There are six gallons of mead on my cellar floor.
I thought I fixed a faulty spigot. It turns out I didn’t.
But let’s not focus on the bad things. At least not until I’ve thoroughly mopped. Because plenty of good things are happening. I racked the lavender and raspberry meads, and they both taste very good. So does the mulberry wine. My Kazakh melon vine has taken way off, and I might actually get to see what its fruit tastes like before the frost.
And I have recently come into a huge amount of fruit.
Keri of kombucha fame let me in on a hot tip: Her fruit tree-obsessed landlord was away on vacation and the yard was getting littered with windfall fruit. He’d given her permission to go in and clear it up a little. If anything, we were performing an important service.
This tiny backyard orchard has plums, pears, and a few varieties of apple. It even has apples and pears growing out of the same trunk, because this old Portuguese landlord I’ve never met is an avid amateur grafter.
The ground was, as promised, littered with fallen fruit. Some had been there for quite a while, but some was brand new. While we were there I got startled more than once by a pear crashing down behind me. We waded around in the wet grass, getting devoured by mosquitoes and sorting the fruit into usable and unusable. The former we split between ourselves and the latter we composted. In the end I think I had something like six pounds each of apples and pears and a couple pounds of plums. And I was supposed to go away to Cape Cod for a week the next day. Cue frantic preservation. I was saved by the fact that a lot of the pears weren’t completely ripe yet. I was… reasonably confident that they and the unbruised apples would last a week. But where to keep them? The house was hot, the refrigerator was at capacity, and I still hadn’t recovered from discovering my cellar mangoes full of little rodent toothmarks. Rationalizing that they were free anyway, I sealed them in a five gallon bucket in the cellar and tried not to think any more about it. The remaining apples and pears had some serious holes and bruises, and the plums were so ripe they were dissolving into my table as tried to figure out what to do with them. I’d never made preserves before, but I decided to take a stab. After some over-the-phone reassurance from my mother that I’ve eaten unprocessed jam my whole life and am no worse for wear, I sealed the preserves hot in sterilized old jam jars rather than processing them in the canner. The four light jars are apple and pear, heavy on the pear. The single dark jar is all that’s left of the plums after I ate quite a few. Apple butter was also on the menu. I found a great recipe for overnight apple butter, set the slow cooker on its way, and woke up the next morning to the smell of charcoal and cinnamon. It was not meant to be. One week older and a tiny bit tanner, I opened up the bucket and was pleasantly surprised. There was some moisture on the sides and a touch of fuzz on a few stems, but no sign of the writhing mass of worms or near-sentient mold I’d envisioned. I had just enough pears for a gallon and a half of wine. It was meant to be a gallon, but I found myself with extra, and the man at the brew supply store made fun of me the other day for being small beans. With the remaining apples I attempted slow cooker apple butter number two. This time I added plenty of apple juice to keep it moist and woke up to……Charcoal and cinnamon. It just wasn’t meant to be.