Monday, October 28, 2013

Sugar from sugar beets?

One of my projects for this year was to see if I could get some sugar from sugar beets. After sourcing some seeds online and growing a 6x3' bed, I ended up with a good sized pot after I topped, skinned and cubed them (took about an hour). In the picture below, the beets are just barely covered with water (wine bottle for scale--it was a lot of beets!). 

According to the instructions I found, the way to do this at home is to boil them for about an hour, separate the sugar-filled beet water from the beets (which can then be used or composted) and boil the water down. Once you have concentrated the juice (another two hours of simmering), you let it sit and the sugar slowly crystallized out. I ended up with two quarts of concentrate.

The instructions were vague about whether refrigeration is necessary. My guess is yes as otherwise the sugar-water will start to ferment (making a nasty-tasting quasi-rum, I'm told). I did have a taste of the concentrate and it has a distinct beetish taste that I hope will be left behind when the sugar crystals form! All told, a nice project for the first snowy day of fall, but getting sugar from beehives has to be a lot easier!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sugar beets, cider vinegar and tree removal

With snow predicted for tomorrow, it has been a busy day in the yard. I finally pulled the sugar beets from behind the garage. I got a pretty good haul from a 6x3' bed. Maybe 25 pounds?

The beets had quite a range of sizes. This is the largest (for scale, span of my thumb to pinky is 9 inches) and they few I have sampled are nice and sweet. My plan is to cook these down tomorrow while snow falls outside. I think this is the last of the produce, although I saw three stray beets in one of the beds while I was raking leaves.

We've been smelling the surplus apple cider turn to vinegar this week and we finally have some mother of vinegar forming on the top of both jars. I'm quite keen for this to work and perhaps sacrifice some of my surplus home-made wine to a similar process.

This morning the tree cutters arrived to take out the diseased mountain ash that used to reside to the left of the sidewalk. I was sad to see the tree go and it really changes the complexion of the front yard. We'll be growing corn and pumpkins on the left and potatoes on the right. I may also drop a cherry bush or two into the hedge (which is cotoneaster and suffers from rust).

While the tree guys were chopping, I was electrifying the Xmas lights and I think we're basically good to go. I still have some lime and bone meal to spread on the beds before dark so back out I go after a cup of coffee.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

More cidering

Both of the carboys of cider had finished their secondary ferment this week and I decided to shift some stuff around. Racking them off had opened up a fair bit of air space in each carboy (as some of the cider was left behind each time) and I was worried about air contamination. So I combined both carboys into one that I will bulk age for a few months and then bottle (and try my hand at apple jack) in January.

That left me with about 9 litres of cider, so this afternoon we bottled a bunch. I recruited some willing hands to help with the booze ("best playdate ever!"). I got to try out my new capper and we have about 7 litres carbonating in the basement.

The remainder came upstairs. Jenn and I sampled some at lunch (it is surprisingly strong!). The taste was good, especially cut with a tiny bit of pop to sweeten it a bit (it cidered dry).

We then put nearly two litres away in the cupboard to see if we could make apple vinegar. After that it was back out to the garden to dig in some of the leaves in the front and generally putter. Apparently I forgot to freeze rhubarb this summer so I had to rescue a bunch from the plants to make pie this evening.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Pumpkin pie for dinner

We're having my in-laws over for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow so I made a pie from scratch tis morning. After several years of unsatisfactory spicing, I think I have finally hit upon the proportions I like and this tastes delicious! The glass pie plate also seems to help the crust brown evenly.

The leaves are finally starting to fall so we'll be raking and putting up Xmas lights tomorrow. I have a few more garden beds to dig but I have finished most of the work in the front yard.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Last of the preserves and garden renovations

Jess and I spent a chilly half hour Friday night after dinner gathering the last of the crab apples on a tree I spotted while riding my bike. We then processed them and put up some jelly--likely the last of the preserves unless I get a donation of something late in the season. These gelled nicely and taste fantastic! I also bought some bags of cranberries and froze them for muffins during the winter.

Then we went to work in the yard. We've got 75-odd feet of rows done and ready for the spring next to the garage. In the foreground in out nascent asparagus patch I put in this spring.

So we put our efforts this weekend into duplicating the rows in the gardebn on the north side of the lot. We're close to finished, with three 25-foot rows that just some amending and a few late-season beets to pull at some point.

The strawberry patch is also still producing. But beyond some lettuce and a small bed of sugar beets, we're basically done harvesting for the season.

The next step is to refurbish a few more beds before the snow flies and have a tree removed (hopefully this week) in the front.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rose-hip jelly

Monday night we turned some of the rose hips we gathered into jelly. I used an internet recipe requiring pectin. The taste is fine (citrus-y) and the colour is lovely but the jelly did not set up at all. My sense is that this was a bad recipe (such is the internet!). It is a nice syrup to add to oatmeal, though.

With the weather turning autumnal (mostly rain, which is welcomed), I think we'll focus on pulling in the rest of the root crops (beets and carrots, mostly) and readying the beds for next year. I've called an arborist to quote on cutting down a diseased mountain ash our front and topping an ornamental cherry in the back.