October 31, 2015

Weeks of Apples and Treats

Despite my earlier protestations, and with much appreciated assistance, I not only planted what turned out to be an overfilled garden, I harvested more than I had intended too. Though what I looked forward to harvesting the most however, were the 28 apples from our 3 y/o Honeycrisp apple tree. Of course I have been counting apples every year since it was planted and I wasn't alone in my exuberance. Think Count Dracula and Sesame Street.... ��
Well, long story short I won't be sharing any pictures of a 28 apple harvest nor a 2 apple harvest because before I could figure out there was an issue, they were all gone (darn squirrels). Anyone in my position would be fuming and more than annoyed by the total disregard of their hard work and their pie/crumble making plans right? I could have stayed angry at those little biters and even considered practicing my slingshot making skills on them while they were chitting and running about one day. It really took me a few minutes of cursing to push past this disappointment and redirect my thoughts. Deciding later on that it would be in my best interest if I took advantage of the MNGrown catalog and made something good and wholesome out of that furry, gray, toothy mess of a memory. With not much planning but much enthusiasm I had help creating brighter memories by visiting an orchard (Pine Tree in White Bear Lake) which was new to me and my fambam. Additionally, I practiced a little local gleaning of crab apples (they're everywhere), and participating in an applesauce/scrap vinegar class at the very NEW Seward Co-op Friendship store. One could say that I should be Apple'd out but I'm not. Far from it actually,  so far I've eaten fresh apples, used apples to make mincemeat, crabapple vinegar, apple scrap vinegar, apple wine, and apple sauce. The two latter were past of an amazing maiden experience at the newly opened co-ops kitchen classroom. It was a small but effective class facilitated by Gardening Matters. Who provided us with boxes of the tastiest local apples from Fruits Of the City. FOC is an organization that assists so many residents of Minneapolis and St Paul who have amazing produce growing in their yards that without the commitment from this organization and their volunteers would go to rot on the branches or spoil on the ground. Today I have 3 quarts of homemade vinegar on my fridge. My family is requesting cider pancakes for breakfast..... AGAIN! And we still have a bag and a half of apples left to prices from our last orchard trip which will either become spicy apple rings for the holidays, more mincemeat, or will end up as apple pie filling which is the only recipe I haven't gotten to. Who knows, the day is still young! In the interest of time I will be uploading this post with plans to include recipes at a later date. Sometimes life takes over so if you find an urgent desire to try these IM or email are a great way to get a quicker response from me.

Happy Halloween and good luck with your next apple venture.


July 17, 2015

Wine Cure for Raspberry Fever

I'm currently looking at the last of the 2015 raspberries in the GardenFuss Garden. When the dog days of summer lift up a sultry hot foot to kick off what I call sweat, fatigue, and lethargy-gate. Partly due to my Myositis but equally rivaled by parenting, married life, and just being an adult. [So much to do in such a short time] Basically I go into a raspberry funk.

Seriously, as soon as I have picked, washed, and packed up the first couple gallons I begin to get overwhelmed from just walking past the small, ruby, garden jewels. This is probably because I'm waiting not so patiently for a much needed family vacay. It doesn't help to have acquired a bad case of NOT asking for extra help in the garden when I need it. **cough cough** ::blushing::. But Alas I am not going down that road right now. Aren't we all a work in progress? ��
Todays post is about not succumbing to the berry picking fatigue despite busy adult life. It's my own disorganized spring that lead me to crazily not prune or stake the raspberry beds in the first place. So, Moving on!
After several tedious trips into a jungle of overgrown canes I decided to not only make jams and jellies out of the not so hard won and abundant fruit; I decided to jump into the world of wine and cordial making. What else can a girl do when she has collected gallons of berries?


There are several tips and tricks to making your own fruity adult beverage. Honestly, everything you need to know can be found at your fingertips right online. I personally have and would suggest a search on YouTube.
PROCRASTINATORS BEWARE: Do not get so caught up watching videos about the process that you NEVER follow through with an actual attempt. (May have happened to me before ��.)
There are some overly detailed videos and some pretty confusing and lacking videos either of which can leave you scratching your head. However, don't let this stop you from finding a video or website that speaks to you. Each person's learning style is so varied that you just have to push stop sometimes and keep searching until you find what video personality appeals to you. Full disclosure, I'm a self proclaimed and family confirmed information junkie. I have researched this process for some time including taking a class or two. I even purchased some supplies and a couple books on making wine that have been collecting dust for how long now?...
Beginning only after a gallon of berries sat macerating in their own juices on the bottom shelf of my fridge [for a week]. Oops... Well, once you decide to start though, you'll find it's the simplest process EVER! You'll want to smack yourself in the forehead it's so easy. Not wanting to be wasteful with the quickly aging berries spurred me to action. I loaded a couple of those videos pulled up a few bookmarked sites, washed the berries, and gathered some basic tools which I've outlined below. 
The tools you need to get started are:
  • Glass container(s) - Jug, jars, or food grade plastic bin will do.
  • Sugar or Honey - Honey is used in the making of Mead
  • Fruit and/or herbs (thoroughly cleaned, I make my own fruit/veg wash)
  • Water
  • Yeast - I've read bakers yeast is ok but if you have access to brewery yeast then go for it. I use champagne yeast
  • Pectin [dried]
  • Airlock: Store bought or homemade *more on this later*
  • Bleach for sterilizing equipment. This includes spoons, jars, pot, containers, air locks, tubing, funnels, etc..
I combined a gallon of the clean berries with a proportional amount of sugar. Around 5 to 6 cups...
I added lemon rind, lemon juice, Vanilla bean, chopped ginger, and a teaspoon of pectin to my mash (my own recipe). I heated this mixture and brought it to a simmer to dissolve the sugar then turned off to cool. I then put two and a half gallons of water in a pot to boil out the chlorine and to have on hand to keep tools sterilized.

After sterilizing one of the demijohns which I purchased from Northern Brewer last year and a recycled apple cider jug from Whole Foods, I prepared a half pack of the yeast to add to the mash that I cooled. You basically want to keep your yeast alive and not kill it with scalding hot water or mash. Therefore you want to make sure that you can insert your finger or knuckle and test the temperature. The point is for the temperature of the water and mash to not be so hot as to scalled you while at the same time not having it cold or cool. Cool water will make the yeast less active. Once you reach this point the mash and the water are poured into the jugs through a funnel. The color this time turned out not to be as red as I would like so I added and additional pint of frozen berries and a cup more of sugar syrup to the beverage [really, you don't need a degree to do this]

The jugs were capped, their respective airlocks secured, and then placed in a dark corner of the kitchen where the temperature won't fluctuate so much, even with my baking. Today lots of bubbles are perculating within their airlocks. I can also see fruit dancing around jubilantly within the liquid.
From what I've researched, I'd say we are good to go!

Once everything settles down I will begin the racking process. Racking is a term that means liquid is extracted [general] from a larger vessel like my big jar(s) and put into smaller ones [wine bottles]. What's left is all of the mushy fruit and cloudy yeast. YUCK!!! No one wants to see or consume that, right?

What will hopefully be turn out to be an attractive rosy beverage that reminds us of our summers bounty come fall and winter is what I'm aiming at. Speaking of fall and winter I will be posting an update which will include pictures of the racking and the sampling. However, this was so easy I'm feeling compelled to use that last demijohn for making my own Mead or a Peach wine since they are now coming into season. We are also coming into our first harvest of Honeycrisp apples, and very much looking forward to it. Who knows, some may be eaten fresh and some may be  used to make hard cider.
Either way nothing fails but a try! I just hope I have encouraged someone to try making their own wine today.

Is there anything you've been meaning to try that you haven't because you felt the process was too complicated? Have you too been making your own wine/beer/spirits? If so, tell me good or bad, how it went. Do you have any tips or suggestions on what I should try my hand at next? I love garden and food related conversation so please send me a message or leave a response below.

Happy brewing every one.


Recent Posts

What Our Fussy Garden Grows 2015:

Greens: Heading Collards, Dino Kale, Sorrel, and Beet
Aliums: Walking Onions, Ramps, Large Yellow
Root Vegetables:
Tri-Colored Carrots, Carnival Carrots, Flamboyant Sabina Radish, Jersey Beets,
Fruit: Strawberries, Heritage Raspberries, Black Raspberries, and Ground Cherries
Tomatoes: Lemon Drop, Opalka, Pink Brandywine, Paul Robison, Amish Paste, and a Mystery-Mato
Herbs: Dill, Sage, Chives, Basil, Thyme, Chocolate Mint, Rosemary, Lemon Balm
Grasses: Native Sweet Grass
Flowers: Borage, Nasturtium, Sunflowers, Cone flowers, Hostas, Balloon Flowers, Malva Zebrina, Roses, Asiatic Lillie’s, Sedum, Dianthus, Lavender, Tulips, Daffodil, and more….
Other: Asparagus, Rhubarb, Eggplant
Beans/Peas: English Peas, Black Turtle Beans, Edamame, Pink Eye Purple Hull
Squash: Mystery, and Jarradale