Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry


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Tart Cherry Wine

Cherries are the first pickable fruit of the season at our local orchard, so when they come in season I rush down there to grab myself a bucket. The wife and kid came too, because it was a beautiful morning and everybody needed a little bit of time out in the sun.

Picking cherries, as I’ve noted before, is quite the hassle. They’re so little that getting an appreciable quantity of them takes a long time of narrow-minded focus on the work. It also involves a lot of standing, picking with arms raised up, and carefully dropping them into a bucket. Physically, it’s more demanding than you might expect. For those reasons and more, our first trip out wasn’t extremely productive. Xander’s fleeting attention span was drained very quickly and Dana’s happiness decreased in inverse proportion to the rising temperature of the midday sun.

With about 8 pounds of cherries picked, we decided to wrap up and call it a day. My plan was to come back to the orchard myself some morning and pick a whole bunch more. I didn’t make it back before the supply was picked out and the season was over.

About half of the cherries we did pick went into some cherry pie filling which I wasn’t completely happy with. We still had several jars of cherry jam left over from last year, so I decided to turn the remainder into cherry wine.

Cherry Wine

  • 4lbs cherries, stemmed and rinsed [1]
  • Sugar
  • Water [2]
  • 1 Campden Tablet
  • Yeast Nutrient
  • Yeast [3]

Put the cherries into your fermenting bucket and mash them up. They were so soft, I was able to smoosh them up with my (clean) bare hands. Add the sugar to about half a quart of water in a pot over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then allow the mixture to come to a boil. Remove from heat.

Add the warm syrup to the cherries, along with enough water to bring the total quantity of must to 1.25 gallons. Crush the campden tablet and add to the mixture, to kill off any wild yeast or baddies from the cherries. Allow the mixture to sit, covered by a towel, for 24 hours.

After 24 hours pitch the yeast and the yeast nutrient into the mixture [4]. Give it a good swirl to incorporate, then put on the lid and the airlock. Allow to ferment for 2 weeks, or until fermentation has decreased to a crawl.

After primary is complete, rack the mixture into a sanitized carboy[5], attach airlock, and allow to age until ready [6]

Results

DSC_3904

I stole a small taste while racking it to secondary. Ignoring the harsh punch of the fresh alcohol, the wine has a decent but subtle cherry flavor and floral notes. I suspect more cherries would be better. Next year I may try again with 5 or 6 lbs, if the wine this year doesn’t have enough cherry flavor when it’s done.

The color of the wine is a beautiful rose color.

Notes

  1. The total quantity of cherries might have been closer to 3 lbs. “They” say that the pits will add bitter flavors to the wine, but I wasn’t prepared to pit all those cherries just to mash them all up with my fingers and toss them in a bucket. I probably could have strained some of them out once the cherries were mushed, but I didn’t.
  2. My tap water has problems with calcium and iron. For all my cooking projects, I always use bottled spring water. Since you can buy gallons of spring water at the store for less than the price of a 24oz bottle of Dasani bottled tap water, I don’t think it’s too bad an expenditure.
  3. The yeast I used this time, following some online recommendations from other brewers of cherry wines, was Lalvin 71B-1122. It supposedly is a decent yeast for fruit wines.
  4. I like to split up the yeast nutrient. The bottle recommends 1Tsp per gallon. I put in half at the beginning when I pitch the yeast and the other half a week later.
  5. I had about a quart of liquid left over. I put that into the fridge and will use it to replenish whatever I lose during racking. I’ve kicked around the idea of boiling this liquid down to concentrate the flavors a little bit. I’ll consider that option as well.
  6. I’ll probably rack this wine off the leas in about 1 month, and may have to rack again if more sediment accumulates. I expect to bulk age this wine for at least 6 months before I try to stabilize and bottle.
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Carrot Review and Pickled Carrots

The carrots I grew were absolutely gorgeous. Today I’m posting a review of the carrots I harvested, along with a recipe for pickled carrots.

At the time of writing this, there are a few small stragglers still in the ground not ready to harvest (they were overshadowed by larger siblings and need some more time in the sun), and I have several still in a bucket on my porch waiting for the right time to be harvested. If I learn any new information when the remainder come in, I’ll include that in a separate post.

Carrot Review

St Valery

The St Valery were a creamy orange color on the outside, with a vein-like appearance when peeled. The flavor was good and carroty, but not nearly so sweet as the Nantes and Danvers you find in the grocery store. Yield for the St Valery was decent, with a few caveats:

  1. They were inconsistently shaped. A few of the harvested carrots were short and stocky, while others were longer and thinner.
  2. They had a tendency to branch. In one or two cases I think the carrot hit a rock and went two different directions, but many of the carrots came up, branched into two or more parts, for no discernible reason. These branches make peeling, cleaning and storing the carrots more problematic, and decreases the overall size of the carrot.

Dragon

True to their description, the Dragon carrots came out a gorgeous purple color. However, much to my intense displeasure, they are pale yellow or mottled orange on the inside. When you peel them, the great color goes away.

Unlike the St. Valery, the Dragons were much more consistently shaped and had a much lower rate of branching. Like the St. Valery, they were not nearly so sweet as the supermarket varieties.

DSC_3899

 

Here you can see that I couldn’t get a single picture of these things before breaking them open and eating half a jar.

Pickled Carrots

In my book, The Joy of Pickling, I found an interesting recipe for carrots called “Pickled Bay Carrots with Dill”. I made several changes, not the least of which being my use of mature sliced carrots instead of the tender baby ones called for. The recipe also called for a hot pepper, which I thought I had in reserve from my adventures with the dehydrator last year. I took a look through my stash, and the remaining ones were looking a little brown and creepy. I don’t know why. Maybe there was just too much moist air in the fridge? In either case, I substituted some crushed red pepper flakes instead.

I made this recipe per-jar, using half-pint jars instead of the quart batch the recipe calls for.

  • Carrots, washed, peeled and sliced
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 3.5 cups apple cider vinegar
  • Black Peppercorns
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 Sprig of Fresh Dill
  • 1 medium-sized garlic clove
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 0.25 cups sugar

In a pot, mix the water, vinegar, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil.

Blanch the carrots in boiling water for 2 minutes, and immediately move them to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.

In each jar, place 1 garlic clove, a dash of red pepper flakes, about a dozen pepper corns, and the fresh dill. Add carrots to the jars, loosely packed, to fill within a half inch of the rim.

Pour the vinegar over the carrots to fill the jars with 1/2 inch head space.

Burp the jars, put on a clean lid and band, and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand at room temperature overnight.

 Results

Let just say one thing: Pickled carrots are probably my favorite new type of pickle. The carrots are soft but not mushy. The flavors are perfectly balanced and absolutely transcendent. I’ll be making more of these this year, next year, every year.