Apple cider brewing notes

I made hard apple cider for the first time this year with a friend. We used local apples, purchased and stolen as well as a few from somewhere else in Washington.

The first batch was too watery and used a dry wine yeast for mead, not sweet or apple tasting really, though if you mix it with juice it’s drinkable. The way I made this batch was by using the blender and apples and then trying to strain the apples through a cloth. It didn’t work because I didn’t have enough patience and then I found my juicer in the garage and I did a second bath.

The second batch was using the juicer and began with 8 gallons I thought of the apple juice through the juicer via 30 some pounds of apples. Added SN9 premium wine yeast for country wines, yeast nutrient, potassium metabisulfite and pectic enzyme. This sat for a month and then I added half a cup of sugar and put into the one-gallon carboys. It made only 3 gallons. I don’t know if it evaporated or not. Seems to be accurate and very high alcohol content in the cider this time.

These are the one-gallon glass carboys and you can see that the cider has left it’s sediment behind. When I rack or bottle or rebottle this into either another carboy or directly into bottles the sediment is left behind rather than put into bottles. I tasted a bit of this second batch and it’s way better and highly alcoholic!

I purchased a turkey baster to transfer it into bottles because my siphon hose thing that I use doesn’t always work unless there’s enough of a gravity difference from having the container high and then the bottle though.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone! I am very thankful for all I have this holiday and hope that everyone can keep a few thankful thoughts in their heart today.

I have noticed the past year or two that the holidays seem to be getting back to the basics a little more. From what people look at as important like food, traditions, family and being together with people you treasure to the real meaning of the holidays I think a lot of people are getting the idea. It’s not all about presents and expectations from others.

I have  some ideas for posts including holiday gifts to share soon. I am also not giving up my dream of having a small farm and small farm business in the near future. Currently I am looking for a job to support that next venture and am very hopeful.

Goat Song

I read the book “Goat Song” by Brad Kesseler from the library in one day and decided to post a review. I have dreamed of having dairy goats for many years and am not swayed from that pursuit but encouraged after reading this book.

The following excerpt/summary is from Amazon.

“Brad Kessler lived in New York City but longed for a life on the land where he could grow his own food. After years of searching for a home, he and his wife, photographer Dona Ann McAdams, found a mountain farmhouse on a dead-end road, with 75 acres of land. One day, when Dona returned home with fresh goat milk from a neighbor’s farm, Kessler made a fresh chèvre, and their life changed forever. They decided to raise dairy goats and make cheese.”

This book is like a daily diary through the seasons as the couple lives with goats and learns about their personalities their breed and how to live in harmony with the animals that feed them.

Kessler explains how it is to herd the goats and just be still and watch them. He includes the history of herding as well as how songs and poetry came from goats and the people they have inspired.

After making cheese in the end it turns out that he is in fact a very good cheesemaker, with his first cheeses getting praise from chefs and restaurants.

They start with four goats and breed two of them. This is followed by Kessler helping his wife Dona, a trained doula, with the birth of four goat kids. There is perhaps too much information about taking the goats to be bred when they think they are in heat as well as in-depth breeding details, but it all kind of goes along with the first-time goat ownership.

The couple also helps a neighbor with haying which I found really fascinating because I tend to get a little excited when it’s hay season here even though I have no need for hay, nor do I grow it or help bail it at anytime. I think it’s a good sign of the season and it’s interesting to note Kessler’s description of the differences in hay and humidity and contents and smell. I thought I was the only weirdo who thought like that.

There is a cheese journal including how much milk the get from the does on each day and what they do with the milk as well as if Hannah, the more stubborn milker puts her foot in the bucket and renders the milk unusable.

This book is a treasure of writing on pastoral living and makes cheese making and goat tending to seem to be such a worthwhile endeavor.

Meat birds

This is a graphic entry with notes and thoughts about killing chickens and turkeys to eat. If this upsets you please do not read any further.

Since I want to be able to grow and raise my own food and also share with others I need to be able to kill chickens and possibly turkeys. I like to eat them and so I need to be ok with killing them. Before ordering meat birds and being stuck in a predicament of not being able to kill them, I decided I needed to go through this process. It’s more than a process to people like me I guess in that it’s a learning experience. I learn about myself and I learn about the animals. I am trying not to use the word “process” too much in that the first portion involving the killing is to me not simply “processing”.

Because I have been thinking about this I e-mailed the people who do pasture-raised animals in a wonderful way in my opinion. They raise chickens, turkeys, duck, geese, sheep, pigs and probably something else I am forgetting. I was invited to come and watch the chicken processing or harvesting they were doing but I wouldn’t get an in-depth tutorial since they would be busy. I thought that would be fine as long as I could watch. I didn’t get there when they first started because Willow was up with her cold the previous night and I wanted to make sure she would be ok before I left her with my husband and Melody for the morning. I got there at 9 ish and they had already killed the chickens and were processing them. I watched them painstakingly pull out the right parts and avoid the others (if they could but that didn’t happen twice for one person)  and make small cuts and rinse and repeat while talking about what they were doing. Although I tried to stay out of the way and not ask too many questions I did ask a lot of questions and they asked questions of me too like what I am planning and why and where I live and a bit about my hens that I have now. Talk about chickens moulting and not laying and why they choose not to breed their own animals and the size of their operation, etc.

After the chickens were finished and I got tons of information into my head which I didn’t expect to get,  I watched them kill 4 turkeys. Turkeys in several ways are harder to process than chickens I was told and then understood. They have a different neck, they have a different way of dying almost and they are larger. Of all the times they have processed them one of the guys said he had never seen them die with their eyes open. I said it was because I was there watching. I sort of believe that too because I was standing inches away from their necks as I watched the incisions being made. The blood drains down out of their arteries and it also comes out of their mouth sometimes as well. The idea is to avoid the trachea. They are dead soon after but the bodies still move around and shake to the point that blood splattered on the windows of the building we were outside of. These turkeys had a really good life and were actually being kept by the family because they didn’t pass a walking test and wouldn’t walk to get away from people and they were low on the pecking order as well. Turkeys have the same pecking order as chickens and there are some that get bullied and pecked at all the time.

The turkeys stay hanging upside down in the metal cones and then go for a minute in the hot water bath which I think was 180 degrees. Then they go into the feather-plucker washing machine. Before I arrived I actually had seen these things before though I hadn’t been inches away from the process. Then the whole internal dissection, neck removal, etc. When they were doing the first two they found eggs intact so they were female turkeys. The parts that are not saved are composted into the earth.

I was expecting to have more of a problem with seeing this but I was fine. The only problem I had at the end was saying thank you and thinking what am I supposed to send as a thank you gift, maybe a note or? They don‘t have Hallmark cards for this occasion.

I know that they feel good about sharing the information and the passion for humanely raising pastured meat so maybe that is enough for them.They treat the animals with respect until their last minute even carrying them individually.

I was sort of amazed at how long it took to process the chickens and the turkeys because there is a lot to do and you have to be careful with how you are pulling on them so as not to disrupt certain parts like the bile especially.  With turkeys you have to be really careful with the skin and the general appearance of the bird because people are going to want to display it on a platter before eating it usually.

Things I didn’t know
That turkeys are killed using a larger cone but in the same way as chickens. They stay in the water bath longer than the chickens too.
That they keep moving that much after they are technically dead.
That the feet have reptile skin that is actually peeled off of them when they are plucked.
I thought you would be able to tell the difference between a male and female turkey by looking at it but I don’t know that you can in all cases.

Something that I did know

That it’s ok to know exactly where your food comes from and investigate the process. That these animals are raised in a humane way and treated with respect and kindness during their lives before they are killed as part of the food chain for some.