Making Vinegar

Cider, New and Apple Vinegar

Cider, New and Apple Vinegar

LAKE MACBRIDE— From the moment an apple falls from a tree, deterioration begins. Over 20 years of tending our small orchard, I learned to keep the ground under the trees picked up to discourage bugs and worms from spreading throughout the trees. Before the main crop is ready, there has been usable fruit on the ground. One recognizes when it is time to pick based on how many apples fall in a day. I brought about five pounds of apples to the kitchen to make vinegar.

Making vinegar is pretty simple. Core and cut away bad spots, including bruises, from a bowl of apples and juice them with a kitchen juicer. (One can also make apple cider, but securing and using a cider mill is a big production not suitable for small baskets of fallen apples). Strain the juice and pour it into a half gallon canning jar. Add part of the mother from the last batch, or a small amount of last year’s vinegar, and cover with a cotton cloth to allow it to breathe. I use a scrap of our daughter’s diaper, as the warp and woof is just right to let air out and prevent bugs from entering. Set the jar in a dark cupboard and leave it alone for a couple of months, inspecting it occasionally to see if the process is working.

A process byproduct is straining and bottling the last batch. A lot of mother was produced in last year’s effort, and what I couldn’t use went into the compost. The jars in the photo have vinegar from apple cider, the new batch and from apples juiced in the kitchen. The latter is by far the best tasting and most acidic.

Cucumbers and onions are in, so maybe a batch of refrigerator pickles to recipe test the results.

Leaves Fall, Harvest Coming In



LAKE MACBRIDE— The season turned— to sweet corn, celery, pepper and aronia berries— before we knew it. Now it’s a game of keeping up with the fall harvest, making some delicious meals with the fruits of labor, industry, genetics and climate.

Sweet corn is a favorite, and my spouse spent the better part of Sunday putting up 180 ears with her sister. We don’t have room in the freezer, so it is stored in theirs. We also have two dozen ears fresh from other local sources and ready to cook in the kitchen. Over the years I’ve gotten away from growing our own sweet corn as the yield has been small for the amount of space it takes. Leveraging the work of others makes more sense.

Peppers are coming in and this year’s crop looks great and is abundant. A little goes a long way with hot peppers, but the three types are doing exceptionally well. There will be plenty of them to preserve and eat fresh.

The experiment in celery produced a couple of bunches. The quality is very good, so it is worth expanding upon again next year.

We bought two pounds of aronia berries from a local grower. Here’s what he wrote in the promotional literature:

What we do have for sale right now are aronia berries. They were unfazed by the winter. Aronia berries are native to North America; they are very astringent, like a wine grape, and have twice the anti-oxidants of cranberries, four times that of blueberries.We have used aronia berries for jam (alone and with blackberries), in bread, in muffins, and in salsa. There are many recipes available on the Internet. We can send recipes if you are interested.

They are frozen, waiting for suitable use.

Lastly, there is everything else from gifts, the CSA and from our garden. The kitchen is a processing way station, counters clean and at the ready for another day of putting up.

Side note: one of the neighbor’s trees has begun to drop leaves. A precursor, perhaps, to an early frost.

Juke Box – What I’m Doing Here

Friday in Iowa: Climate March

Climate March Leaving Coralville

Climate March Leaving Coralville

This week, the Great March for Climate Action headed east through Iowa and Blog for Iowa marched a small part of the route with them. About 150 people gathered in Coralville on Wednesday, Aug. 20, and marched leisurely to the Iowa City pedestrian mall. We marched down the Coralville Strip, past Carver-Hawkeye arena, the University of Iowa Colleges of Medicine and Nursing, the Veterans Administration Hospital, the university’s coal-fired power plant, Old Capitol, and ended in front of the Sheraton Hotel in the pedestrian mall where we were greeted with applause upon arrival. Speeches followed.

It was a chance to meet some of the marchers, and here are some of the people BFIA interviewed and heard:

Ed Fallon, "People need to be thinking of what changes they can make in their own life."

Ed Fallon, “People need to be thinking of what changes they can make in their own life.”

Berenice Tompkins and Andre Nunez. She's walking barefoot (mostly) and he's not talking.

Berenice Tompkins and Andre Nunez. She’s walking barefoot (mostly) and he’s not speaking.

Blair Frank "I'm here because of the shift that's happening around the planet in climate change.

Blair Frank “I’m here because of the shift that’s happening around the planet in climate change.

Miriam Kashia, Mayor.

Miriam Kashia, Mayor. “Imagine the audacity of a small group of ordinary citizens who believe they have to power to change the course of history.”

Ed Fallon, Jeffrey Czerwiec, Miriam Kashia and John Abbe at the marshaling area in Coralville

Ed Fallon, Jeffrey Czerwiec, Miriam Kashia and John Abbe at the marshaling area in Coralville

Rosella Lala Palazzolo selling raffle tickets. Rosella is a veteran of the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament in 1986

Rosella Lala Palazzolo selling raffle tickets. Rosella is a veteran of the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament in 1986

Mike Carberry and Jimmy Betts

Mike Carberry, “How we deal with climate change is the defining issue of our generation,” with Jimmy Betts

Jeffrey Czerwiec, "I'm walking every step of the way."

Jeffrey Czerwiec, “I’m walking every step of the way.”

David Osterberg, "We need to make renewable energy 100 percent."

David Osterberg, “We need to make renewable energy 100 percent.”

State Senators Rob Hogg and Joe Bolkcom

State Senators Rob Hogg and Joe Bolkcom

And finally, here’s the whole gang crossing Burlington Street on Iowa Avenue in Iowa City.

Follow the Great March for Climate Action here, or better, join them.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

Canning Tomatoes

Canning Tomatoes

Canning Tomatoes

LAKE MACBRIDE— As mentioned previously, there are a lot of tomatoes in the garden and kitchen. So many it is a struggle to preserve, eat and give them away before they turn to compost.

I took a bag of mixed color cherry tomatoes with me on the Great March for Climate Action Wednesday. Interest was mixed— even with exercise and the resulting thirst. Cherry tomatoes are a great snack to eat while walking, but even so, there was resistance.

Roma-style tomatoes are great for canning and part of this year’s abundance is being skinned, cut in half, then cored before processing. It’s not that we need more canned tomatoes, but having a crop each year has its own benefits, and there is a certain comfort in having a well-stocked pantry.

Before heading to work in the warehouse, I hope to finish the current batch and get ready for the next wave. Life with tomatoes is pretty good.

This Summer’s Reading

Book Shelf

Book Shelf

LAKE MACBRIDE— It is one thing to make a list of books to read during summer—quite another to actually read them. As I enjoy The Great Gatsby, the ultimate novel of summer, for the umpteenth time, the lists made previously seem to slip away, and it is surprisingly easy to let go.

Surrounded by books in my writer’s camp, one would think I’d pick one up now and again. Book reading has mostly been Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control, which was the first book I finished since March. I would like to read Gar Alperovitz’ The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, or Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb, but fear the rest of my life would elapse before finishing either of them. Both thick volumes stare down at me from the shelf. Finding time to read has proven difficult at best.

That said, there is a lot left to read.

This morning—another glorious summer day—the children walked to the bus stop near our home for the first day of school. It was a reminder of how fleeting life is—how our days on this blue-green-brown sphere are numbered, and too few. That we must seek our own experiences in a complex world not of our own making.

Still, I am thankful for finding books like The Wrong David to get through a night, reminding me of my experiences in France. And no, Carrie La Seur, I haven’t forgotten The Home Place which is on top of the pile ahead of Hillary Clinton and Jewelweed by David Rhodes. But for now, I will linger a bit longer with F. Scott Fitzgerald and seek experiences in this place we call our home.

Rolling Along in Big Grove

Bicycling Tools

Bicycling Tools

LAKE MACBRIDE— Long term, long distance bicyclists will notice my bike is resting on the derailleur. A big no-no, which has now been corrected. Live and learn and roll on.

Having made three round trips to my favorite spot on the lake trail, it is easy to feel progress. Slowly locating tools of the trade around the house: first, a bicycling helmet older than dirt, used on a century ride in Iowa City back in 1981. Next, a pair of bicycling gloves which came in handy when I fell in the driveway. Water bottles and bags to carry groceries back from town when I start riding in all need to be located and situated. I’ve started biking for real.

The bicycle is a Cannondale borrowed from a friend until I settle on whether to revitalize my old Puch ten speed, or purchase a new one. The bike in the photo has traveled RAGBRAI a number of times, and I may yet ride in the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. Perhaps as soon as next year.

Usually work is away from home, so today is an exception. One thing that will happen is another bike ride to begin to get conditioned for a longer ride soon.