It’s autumn, and I need a drink.
It’s partly because autumn is my least favourite season, but mainly because the crabapples are ripe. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember I mentioned I love food and I’m helplessly addicted to gardening.
The result of those traits is a back yard containing an apple tree, a crabapple tree, grapevines, raspberries, gooseberries, rhubarb, haskaps (a very cool variety of honeysuckle with fruit like blueberries on steroids), strawberries, asparagus, a hazelnut tree, and a greenhouse full of tomatoes and peppers. My “real” garden is about 3,000 square feet of vegetables outside the city.
The star of the backyard show is the crabapple tree. Every year, it droops under the weight of its crop – deliciously sweet-tart, juicy blush-pink apples. (The variety is Rescue, in case there are any other hungry gardeners out there.) Every year, I cart away a couple of wheelbarrow-loads of crabapples. I make jelly, fruit leather, applesauce, and spiced crabapples. Then if there are leftovers, I ferment them into hard cider.
This process begins with an explosion of pulverized crabapples and ends with a product that ranges from rotgut to rocket fuel to rot (if I don’t get a high enough alcohol content).
Juicing was a laborious process until a few years ago when Hubby bought me one of those newfangled kick-ass juicers – yet another reason why he’s on the best-husband-ever list. The new juicer works like a dream… except for one thing. No matter how fast I slam the pusher into the chute after adding a handful of apples, the shredding action is so aggressive that bits spray everywhere. The first time I used it, I was picking apple flecks out of my eyebrows and off the ceiling.
This year I wised up and did the juicing on the back deck where I could hose everything off afterward. (The neighbours didn’t even bat an eye. After the radish/toilet incident, they’re probably afraid to ask.)
Once all the juicing is done, it’s a glorious exercise in hope. What yeast should I use this year? What part of the process will I tweak to get the absolutely perfect batch of cider? Then there’s fermentation, racking, fining, bottling with just the right amount of added sugar to get a delicious sparkle in the finished product.
Then there are months of anticipation. It takes about a year before the final product is ready.
Then comes the first taste… and the final classification: rotgut, rocket fuel, or rot. But I keep hoping somehow, some year, I’ll magically produce something drinkable. Well, something other people might consider drinkable. I drink it anyway…
But in the mean time, all that work and hope has made me thirsty. Think I’ll crack open a bought beer. At least I know it’ll be good.
What’s your favourite autumn beverage?
Oh, and loosely related to gardening: I can’t believe I actually managed to snap a bee in mid-flight in my garden a few days ago: