Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Elderberry Wine...

I know Elton John did a song about it, but frankly, I grew tired of ol' Elton decades ago, so let's just leave that song out of it for now.  If it's stuck in your head, maybe try singing Amazing Grace to the tune of the Gilligan's Island Theme Song.  I've heard that helps.

JP here.  Yes, I think it's probably been over a year since I posted much of anything on here, so don't faint.

We managed to gather quite the wild elderberry harvest this year, much more than what Mrs. JP needs to do a couple of batches of her elderberry jelly, and being the curious and adventurous foodie that I am, I decided that this year I would put that excess of berries to good use and learn the skill of wine making.  I read and read information about it, and it is clearly an art that could take years to master, but I found some good information, a good recipe, got the equipment needed and last weekend we set about wine making.

I won't bore you with all of the details.  A large part of wine making involves getting the right animate and inanimate things into it and keeping the bad animate and inanimate things out.  There is good yeasts and bad yeasts, good acids and bad acids, and on and on.  The process of sterilizing gloves, spoons, etc. has become a part of our days.

As we collected elderberries this year, we would freeze them, and then Mrs. JP would go through them to take out any bugs and large stems, put them in a freezer bag and back into the freezer they went.  So Friday evening, we put all of the berries into a nylon straining bag, dropped it into a primary fermentor, known in common parlance as a clean, sterilized plastic bucket, boiled some spring water and dissolved the required amount of sugar into it, poured that over the bag of berries in the primary, pressed the berry bag to release juices, then proceeded to add the necessary chemicals.

Day two, more chemicals went in.  Day three we woke the wine yeast up by re-hydrating it and encouraging it to procreate and multiply, by feeding it, of all things (hmmmmm?  haha).  Then, when it had been spurred into all kinds of activity by small additions of must (that's the stuff that is in the primary fermentation bucket, all of that stuff we mixed, the water, the sugar, the berries, the chemicals, whatever, it's all collectively called the must), and was bubbling away happily, we added it into the primary fermentor.  Now, we have what's called an S-type air lock on the bucket lid that keeps the oxygen out and lets the excess carbon dioxide out; it kind of burps on a regular basis.  I never realized how active the fermentation process is.  The must is fizzing like some champagne or old fashioned grape soda pop, and it really bubbles up when we have to stir it.

Once a day, we take the lid off, squeeze the berry bag gently and stir the must.  It's supposed to ferment like this for fourteen days, then it gets put into a large carboy bottle to continue to ferment and clarify for six months, at which time we stabilize it, make any minor taste adjustments necessary, bottle it and let it age for a year before we get to try it.  Hopefully, we will get some good wine and not some vinegar or cooking wine.

If we do this all over after next year's elderberry harvest, about the time we bottle up the second batch of wine, the first one should be aged and ready to taste.  Delayed gratification, I hope!

I have no idea how I'm going to keep twenty some odd bottles of wine sitting on a wine rack at an ideal 55° Fahrenheit for months on end, through spring, summer, fall and winter.  I guess I'll have a little over six months to figure that one out.  I really hope the temperature thing is an ideal, and not a requirement, because I can't afford a walk in refrigerator right now.

Anyway, as my dearly beloved says at the end of her posts, "Blessings from the holler, y'all!"

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Birthday...

Today is my birthday. I've been thinking about how blessed I am and am just so thankful for my wonderful life. It really is wonderful! I have a great family that I love--I even have great in-laws, both mom-in-law and daughter-in-law are dear to me. I've been pretty spoiled all my life. God has blessed me with a wonderful husband and son, not to mention grandbabies. I can worship without fear or oppression. I do not know what it is to starve. I've never been rich by the standards of most people but I certainly count myself as rich in every way that counts.

Yesterday, my mom made a wonderful lunch for all of us and she made my favorite birthday cake. I got to talk to my son who is on the other side of the world doing his thing and hopefully will be home in a month. My daughter-in-love bought me a cool musical birthday card (James Brown singing.......I FEEL GOOD) and some sweet University of Tennessee pajama pants. My brother and sister-in-law gave me a Starbucks gift bag, kitchen towels and a recipe book. JP gave me some lovely sapphire earrings and some other stuff he doesn't know he bought!! LOL. He's so great. Speaking of JP, he out did himself on birthday cards--he got me two. I have to share them with you, so here goes.

First one says: (he gave me this one at my parents yesterday)
Front of the card......... I really hope you like this birthday card...
Inside........ Somebody farted in the card shop and I could only hold my breath long enough to grab this one!
Happy Birthday and many more.
(I told him he was probably the inspiration for the card)

And this one I got this morning: Ready???
For My Wife with Love
A Birthday Poem for You

When I kiss ya
When I miss ya
When I'm feeling
tired or lazy,
When we're busy,
In a tizzy,
When I drive you Kinda crazy

When we're romantic
or almost frantic,
When we're apart or we're together
One thing's certain
(And I'm not just flirtin')
I love you with all my heart, forever.

Okay,,,everybody say "aaaawwwwwww." Wasn't that nice? See, I told you, I really have a wonderful life. I'm having a great birthday and hoping that you are as blessed as I in the holler.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Two weeks ago we had Homecoming Day at our church. It was a great time, we honored three of our members who are over 90 years old and had grown up going to this little church. Our church building was built in the late 1800's and the cemetery on the property has graves from before the civil war, some dated as far back as the early 1800s and late 1700s.

I didn't mean to get off on that rabbit trail but the history of our church and the surrounding area is so interesting to me.

Anyway, we had volunteered to bring smoked pork and Barbecue sauce for our part of the meal, and what a meal it was. Everyone liked the Barbecue and we sent plates home with lots of people.

The Thursday before, we bought a case of pork butts at Sam's and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight with dry rub on them (we put two in a 2 gallon plastic bag and stack them up that way).

Then we got up super early on Friday morning and got them smoking. Notice that it's still dark outside in the picture.

They smoked all day and into the night --18 hours total. After they reach the proper internal temperature, they go in plastic bags to rest and cool. Then the next morning, we pulled the meat and JP chopped it up some to make it easier to serve.

Here are the cooked butts after resting for a while, ready to be pulled apart.


(JP here: It's especially delicious piled high on a soft hamburger bun, with some of the barbecue sauce poured over it and a large dollop of cole slaw to finish it off..... yum, yum.)

Also, we didn't want to waste all of those smoky bones, so JP made stock with them. We froze the stock and can use it to make soups when the weather is cold, or to flavor rice dishes, etc.

It's always a lot of work to crank out a case of pulled pork barbecue,  but it's worth it. We still have some in the freezer and gave some to my Mom and Dad.

JP again: We can have barbecue sammiches, barbecue potatoes, barbecue fried rice, barbecue pizza.... I'll quit now because I'm starting to sound like Bubba from the Forrest Gump movie.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dog For Sale (wink)...

A Guy is driving around the back roads of Montana and sees a sign in front of an old shanty style house: "Talking Dog For Sale." He knocks on the door and the owner tells him the dog is in the back yard.

The guy goes in the back yard and sure enough there's a nice looking hound back there.

"You talk?" he asks.

"Yep" the dog replies...

After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says 'So, what's your story?' The Dog looks up and says, 'Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so I told the CIA. In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping. I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years. But all the travel really tired me out, and I knew I wasn't getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I discovered some incredible dealing and was awarded a batch of medals. Then, I retired, got married and had a bunch of puppies and now I'm retired.

The guy was amazed. He went back up to the house and asked the owner how much he wanted for the talking dog.

"Ten Dollars" says the owner.

"Ten Dollars, that dog is amazing, why on earth are you selling him so cheap?"

"Because, he's a liar, he never did any of that stuff!!"

I got this story in an e-mail and it made me laugh....maybe it was the sinus medicine. Have a happy day from all of us in the holler...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

We're still here in the holler...

I've wanted to post something new. I'd sit and think about what I could tell you, pictures I could take, and you know, there has really been nothing new here in the holler. Life goes on--I'm so thankful for the routines and sameness in our lives.

Okay, really, now that I think about it there have been a few things. The temperatures are not oppressive, even pleasantly cool in the evenings. Fall is in the air and I like that lots. The trees are just barely starting to change. Our neighbors (the cows) come to see us in the evenings because they like the light outside our house. I love the babies, especially this little white-face baby.

Today, I cleaned out the smoker so that we'll be ready to smoke some pork at the end of the week. We're having "Homecoming Sunday" this weekend at church. So, we'll have a big lunch after church and we're taking pulled pork. There will be so much food there, I really should eat less all week so I can hover over the buffet (desserts of all kinds,,,yummm.)

After I cleaned out the smoker I was so dirty I decided to get another chore over with that I've been putting off. I pulled up all of the garden except the pepper plants, marigolds, and these tropical pea plants that look like small trees. The peppers are still producing. The pigeon peas are just now putting on pea pods and I don't think we'll ever get any before frost but they look neat to me, so I left them.

Oh, I did finish a scrappy fall lap quilt. I used leftover pieces of quilts I'd made to make it. I bought a darning foot so I could learn to do free motion quilting and decided to learn on this quilt. Let me just say that I have a long way to go in learning this technique. To me it was the quilting equivalent to a full body workout. My shoulders were cramping, my back was hurting and I'm pretty sure that I clenched my teeth through the whole ordeal. I did learn some but it was painful--I guess that's how a lot of life lessons are, huh?

So, I guess the next time I think that nothing is new around here I should sit down and just start typing and I'll think of all kinds of things I want to tell you. We are blessed beyond measure and so very thankful for The Lord's daily mercy to us. Blessings from all of us here in the holler...