Friday night an old friend was visiting from Vermont. It was a perfect night to dispose of some brush in a lovely bonfire.
The weather continues to be quite mild, and tomatoes are continuing to haunt The Kitchen Goddess. On Friday, 9 lbs. more, plus radishes, raspberries, and a serving of broccoli. The tomato harvest includes lots of drops, as befitting the blighty condition of the plants.
This week the KG canned 6 pints of sauce, bringing our yearly total to 68. That's 8 1/2 gallons! (~32 l.) We really do not need any more, but the tomatoes are still coming. She also did 4 more quarts of Bloody Mary mix, bringing our total to 2 gallons. I wish "we" could can some more salsa, but the peppers are completely finished.
So with canning shut down, we decided to try drying some ripe tomatoes. It takes a long time in our little dehydrator, but the result was pretty good. We will put some in olive oil.
On Sunday, another 4 lbs. of tomatoes, bringing the week's total to 13 lbs. (5.9 kg.). I've decided that since the weather is holding out I will leave whatever tomatoes cling to the vines to see if they will ripen naturally, and bring in only the drops to ripen indoors. Then we will dry or maybe freeze them.
Well that's it for harvests, but we were busy nonetheless. It was time to make apple cider. A few weeks ago I wrote that we had picked 5 bushels and jammed them into the freezer. This week, after thawing for 24 hours, they were ready to go. Here is about half of them on a workbench in the barn. Not particularly attractive, but nice and soft.
The point of freezing, besides buying us some time, was supposed to make pressing much easier. We were thinking we could avoid the intermediate step of grinding before pressing. After cutting the first few in half, I put them into the press and started cranking. They pressed well, but the resulting juice was a pale yellow, not like traditional cider. The KG believed that grinding released more goodness, and she was right. So we got into a rythm of cutting, grinding, and pressing. Here's the grinder and its product:
Here's the press ready for its next load:
The results were remarkably good. We pressed the 5 bushels in less than 4 hours, and got 10 gallons (~38 l.) of rich brown, sweet-tart goodness. We are sold on freezing! It cuts the time and effort in half.
Of course for us the process does not end there. While I did the cleanup, the KG did what is needed for hard cider. She simmered the cider for about 45 minutes, added 2 lbs. of brown sugar per 5 gallons, then let it cool for awhile. We poured them back into the fermentation buckets (after sanitizing them of course), and waited until it was cool enough to add the yeast. It turns out that took overnight. Early the next morning we pitched the yeast, stirred, put the lids on, and added the airlocks. Now we wait!
I still do not know what we are going to do with the other 2 bushels I picked last week. We sure do not need more cider, and I don't think we need more than 6 jars of applesauce.
Wait, one more "harvest." Passing through one of the gates at Eight Gate Farm, on my way into the woods to dispose of some dropped apples, I saw some sumac along the fenceline. It is an attractive native tree, but it spreads like mad if uncontrolled. I cut a dozen few seedheads. I'm going to let them dry naturally, then use them for tea and the Middle Eastern spice za'atar, once I figure out how to do that.
Thanks for reading and thanks again to Daphne for hosting.