Love-Hate Relationship

So pretty ...
About now many home gardeners in New Zealand are thinking unkind thoughts towards those who were responsible for introducing feijoas to the country. Not that there is anything wrong with feijoas but about this far into the season you cannot pay someone to take them off your hands!


I have a love-hate relationship with the fruit which is also known as pineapple guava in some countries. Yes, it's sweet, and full of Vitamin C, and is easily grown organically, but we have it coming out of our ears!!!

We have stewed it, and dried it, and baked with it and made crumbles with it, and given bags of it away, and eaten it until we've resembled feijoas, and still the trees keep producing.

When we first bought our house in New Zealand I was excited to see not one, but two trees in our backyard. Free fruit: what's not to love?! Little did I know they would become the bane of my existence at this time of the year. Not only are our trees in a corner of the yard, squeezed between the garage and wood shed and the neighbour's fence, but the branches hang down so low, and the leaf mulch is so thick beneath the trees, that you have to do a modified version of squats to even get in to pick up the fruit.

And then we're not talking just a few feijoas, Oh no, we're talking bucket loads. It's not unusual to collect up to four bucket loads at a time ... and then you only have to turn around and you need to repeat the exercise in a day or so.

Which wasn't so bad when there were five sons at home who could be counted on to pick up the feijoas (if not willingly, certainly as punishment for some misdemeanor). Now I'm seriously wondering if it's possible to train Nehli to pick them up for us. After all, she's already shown us how clever she is whenever we hide her toys, and since she is classed as a working dog, perhaps it's time we got her actually working!

But the problem doesn't stop there. Feijoas basically have a short shelf life. They drop off the tree when they are ripe which is when you collect them. Then you have a few days to eat them or do whatever with them and then it's out to the compost. And do you know how many feijoas it takes to fill a large pan for stewing? Lots. Lots. Back-breaking, finger-splitting, lots.

Feijoas aside, I am enjoying our homemade ginger beer which I wrote about here. And I'm not the only one. The Most Adorable Granddaughter#4 told me, "I very like this" when she tried it for the first time. Somehow that seems to be even better than "I really like this" or "I like this very much".

The only problem is that I didn't think we'd need to be making 8-10 litres every week and so put the bug in the 'fridge rather than feeding it daily (in the 'fridge it only needs to be fed weekly). I've since learned the error of my ways!

Last week I activated the bug again and made 10 litres on the weekend. These will take about two weeks to be ready, so I'll feed the bug for another week, make as many litres as I have bottles for (probably only five litres unless Son#4 can bring some empty bottles home from Youth Group where I'm sure the teens consume copious amounts of the fizzy stuff) and then pop the bug back in the 'fridge until our supply runs low again.

I've used this recipe but have changed it slightly. I'm pretty sure that the result is not alcoholic at all - from taste and from further reading and from learning that wild yeasts do not produce the level of alcohol that commercial yeasts do.

My changes include: using fresh ginger in place of ground ginger and doubling the amount when using fresh. Some times I get lazy (only some times?) and use ground ginger so I've used a mix in my bug. Fresh does give that lovely after taste of ginger after each mouthful though so I would recommend trying to use at least some fresh ginger in the recipe. I've avoided the minced ginger from the supermarket since I don't know what else is in the jar (preservatives maybe?).

I usually halve the amount of lemon juice (in the bug and in making the ginger beer) because I rarely have enough on hand.

I use de-chlorinated water (let it sit overnight or boil the water and allow to cool if you don't have a filter that removes chlorine) for the bug and for the beverage. When I know I'm going to be making ginger beer, the day/night before I half fill all the bottles that I'll need with tap water and let them sit.

I use raw sugar and haven't had any problems with this. Apparently white sugar is recommended and other sugar such as coconut sugar is not successful. When making the ginger beer I use only three cups of sugar, not four. This might be why mine is not over-the-top fizzy but I like it that way so I don't think I'll be changing it in future.

I've used weak tea in some of my bottles instead of plain water and it does give complexity to the taste. I think it was an earl grey green tea that was in the bottle that The Most Adorable Granddaughter#4 "very liked".

I add a raisin or sultana or two to each bottle. The idea is that when the ginger beer is ready, they will float to the top but I don't think this works with mine. My raisins seem to float the next day. A better indicator that the ginger beer is ready is that the bottles became hard.

I do not use metal utensils when stirring the bug. I don't know if this is critical but it's something I remember from when I used to make sourdough. I also don't cover the bug tightly with a lid but just loosely with calico or a mesh lid.

When I don't need to make any more ginger beer for a while I store the bug in the 'fridge and feed it weekly with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons fresh ginger (or half that amount for ground ginger). Allow to return to room temperature for at least 24 hours and if not using immediately, feed as per recipe. I like to get it out of the 'fridge at least 48 hours before needing it so that it gets given a boost with feeding.

By the way, that dried up bug that remains at the end of ginger beer making may revive memories of flushing dirty nappies (diapers) but believe me, it's more aromatic! Halve, add water, sugar and ginger, as per the recipe and it once again becomes a bug capable of producing up to 10 litres of yummy ginger beer. 


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