I kind of got the feeling that if I were talking to them in person, they'd be helpful and kind without ever making me feel silly or stupid. However, I do not have a chance to hang out with the authors in person, and I do feel a little intimidated at how much work goes into a kitchen garden. Gardening is covered in the first part of the book, and I love how honest the authors are about different plants' yields and time to maturation. I've never grown a thing in my life.
In fact, the hubby still hasn't let me forget about the cactus that I managed to kill during our first year of marriage. I had requested this cookbook from my library so that I could start researching homemade wines. I love wine, and I enjoy cooking most of the time so I thought it only made sense to try my hand at homemade wine. I have a whole new appreciation for vintners now. The start-up equipment that you'd need to purchase to get started is actually relatively low; definitely not prohibitive, but still more than I'd like to buy for an "experiment.
I tend to not get things quite right at first.
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Not so big a deal with trying a new cookie recipe; months of hard work to waste in winemaking. The good news is that nearly all of the work is done over the course of a few hours over the course of two or three days at the front end, and then you're letting it ferment. We love how canning is making a comeback, and we'll provide lots of information about doing it yourself. Herbs, flowers, and black and green teas all lend themselves to dehydrating, since the results retain their flavor and store well.
By drying some of your garden harvest at the peak of freshness, often in spring, you can preserve it immediately for use a year or more later. In this book you'll find many recipes for wines, meads, and teas that call for herbs. Dehydration can be a convenient way to stretch the seasons. Dry the herbs now and make the wine later, when some of the other ingredients are ripe. Sometimes it is the best method to use as an intermediate step: freeze some juice or even the unprocessed fruit, and then thaw it later to make further recipes. Berries, for instance, come ripe in small batches.
You can freeze enough berries over a few weeks to eventually make juice, mead, or syrup. It's that easy! If you can boil water and turn on a dishwasher, and if you can set a timer and use measuring cups, you already have the skills to produce homegrown beverages.
Drink the harvest : making and preserving juices, wines,
Throw in the willingness to dedicate time to processing crops as they reach optimum conditions, and you're almost there. One key to making the kind of homegrown beverages that win state fair ribbons and cost just pennies per serving is follow-through: when grapes or berries are ripe, they are ripe for only a short time, so pick and process them without delay. We'll talk a little bit about garden management shortly, but first let's turn to the kitchen side of the equation.
If you have never canned anything or never made wine, you're definitely not alone. We've outlined the steps as plainly as we can and have been as accurate as possible about total processing time. A number of our recipes call for liquids to stand overnight for best results; knowing that will help your planning and reduce stress. In other words, the cooking itself may not take long, but preparation and waiting can add to the overall time considerably. It's nice to know just how many hours to block out of your busy week. You may be wondering what kind of kitchen layout you need.
We know cooks who have designed large kitchens especially for their canning and brewing activities, with double sinks, double dishwashers, extra-big ranges, and miles of shelving.
From root to glass: Home winemaking in Beer City
We also know accomplished cooks and winemakers with tiny kitchens, no dishwasher, a midsize stove, and only an undercounter fridge with a freezer the size of an egg carton. Some cooks in hot regions rig up seasonal open-air kitchens to help beat the heat; these often rudimentary kitchens can be highly functional. All the recipes in this book can work in any size kitchen as long as you organize countertop space efficiently and keep washing and putting away utensils as you work.
What matters most in making and preserving beverages at home is sanitation: clean surfaces and tools and vessels, plus carefully washed fruit and vegetables. Juice extraction, canning, and fermentation really are easy, but your safety and drinking pleasure depend on encouraging the good kind of chemical reactions and discouraging the bad.
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Be prepared to use a lot of scalding hot water as you try the recipes in this book. It's a must, so take precautions with appropriate clothing and safety equipment to avoid burns. It might not seem perfect today, but tomorrow all you have to do is make one improvement, take one little step toward more beverage production. And the next day, one more step.
It could be deadheading herbs so they grow thicker, or pruning suckers from around fruit trees so the yield improves, or pulling up spent vegetable plants for the compost pile. It could be mulching tomatoes or planting fennel seeds in peat pots for transplant later in the season. The point is not to feel overwhelmed. The reality of creating and putting up beverages is that if you try to do it all at once, making every recipe you possibly can, using every bit of homegrown and other locally grown produce available, it will overwhelm you.
Your garden may even include a stretch of otherwise abandoned roadside or an untended lot that holds some culinary treasure within its gritty, weedy, trash-bedecked swale. In the search for free edible produce, we always keep an eye on that unexpected treasure of a specimen until it is ripe and ready to pick. This occasional hunter-gatherer approach has served us well with such useful crops as pear, quince, apple and crab apple, mint, prickly pear, serviceberry, and blackberry, to name just a few. These plants may grow wild in your area, or you may have neighbors with an abundance to share.
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Start by evaluating your available space in terms of production value, that is, how many quarts of fruit juice or vegetable juice, how many bottles of wine or mead, how many gallons of cider or pints of syrup each square foot might yield at maturity and in the best growing conditions. Two ways to help make choices in plant selection and placement are to consider the scale of the operations you envision and to estimate the time required to maintain a garden of that size, harvest the crops, and process everything.
For planning the scale, chapter 2 gives more detail about the plants that go into making beverages and their most favorable growing conditions, but the following are the general categories: Herbs. Snip and use within just a few minutes of planting if you buy them already grown in pots or a few weeks if you buy seeds or seedlings. Depending on the herb, you can count on months or years of steady production. Yields can begin in just a few months and, depending on the plant, continue for weeks on end through the growing cycle, whether spring, summer, or fall.
Some exceptional specimens, including many greens, can grow and produce much of the year. Fruiting vines and berry bushes. Depending on the size, number of plants, and age, berries can provide a great yield, with lots of flavor. Yield increases as the plants age; it may be three years or so before full production is available.
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Orchard fruits. Here's the potential for big yields and volume production, but with the possibility, too, of waiting five years or more before that happens. Trees and shrubs.
Investments in the future, trees and shrubs can help anchor a productive garden. Handsome trees like maple and birch yield sap that can be processed into delicious beverages, and indeed we include a recipe for birch sap wine using, it's true, a jar of store-bought "birch water". Currant, gooseberry, serviceberry, blackberry, huckleberry, even blueberry bushes have landscape value, as do some dwarf citrus. If you are just starting out with gardening and food production, you will have to gain experience in growing plants of all kinds.
If you have been gardening for years, you may be eager to grow new varieties of old favorites or add a new category. For advice, we asked artisan jam maker Renee Joslyn to get us started. The resurgence in popularity of traditional preserving means new books on the topic are coming to the table.
Drink The Harvest: Making And Preserving Juices, Wines, Meads, Teas, And Ciders
What if instead of things to sink your teeth into, you prefer something to sip? Chase and DeNeice C. Bright color photos will make readers thirsty, and eager to try their hand at creating Spiced Ginger-Bay Syrup or Luscious Limoncello. Almost anything can be preserved or pickled, frozen or dried, turned into jam or wine. So, I did.