Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry


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Cherry Melomel Review

My two batches of Cherry Melomel are ready for review, so I cracked open the jugs and gave them a big test.

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Cherry Melomel 1

My first batch of cherry melomel is the much darker of the two. It has a rich, ruby color. The cherry flavor is present mostly in the aftertaste but is quite recognizable. The texture is a little watery and it doesn’t have a huge amount of body. However, what it does have is alcohol and quite a lot of it. This melomel is strong. It is smooth, doesn’t have hardly any off-flavor, and is much more palatable when chilled.

Cherry Melomel 2

The second batch of cherry melomel (I originally called it “Cherry Cyser“) is very light, like a blushed hard cider. It has even less cherry flavor, which is hardly discernible. It almost tastes more like apples, which makes sense considering the ingredient list. The final combination isn’t unpleasant, it just isn’t very strong. It has a little bit more body than the first but also comes across as quite watery. It is also quite strong, has no off flavor, is very smooth, and is better when chilled.

I’m not quite sure what to do about the lack of body in these two. Some tannin, acid blend or other additives probably hold the key, though I don’t have a clear idea about where to start experimenting. I have the strong opinion in mind that these two would do better with some sparkle. One day when I have some bottles and the right equipment, I would definitely try carbonating something like this.

I also suspect that I could get better, more clear cherry flavor if I added the cherries (or their juice) to secondary instead of in primary. I also want to try experimenting with some tart cherries, to try and get more acid into the final product.

 


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Cherry Harvest

Cherries, so far, have not been an easy or rewarding crop to grow. I know that the trees are still young and they are bound to increase output with age and proper care. Last year I didn’t get so much as a single pretty flower, much less any fruit. This year we seemed to be on track for a decent crop but it never materialized.

The tree that showed the most promise, the Black Tartarian, put out tons of flowers and originally set dozens of fruit. Many of these fruit were stunted, never growing and eventually withering off. Others were attacked by insects. The rest were gobbled up by birds before they even had a chance to get ripe. Bummer.

The smaller and more spindly of the two, the Stella, had fewer flowers and set fewer fruit. However, the few fruit it did set managed to survive long enough for me to take some action. I tied plastic bags around the few cherries that made it, to keep the birds away, and I’ve been doing what I can to keep bugs away (I’ll need to do a MUCH better job of that next year). Finally, with some serious effort and daily observation I managed to harvest some cherries:

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I know what you’re thinking. “That sure is an attractive representative sample.” No. That’s the entire harvest. 6 Cherries, and two of them had insect damage on the back that made them mostly inedible. With the family gathered around, I cut up the good ones and we all had a taste.

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The color, obviously, was good. The texture and flavor of them was great as well. Xander kept asking for more until there weren’t any. We’re all pretty excited for next year, especially if we can do a little bit better than this year. The question is “how?”

Challenges and Plans

The Black Tartarian tree was the better performer last year. It had more leaves and put on more growth than the Stella. This year the tide has changed: The stella put on more leaves, larger leaves and more new growth.  Next spring I’ll have to be more aggressive about fertilizing it. I may pull up grass around both cherry trees, mulch, and apply some serious fertilizer and compost. Nitrogen is sorely needed, and probably some trace nutrients as well.

The Black Tartarian tree also had a problem with Black Aphids, with many of the newest leaves being completely infested and deformed. Next year I’ll look at some agricultural oils to control the aphids and maybe some products to control the ants (which help “farm” the aphids).


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Garlic Status

My Garlic crop is the largest and most interesting right now, so I decided to write a hole post on just that.

Notes By Variety

Music is growing quite well. They are the second-largest, on average, of all the garlic varieties. I had one Music that seemed to separate into two heads (or, I accidentally planted two in the same hole). I dug that one up, carefully broke them up and planted them separately. I lost a few roots in the process, and for a few days they looked a little droopy (and lonely), but now they are doing well with no problems.

German Red is slightly smaller than Music but still pretty big. I’ve had no problems with these and nothing interesting to report.

Italian Purple is by far the smallest  variety, with the slowest growth. I don’t know if the plants are supposed to be smaller, if my microclimate just isn’t right for it, or if the dirt in that part of my garden is particularly devoid of nutrients. Only time will tell if these produce good bulbs.

Leningrad are about the same size as German Red, and are growing quite well.

German White are the largest of the plants. They are about 3-6 inches taller than the other plants. Hopefully this translates into large cloves at harvest time.

Oddities

Last year, all my garlic looked the same and I had no issues. This year….there are a few. One problem I’ve noticed is that of multiple shoots. It appears as if new garlic heads are growing in the middle of the other garlic heads. Here’s a picture of a normal garlic, with a single shoot, with leaves alternating on each side:

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…and here are some of my weird garlics, with multiple little shoots coming out of the middle:

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It’s hard to find information about this on the internet, because I don’t know what this condition is called. What little information I have found suggests that this shouldn’t be a problem. The only varieties that seem to have this issue are the Music and the Italian Purple. Again, I don’t know if this is an issue with these varieties, if it’s totally normal, or if something in those areas of my garden is causing the abnormalities. I know I have a few voles scurrying about in that bed, so maybe they are up to some hijinx.