More Bottling Adventures…

The cherry wine is finally ready to bottle! We used our slightly over-ripe Rainier cherries to make 10 gallons of wine, or roughly 45 bottles. Now that I’ve bottled wine a few times, I’m reducing the spillage that occurs, which is great. The wine will be ready in about a year; hopefully over the next 12 months, it’ll clear up a bit and mellow in taste.

cherry-wine

It’s Time to Get Planting for Fall

As I sit back and enjoy the literal fruits of my labor in the garden, I’ve turned my attention to the fall plantings. I live in an area that is relatively mild all year long (although the Farmer’s Almanac predicts a wet and cold winter this year), so cool-weather crops thrive in the garden.

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This year, I’m planting kale, cauliflower, two types of broccoli and Brussels sprouts and I’m starting some of my onions and garlic from seed. The seeds are nestled in potting mix in starter trays on my deck.

 

Once they sprout, I’ll plant them in the garden. I’ve been enhancing the soil with finished chicken and horse manure and covered the area with old carpet to smother weeds.

 

Traditionally, we don’t get our first frost here until November (although if the Almanac is correct, it may be sooner), so I won’t plant this outdoors until November. To protect them from frost and bugs, I’ll cover them. However, I may reuse our old shower doors to create a cold frame.

 

Of course, fall is also the time to plant garlic and your spring flower bulbs. Buy your bulbs now and get planting!

 

What will you plant this fall?

 

If you want more garden tips, be sure to sign up for my gardening class on Skillshare.

 

It’s Cherry Season!

One of my favorite times of years is when the cherries are ripe on the tree and ready for picking. We have two trees, but we can only get to one of them due to overgrown ivy (can I just say that seeing ripe cherries on a tree is torture when you can’t actually reach them?)

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Flowers on the cherry tree in February

Our first year in the house, friends who were visiting pointed them out and we spent an hour shaking them from the tree and collecting them in buckets. We repeated the drill again last year and a couple weeks ago. While my 3 year old was excited to help, the baby wasn’t as excited and cried the entire time.

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Blackberries and cherries

What can you do with 60 pounds of cherries?

The first year, I made cherry jam and marmalade. It was my first time using pectin and I was not prepared for how quickly it gelled. Usually I use green apples, which seem to be more forgiving. While I still have to stand at the stove and stir, if I have to step away for a minute or two, I can without ruining a whole pot of jam. Needless to say, my first venture into pectin didn’t work out at all. I can’t even get it out of the jar. If someone tries to attack me, the cherry jam could be a useful weapon.

Last year, we dried all of the cherries. My husband soaked them in brandy first. We still have some, even after a year.

This year, we’re venturing into cherry wine. I love wine; after all, I drink enough of it. We fermented a good share of our plums into wine and we’ll do the same with the cherries. Currently we have 10 gallons of cherry wine fermenting, along with a blend of cherries, plums and the first round of blackberries we’ve picked. After I pull out the nylon bags with fruit bit and transfer the solution into a secondary fermentor, I’ll add oak chips and maybe cinnamon sticks to give it a bit of a kick.

Cherry wine fermentingedited

Cherries fermenting in the primary fermentor

Since I haven’t made wine at this scale before, I’m nervous as to how it’ll turn out. Hopefully fine, but we’ll see. It could be awesome or absolutely terrible.

Next year we plan to plant a couple more cherry trees, maybe a different variety. Variety is the spice of life right?

 

 

If you want more garden tips, be sure to sign up for my gardening class on Skillshare.

Plums!

Growing up I’d eat plums, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of them. The skin was always a bit bitter, the insides were a bit sour and they had a strange film on them (this was the 1980s before organic produce was in every grocery store). As I got older and tasted plum wine for the first time, I decided to give plums another try.

plums for canning

Every June, our plum trees burst with plums. Well, I should back up. The first year we were in our home, we picked about 10 pounds of plums from one tree alone (as in, it was the only tree that produced fruit). Our second tree produced 3 plums—not 3 pounds of plums; just 3 plums. We gave both trees a massive pruning at the end of the season and were rewarded with about 30 pounds of plums last year. This year, we’ve picked a whopping 64 pounds of plums and there’s still more on the tree!

Last year, we made plum wine and plum cider, as well as plum butter. This year, I made plum jam and we’re making plum wine. Since it was going to be a few days until we were going to make the plum wine, I took the plums that were very ripe or overripe and turned them into a plum jam.

 

I used this jam recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which uses Granny Smith apples and lemon in lieu of packaged pectin. I’ve found using Granny Smiths is a lot more forgiving than using packaged pectin, as you don’t have to keep your eyes on it all the time while stirring. You still have to stir with apples, but if you have to turn the stove down and deal with a crying baby or tend to a toddler, it’s not a big deal.