It was a fall evening some years ago, just before the golden hour (my favourite time of the day). My friend Laura was headed out to Humber Nurseries to take some photos in their private garden and offered to take me along. Not one to forgo a chance to get out of the city or into private gardens, I went along and took with me my digital and one film camera.
2011. It was the first year in my new garden, and with what initially felt like space to spare, I went wild, starting seed from every tomato that caught my fancy. I had heard about Italian long keeping tomatoes and was eager to try them. These are tomatoes that don’t ripen well on the vine within the growing season. Instead, they are brought indoors before the frost and hung in a cool spot (usually a basement or garage) to be enjoyed fresh throughout the winter. For the first time in my adult life I had a basement, so it was all systems go. I started the seed from two varieties: a small orange, bicolour fruit called ‘Giallo a Grappoli’ and the more commonly known red type ‘Grappoli d’Inverno.’ It turned out that my eyes were a lot larger than my new garden. When forced to make a choice I chose orange, ‘Giallo a Grappoli.’
Last weekend we dug up a boatload of Jerusalem artichokes aka sunchokes from the garden, right on schedule.
Believe it or not, many of the tubers are even bigger this year than last. And there are more of them! God help us.
When we began digging, I told Davin that we would only be excavating a few. But it’s like once you start you just can’t stop. And when you do think to stop you tell yourself, “Well, I have GOT to get the tubers that have grown into the neighbour’s yard. They’re compromising the fence!” The next thing you know, you’ve got a basket so big you can barely even lift it.
Hey guys, I did it! I unlocked the Prepare the Garden For Winter achievement!
The weather this week has been beautiful, sunny, and mild so I resolved to take advantage of what are surely our final nice days to complete all of the garden chores that have been nagging me. I don’t know about you but I hate doing messy, wet garden work and soil digging while dressed like the Michelin Man and wearing cold weather gloves (not work gloves). Cold weather is often a deterrent to getting out into the garden and getting things done. It is a happy day when I can work outside for hours at a time wearing only a hat, a fall jacket, and no gloves.
- The garlic is in! And not too soon as I was growing tired of worrying about it. I still have a few more bulbs that I could put in if the desire strikes me, but I don’t need to. I love that everything from here on out is a bonus. I planted Elephant Garlic as well. The 2012 crop did so well that I thought I would experiment with growing it in a few different conditions to see how it can be better protected but also pushed.
One of the first homemade brews I made last year when the bug for fermenting things caught me was a jug of hard apple cider. I played it safe that first time out of fear and trepidation, which in hindsight could have entirely ruined those good bottles of expensive, unpasteurized, organic cider had it not worked out in the end. The process I followed had me boil the cider to kill off any naturally occurring yeasts and then add grains of commercial yeast. The reasoning behind this process is that the commercial yeasts are a known quantity, while allowing the cider to ferment from the yeasts that naturally occur in it and the air in your home is an unknown that can result in a nasty, undrinkable batch of hooch.
Since then every natural yeast brew I have made in this house has turned out wonderfully so I’m moving away from a dependancy on the commercial stuff and prefer to give over to the magic and surprise of the unknown.
Despite those early fumblings, my first batch of hard cider was a hit with friends and I was eager to make more this fall. Unfortunately, local apple crops suffered this year due to an abnormally warm early spring followed by a sudden and severe cold snap. Cider hasn’t hit any of the markets that I frequent yet. Fortuitously, I discovered a couple of large crabapple trees on derelict land this year. The fruit had recently fallen off of the trees but were still in very good shape with only light bruising and few that were too far gone or rotten to bother. They smelled sweet and were only slightly sour — not great for eating, but certainly worth foraging and brewing into some kind of apple wine/cider-like drink. Worst case scenario I waste time, but the actual cost to try is pretty much negligible.
I don’t have a cider press and did not have the ambition to construct one. My goal with this brew was to go as simple and straight forward as possible. No fuss and minimal work. I consulted my country wine making books and found Andy Hamilton’s Sort of Cider in his fantastic homebrew manual, Booze for Free [Note that this is a yet-to-be-released paperback and Kindle edition. I was able to get the original on Kindle but could not find it on Amazon.]. You can see the ‘Sort of Cider’ recipe online here. I did not follow Andy’s instruction exactly. I did not want to use packaged yeast and I did not want to add flavouring (although the ginger does sound good).
Here’s how I did it: