Sunday, September 7, 2014

Waiting on the apples...

We got a drastic change in the weather the past couple of days and I love it! I guess it really isn't THAT drastic, but after running through muggy, hot and humid days for the last couple of weeks, this new cooler, dryer air is wonderful! It's September, what we'd normally expect this time of year, and when it arrives my brain goes into overdrive on what to cook, sew, bake, or create!!  The coming of Fall has always been my favorite time of year.

But, I'm getting impatient...nothing really new for me, especially when I'm wanting to try out a new "homemade" something or other...this time it involves an apple tree and fermenting! No clue, of course, how or what the end result will turn out like, but I'm going to give it a shot and see what happens just as soon as that apple tree hurries up and gets done producing! :)

I've done a lot of canning over the years and with that came the use of vinegar...cider and white. Never really knew there was much of anything else but those two choices until one day I stumbled across a bottle of red wine vinegar and tried it...I love that stuff and keep a bottle in my fridge at all times. I use it in my coleslaw and potato salad dressings among other things and can't imagine ever being without it. I also keep on hand and use big jugs of both white and cider vinegar for all my canning needs. Most folks know there are a lot of healthful benefits to using vinegar, although, short of cooking, I've never really used it for much of anything else except maybe applying it to a sunburn.

With the help of the internet I'm learning a LOT about vinegar, more especially raw apple cider vinegar. Until just a few short months ago I didn't know there was such a thing, or if I did, I didn't realize the difference between it and that big, plastic gallon jug you buy off the store shelf. But in researching healthy eating styles I've ran across many blogs and articles that talked about using raw apple cider vinegar so I went in search of some. Of course, eating anything healthy these days seems to cost you an arm and a leg which is one reason, I'm sure, most people DON'T eat can't afford to! And there are so many "organic" this and  thats, that you begin to wonder just really how organic is it? I mean, if everyone is buying organic then it's being produced in mass quantities as well..right? So, how can you really be sure it's as "natural" as they say it is? I get the really distinct feeling that much of what we're being told and sold as organic is just a wording affect and not really as natural as they'd lead us to believe....but I've always been a skeptic to a certain extent. To me, the only way you are going to be really, one hundred percent, assured of  "all natural", "organic" stuff is to produce it yourself!

Anyway, back to the vinegar! :) At our local Dutch store, which I visit regularly, I found a bottle of Bragg's Raw Apple Cider Vinegar...the self same brand that you'll find most bloggers and health food enthusiasts talk/write about, so I bought a bottle....and of course, I paid more money for it...I use it very sparingly. In that bottle is a small, foggy looking creature floating around on the bottom...they call it the "mother" and it is one of the reasons this particular vinegar is more healthy for you and also one of the things that should be present in a raw vinegar. I honestly don't know whether or not having a "mother" in your vinegar makes it more healthy or not...I also don't know that Bragg's is in anyway produced more organically than any other brand touted as such. I've not been to the factory where it's produced and I'm going to assume it's produced in one, which again makes me wonder, from the tree to the bottle, just how truly "natural" is this stuff over any other....I don't know!! That type of thinking is what usually gets me in trouble...and leads me onto further searching as to just what it takes to make my own and guess what? You can make vinegar at home...easily!! (You know where this is heading right?)  ;)

So, here I am, waiting on my ages old apple tree to finish doing what it does...producing apples. This lonely little tree was one of several my dad planted back in the day that was to be the only one that also survived. It's a dwarf Jonathan, although there is nothing dwarf about it! To me the Jonathan apple is the ultimate apple, it's sweet, tart, firm and can be used for just about anything that has to do with apples. This particular tree has stood for many years, usually producing...nothing!! After a severe ice and snow storm hit our area a few years ago, the hubs came over (this was before we had moved here) and "trimmed" it up. In fact, he butchered it!! Seriously, after I seen it I told him he might as well have cut it down it looked that bad! But guess what? The thing went crazy after that! We know next to nothing about fruit trees...okay...we know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about fruit trees, so we just left it alone and low and behold we're now getting apples! Last year the thing was loaded, albeit the apples were really nothing to brag about. They were small, scrappy things with worm holes and spots throughout, but they were good enough to turn into apple juice that I canned to use for jelly. This year there are less apples, however, they are bigger...I'm watching them closely and yes, they still have some worm spots and dark patches on the skins, but they look much closer to being a real apple than anything we've seen so also hasn't lost any fruit prematurely yet either...that's a good sign!

And during all this watching I'm preparing to try my hand at making vinegar. I've got a few weeks to go yet, but when that time arrives, I plan to pick my apples and see what happens. I'm hoping to maybe get enough good ones to make at least one pie, but all those peels and cores? They're going into a crock and heading down that fermenting road toward, what I hope will be a truly natural, organic, raw apple cider vinegar! I can't wait! In the meantime, I'll continue reading, hoping to have this process fine tuned in my head before I start, but really all it takes is some apples, a little sugar, some water...and time! I'd love to make actual apple cider for drinking on those cool October evenings, bringing the scent of cinnamon wafting through my kitchen, but so far what I'm reading appears to be alcoholic in content before it gets to the vinegar part. I don't want the alcoholic part and couldn't drink it even if I did, but now that I've got the vinegar process stored away in my head, I'll keep looking for a cider that's safe to drink as well. If I'm lucky and that tree continues as it's doing, I'll be making apple pie and bottling vinegar before too much longer and when I do? I will know that mine is as natural and organic as you can get! :)


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