Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Role of the Kitchen

I started a batch of wine last weekend. When I first started making wine, I used kits, and they turned out pretty well. The wine tasted like something a person might actually buy. But then I bumped into Jack Keller’s website about making wine from just about anything, and my view of wine-making changed. Unfortunately, the only plentiful wine-making base from the yard has been blueberries, and the blueberry wine recipe didn’t seem highly recommended, so for now I am making wine with organic fruit juice from the store. Since this is the season for apples, it’s a good time to start some apple wine, so that is what is bubbling away, in glorious fermentation, in the five gallon carboy in my kitchen right now.

I made apple wine a couple of years ago, too, but just two gallons since it was my first try and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I wish I had made five gallons back then, because it is definitely drinkable. The other non-kit wine I made was from Welch’s Grape Juice. I even used some toasted oak chips in the process to fancy it up. There is only one bottle of this left, after three years. When I drank the penultimate bottle, I could still taste the “Welch’s,” and I think I grinned through every glass, so when I bought yeast for the apple wine, I also got yeast and toasted oak chips for another batch of Welch’s Grape Juice wine. Humor is important.

How does this relate to gardening? Well, the connection is round-about, but when we lived in Virginia, a friend grew food in the plot next to ours. It turned out that he really only was interested in the growing; he didn’t like to harvest. That seemed a bit weird to me, but people are all different, so we harvested his garden for him and left the produce in bags on his front porch. He did use the food once it arrived, and that was important. Cooking—food preparation—is, to me, an essential part of gardening.

Plants for the garden are (usually) selected on the basis of what my family likes to eat, but sometimes I choose a new vegetable because someone else has said “It tastes great!” or I have seen a recipe online that uses a new vegetable with a lot of others that I know I like. Nearly always, the homegrown fresh-from-the-garden version is better than the weeks-old-at-the-store version, so it can be worth the effort to grow a small batch of an untried veggie. That way, I get to REALLY know if I like it. This is how I came to love parsnips, which I have been growing for several years now, and this year I have rutabagas maturing out in the yard; I think they will be ready in a few more weeks.

When it is time to eat these vegetables, they will be roasted, because I have had plenty of practice roasting other root vegetables and I know this method works. Having the experience of cooking many kinds of food in many different ways means that I have more options for what food to grow in my yard. It also cuts back on waste.

If this next year turns out to be a good year for plums—end of the drought would help—I will make a batch of plum wine. Practicing now to make non-kit wines should help the next step in my wine-making experience, using whole fruit, to be as successful as possible. In addition, making wine would be one way to preserve part of a bumper crop of plums, if I ever get another such crop!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for stopping by my blog and passing on the gardening info. I spent quite a bit of time at Reeve's site yesterday and found a LOT of helpful information. I also found on his site links to some NC sites that I should have been able to track down, but hadn't found before.

    I feel like I have a much better picture of where we need to be going already. Thanks again!


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