Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Apple cider

Public service announcement: Apple cider is really easy to make.

You need to put some apples in the blender. It helps if you wash and quarter them (weaker blenders need the quarters cut in half) but you don't need to core them. Add a little water (how much you need again depends on your blender motor) and blend until... well, until blended.)

Now you need "cheesecloth." Ideally you should use butter muslin, which is the cloth that is actually used to make cheese. The cheesecloth you can get in grocery stores is useless for separating liquids from solids. Butter muslin can be ordered from cheesemaking suppliers; you can wash and reuse it. If you don't have butter muslin, however, a non-terry towel will do.


Dump the apple goo into your cloth, over a pot. Gather the ends of the cloth and starting from the top, twist the cloth up. Add twist, moving downwards, to put pressure on the apple goo and squeeze the juice out. This doesn't take too long; a minute or two will give you a pot full of juice and a hard little puck of apple solids.

If you like fresh, tart juice you can drink this or refrigerate and use within a couple days. If you want to keep it a little longer, or if you like your juice sweeter and less crisp tasting, bring it to a boil on the stove first.

There has to be something good that you can do with those apple solids, but being insufficiently imaginative I usually just compost them.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Autumn in Lake Hughes

This year I moved to Lake Hughes just in time for the fall weather to kick in. It took me a week to get around to asking how to turn the gas furnace on, during which time I kept warm with diligent use of the wood stove. A storm came in and I had to dry wet firewood by the side of the stove before using it. The cabin gradually filled with the pleasant scent of apple woodsmoke. When the storm was over, shaggy mane mushrooms appeared in abundance; I cooked them with butter before they could turn purple, and ate them in asian dishes, with burgers, and with my boss's free-range eggs.

On saturdays through the end of october, I drove down to the farm and picked apples by the barrel. They've now gotten ripe enough to use in all sorts of dishes: baked apples, cobblers, cider... I want to make apple and pumpkin soup, and apple butter.

The pear tree by the side of the house dropped all its pears early due to (apparently) underwatering. I gathered the pears and ripened them with bananas. Now I have huge piles of pears cluttering the house; they're delicious straight, but I'm feeling a need to make something with them just to get them out of the way. I shouldn't have let them ripen all at once; I should have put some in the fridge to save for later in the year. Live and learn, I suppose.

Apples, pears, and peaches. Someday I'll have a kitchen table again; for now, I have fruit with every meal. Peach meatballs; duck and apples; peach and pear cobbler; pear scones; cinnamon peach soft cookies.

When all this fruit's gone, what will take its place? Probably thick winter stews, until spring brings new produce. I hope I'm still in the lakes and valleys for cherry season!