an old bath tub to wash them? Well, here it was done in a slightly more impressive way:

Ørskov Frugt - washing apples

A clever piece of machinery transported the apples from the huge boxes and into a canal of water were soft brushes cleaned the apples, and this was very impressive until we reached the next step:

Ørskov Frugt - sorting apples

Swimming along merrily in another set of canals, the apples are then sorted by size and directed into these swimming lanes that are released one by one so each crate of prepared apples contain the same standard of apples.

Ørskov Frugt - storing apples

We then passed the vast storage rooms for the clean fruit. Fruit like apples and pears will actually keep completely fresh for at least 6 months when stored professionally, so when you buy an apple in May it might have been harvested in August originally and kept in an oxygen-free storage room like this one for months on end without loosing too much of its freshness. Still, when you buy apples in May or June, remember how much energy has been spent to keep that fruit fresh; each of these storage units holds 100 tons of fruit, and each is cooled down to 3 degrees Celsius and kept free of oxygen; that doesn’t happen without a serious energy consumption…

Anyway, I buy apples in May, too, so it’s not like I’m sitting too firmly on my high horse. Just be conscious of it, okay?

However, when we buy apples in the supermarket they tend to come in slightly smaller portions than the 1-ton crates above, so here’s the next step:

Ørskov Frugt - packing apples

And there you have it. Your little bag of apples is ready to be sent to the supermarket for you to buy it.

I must say, though, that much as I enjoyed the visit and was awed by the amazing machinery, I think I still prefer to was apples by hand. At least as long as I don’t have to wash 36,000 tons of them!

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Each year my family gets together on the family farm to make apple juice. We’ve been doing this since 1936 when my great-grandfather bought the out-dated machinery from the local juice factory – which has since evolved to become the largest in the country but used to be just a mother and her spinster daughter making juice for local farmers – and we are still using the same machinery. The pulping machine is actually still under warranty from the manufacturer, so they service if for free…

Oh, and of course the whole session takes place in the village which has become synonymous with juice in Denmark; Rynkeby, which is now the brand name of the small juice factory that my great-grandfather bought the machinery from. (Though the factory has long since moved to a town in a completely different part of Funen.)

First step, obviously, is to ensure we have somewhere to put the juice. We have a few thousand bottles of different shapes and sizes, but every bottle is washed and then rinsed in a chlorine solution.

Washing bottles

The apples are bought in bulk since the farm no longer has an apple orchard (it has been replaced with cherries which is much more profitable). Large crates of apples that can only be moved with a fork lifter.

The apples are then washed in an old bath tub, and this is perhaps the part that’s easiest for the kids to help with. Especially when there’s no rush and the apples can be washed at a leisurely pace…

washing apples

When the apples have been washed they are then pulped in this grinder. It’s old, weather-beaten and absolutely beautiful. And the local factory repairs it without charge whenever there is a problem, since they delivered it with a lifetime service warranty. (And “lifetime” in this case means perpetual…) The image below is a few years old since I forgot to take a decent photo of this part of the process, so the young girl in the picture is now the mother of two, and the man in his prime is now the grandfather of three.

Pulping apples

The pulp is then layered in the press, covered in cheesecloth, and then the juice is pressed into buckets that are emptied into old milk cans (10-litre buckets, 40-litre cans). The two young bucks working the press below are my cousins Martin and Mikkel, but really anybody can work the press; it might seem like hard work – and it is – but it is not so hard that my mother-in-law couldn’t take her turn at it.

Pressing apples

Some impurities will make it through the cheesecloth and the sieve that you see on one of the milk cans above, so the milk cans are emptied into a huge tub that can hold up to 1000 litres. Normally, though, we never fill it to capacity; we simply haven’t the time! We start working on Thursday morning around 9AM, and during the course of that day we produce some 6-800 litres. Then on Friday we bottle it and pasteurise it, while simultaneously producing another batch of juice.

A vat of juice

The juice is rather muddled at this stage, so to clear it we add a tiny amount of dissolved gelatine to the juice in the evening. This causes the impurities to sink to the bottom of the vat, and allows us to tap a cleaner, purer juice.

Tapping and capping

The juice is then left to settle overnight, and the next morning the tapping begins. (In order of appearance, to the left is a friend of the family – Tommy – my aunt Inge and my uncle Knud.) This is one of the important steps of the process, since this is where the quality control takes place. Bottles with impurities are poured into jugs to be served at lunch and dinner, and if a bottle is filled too much the “capper” takes a swig of it to make sure it is filled to the right level. After all, an over-filled bottle will be more likely to explode during the pasteurisation, so all the effort would be wasted.

Pasteurising

The final step is to pasteurise the juice. This ensures that it will last for several years in the capped bottles. We do this in the old boiling vats of the farmhouse, originally built for laundry. The vats are heated to 80 degrees Celsius and then left for 20 minutes, and this kills off any organisms in the juice. The furnaces are fired with newspapers, since this is the simplest way to raise the temperature once the vat is full of bottles and water, and it allows the vats to cool down slowly once they have reached 80 degrees, rather than continue to heat up as they would if we used wood.

This year we only made 1100 litres of apple juice. Normally it is 14-1600 litres, but we didn’t get through all of the juice last year, so we always adjust. After all, the juice from last year is still good – it will easily keep for 5 years in the bottle without loosing the taste – so there was no need to make too muchApple juiceAnd this is the result. Bottles and bottles of apple juice that tastes better than any you can buy in the shops. It tastes like biting into a fresh apple, even after a year in the bottle.

This year, though, we suffered a minor failure; the juice is normally completely clear and brilliant, but this year we used Aroma apples to make up the bulk. We always use one ton of cox’s orange, one ton of Ingrid Marie and two tons of “bulk apples”, but normally the bulk is phillippa or another cooking apple, whereas this year we used Aroma, which is an eating apple with a lot more juice but apparently also a proclivity to make the juice unclear. Lesson learned, and next year the juice will be as brilliant as last year.

Now, how many people does it take to make 1100 litres of juice? Well… I’m sure it could be done with 5-6 hard-working people, but for dinner on Thursday there was 38 of us, including children. (It goes some way in showing how ample the space is on the farm…) It’s always the biggest family reunion of the year, though numbers seem to increase as those who were once children turn up with their spouses and children – or as in my case their Mother-In-Law.

Lindestrømgård

I – as the rest of my family – feel blessed that my uncle and aunt decided to continue this tradition when they took over the farm. (Even if they are visibly relieved when people start leaving again…) It is a lovely tradition, and the product is second to none; you can find no better apple juice in the world.

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Lindestrømgaard

On Thursday I returned to one of my most beloved places in the world, Lindestrømgård. This was my grandparents’ farm, and my uncle has since taken it over. It used to be a large farm, but standards have changed and eventually it was just not possible for my uncle and aunt to make ends meet, even with my aunt working full time, so they had to sell off the land and give up the pigs so my uncle, too, could get a job rather than “just” being a farmer. These days, the only farms that seem to make a profit are vast compared to what was considered a large farm back in the 1960’s.

My aunt and uncle have only retained the two fields nearest to the farm, as well as the cherry plantation and the small piece of woodland that we call “the forest”, though it’s barely 200 meters across.

Lindestrømgård

The field in the front has been planted with more cherry trees so the orchard reaches almost down to the barn, and to the right where you can see my grandmother’s old vegetable garden there is now a large shed for machinery and my aunt’s Icelandic horses.

In 1981 or 1982 the outbuildings – barns, stables, garages et cetera – burnt to the ground and were replaced with the current buildings that form the three wings of the complex. Fortunately the fire didn’t spread to the house, but all the old timber-frame buildings went up in the flames at a time when I was too young to remember them, so these early-80’s farm buildings have a charm to me that they probably don’t have to anybody else, since this was my childhood farm.

(No people or livestock perished in the fire, as all the pigs were swiftly herded outside. The alarm was raised on a Sunday morning during the church service, and I have heard tales of priceless scenes of the local vicar – still in his robes – chasing pigs in the surrounding fields. Now, ANYBODY who has ever chased pigs through open fields will know that they are rather quick when they want to be, and even in trousers it can be hard enough to keep up with them, so I can only imagine a priest in full cassock doing his best to keep up with them…)

We spent at least a week there every summer – and most often two weeks – and especially the last week of the summer holidays was special, because that was when my two brothers and I were sent down to the farm while my parents returned to work. We’d get up early and help my Grandfather feed the pigs before going inside for breakfast at the long oak table in the dining room.

Happy as a pig in muck

Yes. We were happy as the proverbial pig in muck (okay, so my older brother is moping in the photo above, but he never liked cameras…) and as you can see I (on the left) had a certain chubby resemblance to a well-fed piglet.

It was the first place I ever got to drive a motorized vehicle – a tractor, of course – and where I learned to drive a combine harvester and keep it aligned with the tractor pulling the grain wagon, and it was where I first saw a living creature being born – and saw a living creature being killed. It was the place where I went running in the pea fields and ate so many peas I got a tummy ache, and the place where I ate so many cherries that I – well… You get the picture.

In autumn the whole family gathered on the farm – as we still do, thanks to my uncle and aunt’s decision to continue this hospitality – to make apple juice in copious quantities, enough to last us all through the year and then some to give away to friends. We got up early in the morning, worked throughout the day interrupted by 7 meals – morning coffee, breakfast, mid-morning coffee, lunch, afternoon coffee, dinner, evening coffee, and of course everything that includes the word “coffee” also included some sort of home-baked goods; rolls, cakes, you name it – and in the evening my grandfather would take his fiddle off the wall and my aunt would bring our her accordion and then there’d be folk dancing in the middle of the living room.

The autumn juice making still takes place now that my uncle and his wife have taken over the farm, but of course service levels have dropped since there is no longer a full-time housewife to feed the 20-something people and clean up after them. There’s a kitchen rota, and the whole assembly ends with a communal cleaning-session on the last day so we leave the place as we found it.

The village has changed, of course. It is no longer a small village, but rather a commuter suburb to surrounding towns. When I was a child it was the sort of place where we could shop at the local co-op on my grandmother’s account simply by bringing with us her rather distinctive tartan cloth shopping bags, and anyway the cashiers would know our faces and know that we came from the Lindestrømgård farm – so we couldn’t just go down there and buy sweets on the account!

Still, the farm is on the edge of the village, and though the actual farm house only dates back to the 1870’s the actual farm probably pre-dates the farming reforms in 1788 when the village system of strip farming was replaced by the system of wider fields as we know it today. At that time, many farms were moved from the villages out onto their allotted area of land, so since the farm is still just on the edge of the old village – the 12th century church is just a few hundred meters away – it is safe to guess that it has been the site of that farm for a very long time.

Rynkeby Church

The village church is almost the stereotype of a Danish country church; whitewashed walls, the choir slightly lover than the nave, and a tower with the stepped gables that were all the riot back in the 16th century. I can still remember going up the tower when I was 5 or 6 and getting so afraid of the steep stairs/ladders that my Mum had to carry me down – pretty tough going, as anybody who has carried a 5-year-old on steep steps will know.

Biskorup

Mind you, its history as my family farm is quite recent. My grandfather bought it in the 1960’s after his ancestral farm (the black and white photo above) had been expropriated to build a large-scale concrete housing estate. (Now one of the most infamous “ghettos” / “especially vulnerable public housing areas” in Denmark, Vollsmose.) My grandfather augmented the landholding by buying three other farms and incorporating them into the farm, selling off the buildings of one as a small-hold and keeping the buildings of another as part of the farm  while renting out the house.

I love Lindestrømgård. (Lime Stream Farm, though to the best of my knowledge there has been neither limes nor a stream near the farm for ages…) I used to dream of one day living there, and at times I still do. The outbuildings might be dull 1980’s buildings, but the house itself is wonderful; it is large (7 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a huge sitting room, a dining room, a vast kitchen and an equally large so-called “weaving room” which is where my grandmother used to keep her large loom), but it’s a welcoming home, and part of the reason I love our apartment is that it reminds me of that house. A beautiful home to be lived in, to welcome guests, to embrace you and give you space.

And it remains, in some way, my home. I never lived there, but I know every nook and cranny of that house, I feel at home there and I know the gardens, the lands, the buildings. I know what the soil feels like between my fingers. The house might be in need of a serious overhauling to get it up to modern standards, but that would cost a small fortune so it won’t happen any time soon. At least my aunt and uncle have ripped out all the pig sties of the farm buildings and converted some to storage space and some to horse stables which they rent out to earn some extra money; it is nice to see that those vast buildings are not just a white elephant that will eventually take a lot of money to either renovate or pull down, but are instead used for practical purposes.

Tomorrow I will bring you a step-by-step instruction on how to make apple juice, family style. It involves a couple of tons of apples, some octogenarian machinery and lots and lots of people.

Oh, and if anybody is passing through Funen on a bicycle it’s possible to spend the night at lindestrømgård in the garden or the surrounding grounds. For more details, please see this link.

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It is Spring. All is pruned back.
We’re cutting down the shrubberies and the budgets.
Gone is the gluttony of yore.
We exercise until we look like skeletons.
I age five years
each time I dig into my wallet
but when the spring sun shines
I become young!

(Det er forår. Alting klippes ned.
Der beskæres i buskadser og budgetter.
Slut med fordums fede ødselhed.
Vi begynder at træne til skeletter.
Jeg blir fem år ældre
ved hvert indgreb i min pung,
men når forårssolen skinner,
blir jeg ung!)

The above is the first verse of a song written by the Danish poet Benny Andersen. As a child I never quite understood it, because surely Spring should be about growth, and cutting back would be in autumn!

But as we all know it isn’t. There are last years spent perennials, of course, and the roses and the fruit trees. And later in the spring the forsythia and other spring-flowering shrubs.

The night frost has returned, and it looks like it will continue on and off for at least a fortnight, so my spring header on the blog mainly celebrates the calendar spring; it’s very difficult to see in the garden, except for the snowdrops and the winter aconites, but then they’re only harbingers of Spring, not Spring itself!

I also took a series of “before” shots of my pruning targets for this weekend, and I will upload them together with “after” shots in a later blog entry. Please do not mock me; I may be inexperienced at pruning, but any pruning is better than no pruning, right?

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