A View of Cedar Pocket
It’s official! It’s for real! It’s taken a while, but finally it’s all become real to me! The signs are there for all to see and feel!
Winter is here!
A hint – neighbourhood log fires; my neighbours' wood-burning fires may not keep me warm in the evenings, but the comforting smoky smell floating through the air does. Oh! the aroma of a log fire warms the cockles of my heart!
Secondly, my large mug filled with hot Milo made on milk is another clue. Milo is a staple in my life during winter. It has been since I was young.
During my pre-teen years and into my early teen years I had a friend who lived on a dairy farm at Cedar Pocket. The Pocket is only 17kms from Gympie, a distance that seemed like miles and miles way back then! Often I was invited to spend a weekend out on the farm with my friend and her family. She had two younger siblings. Rugged up against the cold frosty winter mornings we three kids would race down to the milking sheds to watch the early morning milking.
Like thick swirling clouds the heat from our breath filled the chilled air as we chatted and laughed on our way to the cow bales.
Not having our fill in the mornings, we’d repeat it all again in the afternoons when the cows would meander back the sheds for their second daily milking.
I wasn’t much help in the milking department. The only time I succeeded in extracting milk, about two tablespoons at the most, from an unrelenting teat of a bored cow I knocked the bucket over, spilling the contents.
It was there and then on that particular morning I decided I would not marry a dairy farmer when I grew up. That’s not to say there weren’t many likely lads to choose from; there were; particularly the Scott brothers! They set many a young heart a-fluttering!
Saturday nights at Cedar Pocket came alive.
The local country hall lights shone brightly. Like moths to a flame eager crowds descended upon the old wood-clad hall. Its walls trembled as the dancers fox-trotted, quick-stepped and waltzed. The progressive Barn Dance enabled people to mingle and chat with familiar, and unfamiliar partners. Some young ladies ducked for cover when the lights went out for a romantic Jazz Waltz if their favoured partner didn't tap them on the shoulder. In pairs or groups the girls headed off to the toilets until the lights came back on again! Many a sigh was let out because they were spared from not having to dance in the dark with a boy they didn't particularly like; envious of their friends who were lucky enough to have been in the arms of a favoured one.
At the far end of the hall a dance band, preparing for the evening ahead, tuned its instruments.
The farmers’ wives, probably members of the Country Women’s Association spent the daylight hours sandwich-making as well as baking feather-light sponges to be filled with homemade strawberry jam and rich cream. Incomparable golden scones were added to the feast that awaited the hungry merrymakers later on in the evening. Long trestles covered with white cloths in readiness for suppertime were set up in a long room down the left-hand side of the hall. Water-filled urns stood by. Large enamel jugs and teapots would divvy out their contents of steaming coffee or tea.
In the week preceding the Saturday night dance, the dance floor was waxed to perfection. Even so, the waxing didn’t deter the speed freaks from tossing pops across the floor to further aid and abet the excitement; particularly that of the youngsters! Unofficial competitions were held between the kids to see who could make it from one end of the dance floor to the other in the fastest time. God forbid if any adult got wiped out in the process! It’d be their fault for not getting out of the way of the faster-than-the-speed-of-light kids! Sliding across the floor at speed was fa better than any ride at the Gympie Show!
During dance breaks the kids did the Hokey-Pokey. A Congo Line was also a must for the evening; and dance was not dance without one! Sometimes the leaders of the line would become carried away and everyone would be lead outside of the hall into the country night. Gales of laughter filled the air. Caught off guard, some mischievous young lads (some of whom were no doubt under the then legal drinking age of 21 years) would quickly hide their rum or beer bottles out of view!
My happy memories of those times were awakened for real the first moment I tasted the new deliciously creamy milk from our local Scenic Rim dairy farmer and his cows now sitting upon our supermarket shelves; the milk, not the farmer and his cows! It’s a taste of olden days (I sound like my late Nana – but that’s not such a bad thing!)
I’m milking it…and that’s 4Real!
Corn Soup: Sauté 1 diced onions, 4 mins; add 1 diced fennel bulb, 1 diced carrot and 6 shucked corn cobs or 5-6c frozen kernels; cook 5-7mins. Add 1/2c diced ham and some thyme; cook 2-3mins. Lower heat; add 6c milk; simmer 20mins. Thicken with a few pulses of hand blender; season.
Creamy Chicken Soup: Melt 1tbs butter in large pot; brown 450g boneless skinned chicken in batches; add more butter if necessary; transfer to bowl. Reduce heat to medium; add 1tbs butter to pot; add 2 diced carrots, 1 diced onion, 1 diced celery stalk, 1tsp each dried thyme and sage; stir for 5mins; stir in 2/3rd cup par-boiled white long grain rice. Add 3c chicken stock and 2tbs tomato paste; scraping down bits stuck to pot. Cover; boil over high heat; reduce heat to med-low; boil gently 15min until rice almost tender; add chicken and any juices; cook uncovered, about 5mins. Whisk a little flour into a little milk; gradually whisk into soup; cook, stirring until soup thickens slightly; season to taste.
Savoury Cheese Melt: Melt 2tbs butter in saucepan over med-heat; add 2tbs plain flour, 1tsp Dijon mustard, 1tsp paprika and 1tsp pepper. Slowly add 1-1/2c milk; stir until thick and smooth. Add 1c grated cheddar and 1/2tsp salt; stir until melted; add 1 beaten egg; stir until smooth; serve over toast.
Old-Fashioned Baked Custard Pudding: Whisk together 4 eggs and 1/2c caster sugar until just combined. Heat 300ml milk, 300ml pure cream and 1tsp vanilla over med-heat until just below boiling; remove from heat; pour over eggs; beat until just combined; strain mixture into 1 litre baking dish; sprinkle surface with grated nutmeg. Place dish into roasting pan; fill with enough boiling water to come halfway up sides; bake in preheated 150C oven, 45mins until just set. Serve warm with poached seasonal fruits.
Semolini & Citrus Cake:Finely grate the zest from one un-waxed orange; set aside. Squeeze the juice from the orange. Pour 500ml full cream milk into a pan; bring just to a boil. Take off the heat then pour over 120g fine semolina in a heat-proof bowl, stirring constantly until smooth. Scrape the mixture back into the pan and put back on the heat; cook gently, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Take off the heat and stir in 120g sugar, orange zest and orange juice along with a pinch of salt. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly to combine. Add a little honey to taste. Turn the resultant batter into a 20cm diameter spring-form cake tin lined with baking paper. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180°C; bake for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the cake is cooked through. Remove from the oven; set aside to cool completely before turning out of the tin. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours before serving. To serve, slice into wedges, drizzle over a little honey before serving.