Friday, September 19, 2014

What are you Wining About? Taking Local Food to a New Level

This morning I thought I would be nice and chop up some salad for Amil’s lunch, since he’s doing me a favor and picking up some things downtown. I chopped up some co-op cabbage (that’s on its last leg, but somehow still delicious despite buying it almost three weeks ago) and some farmers market tomatoes (that Amil had bought as green tomatoes, but they reddened up in our basket). Once I had a nice pile of chopped veggies, I reached for our usual salad bowl. It wasn’t there. I looked all around before I remembered where I saw it--outside with 50 or so peach pits in it, the result of Amil’s latest alcohol-making endeavor. 

Although there are still pieces of peach stuck to our floor, the three large buckets of fermenting peach goodness seems promising. At the very least, I’m impressed by his motivation to take a 35lb box of squishy peaches from the co-op (which he marked with a sign claiming, “I’m makin’ Hooch!”) and turn it into something, even if it ends up as a mere experiment. I too, had dreams of making stuffed grape leaves, or even jam, but they haven’t come into fruition. It’s partly because I haven’t had a chunk of time I deem appropriate for collecting, smashing, canning, etc., but it’s also because I haven’t invested in the tools necessary. I did buy some awesome looking low-sugar pectin! But no jars, no pot big enough to get the jars, and not one of those things to get the jars out of the hot water. I think I’m making it out to be more than it should be, all the while I’m resolving that next year, I WILL do something with our grapes, apples, etc. At the very least, I want to make apple cider vinegar out of all the fallen apples in the orchard. Hopefully as autumn blows in, we’ll have a large batch of pecans to figure out what to do with. But I know I don’t need special  tools for that. Some salt, spices, and a nut cracker!

The real point of this blog was to highlight the funky-smelling, burping, massive glass containers that are sitting in the middle of our kitchen/living room. (photo coming soon). This was Amil’s first project with the grapes growing in our backyard (other than over cereal, or in Chickpea salad, or laying them along the adobe to dry out into raisins). Amil has been hanging out with some new friends from the Wine Making club of Albuquerque, who have offered to bring their supplies over and donate some materials to make wine. Another friend he made makes strawberry brandy and the like, so Amil’s been calling him about what to do with 35 lbs of peaches.
I was out of town when Bill came over with his grape crushing machine, as they harvested, smashed, stirred, poured and combined yeast with the grapes, but the evidence is all around our house. There’s smushed grapes on almost everything, and a big pile of grape innards past our fence, but the best thing is these two bubbling jugs of what will someday be wine. After just a week of bubbling, Amil made a careful pour of the chalky-tan substance, and gave it a whiff.

“Smells like wine!” *slow sip* “tastes like it, too!” I sniffed along for good measure. Indeed, it smelled like red wine, despite its color and texture. We’re on the right path.
Our grapes have been sweetening up for about a month, and in that time we’ve had dozens of people take impressive amounts home with them for their own wine adventures. I’m encouraged by their promises of bringing us a bottle, knowing that if ours doesn’t taste great, we’ll have at least a few others on hand. 
More updates on the local food front coming soon. In the meantime, I'm off to Philmont to deliver a workshop, then out to the Grand Canyon with a group of students from Poland. Never a dull moment. 

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