Strange brew in the kitchen

I AM a great fan of tepache, that mildly alcoholic Mexican drink made from pineapple skins, water, sugar and any spices you care to add.

You don’t know it? Well wash a pineapple, trim off the peel and pop it in a large clean jar.

Add a tablespoon of sugar, brown is best but white will do (or honey), a sweet spice or two if you like, any pineapple juices, fill up with tepid water, give it a shake and cover loosely to keep the flies off (still some about), put somewhere warm and forget it for a few days. You can have the pineapple slices for tea.

Airborne yeasts and those on the pineapple will work their magic. You might find some scum on the top but scoop it off, strain and drink. I tend to leave it longer than a couple of days for a stronger brew. It keeps working in the fridge.

Sometimes I’ve had a little tepache left over in the fridge and I have added fresh apple juice to it. The mixture fizzes like mad after a couple of days.

This time, when I cut up my pineapple for tea I added some leftover homemade cider to the brew, the bit at the bottom of the bottle with the yeasty dregs in. Then a handful of crushed cranberries not used in the cranberry sauce at Christmas. A spoonful of sugar, some boiled water and that’s it.

Basically you can use any fruit for this mildly alcoholic beverage but pineapple does seem to be a good base.

I kept the fruit submerged with a large jar lid covered in clingfilm and tied down the muslin after taking the picture.

I like the idea of all this. There’s absolutely no waste as you get an almost free drink, your compost heap gets a feed and you might even finish up with a free plant.

Peel the lower leaves off the pineapple crown to reveal a lot of little nodules and stick it in a pot of plant compost or a jar of water to develop a root system.

It doesn’t work every time but you might strike lucky.

Let’s drink to that.

Apples are the only fruit

IT’S BEEN a good year for apples with me. I may only have had four on the scrawny little half-starved tree in a tub but I’ve made litres of apple juice, cider, cider vinegar, and bottled brown sauce and chutneys while finding time to make the occasional apple pie.

They were not my apples but those from half a dozen trees in my neighbours’ gardens, pickedbeither directly from the tree, as windfalls or scooped from buckets left out on the pavement for all to take.

And I’m writing this now with the aid of a glass of ice cold still cider straight from the cellar.

It’s been fun: every week or so a new bucketful of Bramleys and varieties no one is quite sure of piled up on the table in my back yard.

I wouldn’t have done any juicing or cider making without the help of a juicer in full working order given to me by a neighbour. She had failed to sell it in the street’s yard sale so simply left it on her wall. It made a big change from grating the apples and squeezing the juice through muslin!

The fruit, of course, plays a vital role in my favourite recipes but this year I have been apple juice mad.

I filled up bottles and put them in the fridge for my breakfast drink. It didn’t take long for them to start to ferment so I thought: Cider! I filled several one gallon demijohns, fitted with airlocks, and waited for the magic to start.

I didn’t use a yeast, just let them work naturally, and didn’t add any sugar, which is why the resultant cider is not that strong. It’s more or less scrumpy ( I was used to deadly versions of this brew while working in Devon ) and not particularly fierce but that’s fine.

Of course, none of the apples I used were cider apples but next year I will add lots of crab apples as well.

All that cider ( there are a couple more gallons still in demijohns waiting to be bottled) meant I could play around with the surplus, turning some into vinegar with the help of Willy’s live organic cider vinegar which contains the ‘mother’ which converts it into vinegar.

It’s been fun. And thanks for the apples to Tom, Brian and Wendy and Roy and Jean, and especially to Sian for the juicer. Roll on autumn 2021.

Apples in my backyard waiting to be juiced