Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ale & Honey

My kitchen smells like ale and honey: two things that occur here in early fall. Over thirty pounds of raw honey are bottled and stored in the larder and several homebrew projects are bubbling in this humble kitchen. Right now a gallon jug of pale ale is finishing its first week of initial fermentation and plans for a pumpkin spice beer are in the works. These easy batches produce around 10-12 bottles of beer and take less then an hour to brew - so they are the current projects with all the winter prep going on. You cook it in a big spaghetti pot right on the stove, sanitize gear in rubber tubs, and 2-3 weeks later you're pouring organic ale into tall glasses. Pretty awesome and fast returns!

Last year's ciser (a cider mead) is already bottled into several cases of longnecks, growlers, and such. If we get lucky enough to find an orchard that will sell us their drops, we'll make apple cider this year as well and I'll use my own hive's honey as the sugar that the yeast will use to create alcohol out of fruit and time.

Homebrewing excites me. It's not something I am especially good at or practice year round. There are plenty of beer nerds and wine geeks out there making far better fare than this farm ever will. (I'm sure far better within ten miles of me!) But just knowing how to ferment and kick back by a campfire with a brew you knew as wort is just as rewarding to me as any bread you knew as flour or chicken dinner you knew on the feather. It's being part of making something. It feels correct.

It is a rainy day here. Soon as the farm dries off I'll be harnessing up Merlin to deliver a package a few miles away. I'll be wearing a good wool cloak, just in case the wind and rain gets too wild and tears up the maple-laned mountain road. I don't wear it for costume. I wear it the way people in football stadiums wrap up in wool blankets in late November: it's warm and you're outside in a stationary position. There are all sorts of sexy outdoor techwear for hikers and climbers and such, but when you are driving a horse cart what you need is a blanket with a hood and sleeves. A style that hasn't changed in centuries for good reason. So that is the big adventure, but besides the drive down the mountain there is a garden to work in. Soon as I can go outside without getting soaked I will get to work on that kailyard and get it ready for Thursday night, which may bring our first frost already. Predictions are for a hard winter, and I am starting to believe them. Which it rains I am working on making a hunting vest with a game pouch and hood out of an old pair of canvas work pants and a thrift shop sweater. My sewing machine is broken beyond repair (stored by open window and all gears rusted over) so it will be hand sewn. If you like I'll post the rough instructions?

Do you brew? Do you garden into winter? Any advice for a new winter gardener? Any inexpensive sewing machines out there you can recoment or have one you can barter with me for a class or Indie Day? Please comment and share!


Blogger Rachel said...

Simple cold frames can be made with old windows if you can find any! I garden through the winter in Louisiana.

September 16, 2014 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Matt_Middleton said...

I started brewing back in 2011, and have never looked back :)

September 16, 2014 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger live pura vida said...

My boyfriend and I love to brew! Every fall we make a pumpkin beer for our annual pumpkin carving party. We also like to use local honey or other fruits we've gathered at pick-your-owns during the season. It's really a lot of fun and there are endless possibilities to the recipes you can try. And a 6-pack makes a great gift! As for sewing machines, I was gifted a reliable but fairly inexpensive Singer model. I think new it's about $200. Or maybe try Craigslist to see if anyone is selling used models?

September 16, 2014 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Mountain Walker said...

Cruciferous vegetables. We grow cabbages, broccoli,cauliflower, B. sprouts, onions, carrots (well, these aren't cruciferous veggies) into the late fall/ early winter here in NW Montana. It seems that they just get sweeter with the cold weather. Something to look into :).

September 16, 2014 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

I brew mead (honey wine) in my wee apartment from local raw honey. It isn't fancy, but it does the trick. I was given some brewing supplies from my father (who makes his own wine). I have also brewed my own white wine - and have about 20 more bottles until I run out. So I'm set ;)
Despite being mostly destroyed by a raccoon during the summer, I still have some kale in my garden! I can't believe it survived!

September 16, 2014 at 4:42 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

I have a circa 1960s Singer sewing machine... do you want it?

September 17, 2014 at 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No experience with either brewing or winter gardening yet, but I've been reading Eliot Coleman on four season vegetable production without extra heat -- and he's in Maine. (I'm in Canada so I take what I can get that isn't about California or southern England.) The Winter Harvest Handbook has a lot of awesome information in it.

September 17, 2014 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Jenna -- I've been following you and your blog for quite some time, you are such a big inspiration to this city-stuck barnheart. I haven't commented before, but as homebrewing is one of my biggest passions I just had to jump in and say welcome to our little community!

I brew 5-gallon batches in my studio apartment on my stove top. My beers so far have been an ESB, a Porter, an APA and I have a pumpkin in my secondary fermenter, an IPA in my primary, and a bourbon barrel old ale awaiting the primary to free up. This little brewery is known as The Great Rural Revival Brewhouse... G.R.R. Brewhouse, if you will.

I love your writing, your stories and you spirit. I hope one day I can scrape the money to make it out for Antler Stock, until then, I'll be watching from CO!


September 20, 2014 at 9:46 PM  

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