BY AMANDA HAWKINS

I bought a pound of Arkansas Black

back in November—impossibly

hard, a little bitter, tart as tart apples can be,

the indentation leading to the stem

shallow, as if the apple had strained

away from the branch or the tree

itself had held the fruit at arm's length.

Read more: Cold Storage - A Poem

BY PAMELA KAN-RICE

A wisp of white steam begins to spew from the vent in the lid of the pressure canner. After 10 minutes of watching the continuous stream of steam rise, volunteer Julia Jarvis announces to the Sacramento UC Master Food Preserver class that it is time to place the gauge on the canner. Once pressure is achieved, a timer is set for 25 minutes—the time the recipe requires for pressure canning chicken broth.

With the cool winter weather upon us, we tend to crave hearty soups and stews with a slice of crusty bread to enjoy on brisk evenings. You can make a large batch of soup and save some for later. And, if you start to long for the flavors and colors of summer, preserved local produce such as sweet corn can help bridge the gap until summer comes around again.

Read more: UC Master Food Preserver Program Extends Summer Harvest for Year-Round Eating

BY ANN M. EVANS

Organized gardeners know that winter is the time to clean, sterilize, oil, sharpen and restore your hand-powered garden tools so they will be ready for use come spring. Sharp tools make the job easier, clean tools reduce disease infestation and proper storage increases longevity. If you yearn to be more organized come springtime, read on.

I keep a five-gallon bucket filled with coarse sand by the door inside the shed. I dip shovels and spades in the sand throughout the year to remove clods of dirt. Even so, by January, the shed is a mess and my tools need care.

After clearing and out and cleaning the shed so I can see what I have, I put back whatever is useful for next year, minus the tools. I recommend cleaning the long-handled tools first. If they are really dirty, wash them in water and rub them dry with a chamois. Scrub down any rough parts on the metal with steel wool and use a cloth dipped in vegetable oil to further clean the metal. Sand the tool handle with medium-grade sandpaper. Then, with a cloth, rub boiled linseed oil into the exposed wood grain.

Remove this rag from the tool shed when you are finished, as it may combust. Spread the rag out to dry on concrete. Once it is completely dry, throw it away.

To sharpen shovels and hoes, use an eight- or 10-inch mill file to file from the side that maintains the most contact with the ground. On the shovel, that is the backside. File toward the front side. As you face the hoe, file from the backside toward you. Store the sharpened tools back in the shed.

Short-handled tools—saws, pruners, loppers and trowels—also get cleaned, but not in water. Use a rag dipped in vegetable oil. If there is a bit of rust that won't clean off, use steel wool or 250 grit sandpaper or, failing that, naval jelly, a rust dissolver which can be purchased at a hardware store. Rub it on the rusted iron or steel part, let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then wipe off the naval jelly with a cloth.

I sharpen bladed tools inside at the kitchen table covered with newspaper. To sharpen the blades, use files, whetstones or a carbide blade. Wear protective eyewear and gloves. Always sharpen a tool with motions away from yourself. If sap is present on blades, start with a spray disinfectant foaming bathroom cleaner product, and then scrape off any material with a paint scraper or sharp chisel.

To get into the tight areas on hand-held pruners, use a 4-inch Diafold® diamond flat file. Working at a 20° to 25° angle, apply light, even strokes, going from the tip to the base on the forward stroke with even pressure. The blade will gradually become shiny. For hand-held pruners and loppers, sharpen one blade only; this is called the bevel. When sharp, put some "3-in-1" oil on the hinge of the pruner and work it into the tool.

After cleaning, put the short-handled tools back in the shed, or a place where they will stay dry and rust free throughout the winter. I hang my long-handled tools and loppers on nails. Small trowels go together in a box with the dibbers. Hand pruners go together with knives and small pruning saws.

When the garden shed and tools are clean, I pore over my old Smith & Hawken tome, The Tool Book, by William Bryant Logan (Workman Publishing, 1997.) The text and illustrations of every kind of garden tool intrigue me and often inspire me to select a new tool for the coming year. The book has a small section on cleaning tools, as do most University Extension Master Gardener program publications. Ask your local garden center if they offer tool and knife sharpening as a paid service if you don't want to do this yourself— though proper care and storage of tools is a satisfying winter weekend activity.

BY PAMELA KAN-RICE

A wisp of white steam begins to spew from the vent in the lid of the pressure canner. After 10 minutes of watching the continuous stream of steam rise, volunteer Julia Jarvis announces to the Sacramento UC Master Food Preserver class that it is time to place the gauge on the canner. Once pressure is achieved, a timer is set for 25 minutes—the time the recipe requires for pressure canning chicken broth.

With the cool winter weather upon us, we tend to crave hearty soups and stews with a slice of crusty bread to enjoy on brisk evenings. You can make a large batch of soup and save some for later. And, if you start to long for the flavors and colors of summer, preserved local produce such as sweet corn can help bridge the gap until summer comes around again.

Pressure canning is one way you can preserve food to store and eat later. Other techniques include freezing, water bath canning, pickling and dehydrating.

Have you tried preserving food? Maybe you're nervous because you never learned the technique from your grandmother. Or, even if Grandma did show you, maybe you aren't confident that you're doing it the right way to maintain the quality and avoid making people sick.

Read more: UC Master Food Preserver Program Extends Summer Harvest for Year-Round Eating

BY COLIN GOULDING / PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREA THOMPSON

a cut above 1

When you walk into V. Miller Meats, the first thing you'll see is an impeccable case full of beautifully cut lamb shanks, freshly made sausage and oxtail the size of kabocha squash. Your first thought probably won't have anything to do with a breakfast in Brooklyn, but that is how the only whole-animal butcher shop in Sacramento began.

It was the ever-inspiring, smoky magic of bacon that started Eric Veldman Miller on his journey toward opening a butcher shop. And a common ethos of transparency in food production brought him together with Matt Azevedo, a magician of sausage, salumi and charcuterie. The duo worked for two years to realize the November opening of their shop in East Sacramento.

Read more: A Cut Above the Herd: Whole-Animal Butcher Shop Opens in East Sac

BY MIMI GIBOIN / PHOTOGRAPHY BY MIMI GIBOIN

cognac vineyard

One of my first memories of childhood summers in France is playing tag down long rows of grapes in my Uncle Francois' vineyard. Often I'd stumble on large hard clumps of soil. Later I'd learn that those sun-dried chunks are gypsum clay, and are unique to the Cognac region. My cousins and I would roam the 25 acres at our family's property, L'Hermitage, and build forts under the vines of the Ugni Blanc, the most commonly used grape for Cognac brandy.

Read more: Childhood in Cognac

Jim Mills: Manifesting the Farm-to-Fork Goal

BY ANN M. EVANS / PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEBBIE CUNNINGHAM

mills and rohr

Beyond the policy makers who support rural-urban connectivity, such as Sacramento's Farm-to-Fork Capital marketing campaign, are practitioners who actually manifest the goal. Political leadership can create a framework for economic development, resource conservation and public health, but a thriving local restaurant and farm culture needs people like Jim Mills, a sales representative for Sacramento Produce Express and autodidact who learned the food business on the job. Mills connects chefs with farmers.

Read more: Jim Mills: Manifesting the Farm-to-Fork Goal

BY ANN M. EVANS

Organized gardeners know that winter is the time to clean, sterilize, oil, sharpen and restore your hand-powered garden tools so they will be ready for use come spring. Sharp tools make the job easier, clean tools reduce disease infestation and proper storage increases longevity. If you yearn to be more organized come springtime, read on.

I keep a five-gallon bucket filled with coarse sand by the door inside the shed. I dip shovels and spades in the sand throughout the year to remove clods of dirt. Even so, by January, the shed is a mess and my tools need care.

Read more: Care and Storage of Hand Powered Garden Tools

BY FRANK DOMPE

After four years of operation on 19th Street in midtown Sacramento, Preservation & Co. was burglarized in May. The list of items taken included cash, the register and electronics, as well as a few jars of the company's wares. They came for the valuables, and that included some of the good stuff: what was on the shelves.

If mere imitation is a form of flattery, larceny must be a higher form of underhanded praise. Preservation's founder Jason Poole reflected on the bumpy road to such recognition during a visit on November 14—National Pickle Day.

Read more: Time in a Bottle: Summer's Bounty Gets a Year-Long Life at Preservation & Co.

This is how the vast majority of Americans age wine: We buy it at the store, we drive it home, we open it, we drink it. In Sacramento, sometimes we buy wine in the foothills and take it to dinner the next weekend. That might be extended aging.

Which is why it sounds like advice from Mars when wine critics say "Hold a wine until 2027." First off, they're just guessing. More to the point, who keeps wine that long? Or remembers the exact time?

Some people do have deep, pristine cellars, but most of them will forget that bottle by 2027. (If you're someone with an actual cellar, or a vast wine fridge, you know. You've pulled long-held bottles, looked at the vintage, and thought, "Oops!"

For most people, storing wine is short-term— a week or two, a couple months, maybe a few years—and sometimes longer storage is an accident, like that bottle you were saving for a special occasion and just kept saving.

Still, when holding wine, even for a few weeks, there are a couple things to know.

First—and most basic: Store the bottle on its side. That keeps the cork moist so it won't shrink and air won't get into the bottle. Exposure to our friend oxygen changes everything: Think of a sliced apple on the counter—10 minutes and it's brown. Oxygen turns wine to vinegar. Consider it a reverse miracle.

If you've got a bottle for a couple weeks, don't worry about it. Any longer? Place it on its side, please. Nose down works, too. Cardboard wine carriers or case boxes are handy for that. Lots of stores and wineries will be happy to give you a box.

As for the conditions, think about temperature, light and vibration.

Temperature - The ideal temp for storing wine is 58° ... or 55°. There's some disagreement in the wine world. It's a long story. Anywhere near that range is fine, and if you're storing wine a couple months or less, just keep it under 70°.

If you're holding wine for longer, the most efficient way to regulate the temperature is to splurge on a wine refrigerator, which can run a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, depending on your demands. But a cool, dark, quiet closet is just fine because a consistent temperature is almost as important as the actual number. Wine sitting at a steady 64° will be happy.

Light - Dark is good. Sunlight, even filtered, or fluorescent light will dull wines, especially whites with lighter-colored bottles. A British group of wine pros and technology experts called Wotwine examined 6,000 bottles in supermarkets over two years and found that light had dulled the flavors in 35% of them. Fluorescent light can damage wine within just hours.

The takeaway: Don't grab the bottle out in a store display, get one on the shelf and not the first in line. And the expensive stuff in supermarkets on the top shelf getting blasted by the lighting? Buy the darker bottles.

Vibration - Don't let the wine get much vibration— and that includes your refrigerator. (Wine fridges are designed to remain still.) Wine in any fridge for a week or so is no problem, but that's probably about it. Think of your wine like a sauce: too much action and it will break. Wines like calm.

All of this means wine racks anywhere in the kitchen are probably doing everything wrong: They're warm, bright and active. In fact, any decorative wine rack might not be great for more than a few days of storage, unless it's in a closet— remember, that good ol' closet is a fine place to store wine.

Probably 90° of wines in America are ready to drink when they're released— winemaking has improved vastly since most wines needed years to soften and coalesce. Some big reds can use a few years, like some Cabernet Sauvignons or Barolos, but none of them are cheaper, everyday drinking wines.

And the thing is, when wines age, they change. They get softer, but often lose some (or all) of the fruit and develop more gentle flavors of earth or wood or leather. Which means, if you're buying wine to age, buy it to eventually get these flavors.

So do you need a cellar or a wine fridge? Maybe. It depends on your wine buying habits and the volume you buy. A wine fridge can make life simpler and free up closet space, but it's easy to fill that fridge quickly. Then you're back where we started: Buying wine, driving home and drinking it. Like most of us.

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