What better way to spend a cold, rainy autumn day than sorting spices? I measured out bulk spices and bagged up enough for this year's Glögg.
We used to wait anxiously every year for the spices to appear in the local Swedish bakeries. A few years ago my husband decided that we go through enough of them that we should just buy in bulk. Decades ago, his parents and their friends had worried that some day they wouldn't be able to get the old spice recipe (are worries inheritable?) and sat down and counted out each individual ingredient. 12 cardamon pods, 6 whole allspice berries, 6 whole cloves, a teaspoon of slivered almonds, a quarter cup of raisens, 5 cinnamon sticks, orange peel... So we had the recipe.
I order enough bulk spices through Amazon to get us through a few years. I bag them up each year and pop them in the freezer to keep. The store bought orange peel leaves something to be desired so I buy a bag of oranges to eat and set the peals out to dry. Free orange peels! This little enterprise drops our per batch price for the spices from fourteen dollars and change down to a little over four bucks a batch. Now that's what I call economy of scale!
We may be completely saturated with rain. We may not be able to walk across the lawn without getting a boot stuck. But they haven't all been gloomy days. We have not had a hard frost yet, but I've been working through my dahlias lifting the tubers to store. In the past I have just knocked off the worst of the dirt and plopped them into cardboard boxes of compost or potting mix and stuck them in the basement bulkhead. This year I am trying to be a little more precise about the process. After all, I have the time. I've found a lot of information online about the best way to store the tubers and there are several methods and variations of storing. My old method is fine. But in the spring you end up with a stack of collapsed boxes of dirty, mystery tubers and they aren't any fun to unbox and plant.
Even though we've had too much rain and the dahlia bed was wet and sort of muddy, they rinsed off really nicely. I dug up and processed one variety at a time. None of them showed any sign of disease. I hosed them off and each day set them outside to dry for the afternoon. At the end of the day I bring them in and set them on newspaper over night.
The next day I trim off the hair roots and cut the stem back to the solid part (the rest of the stem is hollow and can hold moisture or debris). After they have dried for 24 hours they can be handled without scraping them up. The hair roots cut cleanly and you can write the varieties on them with a marker. You can let them dry 48 hours or so before you pack them up but after that you will start to notice that they are beginning to shrivel a little and you don't want that.
It is important to cut out any damaged or rotted tubers because you don't want them continuing to rot in storage and spoiling the whole batch. You can divide the clumps at this point but I am going to wait until spring. Some of them separated out on their own for me which was nice. But the rest will have to be cut up and that will be easier in the spring when their growth eyes start.
I ordered a twenty pound bag of coarse vermiculite from Farmtek. This will keep them clean and should maintain the right amount of moisture without being "damp".
I still have some of them in boxes, but I picked up a couple of these plastic milk crates and now I want more! They have handles on all four sides, are light weight, and won't crush when I stack them. I had shopping bags the right size and they packed up really nice and tidy.
They need to be kept cool but unfrozen. They can stay in the garden shed for now but will have to come in to the basement bulkhead for the winter where they will have the right amount of humidity and will not freeze.
Tomorrow's cold rainy day project is venison jerky.