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pumpkins

Well, it’s that time of year, and this year, it’s also Bat Week!  In honor of said, I carved my pumpkin as a bat in flight, which I think you can sort of make out here, below the very toothy one, and a few steps above the Ebola virus.  Alas, as I carved it nearly a week before Halloween, I suspect it will be mush by Friday.  We’ll see!

Anyway, in addition to party attendance, I also got other stuff done this weekend, including more racking:

apple_peach_racked rereacked.

The big carboys were kind of a pain, and they take forever, but they’re all nicely racked now.  Mostly I wanted to get them off all that sediment, but everything tastes pretty good.  The melomel is a little funky, so I wonder if I’m just not that crazy about mead in general.  Both kinds need more time, though, so maybe they’ll become delicious as they age.  The red currant is still quite sharp, but I suspect that will mellow over time.  It’s lovely, though!  And probably nearly ready to bottle: redcurrant2  (I was trying not to get my own reflection here, but I see I failed to wipe the growler down, so you can see all kinds of funny spots, which makes the kitchen floor look filthy.  I’m not exactly Martha Stewart, but I’m not THAT bad!)  So I racked those three, the Concord, and the gallon of apple, plus the cider.  Renee brought some cider to the pumpkin-carving party, so it was interesting to note the differences.  Mine, being older, is much less apple-y and bright, but I think it will wind up being quite nice.  She didn’t sparkle hers, and I’m still on the fence about mine.

I also finally gave in and added some bentonite to my dandelion: Dandelion_bentonite.  It seems to be doing the trick, though I may need to add a little more.  I really did try to let it clear naturally, but maybe because it was my first and I was clumsy with the dandelions (picking off the individual petals, and probably bruising them, instead of just adding whole flower heads), it was just not clearing.  I also bought some Sparkaloid, probably mostly for the name, but also in case the bentonite doesn’t do the trick.  I mixed up what it said on the package directions, and then just poured in what fit.  The wine went all fizzy and active again, but this morning, it looked pretty clear.  I think I’ll rack it soon, and add more of the bentonite mix if it needs it.  Otherwise, it really should be ready for bottling– I made it in spring!  The cleared stuff is quite a nice color, so I’ll bottle in clear glass to show it off– maybe as soon as this weekend!

2014 list

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Wow, here’s what I’ve made this year!

  • Apple: made in September
  • Blueberry-pomegranate: Made in June; bottled 10/19/’14
  • Cherry: Made in July
  • Cider: made in September
  • Concord grape: made in September
  • Crabapple: made in August
  • Dandelion: made in April
  • Mead: made in June
  • Peach: made in August
  • Peach melomel: made in August
  • Red currant: Made in July
  • Rhubarb: Made in May; bottled 8/16/’14

Blueberry bottled

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Another busy weekend, with more wine action! Or bottling action, at least.  In addition to pulling up the tomatoes, planting garlic, getting a flu shot, making a big pot of chili, going to an excellent tasting at City Wine, seeing Rob Mies and his live bats at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, taking Rose for a haircut, and hitting the farmers’ market, I also bottled the blueberry wine.  I was actually in kind of a rush when I did it, and a little distracted, so the process wound up being quite messy, with lots of floor wine and be-speckled cabinets.  Lily was quite excited about that, but I didn’t let her clean up, because the last thing I needed was a drunk dog/trip to the emergency vet.  Anyway, because of that and loss from rackings, I had a little less than 5 full bottles, but fortunately I had saved an old half-sized store-bought (cherry) country wine bottle.  There was still a little wine left, so I swigged that, and it was pretty dang good.  I may have to repeat this one, even though it wasn’t with free fruit.

bottled blueberry

 

I like this picture because you can see the color of the wine, but I’m not sure what the heck is going on with the aspect ratio.  And you can only see three of the five bottles!  I guess that’s what I get for being primarily a phone photographer.

This one will be Electric Blueberry, probably my last Bowie-themed wine name, or at least the last one I can think of at the moment.

 electric blueberry

The other wines I racked last week have cast a bit of sediment, so not quite ready yet.  The crab apple is close, though.  And I may have to give up and get some bentonite for the dandelion, as it persists in its cloudiness, even after the racking.  The others I’ll give another couple of weeks and then re-rack– but I suspect this means I’ll need more half-sized bottles.  I may even have to buy some.  Rats.

Since I’d pulled up all those tomatoes, I also wanted to find something to do with all those green guys, so after some research, I found a recipe for green tomato-apple chutney.  (After all those buckets of free apples, I bought more at the farmers’ market!)  The recipe says it makes 7 pints, but I wound up with 8 pints, a full quart jar and half another pint (which I didn’t process– those are in the fridge):

chutney.  We tried some with cheese, and it’s quite nice but not at all spicy.  It has chili powder in it, and I picked a hot kind, but apparently it wasn’t quite hot enough.  Or maybe there just wasn’t enough to come through.  Anyway, it’s still quite nice, and will be good with curries and cheeses throughout the year.  I’ll serve some this week, when I host the women.  And I’ll give a couple away– a person doesn’t actually need 10 pints of chutney in a year.

Racking weekend

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I actually spent most of this weekend having fun: Little Fyodor with Kim (they were the main attraction, so late) Friday night, and then Boulder open art studios Saturday with Kim and Renee.  That was fun, as always.  We got lots of stuff at the farmers’ market, including enough free samples to count as lunch.  The art was great.  I bought a new Caroline Douglas necklace– a tiny star with a dog face on it– and a little ceramic bird named Glee.  We also saw some goats, who were very friendly.  Em_goats  I always find this strangely fascinating, as the goat my hippie private school kept (who might have been named Pipi Longstocking, but that might have been the dog) was terrifyingly mean.  We had to take turns with assorted tasks, being good little hippie children, and she was the most dreaded task of all.  Anyway, so these guys were definitely not like that.

Meaning, of course, that I didn’t do much else, wine-wise.  But stuff definitely needed to be racked, so I did manage that.  racked wines1  rackedwines2

That’s dandelion, crab apple, cherry, red currant, blueberry, and mead.  The red currant, cherry, and blueberry all seem pretty close to bottling-ready, so I’ll see if they throw more sediment this week.  I also tasted everything, and mostly it’s all very nice. The dandelion is sweet, which was a little surprising.  The mead has a funny sort of musty taste that might come from being left on its lees too long, but I’m not sure.  We had the blueberry and dandelion dregs as spritzers, which was quite nice.

I didn’t wind up buying a new growler, so I racked by siphoning everything into a bucket, rinsing the bottles out, and then putting the wine back into the original carboy.  I thought, briefly, that it would be easier to pour the wine back in using a funnel, but that was slower and more tedious (not to mention labor-intensive) than the siphon.

Here’s hoping I can bottle some stuff this coming weekend!

Another busy weekend

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I didn’t actually get to the racking I intended to do this weekend.  Instead, I spent most of the time pressing, canning and drying:

salsa_and_tomatoes2014 apple_leather

That’s tomatoes, pickled peppers, and salsa, with tomatoes and at least half the jalapenos are from my garden.  To the left is an unlovely, un-baked batch of apple leather.  (It baked on low overnight, and is still unlovely but all nicely dried out now.)  The other half of the jalapenos are the ones from Sarah and Tom, so they’ll get a jar of Sriracha, when I get to it.

I did finish processing the apples, though, this time using knee pads because I am just that sexy.  I’m getting better and more efficient at using the press, too, though it does still occasionally slide around alarmingly.  I am in the market for a nice free board to mount the thing on, but haven’t found one yet.  I think things will be a lot simpler when I can simply stand on the board as I press.  I got 4 quarts of juice, which I canned up, since I was in that sort of head-space (canning pun!), apparently.  The recipe called for cooking the apples with water, but I didn’t do that. apple_juice   So this is pure juice, in case I opt for another batch of cider, and also since I didn’t want it diluted.  My recipes call for juice, after all, and I want to be able to control that.

There was much woe and heartbreak on the part of the dogs, who were barred from the kitchen by the cruel, cruel baby gate.  Rose even let out a few squeaky little barks to supplement her pitiful wines.  I wrote a dog-tragedy for them in my head as I worked.  (“The female human is in the kitchen with apples and WE ARE NOT!  Also, it’s kind of vaguely close to dinnertime. *cue sad music* The end.  By Lily and Rose.”)

I did the same as last time: quartered the apples, shredded them in batches, and zapped each shredded batch in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Then I gave it all a good press, and, since Kim and Beckie had such a good suggestion, I whizzed the pressed apple bits in the food processor to make fruit leather.  I made a batch of cinnamon and a batch with added blueberry overnight.  Tonight I’ll do a batch with added raspberry and my experimental batch, with a dash of Silas’ special curry from Pepper and Salt in Denmark, Western Australia.  The apple juice is enough for 2 more batches of wine or one of cider.  I think I’ll opt for wine, since there’s an apple-spice recipe I’ve been eyeing.

And even though I didn’t get to the racking (or finish the final batch of Sriracha– it’s in the fridge, ready for cooking and canning), I did move the apple wine and cider into their carboys.  The wine made 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 gallons, so I used the 3-gallon carboy and and a one-gallon growler, leaving some room in both, which I topped off with some Big B’s apple cider (which is really just unfiltered juice, but it’s local and organic).  apple wine and cider  The apple cider– mine, that is, the soon-to-be hard stuff– was a little shy of a gallon, too, so I added a little more sugar and some of the Big B’s juice.  Everything is fizzing and bubbling away most satisfactorily, and the house has that nice yeasty smell of wine-making.  I love the early part of the fermentation process, when everything is so active and exciting.  The part that’s just waiting for stuff to clear isn’t nearly so interesting.

Since I used my last 2 one-gallon growlers, I now either have to rack into a primary bucket, rinse the original growler, and then put the racked wine back in there, or just buy another dang growler.  I’ve lost count of how many I have going now, but I do think some batches should be ready for bottling soon.  Not the dandelion yet, aggravatingly, but maybe the redcurrant and the blueberry.  The crab apple cleared quite quickly, too, so I’ll see what its state is.  They have all thrown some sediment, though, so they definitely need a good, clean racking before I bottle.

Oh, and I nearly forgot!  Jolyon kindly cleaned up after all my preserving efforts, and made this excellent Blockhenge out of the bits of the fruit press: blockhenge.  I found it waiting on the dining room table and left it up, in case something magical happens when the sun hits it in a particular way.

The apples keep coming!

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even more apples again

It now strikes me funny that I chose the name Sudden Windfall for my apple wine, because that’s truly what I’m getting.  Kim’s friend Chris (he of the peaches) gave her 2 giant buckets of apples for me.  In fact, in this picture, I’ve already taken out half of the apples in the bucket on the right.  (You can also seem the edge of my vermicompost bin here.)  So there will definitely be apple-y goodness to drink next year, even if several batches fail.

The other big excitement, after our return from Chicago, was the arrival of my fruit press.  It’s a lovely old-fashioned-looking thing fruitpress but it’s harder to use than I’d anticipated.  I need to get a big board to attach it to this weekend, because when I pressed the apples last week, the whole thing kept rotating, so I ended up holding the barrel with my knees while I rotated the arm, and there are now glorious purple bruises all over the insides of my knees.  I quartered, shredded, and briefly microwaved (2 minutes per bowlful) the apples and then put them in the press until it was fairly full, and then put the blocks on top, as the instructions direct.  From there, I just turned the handle and got lots more juice than otherwise, but that part will be a lot easier when there’s a nice big board I can stand on instead.

applejuice

Half a bucket of apples yielded about a gallon of juice.  I didn’t weigh the apples (largely because my kitchen scale battery ran out and I can’t remember to get a new one) but at a guess, it was in the 15-20 lb. range.  Which is kind of a crummy ROI, and I’m sure I’d get more with a fancy hydraulic press, so if I ever go commercial with this, I guess that’s next.  Anyway, I used the press on both the new apples and the thawed ones I’d had in my freezer and Mom’s.  She was not pleased to have had to keep bags of shredded apple, and when she saw my new haul she immediately told me she couldn’t keep any in her freezer, so the remainder sits on my counter now.

The frozen apples are going to be a 3-gallon batch of apple wine.  Everything’s in now– I’m using Champagne yeast for both– and the wine is all fizzy and lovely.  I think it may actually be more like 4 gallons now.  I followed the directions carefully, but it’s looking like it comes up to the number 4 oapplewine3galprimaryn the side of the bucket.  This would appear to mean that I need to get another 1-gallon secondary fermentor, since I have 2 left, and a gallon of cider going, too.  I’ll want one empty so I can rack the other wines easily.  I think I still have an empty  half-gallon beer carboy somewhere, and I will check everything this weekend to see if anything is ready for bottling yet, but I think that’s not the case.  Lots of what I have is clarifying nicely, but it’s also got lots of sediment.

The cider is also nice and fizzy and lovely.  appleciderprimary  It’s a slightly lighter color than the wine, and was fizzing away when I opened it to stir last night.  It’s pure juice– no water added– so it smells a lot more of apple.  I’m hoping the Champagne yeast makes it ferment dry, since the problem I often have with US hard ciders is that they’re too sweet.  (I had a lovely cherry cider at Black Sky over the weekend, when we went to see Igor’s band play  Beckie recommended it, and it was tart and lovely.)  The cider has less stuff added: Campden, pectic enzyme, sugar, energizer, yeast.  I’m a little worried about sparkling it and bottling, but I have some time before that happens.  And I might call Katrina for tips when I get to that point.

I still have a very full barrel of apples sitting on the kitchen table!  I had to move them because Lily kept trying to steal them.  I think what I’ll do this weekend is press the remaining fruit and can it so I can approach the rest of the wine/cider at my leisure.  Kim suggests I make the pressed pulp into fruit leather, which I think is brilliant.  I also got a lovely surprise box of ripe red jalapenos on the porch last night (Sarah & Tom?), so I hope to can up some salsa, too.  Looks to be a busy weekend.