“They didn’t go fast, but they did go far. They made it to the lake in their rattletrap car” – Rattletrap Car by Phillis Root.
While judiciously keeping watch for sunken bodies among the hoards of bare chested children launching themselves into the cooling, New Years Eve wash of a friends backyard pool, a past memory resurfaces…
Growing up in an agrarian town meant two things in summer: an influx of seasonal, party-going workers; and lots heat-wave dumpers down by the river. To escape the cacophanic weekend crowds encamped about the two rival pubs, it was commonplace for many of the townies to hitch up the camper trailers or caravans and head bush for a touch of escapist tranquility.
Leigh and I were summertime soul mates. From the time we could successfully lob one of the bouncy, fluorescent orbs over the net, we were an inseparable mixed doubles tennis duo by racquet and high-flying dreamers by temperament. Treating ourselves to a victorious Sunnyboy ice-block, we would often while away our post-match debrief by regaling each other with fantastical stories of future heroism. Whilst varied in content, the closing paragraphs of each tale would often see us diplomatically sharing a Nobel Peace Prize for saving the world from apocalyptic collisions with radioactive space junk catapulted toward earth by fugitive aliens. Me the astronaut. Leigh the flight director earthed at Mission Control.
Being invited to a new years eve junket by the river was always a greatly anticipated event. In addition to waiving our normal 8 pm curfew, the night also proved to be a great chance to inoculate Leigh and the other townies with some of the wilder things in life. Namely the concept of large bodies of moving water and overhanging “natural” eucalyptus bombing boards. By this stage in our friendship career, Leigh was well versed in my fearless tactics of adrenaline highs, so it seemed only natural to demonstrate the ease of tree limb bombing by sending in the youngest expert: enter branch left, Jimmy, my junior brother by 5 years. By Jimmy’s third impressively cajoling jump, Leigh was ready to make his splashing debut. After a cautious couple of hanging-drops, the airborne addiction set. Our formidable tennis partnership was transferred to ingenious synchronised plunging strategies involving mid-jump hand claps, airborne jives and the patented apocalyptic space-jump crater bomb which continued unabated until the sun lowered over the horizon.
Collapsing into an exhausted, sunkissed heap, Leigh and I dug our arboreal feet into the cooling sands of the riverside beach. Shoulder to shoulder, we sat in silence, mesmerised by the swirling eucalypt leaves caught in the calm of an eddy formed by the passing current catching the edge of a fallen branch. Sipping our celebratory cherry cola and devouring the remaining Strawberry Dreams, we watched as the last of the evening light illuminated the glistening surface of a solitary leaf, ripped from the calm of the swirling pool and into the inexorable flow of the mighty Murray.
In memory of my last New Years eve by the river (and in salute to K2’s current, picture book favourite – The Rattletrap Car)…two bites of the nostalgic cherry: Razzleberry Dazzleberry Snazzleberry Fizz and Chocolate Cherry Fudge Delight. Cherryish!
Razzleberry Dazzleberry Snazzleberry Fizz (makes 2 L of fizz)
2 kg cherries
½ c water
½ c sugar
½ c whey (obtained from straining 1 ½ c pot set yoghurt)
2 L spring top jar
Stem the cherries (pit them now if you prefer) then throw them into a large, heavy based pot with the water. On a low heat, bring the fruit to the boil and simmer for 30 – 45 mins or until the fruit is soft. Meanwhile sterilise the spring top jar (omit the rubber seal).
Place the cheese cloth loosely over the opening of the spring top jar. In small batches (¼ of the mix at a time), spoon the cherries into the cheese cloth and leave to drain for 10 min. Remove the cherry pulp from the cheese cloth. Remove any pits then use the pulp for the Chocolate Cherry Fudge delight or freeze.
Add the sugar to the cherry juice in the jar and stir to dissolve. Leaving enough room for the whey, top up the jar until ¼ inch from the top. Add the whey. Ensuring you gently release the gas every day or so, leave to ferment for 4 – 7 days (or until, when tested with pH paper, pH is 4 or less). Re-bottle into sterilised jars (I use old passata jars) and leave to ferment for an extra day or so at room temperature (this helps to develop the fizz). Refrigerate till cold.
Crack open at your next New Years Eve bash or summer BBQ for some fizzy-fun times.
Chocolate Cherry Fudge Delight (makes an 18 cm square cake tin worth of redolent decadence)
125 g butter
¼ c milk
½ c water
90 g dark chocolate
½ c white sugar
½ c coconut sugar
1 c wheat flour
½ c coconut or banana flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbs cocoa powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 c cooked cherry pulp, cold
Icing sugar to decorate
Place the butter, milk, water, chocolate and sugars into a small, heavy based pot. Heat on low until all ingredients are melted and smooth when mixed with a whisk or wooden spoon. Leave to cool for 20 minutes.
Sift the dry ingredients over the chocolate mix. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the egg. Pour approximately half of the mixture into a lined (with baking paper), 18 cm square cake tin. Gently spread the cherry pulp over the batter. Pour the remaining half of the batter over the top of the cherry pulp, ensuring an even covering. Bake at 160oC for 1 – 1 ¼ hours or until cooked through. Cool. Refrigerate till cold. Dust with icing sugar and cut into 2 cm squares.
Serve to your ravenous, fudge-delightful friends on New Years Eve…or any other time of the year if you happened to have frozen the excess pulp.