Oh, for an orchard now September’s here

19 Sep

On Sunday I returned to Spadina House, the lovely historic Austin home in Toronto, for their City Cider day, which I learnt about during my first visit when I asked ‘What do you do with all the apples from your orchard?’  With fall sunshine sparkling through the still green leaves of the apple trees and turning the kitchen garden into a riot of russets and mustard hues the day was perfect for ambling round the grounds and learning more about the process of making cider.

Spadina House had teamed up with the Not Far from the Tree, a charity which aims to make good use of surplus fruit in Toronto.  At Spadina the NFFTT challenge was to make use of the 20 or so bushels of apples which had grown on the Spadina trees.  In fact, with all the windfalls that I kept trudging over I’m sure it could be a lot more.  Now, I’ve always had difficulty getting my head around how large a bushel actually was, every time I’d read about in books or heard a character mention it in some old time movie.  So it was really helpful to see so many actual bushels of apples, giving me a mental (and digital since I took a i-phone photo) image of how much we were talking about.

I think that this photo shows at least 5 bushels

So how do you make cider?  Well it has to be said that this was non alcoholic cider, obviously without any need for fermentation a lot quicker so with the advantage that visitors could watch the process from start to finish.  First the apples were washed and then quartered but not destalked or cored, before being sent through the grinding, chopping them up into lots of rough cut pieces.  This part of the process was repeated again, with the fruit falling into a big plastic tub which was then carried over to the cider presses.  With a big hand-turned screw these forced the apple mash down, squeezing out the juice which was gathered in a tub beneath.  I enquired what happened to the pulp after the pressing process?  Well it just goes to food waste, apparently too acidic to be used as compost.  And, said a lady next to me, apple pips have arsenic in them.  Having looked it up on the internet later it turns out that it’s a cynanide compound rather than arsenic in the pips and you need to consume the pips of about 100 bushels of apples before you run any real danger of death by apple pip consumption but still, maybe I’ll hold off investigating the undiscovered potential of apple pips as cake decoration.

grinding

pressing

the apple mulch

selling

drinking

And so to tasting…. for a very reasonable two dollars you got a little glass cupful of the freshly pressed cider.  I  had thought that they cider was heated, because they said that’s the way it would traditionally have been served but mine felt pretty much air temperature when I drank it.  The taste was great though, I’m not usually a fan of apple juice, but this wasn’t too sweet and had a rich honey colour.

There were a couple of food trucks discreetly placed to the side, so that you could purchase a little something with which to accompany your cider.  Despite having just had lunch I sidled up to have a discreet look and perhaps unsurprisingly I was tempted to try a chocolate cup cake and from the Pretty Sweet mobile bakery van, painted in fresh ice cream colours.  The cup cake was rich and moist, topped off by swirl of vanilla icing and a shake of sugar sprinkles.

I sat down on the orchard grass to savour my cider and cupcake, whilst enjoying watching the activities scattered through the trees.  There was plenty on offer to keep children amused from baby yoga to a costume tree (a lovely idea which had echoes of the folk tradition of shoe trees in South Bucks and the beautiful Tim Walker photo of clothes lanterns, though it was a pity none of the clothes were child size)  and two different music stages with a mixture of music from country to mystic.  Meanwhile on the east lawn competitive children could enjoy a good, old-fashioned sack race (my greatest sporting achievement was joint third in the sack race when I was six, a position epic enough to be marked at the time by framing the certificate but not to encourage me to try and better my result thirty years on).  The south lawn was reserved for the stately sport of croquet and offered potential croquet stars the chance to try their hand with the Lawrence Park Lawn croquet and bowling club.  Finally, running short of time I missed the chance to go into the house where they were doing demonstrations of apple butter making using the wonderful Miss Canada cooker I blogged about before.

baby yoga in action

taking me back to my days of sporting glory

So a pretty much a perfect September afternoon historic house event, and now I know first hand what happens to all Spandina’s apples.   I’m hoping that they repeat the event next year.

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