One thing which is a big part of our lives here is food preservation. All summer long we are canning, drying, and freezing. Although we aren’t producing a ton of food on the property yet (what we’re getting from the garden we pretty much just eat fresh), we manage to do a fair amount of urban foraging, and there is a fantastic u-pick orchard on the north end of town. Valley View Orchards is a family run, certified organic orchard. We’re on their email list and are regulars out there throughout the summer. Over the course of this summer we picked cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, pears and apples.
I grew up canning with my mom. We had a small orchard at our house and from mid to late-summer it seemed like the water-bath canner and the food dehydrator were going constantly on our back porch. Here at SHA this year, we started with cherries, which we mostly ate fresh, although we dried some. Dried cherries in trail mix over the winter are the best! We made apricot jam, and apricot cayenne jam. I made Golden Plum Chutney, which was kind of an experiment/invention and turned out amazing. We dried and froze tons of peaches. Early this summer we found a small chest freezer on craigslist, and we’re working away on filling it! We also canned peach halves for winter eatin’ and baking.
We dried pears like crazy, and apples too. And we also made a batch of pear wine!
Home wine-making is something of a tradition in Frank’s family. While I was canning with my mom, he grew up making wines and meads with his grandfather. He even still has a couple old bottles of wine his grandpa made! But wine-making (and beer brewing, but that’s another story) is a new adventure for me. Last summer we made our first batch together, a peach wine. The first couple times we tasted it we were a little skeptical, but now, just over a year later, the flavor has mellowed considerably and it’s become (if I do say so myself) quite drinkable. We have found ourselves opening bottles of it on several occasions in the last couple weeks!
So about three weeks ago we started a new batch of pear wine. The first fermentation went well and we’ve siphoned it off the sediment twice now. At last tasting the flavor was already super delicious, and much mellower than the peach. We’re expecting that it won’t need nearly as long to age once we bottle, though of course everything gets better with time… We’re debating starting a batch of apple wine as well. And I just got the call from Valley View Orchards that they are harvesting their wine grapes, and they’ve agreed to let us come buy a few pounds so we can try our hand at a real grape wine.
On that note, a little clarification (thank you Wikipedia):
Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes or other fruits. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, water, or other nutrients.Yeast consumes the sugars in the grapes and converts them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts produce different styles of wine.
Wines made from produce besides grapes are usually named after the product from which they are produced (for example, rice wine, pomegranate wine, apple wine and elderberry wine) and are generically called fruit wine
Fruit wines are fermented alcoholic beverages made from a variety of base ingredients (other than grapes); they may also have additional flavors taken from fruits, flowers, and herbs. This definition is sometimes broadened to include any fermented alcoholic beverage except beer. For historical reasons, mead, cider, and perry are also excluded from the definition of fruit wine
We’re planning to get bees next spring, and I’m looking forward to diving into the realm of mead-making. In the meantime I’m certainly enjoying experimenting with wine-making. Although perhaps not the most practical way to preserve the harvest, certainly a very enjoyable one. Cheers!