Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Primer on Nuts

If you were to come visit me, you would notice a small orchard at the front of our property and would have to pass under these large trees planted on either side of the driveway.

At other times of the year you might wonder what kind of trees they are. They must be almost 70 feet high with thick sturdy trunks.
However at this time of the year, it's not hard to figure that out. As you walk up the driveway you will feel a crunch under your feet. Looking down this is what you'll find.


If you look up into the tree you will see green globes hanging from the tree

But nature has made it easy for us so we don't have to climb the tree to harvest the nuts. Most fall to the ground, shedding their green casing on the way.

I found one that was still nestled in its cracked case.

Picking them up, it's better to wear gloves as the fibers inside the green case will stain your fingers a dark brown. (our great grandmothers used walnut skins to make brown dye) Each year we would gather the walnuts, dry them, crack them, toast them and eat them but in recent years I've developed an allergy to them so the crows and squirrels are now the grateful recipients of nature's largesse.
If you look to the right, you'll see the orchard floor covered in very prickly pods.

Picking up nuts in our orchard can be hazardous. These prickly pods can incur sore fingers and because they litter most of the orchard you'll want to wear thick soled shoes.

Looking up into the tree above you will see the green pods and brown tassles of
an English Chestnut tree.

In spring this tree is gorgeous with light green tassels highlighting it's bright foliage.

This is what the chestnuts look like after they've fallen to the ground. This years crop is not as good as last year so the chestnuts are smaller, but each pod contains 3 chestnuts with the centre one being larger than its bedfellows. These are the type of chestnuts that the song says are "roasting on an open fire" and that go into chestnut stuffing. I haven't used these chestnuts although I keep intending to.
The nuts I use most often are the ones that grow on these trees on the edge of the orchard.

Again, if you look up you may still find a few nuts on the tree, although most have fallen by now.

These are hazelnuts and they grow in these clusters which look like babies in blankets.

They are prolific trees, producing far more nuts than we can eat. And, yes, you might want to be careful as you pick these up as well. You may pick a wild mushroom by mistake as they thrive under the thick foliage and in the slanting fall light can easily be mistaken for nuts..

Or, far worse, in my estimation, would be grabbing or even touching one of these BC sized slugs. (Ugh!)

What do I do with all these nuts? Well, I share them with friends and relatives, I use them in baking of course, and for fall decorating.

(Those horse chestnuts came from a tree up our road which I didn't get a picture of.)

And last but not least, I use them in a favourite pasta dish at our house:

Chicken Linguini with Hazelnuts.
  • Linguini noodles
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 or 3 boneless chicken breasts cut into slices
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Alfredo sauce (or you can use a prepared Alfredo sauce)

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  1. Boil a pot of water and add salt and enough linguini noodles for your family.
  2. While the noodles are cooking, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a fry pan.
  3. Add minced garlic and the chicken pieces.
  4. Saute until nicely browned and well cooked. Set aside.
  5. In a small pot, melt butter.
  6. Add heavy cream and heat without boiling, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened.
  7. Add grated parmesan cheese and stir until melted.
  8. Drain pasta, toss with Alfredo sauce and place on a large platter.
  9. Top with chicken pieces, chopped hazelnuts and freshly chopped parsley.
    Serves 4-6

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Family Tradition - Making Apple Juice

After a hiatus of several years and with the urging of our youngest son, we decided to make apple juice again this year. We started making apple juice very early in our marriage with Harv's parents. The first year we borrowed a press and after using it Dad and Harv thought they could build one themselves with a few improvements of course. Instead of hand cranking the drum that chopped up the apples, they added an electric motor and instead of winding the press down by brute strength, Harv designed a hydraulic press. (After all what more would you expect from a hydraulics expert)
These Klassen men will always find a way to mechanize and improve. This year was no exception. Rick jokingly suggested we run the juice through a heat exchanger and in the midst of laughing about it, Harv got this arrested look on his face and voila! Another time and mess saving innovation to the process. So over the years we have streamlined and have become pretty efficient at juice making.

The Juicing process starts with a visit to a farm in Keremeos where we go to get apples. It is owned by a Swiss juice maker who told us we'd have the best juice ever this year using his recommended mix of Jonagold, Cox Orange and Ambrosia apples.
Harv and I always enjoy the day trip to get the apples.

Apples are grown on smaller trees now - not the huge old trees we knew as children.
The apples were dumped into our truck.
It takes about 2 1/2 totes to fill the long box on our pickup.

We we get the apples home we choose a day and get everything set up. The press is pulled out of storage and washed, it's hooked up to an electric source and the hydraulics are put into place, the heat source and juice dispenser set up and the tables arranged. All available jars are gathered up and washed, lids and rings rounded up and everything taken to the shop.

In past years our parents and siblings from both sides helped but with 3 parents gone and our siblings with other obligations it was just our family and one niece this year but Dad came to watch and had the privilege of dropping the first apple into the hopper.

We're in business!

The whole family gets involved -

even the little ones. The grandkids get into the back of the truck and help Aunt Adele fill the wash tub with apples. I don't think I want to know how many apples are eaten in the process.

Adele washes the apples

and then loads them onto the ramp that funnels the apples into the hopper.

Monica guides them a few at a time, into the hopper and watches that it doesn't plug up.

An electric motor spins the chopper which is a drum fitted with many rows of nails. As the apples are channeled into the hopper, the nails chop the apples into small pieces.

The chopped apples fall into an oak barrel. When it is full it is slid forward under the press and a second barrel is placed under the chopper.

Dad and his friend keep an eye on it all over coffee and fresh platz.

Harv was always in charge of pressing the juice until this year when the torch was passed to Rick. He has to control the press carefully so that the juice comes out in a steady flow and to prevent "auspoofs"(a "klassenism" coined to describe the way the apple pulp comes flying out when the apples are pressed too quickly)

As the chopped apples are pressed, the juice flows through the slats into a bucket.

When the bucket is full, the pressed juice is poured through a screen to filter out any pieces of apple and then the bucket of juice is taken to the juice dispenser where it is heated using that handy dandy heat exchanger.

Tim checks the temperature of the juice. It has to be brought to a minimum of 160 degrees and held there for 15 seconds to pasturize the juice before it can be bottled and sealed.
My job is to fill the jars and top them with hot lids and rings.

We use an old coffee dispenser to fill our jars. It consists of two pots which we fill with juice inside a hot water jacket that keeps the juice at the right temperature as we fill the jars.

We used to have to heat the juice in canners on camp stoves. It would take so long for the juice to heat and then sometimes it would boil over making a sticky mess. Then we'd have to dip a pitcher into the hot juice and pour it into jars. The Juice dispenser makes it so much easier!

The finished juice - naturally sweet, no water or sugar added and absolutely delicious!

It was fun having people drop by to watch - Judy and her grandson from
http://judys-front-porch.blogspot.com/2010/10/applicious.html ,
Dad and his friend and Tim and Dulci's friends from Seattle.

The last thing to do is clean up and Grandson N and Grandprincess E were more than willing to man the pressure washer.
A big job done and lots to show for it!
500 quarts of juice to share and enjoy this winter!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A late look at Thanksgiving

It's been a busy week so I didn't get to blogging our Thanksgiving until now but I wanted to share a few photos of our family celebration.

We've been doing a few rennovations at our house and have enclosed the covered patio off our dining room. It's made it possible to change the postion of the dining table so we can seat the family with room to spare when we turn the table and extend it into the new room.
It worked very well.

I'd followed Judy's tutorial on folding the napkins into the "Bishop's Hat". As you can see my family tried them out and found that they could make them do double duty- first as hats and then as napkins. (Check it out at http://judys-front-porch.blogspot.com/2010/09/hat-tricka-napkin-folding-tutorial.html)

It was a lovely afternoon and after the big turkey dinner, everyone went outside to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine.

The children were so excited to rake up the leaves and jump into them.

The looks on their faces as they leapt into the piled leaves was pure joy!

Of course leaf fights are inevitable and so much fun!

So much to be thankful for!
Not only a roof over our heads but a home.
Not only food to eat but a wealth of variety and flavours.
Not only family and friends but love and support on all sides.
Above all for a God who not only provides for us
but who loved us enough to send His Son to save us
and provide the promise of eternal life.