Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

April 15, 2012

Day of the Dregs

Filed under: food, Vinting — Tags: , , , , , , , , — paragardener @ 2:44 am

The day before yesterday, I took an exploratory look at three gallons of cider I’d left in the basement and forgotten about all winter long. For several weeks last fall, I’d let the stuff ferment in its plastic milk jugs, venting the caps when native microbes had puffed up the jugs with carbon dioxide gas. Then I just left ’em there. I figure that they experienced temperatures from 55 to 75 degrees F (two of the gallons were near both the furnace and an exterior wall), over the months.

I siphoned the cider off the sediment (aka lees ) by mouth, taking a drastic risk in the process. Would I be sucking hard cider, vinegar, or some sort of unspeakable spoilage? It turned out to be hard cider, some sour, flat, alcoholic cider. Thank goddess I hadn’t lost gallons of potential booze. The cider is off the lees, in new jugs under a cap or fermentation locks.

Gallon jugs and mug if cider

The cider that lived!

The cider hasn’t resumed fermenting, despite the addition of some sugar water and a few granules of yeast nutrient. I think that the yeast in it is truly dead, and it needs a new surge of freeze-dried microbial troops to get going again. A good second fermentation with the right additives might make this into a really nice batch. One of the gallons might be turned into vinegar, by inviting in aerobic bacteria. It seems like a shame to destroy perfectly potable booze, but hard cider goes by the glass, cider vinegar by the tablespoon.

In the meantime, I am left with a big blob of sediment: it’s the sort of deceased yeast that vegans use as a nutritious substitute for Parmesan cheese, and New Zealanders press into Marmite. I remembered that Sandor Katz used it in “Wine Dregs Soup:” when I looked it up in Wild Fermentation , the idea of the soup is to substitute out 1/4 of your veggie, chicken or beef stock with wine dregs (“dregs” = the lees and left-behind wine/cider after siphoning). Katz suggests French onion soup.

I nabbed a recipe for Onion Soup from Mark Bitman’s “How to Cook Everything,” and promptly bastardized it into something I could manage on a day’s notice (no “real croutons” or homemade beef stock.) I took 6 sweet onions and sliced them up as thin as I could, then melted 1/4 cup of butter in a cauldron and tossed the onions in. I cooked them about 40 minutes over medium heat, turning them occasionally so as to have less browning and more turning-into-jelly.

Cooked Onions

Cooked 'em Onions!

Next, I dumped in a quart of Kroger beef broth, a pinch of dried thyme, three chopped sprigs of fresh parsley, and a bay leaf. Finally, the scary ingredient: the leftover stuff from the cider production, the sediment at the bottom of an old milk jug. I swirled the dregs into a homogenous cloudy substance, then measured out a cup and a quarter into the soup. I brought it to a simmer for fifteen minutes, during which time it gave off a most awesome smell of apples, onions, and alcohol.


Do you really expect me to eat that?

After the simmer, I tossed store-bought croutons, shredded mozzarella and parmesan from a can onto the soup, and stuck the cauldron in the oven at 400 degrees F. After awhile, the top resembled a well-baked pizza (this isn’t the authentic way, but Tamara said that if she was eating the crud from the bottom of that jug, she was going to get a proper American proportion of cheese!)

Although she had to block out the memory of the jug, Tamara liked the soup, and I did, too. It’s very rich. In the future, we’ll use a better quality beef stock, and a little more liquid. I’m satisfied with the experiment: I learned that there is really nothing wrong with the dregs!


October 7, 2010

Time for Cider

Filed under: Vinting — Tags: , , , , , , — paragardener @ 9:45 pm

The Wheel of the Year indicates: time to celebrate apples.

I have got my store-bought caramel and candied apples sitting up on the shelf for now, but making hard cider is by far the more exciting part. I purchased the unfinished “cider” at the Grosse Pointe Farms Kroger, for which I paid $5 even per gallon. There was exactly one type of cider available for purchase, Litehouse, “blended with GALA APPLES” and pasteurized.

Pasteurization sucks as it kills the yeast which naturally live with the apples. I left the jug open out-of-doors for an hour hoping for some yeast to drift on in… the jug is now sitting in my basement under a fermentation lock, which needs to start bubbling soon or the baker’s yeast I have on hand is going in. In that event, I might as well add some brown sugar, too.


Cider fermenting.

Nothing says class like fermenting it on the plastic.


Before the season is out I’ll start a second batch for conversion to applejack. The process is to put your hard cider out on the coldest day of the year, then throw away the ice that forms and take the remaining liquid back inside to bottle or drink. The result is, of course, more concentrated cider, or applejack. It’s nice to have things to live for during the winter…

Remember that every apple is Goddess-stamped with a pentagram, and that apples are so good they are traditional symbols for temptation. Peoples of temperate climes, may you enjoy apples this Fall!

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