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How to get the Kitchen Floor Mopped?

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It is a given that my wife married a man that is just a little sloppy with his activities, and yes, his(my) activities include use of the kitchen for;

Honey bottling

Jam and jelly making

Making beeswax lip balms

Beer making & bottling

And obviously cut up, shredding and prepping meats for the grill and smoker.

And I am sure there are some unnamed transgressions.

Today was a little busier than usual! I finished cutting up and bagging around 15 pounds of strawberries…….. note – yesterday I ran off to Wood Duck Farms in the morning and picked 6 buckets of strawberries, returned home, cleaned and packaged half the haul and made it into the shower for an on time departure to see George Strait at the Houston Rodeo.( English majors and other grammar police….I kinda like run on sentences)

As I said – finished the berries but then decided to make strawberry jam! It is a pretty simple process. I have determined that a gallon freezer bag stuffed full is perfect for a batch. I follow the SureJell package instructions very closely. Critical are the boiling sequence and times. Add pectin and a 1/4 cup of sugar, on high heat, mash and stir at the same time. Once at a full rolling boil, add the remaining 3 – 3/4 cups of sugar and return to a full rolling boil….count slowly to 72 while it boils and remove from the heat. Oh yeah, toss in a tbsp of butter to reduce foaming…….I am not sure it helps but the directions suggest it.

Skim the foam, yes there will be foam. Waste not, want not. My wife loves the foam on top of here egg white and oatmeal frittata. Three tablespoons of quick oats in a small non stick pan, add enough egg white to cover and cook to done. Smear a little strawberry foam on it and enjoy. Remove a jar from the hot water bath and fill to 1/4 inch of the top. Snug up sanitized lids. The process took a little longer as I made 19, 55ml jars, cute little things, and 5 – 7 ounce hex jars. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath and then set aside.

This is not a full rolling boil. There is foam and a few boiling bubbles but not what you are looking for.

Getting close! If it is still bubbling and spattering, even while stirring, you are there.

Processing for 10 minutes.

The finished product ready for labeling. To the right is the yummy foam my wife uses for her frittata.

Next up was prepping two chickens to be cooked “Beer Butt” style on the grill. It takes 75 minutes or so while trying to keep the closed grill temperature at about 350 F.

The final result. In the beer cans was a nice oatmeal stout and a few crushed garlic cloves. I used A rub and garlic salt seasoning.

A quick dinner with a nice quinoa cold salad before heading off to the gym. When I returned I still had the beer to rack over with the reminders of the spots on the kitchen floor still fresh in my ears. Got the beer, a nice Wit beer, racked and the floor mopped – Hun!

It says priming tank but has been put into service as a fermenter due to leaks in my original fermenting bucket.

I think it is bed time now.

TTFN

Bishop

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An Early Spring – Maybe

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February 6th was yesterday, bees were hauling in pollen and maybe even nectar. We had a bit of discussion at the Liberty County Beekeeper’s meeting two nights ago concerning pollen and nectar. The discussion; Can you tell if a Bee is hauling in nectar just by how the bee looks? It is very easy to tell if they are bringing pollen but nectar…..that is a different story. Most comments mentioned nectar hauling bees will be coming in “heavy” and rather clumsy and maybe a bit chubbier. That aligns with my observations! Watch the video below and look for chubby clumsy vs. those hauling pollen. This video is from one of my hives shot a few days ago.

I have left a feeder jar on this hive but haven’t used it. This hive had good stores and was heavy so I have just been monitoring. I suspect that there is a nectar source nearby. I hope that the bees don’t build up thinking it is spring and then get hammered by a freeze. Did you see any chubbiness or clumsiness in the slo-mo portion?

A front blew in today so it went from 82 yesterday, to mid forties this afternoon. Certainly puts a pause on Bee activities! So, I prepped a couple of swarm traps today and tackled a task that I had procrastinated on for too long! I have been out of my lip balm for more than a month……..today was the day!

Tube tray loaded and ready to fill. This is my Burt’s Bees clone recipe

First of two batches. 46 tubes filled and then another 38 with 3 tins.

A bowl full of creamy smooth lip balm. If you are Santa’s nice list you may score some!

I managed to squeeze in some beer brewing activity to help fill in the day. Ten days ago I brewed a SMaSH IPA. (Single malt – Marris Otter malt and single hop – Mosaic). The beer should roll in at 5.8% ABV. I racked it over into the secondary fermenter and will dry hop it with a couple ounces of Mosaic. It will be delicious. I may get frisky this weekend and bottle the 4+ gallons of wild Mustang grape wine that is now finished.

Beets, turnips, carrots and strawberries are looking good. I will plant sugar snap peas in a day or two along with some radishes and more carrots. I will pick-up a few buckets of rabbit manure this weekend and scrape out some chicken manure, will let it cool before using it on my lemon tree. That’s how my garden grows.

TTFN

Bishop

Washington on the Brazos

6 Comments

I started this post over a week ago and then I became distracted. I had a batch of beer to brew, bees needed some attention, a little garden work and some physical therapy exercise got in the way. Let me finish this up as I have several more posts formulating in my scattered brain. FYI, today is January 31, 2019 as a point of reference.

A week ago, January 15th, was a dreary and cloudy day. I woke up early and was in kind of a blue funk. I decided I needed a mental health drive through the countryside. Those mental health drives have me looking for the perfect little piece of ground that would fit my bees, a chicken tractor or three and rows upon rows of raised beds! I had two big cups of coffee in the cup holders, a couple of apples and no planned destination.

The truck seemed to have a destination in mind so I let the small turbo diesel in my Ram 1500 have a loose set of reigns and off we went. As the miles started adding up I saw a sign for the town of Navasota. I love the rolling hills in the area and the area includes some top notch bee suppliers – Bee Weaver and across the invisible fence – R Weaver. I was tempted to swing by the honey tasting room at Bee Weaver but drove past the turn with the truck seemingly to wanting to roll on.

As I took the business route off the main highway toward Navasota I decided the drive was taking me toward, Washington on the Brazos, the birthplace of the Texas Republic. It was midweek, wintertime and a dreary day lent itself to some uncrowded exploration. I was the only guest at the State Park visitor center when I arrived. It turned into a personalized experience. After a 45 minute Texas history lesson in the reproduction Independence Hall I decided to visit the attached homestead farm of the last President of Texas, Anson Jones Barrington Farm. I paid the $5.00 fee and strolled into the farm grounds.

https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/washington-on-the-brazos

Even though it was a midweek visit, the site was staffed by a young man and woman dressed in period costumes. Both were knowledgeable and great hosts. I should have had them pose for photos……..shame on me!

This is the view from the trail leading away from the parking lot. The farmhouse yard includes the cookhouse, smoke house and the chicken yard. The fields are lined with split rail fences just as would have been used in the 1840’s.

After walking past a tree lined pasture I approached the barn, animal pens and some storage sheds. All the structures are faithful reproductions from the period.

Cotton, corn and cattle were the staples of the time. The Brazos River Valley was an active cotton growing region during this time in Texas history.

https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/washington-on-the-brazos/barrington-living-history-farm

No Butterball turkeys here. Heritage breed turkeys, chickens, hogs and cattle are found on the farm. Also found on the farm are oxen used to plough/plow the fields in the spring.

Not much growing in the winter garden. Housing for the slaves that lived in the property are on site. I missed the the hog butchering that occurred a couple of weeks earlier. The hog’s hair had been scraped off the carcass and was strewn about the yard and under the work table. Check the website for the farm activities offered throughout the year.

Not a typical southern plantation but more of a family farm. Even though slaves lived onsite, the farm work included every family member. Bunks were used in the upstairs portion of the house. The breezeway style is/was very common in the south to help stifle the heat a bit.

The downstairs interior included two bedrooms, dining area and a sitting room. I was impressed with the attention to period detail. Very well done.

The chicken/duck yard and sturdy coop were well built. There was a pasture located behind the yard with beef cattle, oxen and the requisite longhorn. Longhorns where not really common during the early years of the Texas Republic but thrived after the Civil War with the development of rail and big beef slaughter houses. It is estimated that there were as many 6,000,000 wild longhorns running free in Texas in 1860.

An effort to supply the hide and tallow markets began in Texas shortly after the end of the Civil War. During the war, many longhorns from Texas had been driven into the Southeast (swimming the Mississippi River enroute) where they supplied the field kitchens of the confederate forces.12 Those first drives had taught the Texans that Longhorns could be driven long distances successfully and without much, if any, loss of weight. Having learned that lesson well, enterprising southerners began driving their longhorns north to the railheads at Abilene and Dodge City, where they were loaded onto trains and taken to Chicago and points east to supply leather and tallow (and to a far lesser extent, beef) markets of the wealthier northern states. That was the beginning of the glory years of cowboys and long distance cattle drives. By 1895 it has been estimated that over 10,000,000 head had been driven the length of the Chisholm, Goodnight and other trails from Texas and other southern states to the northern markets. These drives, which lasted in total less than thirty years and were often led by very young cwboys and “vaqueros”, became a part of the romantic western lore as the “legendary cattle drives of the old west.” Many of the more docile animals were also used, before being slaughtered, to pull wagon trains westward.13 

During the memorable cattle drives, those millions of Longhorn bulls, cows, steers, and calves walked north along well worn trails and actually gained weight as they walked, all the while protecting themselves and their calves from predators, swimming rivers, and surviving desert heat and winter snows. The fact that they could not only survive but actually thrive under those conditions is a remarkable testament to the evolutionary advantages these animals had gained.

Excerpt from – http://www.gandgtexaslonghorns.com/history

My next visit will include a big chunk of time in the Texas Star museum located onsite. So much to see here causedme to squander too much time on the farm……….but I am not complaining!

TTFN

Bishop

Fire Cider

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With the New Year comes opportunities to focus on change! Unfortunately the commitments tend to erode rapidly. I began my workout routine commitment two weeks post my arthroscopic knee surgery in early December. I am trying to get a jump start on the hordes that arrive the first week of January every year. I will resist erosion!

Now the commitment to the(my) midsection and general overall health. I intend to drop at least 15% of my body weight by summer……. of 2019! Yes, this year! I see the doctor for my annual wellness check in a couple of weeks and I know he will talk to me about the above mentioned 15% goal! He will probably suggest a little more, LOL.

I have been taking a tablespoonful of organic vinegar and my raw honey on a regular basis. One of our regular honey buyers was picking her order and mentioned “Fire Coder” as a healthy elixir. She swears by it so, I decided to make my own. Read a little below for anticipated health benefits.

https://scdlifestyle.com/2016/03/the-science-of-fire-cider-and-oxymels-for-health-improvement/

I found a good looking recipe that had the components of the elixir she takes. A quick search and I found a recipe that looked perfect.

https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/

My batch…….sadly, it will be 4 weeks in the making so I won’t be able to critique it, but, I ordered a bottle from Mountain Rose Herbs to get started with the regimen prior to mine being ready.

Recipe;

1/2 cup grated ginger root

1/2 cup grated horseradish root

1 medium onion chopped

10 cloves of garlic crushed or minced

2 jalapeños chopped

Zest of one lemon plus the juice

2 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tbsp turmeric- I used 3 tbsp of fresh ground turmeric root

1/4 tsp cayenne

Apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup raw honey- added after filtering the mixture at the end of 4 weeks to desired sweetness- may take more than 1/4 cup.

I added the ingredients to a wide mouth quart jar, used the canning jar funnel to reduce my mess, filled the jar with Braggs organic apple cider vinegar leaving enough room to be able to shake and mix the stuff up. I used parchment paper as suggested under the lid. It will prevent the vinegar from attacking the metal jar lid, I will probably buy some plastic lids for mason jars in the future.

Shake daily, store in a dark place, my pantry closet works well. At the end of 4 weeks strain through cheese cloth and wring out the damp clump. Mountain Rose suggests using the squeezed out ingredients in a stir fry.

Take a shot per day and more of sniffles are coming on. I will start a second batch in two weeks to keep the cycle going. Sorry Mountain Rose, but I will be on my own after the store bought bottles used,

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All ingredients except for the organic apple cider vinegar are in the quart jar.

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The canning funnel makes it easier to load the ingredients as well as topping off with the vinegar.

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Showing the head space needed to provide room for the daily shake and agitation.

 

FYI, I haven’t abandoned my garden nor my bees, but the right knee has been killing me so it was cleaned out in early December. I have beets, carrots, radishes and turnips planted. A few Meyer lemons are on the tree and I am abandoning my attempts to grow bananas.

More later.

TTFN

Bishop

Another Hiatus – Ended

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It has been too long between posts so I wanted to let all y’all know that I am still kicking and busy. Well, for a couple of weeks I was busy relaxing in Los Osos California “braving” the chilly 52 degree F mornings as my garden and friends back in Houston were sweltering. Damn, I had to put long sleeves on, slept with the window open under a comforter….wow, I could get used to this. All good things are subject to change….I had to pack up and return to Houston.

Upon my return my cucumbers had succumbed to the heat and the white flies, yes, I knew it would happen. A couple of the tomato plants had also passed away…RIP….But they were making way for an August planting to provide good veggies into the Fall. I will replant!

Cucumbers are going int first. I will load the bed up with compost and plant a couple of varieties. The English cukes did really well this year so more of them and then a bunch of Straight 8 variety. The local honeybees love visiting my Cukes!

JBD_1032

August appears to about normal in term of temperature and maybe a bit more damp than normal so it should be good.

With my tomatoes, I may try an heirloom or two. Get them established while it is warm and hopefully enjoy the cooler temperatures going into the fall. Pink Brandywine and Cherokee Purple will be high on the list.

TTFN

Bishop

Jelly Making

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The fourth batch of Mustang grape jelly is complete and it appears to be set and clear, although it is a dark maroonish color. I thought I would post a more detailed description with some excellent guidelines for novice jelly makers…..FYI I am not to far beyond novice when it comes to jellies…..I am much more experienced with jams!

 

Mustang Grape Jelly

5 cups strained juice

7 cups sugar

1 package Sure Jell Premium pectin

1 tsp butter

 

Prepare juice

In a large pot add 1 to two gallons of washed and de-stemmed Mustang grapes. Add enough water to cover the grape. Heat to a boil and use a potato masher to burst skins and mash the pulp. Boil for 20-25 minutes. Strain through a double layer of cheesecloth. Do not squeeze the pulp, let Mother Nature and gravity do the work. Your patience will result in a much more clear jelly. Store in the refridgerator until ready to use….probably no longer than one week.

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 Gift sized jar. Love the beautiful clear color.

Jelly making

Add 5 cups of juice to a “tall” pot. Add pectin and butter and heat on high, continually stirring, until it is at a rolling boil, one that cannot be stirred down.When it boils it foams up pretty high.  Add the 7 cups of sugar all at once. Heat until to a full boil again while continually stirring. Boil 3-5 minutes. This is a bit of a subjective –  to test if the jelly has cooked long enough – I found this great description with photos….unfortunately I couldn’t seem to get them to embed themselves so I grabbed a few off the web.  My experience is that it takes a good 5 minutes to get to the sheet test stage for this jelly….The sheet test is when I take it off the heat and ladle into the jar. I sometimes use the wrinkle test but i look to see how slowly it sheets off the spoon as my gauge. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

https://www.thespruceeats.com/testing-homemade-jellies-for-gel-point-1327874

“In theory, you can use a candy thermometer to check when the jelly’s temperature reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit (at sea level), but that’s not always the most reliable way to ensure your jelly is ready to cool.

Fortunately, there are other methods for testing jelly. Descriptions of how to do a jelly “sheet test,” “spoon test,” or “wrinkle test” can seem mysterious if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Let’s demystify those methods so that you can make jelly with confidence.

During the early stage of cooking jelly, the liquid is visible while it boils. It’s nowhere near ready yet. You’ll need to let the liquid boil until it becomes one gelatinous liquid with no separate liquid visible boiling to the surface.

Once you’ve established that the liquid is condensed into one form, then and only then should you apply the sheet or spoon test, but the temperature of the liquid is likely to be below 220 degrees at this point in the process.

Still, when you’re satisfied with the consistency of your jelly, dip a large spoon into the boiling pot and lift it about one and a half feet above the pot to pour the liquid jelly out all at once. What you’re looking for is the very last bit of jelly to come off the spoon. During the early stage of cooking, the last bit will pour off in a single drop.

As it gets near the gel point, bubbles will cover the entire surface of the boiling jelly and start to climb up the sides of the pot. This is when you know your ingredients have condensed into one liquid form and are just about ready to set. Temperatures inside the liquid should be in the 220 degree-range no matter where you stick the candy thermometer.

Do another spoon test – When the jelly is almost done, the last bit of liquid jelly will come off the spoon in two drops rather than one. This means that the jelly has already begun to form into a new jelly-like compound and should theoretically be ready to take off the heat and let cool in your jelly molds. Still, you should apply the sheet test to make sure it’s fully ready.

The sheet test – When the jelly is ready, the last drops pouring off the spoon will run together and “sheet” off the spoon. What you want to look for at this stage is the absence of large droplets replaced by these amorphous globs instead. Once the liquid no longer pours off in drops but slide off in sheets, you’re ready to apply the final test: the wrinkle test.

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The Wrinkle Test – In order to apply the wrinkle test, have a small plate in the freezer while you are cooking the jelly. When you think it is done (based on the spoon test or temperature), place a small amount of jelly on the plate and return the plate to the freezer for 1 minute. If the jelly wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it is done.”

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Results have been good through 3 batches. I will attempt to do a batch with the Sure Jell light pectin in the very near future. Fingers crossed. The Sure Jell Low/No sugar pectin recipe guide lines for the grape jelly uses 5 ½ cups of juice and 3 ½ cups of sugar. That is HALF the sugar of the other recipe.

TTFN

Bishop

Muscadines…or is it Mustang Grapes…..Both are a Southern Thing

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A note about the delay posting this addition. I am confident that the Mustang grape vs. the Muscadine confusion has been resolved. I have been picking Mustang grapes. The Foraging Texas website has definitive descriptions. So, read on…….

It seems that the longer that I am living in Texas, the more I learn about the “life in the background”. Even though I am living at the edge of a huge city. Houston proper is home to about 2.3 million people, while the Metropolitan Statistical Area is nearly 6.5 million people. Crazy, I was just commenting to to my “Goo” friend John the other day that I never pictured myself living in a big city! Strange as it may seem, in the midst of this 6.5 million people, there is a good sized chunk of southern rural life.

Out for a bike ride the other day in my rural/urban setting of Kingwood, I spot purple spots on the bike path. I stop and look up……Hmmmmm, looks like Muscadine wild grapes. (not!!!!! see lead in note)

Vitis mustangensis, commonly known as the mustang grape, is a species of grape that is native to the southern United States

This woody species produces small clusters of hard green fruit that ripen into soft 34-inch (2 cm) dark purple berries in August–September.

They have a thick outer layer of flesh and on average contain four seeds. This variety of grape is recognized by the white velvet-like underside of the leaves, and often covers small trees, shrubs, fences and other objects that it grows near.[3]

At the beginning of the article I thought I was picking muscadines…so I wrote….

“Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) is a member of the grape family. It is native to much of North America and grows wild in roadsides and forests.

It has been extensively cultivated since the 16th century. Its natural range is recognized in the following states of the US: Alabama, Arkansas, the Carolinas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. They are well adapted to their native warm and humid climate; they need fewer chilling hours than better known varieties and they thrive on summer heat.”

I rode home and grabbed my bucket, put it into the saddle bagss on my bicycle and headed out. FYI, be prepared to drip sweat when picking Muscadines (and Mustang grapes)…..even early in the morning…80 degrees F and north of 70% humidity…..perfect for these grapes.

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I am I little taller than the average guy. I saw purple spots on the bike path on the West Lake Houston bridge and looked up. Within my grasp was a vine….a good firm pull and it was down at picking height.

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Lots of big and very ripe Muscadine (Mustang) grapes. I returned home with almost 8 pounds and – completely sweat drenched….90+ degrees and very humid.

It was obvious that the bridge had been picked pretty hard. I had spotted some vines nearby, the spot is my secret, and rode the over to investigate more closely.

 

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I have competition. In the shadow of the big city and adjacent to a busy 4 lane highway is a patch of grapes tempting the local deer. Look closely at the tracks in the sand. I probably picked 4 pounds from this location where the deer were browsing.

Several days prior to this adventure in picking/foraging, I picked about 3 gallons of ripe Muscadines (Mustang grapes) and processed them into juice for the first of several batches of jelly. I first washed then froze the grapes to burst the skins. I put them into a deep pot and covered them with water, just barely covering them. Cranked up the stove and mashed the heck out of them as they boiled. I boiled them for about 25 minutes while mashing and stirring.

You get the idea….a bit of work but well worth it. next, gotta strain off the juice through a double layer of cheesecloth.

The result of my efforts…..I filled a 1/2 gallon jar and about 1/2 quart of a dark rich Juice.

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A good start on the jelly making. Just a note; if you want clear jelly, do not squeeze the pulp, let mother nature and gravity do the work.

Muscadine Jelly – FYI….it was Mustang grapes so the final product more like “tart sweet”.

4 cups of juice

3 cups of sugar

1 package of Sure Jell premium (yellow box) pectin

1 tsp butter to reduce foam

Add pectin to juice and stir well. Bring the mixture up to a full rolling boil then add sugar all at once. Stir vigorously to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil again and count of 60 seconds at full boil. Skim foam and fill your hot sterilized jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and let he jars sit undisturbed for a couple of days so the jelly sets up properly. Should make 5 half pints plus a little more.

Mustang Grape Jelly 

Same process to obtain juice.

5 cup of juice

1 pkg Sure Jell Premium (yellow box) mixed with juice.

Bring to a full boil and add 7 cups of sugar…that’s right, 7 cups.

Bring to a full boil for 3-5 minutes, the two batches I made took the full 5 minutes to get to the proper jelling point. Test drops on a cold plate until satisfied if it is ready….a bit subjective but it works. Skim the foam, fill sterilized jars and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let sit undisturbed for a couple of days…..I think I read that somewhere else…..Hmmmm.

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One of several gift jars I made with the batch. I will make another two batches later this week. Love the beautiful color.

For the total “Southern” experience, I am in the process of making Muscadine (Mustang grape) wine with the 8 pounds I picked yesterday. I had a great visit with the owner of the The Grain Cellar down in Humble, TX. besides being a home brewer, he is a knowledgeable wine maker and a knowledgeable resource on yeasts. He loves to share his knowledge with customers….as well as sample of his wine making as well as his beer brewing….I will attempt to make about 4 gallons of wine!!!!!

Now….from this evening….Preston at he Grain Cellar insisted that I did not pick Muscadines so he started me on the research journey….. Preston, you were correct. The definitive plant description is found by examining the leaves. Mustang grapes have a “white” lighter color on the underside of the leaves. Muscadines are green, top and bottom. Now I know.

The Mustang Grape “must” in the wine making bucket has a great aroma. I am looking forward to finishing the process. I will post the wine making adventure later.

Three batches of jelly are in the jars, the last two made properly…heh, heh. Not sure if I will go out and sweat again to pick any more….and the season for the Mustang grapes is beginning to close….to hot! and too little rain!

 

TTFN

Bishop

 

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