Archive for the ‘Fruit’ Category

Lawn Converted Into Food


Over the past few years I’ve watched a few hundred episodes of Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV, and am a regular commenter there. Recently, I’ve been enamored with Daniel Klein’s ‘Perennial Plate‘ project about eating locally in Minnesota. So recently I had a bit of a ‘duh…’ moment, realizing that I had the gear to do some video blogging myself, and really should be using it as I really enjoy the nature of video for blogging purposes. So meet Kevin TV. I intend on keeping it a tad ghetto, one-take-esque, and uncontrived. We’ll see how it evolves. I’m especially excited about the video format come harvest and hunting season, and for farm visits.

This one is a simple mid-July garden tour of my recent ex-lawn. I intend on following it once a season over the next few years.

Ketchup…from scratch

Having made lard, I’ve been mucking about [very successfully, I may add] with pastry dough. Which lead to tourtiere. Which lead to copious amounts of ketchup being used, which is how I roll with tourtiere. Heinz. I used it up, yep I did. Onto the grocery list it went.

Then I considered a ketchup a friend of mine had given me, that I also had just run out of. She’d made it. It was pretty tasty. I had a 40lb crop of tomatoes this fall, and had some put up. It was time I gave this a go.

No recipe here. It was some pureed tomatoes from the garden. A small tin of organic tomato paste. Some sautéed onion, garlic, and a tad of celery as a base. Tweaked the acid with white vinegar, the sweetness with sugar. Salt, of course. That’s it. Reduced it, immersion blended it, put it through a sieve for texture – and well, it looked like ketchup. Nailed that. Taste? Pretty dang solid. I tend to get jazzed about balancing acid and sugar in general – so ketchup may just present enough of a challenge to keep making it. With very little effort, I ended up with about a quart. That should last, oh, until next week if I keep making tourtiere. Ketchup has been scratched off the grocery list.

Saskatoon Wine – 2009 Batch 1


As with quite a few other items lately, I’m posting about making ‘Saskatoon Wine’ because there seems to be a hole in online information about the topic. After doing some research, I realized that it’s partly because it’s very Canadiana to even call them saskatoons. Amélanche, juneberry, serviceberry, shadberry are more common names elsewhere. I’ll use the terms interchangeably, just to spice it up with a tsp of confusion.

Can a serviceable, decent wine be produced with these berries? I’m on the quest to find out.

First step. Pick lots of berries. How much fruit/yield of juice/yield of mature bottles? Unfortunately, that answer’s requiring a lot of R&D.

The water problem

The biggest issue I’ve had with serviceberry wines in the past is they taste watered down. The fruit character was solid enough – but watery. Doing research on the very few recipes kicking about, I found out why this may be: adding more water by weight than berries is the norm. WHAT?!?!? What sense does that make? If you did that to grape wine in France, I think they’d string you up in the town square. Well we found out one possible reason – crush juneberries and they yield little juice, so much so that making a slurry essentially doesn’t happen. I thought ‘okay, clearly there is a reason for the water.’ We added water until we had a nice runny mash, and ended up content at 0.55L/Kg of fruit. Traditional recipes are more in the ballpark of 2.20L/Kg of fruit. That’s a pretty severe difference. I felt baldy about the water I’d added until I did those calculations.

This being my first run at this, we used a giant potato masher to crush the previously frozen fruit. Worked pretty well. I also took it for a spin with my kitchen immersion blender – which quickly would plug up with the robust berry. But I’m going to use my fruit crusher next time in hopes of more juice yield right off the bat, so that I can reduce the water addition – working my way towards zero water/kg if I can. How else can a proper wine be made?


Adding large volumes of water to your must completely screws it up. The pH rises out of the mid 3 range that you want, into 4 territory. Titratable acidity is equally thrown off. So you have to intervene to adjust the acidity to avoid a limp, sickly wine. The sugars get dilute too – so in goes sugar to balance the water addition. And that’s with a quarter the water normally recommended. I clearly need to do some juice chemistry on un-watered-down juice, if for no other reason than to understand the juice’s innate chemistry better.


This is where my water gripes dissipate and it becomes a joy to punch down the cap of skins/berries 3-4 times a day. Post inoculation of yeast, the bubbles quickly lift the solids to form a 3” cap or so. In time, mine became about a foot thick. Reincorporating it prevents off-odors, keeps the must safe from oxidation and bugs, and helps with extraction of color and phenolics. I did as warm a fermentation as I could muster – getting the must up to 27C at the peak of fermentation. That heat is necessary for extraction of color and flavor as well – from the skins. I achieved close to my heat goal of 27-32C by sticking the bucket in a small bathroom upstairs with a light left on to generate some heat. It also happened to be warm outside – I can see having to get more creative if fermenting in the winter here. All of this proceeded as expected, and I tested S.G. daily, and temperature twice daily.


My fruit press did a fine job of this – far easier than pressing apples, as the skins have been…um…decomposed…party by the yeast’s party already. There was a lot less pomace than I expected, which is a promising sign that the berries really break down – implying potential for removal of more water.

Tasting Notes

Although yeast-laden, raw, and young, the wine actually tastes like a nice wine, and smells the part too. Bright fruit, good acidity on the palate – very optimistic of its matured, post-oak state. It’s quite bright red at this stage – rosy red, as opposed to dark or purple.


I will be oaking this batch with American oak, medium plus toast infusion spirals from the Barrel Mill. Try to get these things locally. Hah. I ordered mine direct online. One thing I’ve learned lately is that wine shops don’t know much about making wine around here. I went to two shops asking for malolactic culture and got blank stares, was asked if that was malic acid, or worst ‘is that for making beer?’. At a wine shop. Good grief. Praise online shopping.

More posts about this as things progress.

Apple Harvest Day 2009

Apple Harvest day. A big deal in my little world as it means my first adventure in scratch wine/cidermaking begins now. We picked roughly 75kg of apples today of 4 varieties. Tomorrow we’ll pick from our tree hoping for an additional 40kg. For all those hitting my blog looking for crushing/pressing help, tomorrow will be a big day to find out whether things work as they should or not. Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow will also be the big chemistry day. With 6 musts [doing a batch of saskatoon wine as well] being created, there will be a lot of tweaking going on. I’ve designed a spreadsheet that takes 4 inputs: pH, titratable acidity, volume, and specific gravity – and it outputs the necessary amounts of SO2, tartaric acid, sugar, yeast nutrient, tannin, and pectic enzyme for the must. After much research and cross-referencing sources, I’m really stoked to take it for a spin. My brother-in-law who happens to be a chemist will be here bright and early to share his brain.

Newbie-note-to-self: all the apples are in different stages if ripeness. Some underripe, some overripe, and some on the money. My ratio of optimal ripeness is lower than I expected. Partly a consequence of not having the trees on your property and being able to monitor them properly for maturity – which I have been doing on the ones in my yard. Plus fruit varies widely based on position on the tree relative to the sun. Of course. Lastly – the crab apples have vastly more aromatics going on than the others.

My Explosion of Kleenex Needs Bees


Our Red Sparkle apple tree is a giant riot of white. It makes me happy, many times a day. From afar it looks like a kleenex box exploded all over it. If number of blossoms correlates to number of fruits, we’re in for a crazy yield this year again – last year was 100kg+. Now all we need is those pollinating insects to do their thing. Fruit trees rock. I want more.