Sometimes I think Leah worries too much. Global warming, she says. Oil crisis. Nuclear war. Bird flu. Water shortage. Can the government control the weather? she says. Where are the honey bees? What's going to happen when we cut down all the trees? She speaks of solar panels, living off the grid. We need to build a green house, she says. Make the garden bigger. Study lacto-fermentation. Use barrels to catch the rainwater from the roof. Last year, she put a wood burning stove in our house. In case we lose our electricity and natural gas supply, she said. Leah's latest question: when we are forced to return to a simpler, self-sufficient life, who is going to make our booze?
That caught my attention. Shit, what if we didn't have any booze? Now THAT is a problem. Leah's solution, as always, is to make it herself. Her ideas started flowing when she discovered a swollen jug of cider that had been forgotten in the back of the fridge. As she took it out, the top blew off, spraying the kitchen walls and ceiling with sticky, fermented cider. There was a little bit left in the jug, so we drank it and it was damn good.
Leah decided then to try to make her own cider. It started out as a small experiment, but she quickly took over the kitchen counters. She started fermenting her first one-quart jar in September, and she will be bottling it soon, hopefully with no further explosions.
But wait, there's more! There was a little side effect of the cider fermentation. One of the gallons of cider turned to vinegar, and grew a strange slime on its surface as it sat on the kitchen counter. I was creeped out, but Leah got excited. It's a mother! she yelled. Apparently she had inadvertently grown a SCOBY, a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. It is a thick, gelatinous frisbee creature that floated on the top of the cider.
What do you do with a mother? Leah added black tea, orange spice tea, water and sugar to the cider vinegar. The mother sunk, and now a baby (a new mother, basically) has grown on the surface. The baby will be eventually placed up for adoption with a happy family who likes to make and drink weird fermented stuff.
Why, Leah, why? We are both afraid to drink the concoction, but Leah is going to get our friend Diane to try it. Diane will try anything, and she has a little hippie in her blood. She is a big fan of kombucha tea. Kombucha is made by a similar fermentation process. If you have never tried kombucha, here's what you are missing: It's alive, effervescent, and tastes like a cross between vinegar and ass. It's supposed to be good for you or something like that. I am holding out for the hard cider. Sorry, neither Leah's hard cider nor her kombucha-like cider tea will be available at the Lounge. And Leah wants me to tell you that she is definitely not a hippie.
This post is participating in today's Mixology Monday, hosted by Rowley's Whiskey Forge. This month's theme is making hard drinks for hard times, and nothing beats making hooch from scratch.
I bet the Cornell Orchards folks might have some tips on making hard cider. (In my Ithaca broke-college-student days, I'd go there for a quart or two of unpasteurized cider and stash it by the radiator or in my closet till it got a decent kick.)
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