It’s been an unusual winter so far for Winnipeg. We’ve had very little snow.
For quite a while, it was looking like we’d have a brown Christmas, something we haven’t had since the mid-90s. But the days leading up to Christmas saw some snowfall. It wasn’t a lot, but it was some. Normally at this time of year we’ve got maybe a foot or two of snow, but so far this year we’ve got about an inch.
While it has been nice not having to do any shovelling, it has left us a little concerned about the garden.
We plant our garlic at the end of the summer and rely on a cold winter to keep the cloves in stasis until the spring warmth brings it to life and growth begins. Our winter so far as been hovering around 0 Celsius / 32 Fahrenheit—some days it’s just below freezing and some days it’s just above freezing. While I haven’t uncovered the garlic to check on it, my fear was that the warm days might’ve encouraged the garlic to grow. However, we’re fully past freezing now, so what’s done is done and we’ll see what happens in the spring.
The other risk we run with very little snow is water supply. While we prefer to water the garden with rain water, when we go through dry spells we rely on the city supply of water. This past summer was quite dry, which required a lot of city water. A handful of years ago, lakes in various parts of the province were low and water rationing was put in place. A dry summer followed by a low-snow winter might find us in that situation again. Here’s hoping we get several feet of snow in January through March.
But that’s enough worrying about things I can’t control.
The honeydew melon wine finished a couple weeks ago and I bottled it up. I haven’t tried it yet…but I’m a little hesitant.
For background for folks new to the blog, I really dislike honeydew melon and John, my husband, is not really a fan of it. We grew it because our neighbour gave us some seedlings, and when we realized that neither of us want to eat it, I happened upon a recipe for honeydew melon wine.
Sometimes wine tastes like what it’s made from, like grape wine, dandelion wine, and cherry wine. But sometimes it doesn’t taste at all like what it’s made from and instead just tastes like a nice wine, like beet wine, parsnip wine, and corn cob wine. I didn’t know which type of wine honeydew melon would produce, but I certainly hoped for the kind that tastes nothing like what it’s made from.
Unfortunately, with the tiny spoonful taste I had, it was very melon-y. And it has an extremely intense melon-y aroma. Blech.
John thinks it’s all right.
We’ll leave it for a month or two before we crack open a bottle and see if ageing it changes the flavour and aroma. I found apple wine changed drastically over time, so here’s hoping the same is true of honeydew melon wine.
I’ve taken on a few other alcohol projects in the last couple months:
- I did up a batch of rhubarb ginger gin. Normally this takes on a nice golden hue, but this time around it turned a bright, gorgeous pink.
- As a bit of an experiment, I tried a lemon-lime soju, based on my recipes for grapefruit soju and orange soju. It has a lovely citrus taste and could easily be drunk as-is, but would likely taste wonderful mixed with a splash of sparkling water for a sort-of alcoholic Sprite.
- Back in the summer when I was utterly exhausted from juicing apples and canning the juice, I’d sliced up a bunch and bagged them for alcohol projects. The first I’ve taken on is an apple whisky with a hint of cinnamon.
- In addition, I’ve started a batch of apple liqueur. This one takes a couple months to make, so I’ll be sipping these summer flavours in the deepest depths of winter.
- My mom had some leftover cranberries and rosemary at Christmas, so I threw those in a jar and topped it off with gin. I’ll let it infuse for a couple weeks, strain out the cranberries and rosemary, and see what flavour adventure I’ve created. At present, the gin has turned a brilliant red.
The sugar shortage continues
As I mentioned in passing in my recent pumpkin butter post, there’s a sugar shortage going on in Western Canada. Apparently all, or nearly all, of the sugar in Western Canada is supplied by one company that’s been on strike since September, which resulted in the shelves going bare in the grocery store as we were leading up to Christmas baking season.
That also meant I needed to ration my sugar supply. By making kombucha, I require a cup of sugar every eight to ten days to start a new batch—and with no end to the strike in sight, I can’t risk running out…which means not taking on extra projects.
However, a friend visited from Ontario, a part of Canada not experiencing a sugar shortage, and she brought us a 10 kilogram bag of sugar as a Christmas present!
This means I finally get to try out the new steam juicer I bought (CA Amazon, US Amazon). I’ve got three large ziplock bags of tart cherries in my freezer just begging to be turned into wine or liqueur. I normally find it a bit of a laborious process because of the juicing step, so I’m looking forward to using the juicer to easily create sediment-free juice—and then add a TON of sugar to turn it into wine.
When I try the juicer, I’ll post a review here on the site.
Planning for 2024
It seems the garden truly is a year-round project, even in a climate where half the year sees the garden frozen solid and buried in snow.
John and I are already having conversations about what we want more of, what we want less of, and how we might rotate the crops to get a better yield. Some areas of the garden are sunnier than others, the local ecosystem of certain patches can lead to higher yields, and some plants produce more when planted next to each other—all factors we consider when we plan for the summer.
But until then…
While we’re certainly thinking about the 2024 garden, it’s still months before we actually have to do anything. We unfortunately don’t have the space to set up seed starters indoors, so we rely on planting seeds directly in the ground and buying seedlings from the garden centre.
Our neighbour, whose garden we use, also provides seedlings that he starts at his house. Normally this is in the form of tomato plants—he provides us with several dozen seedlings of a whole variety of tomatoes—as well as a few other veggies. This year, after seeing how much we love bell peppers, he’ll also start a bunch of pepper seedlings for us.
But until that time of year rolls around…we just have to enjoy eating all our preserved produce and toasting with our garden wines.