The garden and trees turn to fall colors all at once — right now, as I write.
First frost can’t be far away, maybe next week. Leaves and grasses turn without freezing temperatures. The landscape assumes a warm brilliance.
I picked more than 200 pounds of apples Wednesday and donated them to Local Harvest CSA. Enough for shareholders to bake a pie or crisp, or even eat! The apple variety is Red Delicious.
The trees have never been sprayed, and grow as near organic as possible. Fruit sometimes develop black spotting which can be washed off easily. They are delicious in more ways than one.
I walked the garden, filling a bucket with bell peppers, Swiss chard, scarlet kale, celery, a few tomatoes, basil and oregano — what was available. Most of it became soup for dinner.
Beginning with a cup of tomato juice in the Dutch oven. I steamed a diced large onion, sliced chard stems, fine ribbons of kale and chard leaves, celery, turnips and carrots. Except the onion, all were grown in our garden. Once the vegetables softened I added savory, bay leaves, sea salt, dried orange lentils, barley and a can of prepared organic kidney beans. Tomato juice to cover. The pot boiled and I turned it down to simmer. While soup was on, I cooked a cup of organic rice. Plating was a scoop of rice in the middle of the bowl with soup ladled around it.
The next day I water bath processed two quarts of soup, along with three pints of apple butter and a quart of apple sauce. Because of the backlog of apple sauce and apple butter in the pantry, I’m making a limited amount, just to have this year’s vintage when previous jars are used up. There’s more than enough soup for winter into spring.
The tine of my apple peeler cracked, rendering it useless. I drove to the orchard to buy a new one, but in conversation with the chief apple officer, it turns out they had plenty of spare parts. He gave me a used replacement part which fit perfectly and put me back in business.
We got to talking about apple cider vinegar.
This conversation began in 2012 with another friend, who also works at the orchard. He gave me some mother of vinegar which originated with his family in the 19th century. It’s still alive. The orchard used it to start a line of bottled apple cider vinegar to sell in the sales barn.
Today’s discussion was about whether or not to use brewer’s yeast. Jack, the source of the mother, has a large plastic container to which he occasionally adds new juice, but never any yeast. We decided that the yeast must have come from other sources, and therefore no new need be added. Since it works, and in a home kitchen we expect there to be variation in the level of acetic acid, I decided to forego using yeast for the time being.
Yeast is basically everywhere. As anyone who made sough dough from scratch knows, it needn’t necessarily be purchased from a store. Jack’s mother likely has yeast in it, although I rarely see bubbles forming after adding new apple juice. It makes vinegar and that’s the hope.
Fall’s progress is one of the best times of the year. Squirrels scour oak trees for every last acorn. Birds roost on tomato cages where vines still produce.
It takes a walk in the garden to remind us of Earth’s potential, providing soup for dinner and apples for the sweet and sour of life.