Thursday, October 16, 2008

PS on the Grapes

Farmer Jeff and I pressed the 55 gallons of crushed Zinfandel grapes and now have 26 gallons of juice...and purple hands! Last year we have 15 gallons of juice and made 45 gallons of jelly. You can imagine how much we will make this year...and both of us HATE to be sticky!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

M. I . A. no longer

Honestly, we didn't fall off the face of the earth. We have just been really busy on our beloved Mother Earth. We have been harvesting and preserving everything in sight. Where to begin?

We have been harvesting figs from our front yard. YUM!!! I picked so many on one day that I ended up cutting them in quarters and then drying them in our food dehydrator. We have 6 different kinds of figs, among them are White Genoa, Calmyrna, Brown Turkey and Black Mission. They get the barest amount of water and I wait to pick them when they are soft and droopy. When you bite into them they almost have a honey-liquid moistness. When dried they are like little nuggets of candy.

Our Bartlett pear tree also produced a big crop this year. Pretty good for its second crop! I dried most of them, too. I would like to make Swiss Pear bread with the pears and figs, but who knows if I will get to it this December. (I like to make it for my family for Christmas presents. Shh...don't tell them!)

We are fortunate to have been selected as one of the farms adopted by the culinary program at Windsor High School. Last week we had no less than 3 different classes come out to the Windsor Farm/The Ruff Garlick Patch. A few of the students were in charge of making breakfast while the other ones were given a tour of the farm and then were put to work picking Anaheim and Pasilla Chiles! FREE LABOR!!!

Farmer Jeff just couldn't help himself. He found a New Mexico-style chile roaster, ordered it and put it to the test! We figured that, once picked, we had over 220 pounds of Anaheim chiles in beautiful reds and greens. We, that is, Farmer Jeff roasted them while I bagged and labeled them in one pound bags. The freezer is full of them! They can be found at the Cheese Shop in Healdsburg and they are featured in both the Harvest Posole at Zin Restaurant as well as their "green" chile on the lunch menu.

After having roasted chiles all one morning, we received a call from our winemaker friend. He told us the Zinfandel grapes were ready. For the past 2 years we have been making Zinfandel jelly in annually increasing amounts. The first year Farmer Jeff made it specifically for Giada di Laurentiis's visit to Zin. With it he created the Warm Zinfandel Grape Jelly Filled Doughnuts. Last year our winemaker friend gave us a call when the second crop grapes were ready in a particularly good area in Dry Creek. Then four of us picked a pick up full of grapes and Farmer Jeff (and I for one of the 5 jelly making days) made 50 cases of grape jelly from 33 gallons of juice.

On Wednesday Farmer Jeff and I picked the second crop grapes for a couple of hours. I learned that the second crop is the little tendril cluster of grapes that is above the main cluster and used as a "second crop" insurance if the first crop fails or freezes or...well, you get what I mean.

That day was the best day of my life. It was so beautiful. The beginning of the day was filled with roasting chiles, a quick lunch and then picking. The weather WAS perfect. Sunny, a slight fall breeze, not too hot, not too cold. I think it was so special because Farmer Jeff and I were together doing exactly what we love to do.

On Thursday I went back out there with our friend's son. He and I picked for 2 1/2 hours, and then his mom joined us and we picked until dark, another 2 1/2 hours. Farmer Jeff was at work...

On Saturday we crushed the grapes. That was fun. All of this is fun. Right now we have 55 gallons of crushed grapes and are going to press them tomorrow night. Thankfully they are under refrigeration. We are looking forward to making jelly but not until we return from a well deserved vacation to New Orleans and Mississippi. I promise to write dispatches while on the road.

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