Sunday, September 8, 2013

What's in the little fridge?

Meggie, our milk goat, is slowing down her lactation. Some mornings she's near her plateau level of two quarts. Other mornings, when she ate less or I milk her a bit earlier than normal, she may give as little as a quart.

There's never a day with more milk that there was a week prior. Meggie is storing more of the food as fat, and she needs to slim down. So - less food = less milk, and soon none - till next kidding.




We don't need the baby goats. They are cute but we have enough of our own. We don't need or want them for food, and selling them is scary. So if we can stretch out the time between new kids, we are all for it. 

Besides, at full production Meggie was giving 1 1/2 gallons of milk. Way more than our family needs.  

Over the past year, I've made a lot of cheeses. Some were great successes, some abject failures. A lot were in the middle somewhere, and many ended up in the cheese fridge to age.

We have a small mini fridge equipped with a little metal thermostat. Cheese ages at much warmer temperatures than food refrigeration - in the low 50's F (12 - 13 C). At this temperature, enzymes break down the fats and proteins into flavorful compounds, and beneficial molds and bacteria flourish on the cheese surface. 





The result ideally is rich ripe cheese. Alas, the world is not always ideal.  Sometimes we get corky, or overly salted, or otherwise less than perfect cheese. Sometimes I put these back to age longer. Aging can fix some problems, like bitter flavors. And out of sight, out of mind.

Unfortunately, out of sight but not out of nose range. The cheese fridge began to get pretty cheesy smelling. Even bries, Goudas and other mild cheese builds up a powerful punch in aggregate. 

Today, I cleaned the fridge. First I evacuated my husband and son from the room to avoid accusations of cheesing them to death. So there was no photographer and no pictures. You will have to imagine me lifting and sniffing each cheese, sorting them into keepers which we will eat on dessert plates in the coming weeks, and failed cheeses.

Then decontaminating every shelf, cranny and corner with water, baking soda, soap and vinegar, enjoying the fizziness and thinking it would never stop being cheesy.

I let the inside air dry for 24 hours and amazingly, it smells normal again.

And now I have a half sized fridge with nothing inside it.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and it's harvest time for early apples and pears.

Our standard sized apple trees are huge and covered with large numbers of apples but most of them are inedible due to scab, coddling moth or apple maggot.

So we are gradually adding some espaliered trees with scab resistant fruit, and which we can manage for pest control.

I bagged some of the apples with nylon footies. The apple maggot fly can't lay her eggs through the mesh, though sometimes coddling moths still do.











                                                                       Growing espaliers also lets us bring the trees closer to the house so we can just walk outside and pick fruit instead of making a trek back to the orchard.













Here are two apples on one branch, side by side, one with and one without a footie.




I had Noah unwrap one of the apples for me. It's slightly exciting, after watching them grow inside their little footies, to see how they will turn out.












And voila. 

An apple. 

Almost as big and almost as perfect as a conventionally raise apple from the store. 

A bit of a letdown. Until you take a bite and realize we grow for flavor here.




The apple on the right was grown inside a footie. It, and a couple dozen others with the same treatment, had zero apple maggot markings. A few had coddling moth worms inside. I'll need to find a better solution for that. But the footie is an almost complete maggot barrier.


You can see what happened to the one on the left, grown without protection. When you cut into it, you don't see a worm, just lots of discolored markings. I've been known to make sauce or cider from such apples, but I would have to be pretty hungry to eat one.

The picture below is what you see on the inside. Again, we grew these two apples side by side on the same tree. The only difference is a nylon footie covered the pretty one, the one riddled with dark markings was grown bare. This was one of those experiments that far outdid my expectations. I will bag every apple I can from now on. Putting out traps is less effective and the footies work so well there's no reason to even contemplate chemical sprays. I was sort of ashamed to even put the pristine bagged apple on a board next to its tarnished comrade.




Apples in the footies were slightly greener and less ripe than bare ones, but most varieties ripen off the tree.

All my pears, every one of them, has scabby skin. A bunch - maybe half, have coddling moths, which obviously prefer apples but aren't exclusive. But pears don't seem bothered by apple maggots at all. Scab on the skin can be peeled off, leaving pure, white pear underneath, perfectly good to eat.

Between the wrapped apples and the pears without coddling damage, I have plenty of fruit to fill my little fridge. We'll work our way through it, and hopefully it will all be gone by next spring when Meggie starts giving milk again.




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