Here’s a simple vodka-based infusion concerning our dear old pal, the pear. It’s a spicy concoction that only takes a few days to mature, so get on it now and you could be enjoying a nice glass or two on Christmas day whilst slumped on the sofa, counting down the seconds until your relatives clear off.
You will need:
750ml vodka 2 pears*, sliced (core them if you can be bothered) I cinnamon stick 3 or 4 Star anise
Pour the vodka into a large kilner jar or similar vessel. It doesn’t have to be the highest quality vodka – any brand will do.
Add the chopped up pears, seal the lid and give it a good shake.
Leave the jar in a cool, dark place for about 5 days, giving it a gentle shake every day.
On the fifth day, add a stick of cinnamon and star anise to the mix and leave for a further two days.
Fish your empty vodka bottle out of the recycling bin and strain the infusion through a muslin cloth, back into said bottle.
We like supping this pear and vodka infusion with a nice glass of tonic water. Add 2 shots per 150ml of tonic water. Drop in a couple of ice cubes if you like.
*Any pear variety will do, but we used Conference pears. Don’t have any Conference pears to hand? Then you’d better enter our GREAT Facebook competition in collaboration with our pals at https://tree2mydoor.com
A few weeks ago we were introduced to an Irish company called HexaFly. As the name implies, they deal in flies and, in particular, the black soldier fly. They thought we might be interested in one their products, HexaFrass, an organic fertiliser produced by their flies’ larvae.
We have a bag and will soon be putting it to use on the garden, but first we wanted to find out more about the product and process behind making it. So we sent over a few question’s to HexaFly’s CSO Laura Healy for some fast frass facts…
What is a Black Soldier Fly? The Black Soldier Fly, or Hermetia illucens, is a tropical insect known for its bioconversion abilities during its larval phase. These larvae can convert any organic material and have powerful enzymes and antimicrobial activity to help them excel in such conditions. They will happily digest waste material into frass fertiliser and work alongside colonies of bacteria and other microbes. They do not get sick, the relationship is symbiotic between the microbes and the larvae, and they do not host diseases. This makes them a much desired species to work with for bioconversion.
How many flies do you farm? At any one time, we house millions upon millions individual Black Soldier Fly at different stages of their life cycle (eggs, hatchlings, larvae, pupae and adult flies).
How do you go about breeding and looking after these flies? We have developed technology to successfully breed, grow and look after these tropical insects right here in Ireland.We carefully cater for their nutritional needs, environmental conditions and social behaviour. The Black Soldier Fly are very social amongst their colonies so it is important we ensure they can easily interact with each other and, in turn, promote natural breeding and feeding habits.
One of the products you sell from these flies is the fertiliser ‘frass’. What is frass? Frass is essentially the poop of any insect, in this case the Black Soldier Fly Larvae. As they feed they produce a fine waste material called Frass. It is an excellent, powerful natural fertiliser. Our HexaFrass is certified-organic.
What are the benefits of using frass on the garden? Studies have shown its ability to deter pests such as aphids and so is a brilliant natural way to fend off unwanted pests! It also contains chitin which is a biopolymer known for eliciting an immune response and promoting growth of healthy soil microbes. It has an NPK* of 3-1-1.
What other products do you sell from Black Soldier Fly farming? We have a range of products for multiple industries such as the pet food industry, plant nutrition industry, poultry, hen and animal feed industry, feed ingredients, human care and cosmetic and oleochemical industries.
Our HexaMeal is a protein-rich meal made from the Black Soldier Fly Larvae. It is a replacement for unsustainable fish meal and soy-based meals. It is also sought after to make pet food like healthy dog treats.
Our grubs are a fantastic feed for hens and chickens, with research showing a better tasting egg arising from hens fed Black Soldier Fly Larvae! It makes a lot of sense – insects are naturally part of free-roaming hens and other poultry so these results aren’t all that surprising. Studies have also shown grubs to be a valuable environment-enricher for hens and poultry.
Are you looking at farming other insects in future? Right now we have so many avenues to explore with the Black Soldier Fly. However, as the insect revolution progresses and we get more used to the idea of not only feeding insects to our animals but as a food for humans too, who knows what other opportunities will arise in this upcoming sector.
Can humans eat Black Soldier Flies? If so, what do they taste like and what drink would you recommend pairing with them? Yes, some companies are producing products for humans with Black Soldier Flies. We heard they are delicious when roasted, not far off bacon – so in that case we would suggest a crisp apple cider to go with a plate of oven-roasted Black Soldier Fly Larvae!
For more information on HexaFrass, visit the HexaFly website at www.hexafly.co
Stuck for a gift to give this Christmas? Then allow us to be of assistance. For the past 12 months we’ve been squirrelling away some of our favourite booze and gardening gifts and now we’re ready to reveal our top picks. This year there are so many tempting treats that we’ve divided them into categories, which we’ll steadily publish in the run up to the big day. Gardening gifts, gins and whiskies to follow, but first up we have books.
Take a peak at this lot then come back for more additions later. (And note that prices are RRP at time of publication… some of them are likely to be much cheaper when you click on the ‘buy’ link)
30-Second Beer by Sophie Atherton
Beer writer and sommelier Sophie Atherton is one of the nicest people in the business and, with this book, you’re able to tap into her vast beer knowledge (and that of several other industry experts) by the flick of a page. The book’s not-so-snappy-subtitle explains the concept neatly: “The 50 essential elements of producing and enjoying the world’s beer, each explained in half a minute.” Except that by the time you’ve taken into account the various glossaries, side bars and facts, you end up with way more than 50 elements, all covering a lifetime’s worth of knowledge. With subjects ranging from hops and yeast to beer storage, beer festivals and monastic breweries, this is the perfect book to dip into between pints.
Our good pal Dave Hamilton is a foraging expert, often helping us out with some wild food knowledge. He’s one of the people we trust most to get things right in terms of identification, edibility and usefulness, which is vital if you’re teaching kids how to pick wild ingredients. So this book is the perfect accessory for anyone keen to get their nippers to nip out into the wilds and snip a tip of two of leafy treats. Besides being loaded with identification advice, the book is also packed with fun recipes for the family to make, from sumac lemonade to nutty chocolate spreads. Grab yourself a copy and let the kids go wild.
Every garden is a work of art – a collaborative effort between gardener and nature. So it’s hardly surprising that a huge number of the world’s most celebrated artists have used gardens as their muses. Jackie Bennet’s book acts as an ‘open garden’ to many of these artists homes, featuring the work of Monet, Cézanne, Kahlo, Dali and more. Through reproductions of paintings, photographs and Jackie’s in-depth knowledge of the artists she describes what it was about these settings that drew such artistic inspiration, bringing each unique outdoor space to life.
The Beer Lover’s Table by Claire Bullen and Jen Ferguson
Jen Ferguson is co-founder of bottle shop Hop Burns & Black, and is one of the people we turn to when researching new beer – not many folk have their fingers so expertly positioned on the pulse of beer than Jen. For this book she has teamed up with cook and beer writer, Claire Bullen, and the pair have set about conjuring 65 fantastic food recipes and recommending craft beers to go with them. Packed with invaluable booze knowledge and easy to cook meals, this is more than simply beer plus food menu suggestions, offering plenty to read even when you’re not cooking in the kitchen.
You’ll need a sizeable stocking to carry this weighty tome, but we’d heartily recommend asking Santa for ‘Sour’. Written by River Cottage escapee Mark Diacono, it features recipes based on the concept of sour which, as Mark puts it, is the magical element that will transform your cooking. Sourdough, yoghurt, kefir and pickles – this book has the lot. Nick can personally vouch for his princely Persian Fish Stew, whilst there are not many dishes in the Hood household that have escaped a dusting from Diacano’s mighty chaat. Go get.