Friday, January 11, 2013

The Mid-winter Locovore

So this is a meal Julie and I had last night that consisted of tamales, carmelized carrots, and salad.  Everything except the butter in the tamales and some of the ingredients in the salad dressing were grown in my garden.  The tamales were my first experiment with grinding my own masa from the Abenaki flour corn I grew in my garden last year.  I treated the dried corn with pickling lime before grinding it in my new hand-cranked mill. This is the nixtamalizing process I talked about in a previous post. The masa did not grind up as finely as I'm used to, but I liked the texture and they held together just like tamales made from finer masa. Even the corn husks are from my garden. They were the same husks that covered the cobs of the flour corn. We dipped the tamales in salsa made entirely from ingredients I grew in my garden as well.

The salad, which included oak leaf lettuce, ruby streaks mustard, claytonia, bull blood beet leaf, frisee endive, and spinach, was all picked fresh in the hoop house.  The greens have a distinct sweetness that I think only can come about from greens that have been grown in cold conditions.  The carrots are from a fall planting that actually made it through the hot, drought conditions of late summer.  I was able to harvest about seven gallons of carrots and they are being stored in the root cellar under my floor.  These carrots are very sweet and tasty in a way that I think can only be achieved in a fall planting.  They are sauteed in oil with salt until they are slightly crisp on the outside.
After getting back from traveling for the holidays I've been racking my wine for the second time.   "Racking" is decanting the wine off of the sediment.  This time I was racking the wine off of the tartaric acid sediment that precipitated out over the last few weeks of cold stabilization in my under-the-floor root cellar. It worked perfectly to leave the carboys in the cellar while I was away.  The cellar hangs just above freezing in the middle of winter, which is not only perfect for storing vegetables, but is perfect for causing tartaric to crystalize in the wine. 
The crystals ended up in my sink when I washed them out of the empty carboy.  Crystals below are from a carboy of Vignoles wine, which is one of my favorite white wines.  The crystals from red wines are purple. The process of cold stabilization is a way of inducing crystalization of the tartaric acid before bottling so that the precipitation doesn't happen in the bottle.   It also reduces the acidity of the wine, which can be high in wines made from the french hybrids I grow in my vineyard.  If you eat these crystals you can taste their tartness.  That tartness would be in the wine without cold stabilization.  I tasted a bit of each wine I racked to see how they were doing.  They all taste pretty normal for the stage they are at. After racking, I added Sparkelloid to the carboys, which is a product made of diatoms that will help clarify the wine further.  After a few weeks of settling I should be able to rack one more time and bottle some of my wine. I will also likely do some blending to try to balance some of the wines.  I look forward to pouring my first whole glass of wine.

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