Apple Cider (or the memory of an older home)

Yesterday I spent the afternoon (and well into the evening) with my neighbor CL making apple cider.  We visited another neighbor that had two apple trees teaming with tiny little apples.  The trees had been planted sometime between 1900-1953 when her family settled in this little part of the range.  The trees are gnarled and beautiful with scars of old fires and lightening strikes and no formalized pruning regiment, just the yearly winds knocking down broken and dead limbs.

Apples

We gathered as many minimally bruised tiny apples from the ground below the trees and then filled the rest of our bags with the green and yellow ones from the branches above, sending down rains of apples every time we picked a tree-apple.  How many did we gather?  Something like this:  a cooler full + three 3-gallon buckets worth (and a bag of more rotten ones for CL’s goats).  One bucket went to the lady of the house who tells us a bucket full makes exactly 17 pints of apple butter.

But apple butter wasn’t what we wanted.  Former northern east-coast transplants CL and I share a not so secret longing, especially during harvest season. Fall is apple picking and cider making season in New England and Upstate New York.  Glorious memories of afternoons spent picking bushels macouns and macintoshes (among many other varieties) with the reward of a glass of unpasteurized apple cider and a cider donut.  My family never made their own, but there were plenty places around to get a gallon, starting in September through Thanksgiving.  Cider meant fall and apples and abundance.  It meant leaves turning red and orange and yellow; and the seasons changing and getting out those wool sweaters.  It meant sharing and spending time with family and friends.

cider

So we went to work de-stemming and pulverizing tiny little apples in the vitamix and blender to a sauce-like consistency.  Failing to locate a cider or wine press, we struggled with how to press out the juice.  After a couple failed attempts of trying to push the entire pulverized contents of a 5 gallon bucket through an old pillow case, we ended up settling in to wring it by hand through some cheesecloth.  So a couple cups at a time we wrung and squeezed until the juice was extracted and we were left with dry, tasteless solids and the cloudy dark liquid cider.

 

It was 8:30 before we siphoned off the 4 ½ gallons into containers.

results

We took a few moments to savor the sweet-tart spicy taste of joy.  We quietly reminisced and spoke of the hard work to obtain this precious liquid.  When I took my leave, both of us agreed that this would be a tradition worth building and sharing in our adopted community.  Perhaps between the end of haying and the beginning of shipping season, a cider pressing potluck could be a way to celebrate the harvest and reflect on the coming season.

 

 

Check out Flown the Coop Blog

My friend Emily has a collective blog that I also try to post to from time to time.  It is called Flown the Coop:  A collective and can be found at http://flownthecoopcollective.com.

Flown the Coop (v1.1) is an informal collective based in Wyoming, USA. We share skills, knowledge, goods, and good times. The initial emphasis of this website is to create a place where the group can contribute what we know, what we thought we knew, and to provide insights and inspiration for projects. We also share our adventures and what we’ve learned (even if it was the hard way).”

Come and check it out for ideas, inspiration, and community!

Postnote:  My forays into making Mascarpone cheese was one of my recent posts: http://flownthecoopcollective.com/2012/03/31/homemade-mascarpone-cheese/

9-grain cereal no knead bread

 

I’ve done a lot of experimenting with no knead bread over the last couple of years.   It’s a great way to make good tasting bread with minimal work. Last weekend I played with the typical recipe (that I purloined from one of my favorite blogs: Onestrawrob’s Cranberry Pecan Bread: http://onestrawrob.com/?p=1755). Using Rob’s recipe as a base, I’ve made a lot of different versions of no-knead bread. This time I had some of Bob’s 9-grain cereal and decided to see how that would work. Here’s what I did:

4 cups water, room temp

4 cups whole wheat flour (I love Wheat Montana Prairie Gold)

3 cups white flour (once again Wheat Montana makes a great all purpose)

1 cup 9 grain cereal

½ tsp dry yeast

½ tsp sea salt or 1 tsp kosher salt

3 Tbsp honey (optional)

Mix water, flours, and cereal together in large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Let sit for 10 minutes (this is called autolyzing which allows starches and gluten to expand and fully absord water, it’s not a necessary step but I like doing it with most of my bread recipes as I like the results-high rise).

Add in yeast and mix well. Sit for 3-4 minutes.

Add salt and honey and mix.

Dough will be very sticky. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and put it in a coolish (60-70 degrees) place for 12-18 hours. Or leave out for a couple hours and put in refridgerator for up to 36 hours (If you do this, make sure it comes to room temperature before moving onto step 5.)

Dump out dough on a floured surface and roll/press flat, removing excess CO2 from the dough. Then form it into a ball and let it rest 15 minutes.

Do a second press and form the dough into a loaf (you can do this free form or loaf pan). I like to put it on floured parchment paper at this time so it can be moved easily into it’s vessel.

Let the dough rise for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, about 30 minutes out, Preheat oven to 450 F and place covered container (pyrex, dutch oven, bread cloche) inside oven to heat up.

After dough has risen and oven is at 450 , remove baking dish to stovetop and move dough into the hot baking dish (this is where having it on parchment makes it super easy to move).

Cover, put back in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the cover, reduce heat to 425 and bake for another 15-25 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the crust is hard and deep golden brown.

Cool for as long as you can, at least 10 minute. Remember the bread is still baking at this time and cutting into it will cause steam to escape and may lead to doughy centers. Take this time to gather any topping you want for the bread (I personally love unsalted butter and some homemade jam) and to make yourself a cup of tea.

Enjoy a couple minutes of peace and luxury as you bite into the bread and sip your tea. Be in the moment.

This recipe makes a large family size free-style loaf or two loafs in a loaf pan. If you don’t have a covered container or want to make this in a loaf pan, no worries; just cover using aluminum foil… the bread crust will turn out softer and the crumb tighter than if you steam the bread using a closed container.

There you have it. The bread was a pretty tight grain and dense but definitely good eating. Next time I may reconstitute the cereal before with ½ cup to 1 cup of water and add that to the rest of the flour and water. By adding the cereal dry, I could definitely pick out bits of grain. Or if you have leftover cooked grain cereal, this would be a great way to use it up. I’d also like to try adding an additional cup of the grains and cutting down the white flour to 2 cups.