The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
September 1997

Too Long, September 3

In the Pink, September 10

Salty Salsa, September 18

Frostbite Falls, MN, September 25

Title of the Month: Munias and Mannikins

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Too Long
Wednesday, September 3

It's harvest season and there are plenty of tomatoes (ah, Brandywine, the best!) and cukes in the garden, and other wonderful things in the market, like corn, fall raspberries, and peppers (I wiped out my peppers in the back yard with the new weed wacker — it was a bitter moment). It's also time for what I think of as the annual Apple Rejoicing here in Minnesota. Yum.

The State Fair was great. Weather wasn't too bad. I petted many cows. They were all beautiful. Petted rabbits, admired prize ganders, Tom turkeys, and the biggest boar in the state. The quilts and needlework were superb this year.

Had my annual Pronto Pup. The Gazpacho Girls from last year were gone, but I found a salad pita that was quite good. Real Minnesotans start at one end of the fair and eat their way to the other end, as long as what they eat has been fried or is on a stick or both. Luckily, coupled with 90 degree weather, this has never appealed to me much.

For those of you who are not acquainted with Crop Art, an explanation: at the worst it is wheat and beans glued onto a board in the shape of a cow or a flower. At best it is a subtle expression in natural shades and interesting textures of a mountain lion, an old barn surrounded by corn stalks, or even Garrison Keillor.

Every year Denny and I search for the kitchiest thing at the fair, and thanks to a friend, we found it — Xena, Warrior Princess, done in crop art. Exuberant. I took pictures, but ya hadda be there.

So take care, all of you, and eat your veggies, unless they've been glued to masonite. . . 

Terry


In the Pink
Wednesday, September 10

Had my annual Beet Experience. Once a year I make pickled beets. And, of course I eat a few. Then, a few hours later I visit the bathroom. Several seconds of total alarm, then I remember where the lovely shade of pink is coming from. . . .

Saw a sphinx moth last week. It was dusk, and I had paused in my evening walk to deadhead a few marigolds at the Metro Church on the corner. And there it was! At first I thought it was a hummingbird. On further reflection, remembering that we only have one kind of hummingbird here in Minnesota, and it's much bigger, I realized I was seeing a sphinx or hawk moth at work. The body is thick and bird-shaped; there's a little narrow beak, and the wings go so fast one can barely see them. But then it put a few legs down momentarily on the petunias it was after in order to steady itself, and that confirmed it. I watched for about five minutes, enchanted. It was quite unafraid.

Then yesterday Denny and I were out for a drive and I saw wild turkeys! It was one adult and four adolescents in the tall grass by the side of a very small county road. I caught a glimpse, ran through my mental rolodex, and the only thing that matched was wild turkey. Denny missed them because he was driving but expressed no remorse.

One more birdy experience: I was out for a walk during lunch and went over by the experimental corn field (I work on the Ag campus, remember). There was a scurry and a peeping and I jumped back — I nearly trod upon a little sparrow, so fat it could hardly walk, and who couldn't yet fly. The parents were nearby and chirped at it. I shooed it into the corn rows to keep it safe, but my goodness — certainly elevated my heart rate a bit! Sparrows rush in where Anglos fear to tread? Something along those lines. . . 

Take care, all of you, and watch it when you eat beets (well, maybe I should rephrase that. . . naw, wotthehecky-darn. . . .)

Terry


Salty Salsa
Thursday, September 18

Salt is currently the bane of my existence. I thought I didn't eat much salt before this, but I was wrong, wrong, wrong. The planet is paved with the stuff.

Most processed food has salt, even bread. Grumble. Not that I eat that much processed food, but still, it's annoying to find it when I do use processed foods.

This weekend we happened upon some wonderful tomatoes in the farmers market. Eggplant was cheap, and so was zucchini. The place was full of fresh onions and garlic, as well. Harvest time comes all of a piece here in the Land O Early Frost Dates. I bought it all. Denny carried it back to the car.

I used some of the tomatoes make a big batch of ratatouille for the freezer. Then I wanted to make some salsa.

I was determined that this was going to be great salsa. Like ratatouille, salsa is low in fat, calories, and packs a great flavor punch. This was going to be the best.

Keeping in mind that for boiling water bath canning (I don't have a pressure canner) there has to be sufficient acid present to prevent botulism, I measured and weighed and calculated, tossing in cilantro, garlic, anaheims and jalepenos with careful abandon. A friend was over to keep me company while I worked and we had a lot of catching up to do. So on the first batch I forgot to taste it. On the second batch I remembered.

Too much salt. I was horrified. No, no, it couldn't be! I had made this before and . . . this time I had misread the salt needed. Instead of halving the amount, I had doubled it because I had read tablespoons for teaspoons. Ghahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

It's still edible, if you aren't on a salt-restricted regimen. I got the hot and spicy and cilantro part just right. But the sodium — oh my. And I've got 14 pints of the stuff.

I can probably make another batch this coming weekend, if I want. I probably will, but to be caught out like that. At my age! Sheesh.

There's a lesson to be learned here. I'm not sure if it's to read the recipe aloud before you start, no matter how many times you've made it, or simply to can in solitude and ignore your friends. Perhaps it is that there is no careful abandon. I don't know. Whatever the lesson is, it ends up with salty salsa and I hope I never do it again.

Hope all is well out there — Happy Harvest!

Terry


Frostbite Falls, MN
Thursday, September 25

On the first day of autumn I got frostbite.

I had showed the doctor some odd bits of skin and he declared them to be sebaceous keratosis, which means plugged oil glands, but said they should be removed in case they got ideas. So I made an appointment with the skin guy, who kindly explained what he was about to do, then came at me with what looked like a propane torch. By sheer force of will I did not run screaming from the room.

Hoop-la! Four little dots of 2nd degree frostbite! It stung, but was over in a few seconds, and now I know what frostbite looks and feels like, which is very useful when you live in Minnesota.

Autumn here is just lovely. It's making up for the nasty spring we had, perhaps. The color change is about 2 weeks behind. I still have basil and tomatoes in the garden. For Minnesota, this is pretty good.

Karen and Mike were out visiting from California. We had a great time. Karen and I hit the new Penzey's Spice House place in St. Paul and bought out the store. They grind everything in the Wisconsin store and package it there, but it's quite fresh. It was wonderful to open each apothecary jar and sniff the samples. The cinnamons made Karen sneeze but she still ended up with three varieties. They sell spices, herbs, and their own special blends, plus pepper grinders and lovely gift packs.

They even have a web site: http://www.penzeys.com and will send you a fascinating catalog with recipes for free and not sell your name to other people. Pretty good deal.

Hope all is well out there thither and yon. Take good care of yourselves and stop to smell the roses.

Terry


Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
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Copyright 1997 by Terry A. Garey.