Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Fermenting

Strawberry and Raspberry fermenting merrily

I had two lots of yeast to choose from last night. One, from VinClasse, smelled a little sour and is three months from its sell by date. The other one (Youngs) was fresher but there wasn't much of it and I wanted it for white currant wine. It might be a while before I get to Nature's Way in Belfast. So I asked Bert to sniff the VinClasse, second opinion and all that. Of course he was wreathed in pipe smoke and could smell nothing else but his aromatic tobacco which is like old woollen socks sprinkled with essence of vanilla.


Nevertheless he pronounced the yeast fine and I tossed it into the bucket thinking to myself, if it hasn't started fermenting by tomorrow I'll re-yeast. No need to worry for it was off and running by bedtime. I've used yeast with added nutrient for a long time now and it is always quick to get started.

I really wish we had a decent wine supplies shop close by. There is a place near Ahoghill but it's more about beer and every time I go there there is always something needed that they haven't got. Which is annoying.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Busy Day In The Wine Making Kitchen


Went and let the home made wines get out of control again. I have 23 batches on the go, 24 if I count the raspberry and strawberry one I started today. And there is still enough frozen fruit in my freezers to make at least another six batches.

Today I racked off four batches that have been sitting around since October last year. Two were blackcurrant. It has a good flavour but is a little on the sweet side which is a pity as I made it in bulk, five gallons altogether. I'm sure somebody will like it. Swisser definitely as she is fond of dessert wines and Jazzer, she will probably go for it too. I also racked two that I've never tried before. The first was gooseberry. Maybe a little sharp but not so your eyes would water. I like it. It's the first time I got to the goosegogs before the blackbird. We definitely need more gooseberry bushes. The other was beetroot and blackcurrant and it is rather good. The earthiness of the beetroot balances the acidity of the currants. Bert thought it tasted of cherries.

Strawberry and Raspberry Stage I, before yeasting

Then I started a new one, the strawberry and raspberry. Easy recipe.

Slightly over 3lbs of fruit, a gallon of boiling water (cooled) and a bag of sugar then a wee bit more. I used a yeast and nutrient mixture which was still in date, but slightly old. It might not work out so fingers crossed. Before adding sugar I squished the fruit up using my incredibly clean hands and tried not to think about how the strawberries looked and felt like slugs. And I dissolved the sugar in hot water before I added it to the fruit mixture.

And this is how I keep track of my wine making activities. The coloured entries are finished wines.


Click to embiggen. But you knew that.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Interesting Wines



212 views, 13th most interesting...

...but not as interesting as the completed wine, I'd wager.

1. A conglomeration of pome fruits. Middling to good. All drunk.
2. A rhubarb. Rhubarb is always good. All drunk.
3. Carrot and Raisin. Carrot is always good. This one was dry and delicious and is all drunk.
4. & 6. Rosehip, made from dried hips. Overly sweet. Still some left.
5. Orange and Apple. Made from fruit juice. Not very nice and wouldn't use juice again. Still drunk it.
7. Damson. Fabulous, delicious, sublime. All drunk.
8. Nectarine. Some of the fruit was over ripe and there was a slight mustiness to it. I liked it. All drunk.

All these wines were started in late 2012.

The piano they are sitting on? Chopped up. Late 2014.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Adventures in Cider Making



At primary school one of the stories in our Wide Range Readers was Johnny Appleseed. As I remember, Johnny was presented as a jolly hobo who wandered the length and breadth of America with bags of apple seeds which he planted everywhere for no reason other than benevolence. And this is how Johnny Appleseed is generally known. I never gave him another thought until I read The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan.

Pollan's work shows how people and domesticated plants have formed mutually beneficial relationships. His chosen plants are the apple – our desire for sweetness, the tulip – for its beauty, marijuana – which intoxicates us and the potato which nourishes us. Each of these plants has thrived through selective breeding and genetic engineering. It was a fascinating read which I'd recommend to anyone who takes pleasure in growing – anything!

The section I enjoyed the most was the one on our desire for sweetness and apples. Pollan had a lot to say about Johnny Appleseed or, to give him his true name, John Chapman. The tale I had from school was over simplified. John Chapman was a fascinating man. But he didn't just wander around the United States planting seeds willy-nilly. He planted nurseries of apple saplings and sold them to farmers. When a nursery was established he left it in the hands of a manager and moved on, planted another nursery and continued in this pattern. He made a decent living. Now an interesting fact about apples is that they don't grow true from seed. Indeed, if you were to take an apple and plant the several seeds that it contained, each seedling would be entirely different from the others. And most would be sour. Apple trees that produce sweet fruit may only be propagated by grafting. So the vast majority of John Chapman's trees would have produced sour fruit. So why did people buy them in such large numbers? Because sour apples are just what is needed to produce hard cider and applejack. Our reading book never mentioned that.

Which brings me to my own recent experiment. I've been wanting Bert to make a cider press for ages but he has yet to get round to it. So I was rather pleased when a friend sent me a link to a method of producing cider without using a press. I gathered my apples, a mixture of Bramleys, crabs and dessert apples. Mostly Bramleys as they are what I have at hand. They are not ideal for cider but it is just an experiment.

The recipe uses a juicer instead of a press and we happen to have a sturdy masticating juicer which makes it easier still.

Hard Cider From Whole Apples

What You’ll Need:
  • Apples, pears, or crab apples (to be mixed with sweet apples.)  About 15 lbs. of fruit gets us about a gallon of juice.  Must be fresh and organic.  Try to include some crab apples or tart apples with your sweet ones for a better, more balanced flavour.
  • A juicer. 
  • A chopping knife and cutting board.
  • A large sieve and a clean kitchen towel.
  • Demijohns, a funnel, a siphon hose, rubber bungs and airlocks.
  • Sugar
  • Swing-top bottles
Method:
  1. Wash your fruit well with plain water. 
  2. Cut your apples into quarters.  This is mostly just to check for bugs or other issues with the apples.  Discard or cut around any that have an infested core, and cut out major bruises. You don’t need to worry about coring or taking stems out– the juicer will do that for you.
  3. Start juicing!  As your juicer pitcher gets full, pour it through a funnel into a sterilized demijohn.
  4. Once you have juiced all of your fruit, taste the juice and add sugar.  At least a cup of sugar to a gallon of juice, more if you like sweet cider.  During the fermentation process, the yeast will eat the sugar (both the fructose from the fruit and the added sugar) and turn it into alcohol– so this step is both for flavour and alcohol level.  Those of you in the USA may not really need to add much sugar, as most of the apples there tend to be really sweet.  You can add more sugar later if the brew is turning out too dry or tart for your taste.
  5. Put a rubber stopper and an airlock on your demijohn, and let it sit for a week.
  6. Rack your cider– siphon it into another sterilized demijohn, leaving the yeasty sediment in the bottom of the first one, so you have a much cleaner cider in the new demijohn.  Taste it and see how it’s doing.  If it’s already tasting pretty dry, you can add some more sugar before you put the airlock back on.
  7. For a sweet cider, bottle after a week. Three weeks or more makes a drier end product. Fermenting it this long means that it won’t be very fizzy in the end– but you can also add a little sugar just before bottling to regain some carbonation.  The next step is to bottle your hard cider.  Use the siphon hose to fill swing-top bottles. The type of bottle is really important, since it lets out small amounts of the pressure that builds up, so you don’t burst any bottles.


For those of you in Northern Ireland all the specialist equipment needed can be purchased at Hillstown Farm Shop near Ahoghill (and Randalstown) or Nature's Way in Belfast.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Carrot and Orange Wine


It's been ages since I've blogged about my wine making activities. The truth is I've been too busy growing fruit and vegetables to have time for making wine and, like last summer, I've rather neglected the wines already started. Five months and nothing racked, nothing progressed. I'm beginning to realise that. for me,  wine making is going to be an autumn and winter pastime.

Carrot & Orange10/05/1329/05/1320/10/1323/11/1326/01/2014 & 7/04/2014
03/09/142nd R -heavy sediment/3rd R: Heavy albumin bloom decanted out topped with cider & water

Still, the freezer is full of peaches, all colours of currants, rhubarb and raspberries. The damsons look like they are going to crop well this year and the hedgerows are full of blackberries. It's been four months since I laid anything new down but, I promise, I'll make up for it.

And so it was I bottled the Carrot and Orange. Started in May 2013, racked 5 times and bottled tonight. It is drinkable already. Nellybert shared a couple of glasses tonight. Too soon but we are reckless fools.

Carrots always make good wine. My experiments with pineapples, pears, oranges and strawberries are over. From now on I shall concentrate on the fruit and vegetables that make dry and palatable wines. I know I used a dash of orange in this one but it was juice only, no rind. Wines with rind included tend to give me a headache so no more of that.

Sixteen months from start to bottle. Too long but the wine is yummy. A friend, Emma, gave me loads of sultanas today. Carrot and sultana wine coming up!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Racking and Bottling

The Banjos came over on Saturday night. Mrs Banjo brought her first ever wine for racking. It was a raspberry made from Asda's finest frozen fruit. To be honest I wasn't expecting much from it but it is coming along very nicely. A good ruby red colour, clear, tasty and alcoholic. Of course we judged this on the merest sip during the racking process but I will be looking for the recipe. I might need to use frozen fruit as we replaced our raspberry canes this year, and thanks to the very wet Spring they were late in getting into the ground.

Tonight I racked one of my elderflowers and a rhubarb. The elderflower was made from fresh flowers. I'd previously used dried flowers. The flavour is good but it is rather too sweet for my liking. I'll try it again this year but will go easy on the sugar.

Rhubarb. What can I say? It never disappoints me but looking back at my notes I see I was very adventurous with this one. I started it in February 2013 and used a pint of pineapple wine as a starter. Then, racking it in October I seem to have lashed a bit of birch sap and rhubarb into it. It didn't clear that well but is strong. Not one for entering in the County Show.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Carrot and Apple Wine



StartedBottledNOTES
Carrot28/10/1119/05/12still very sweet on 3rd racking/ bottled – sweet and  clear, good colour, cork popped Sept, 12/1/13 drank 1 bottle, very fizzy, sweet but pleasant
Carrot and Orange10/05/13
2nd R -heavy sediment/3rd R: Heavy albumin bloom decanted out topped with cider and water
Carrot and Raisin 128/11/1204/05/13Added nutmeg, cinnamon and pinch clove, needed a lot of topping up (water) when going into demijohn, 2nd R: dry, great flavor, Bert loves it
Carrot and Raisin 228/02/1324/02/14some parsnips in mix, used demerara sugar 2lbs, nutmeg and cinnamon. Bottled 5. Yummy.
Carrot and Raisin 303/12/13

Carrot and Sultana13/12/1206/11/13using plastic container, 2nd r decanted into glass – light flavour 3rd R: dry, clear topped with nettle
Carrot, Parsnip and Sultana24/10/1302/03/14made with Tam veg. Topped with young rhub at 2nd rack



That's a little section of my wine-making spreadsheet and it's all about The Carrot. As can be seen I've made wine from carrots 7 times. Two are still on the go and 5 have been bottled. Bert and I shared a bottle of carrot and raisin (2) last night and it was rather tasty.

The first time I used carrot I stuck closely to a recipe. There must have been a lot of sugar because it was almost too sweet. It was also fizzy which means it carried on fermenting after bottling. Not a good idea! Carrot and raisin (or sultana) and less sugar produced a far more drinkable wine. I also started using pinches of nutmeg and other spices which added flavour. By the time I was on my third carrot and raisin I had stopped using recipes.

Carrot (and parsnip) wines are made with the liquor from the chopped and boiled roots. The actual vegetable is discarded. Some recipes suggest they can then be used in cooking but as I don't like my vegetables with the life boiled out of them, I give them to the pigs. Using dried fruit means that chemical nutrients aren't needed. I rarely use additives now. Just bananas or raisins for added nutrients, lemon juice where acid is required and strong tea where tannin is recommended.

Rough Recipe for Carrot, Apple, Raisin and Date Wine

Roots are easy to prepare for wine but chopping the raisins is a bit of a fiddly chore. And that is where my new Veto slow juicer comes in. I found a recipe for carrot and apple wine on-line and adapted it. I boiled the 4 lb of carrots as always then made a litre of juice using apples, carrots, all the raisins I had in my baking cupboard and a few dates for good measure. I put a bag of sugar in my sterilised bucket and added the pulp from the carrots, apples and dried fruit. Then 2 litres of boiling water and stirred it into a thick sludgy brown syrup. Time for the carrot liquor which had cooled down quite a bit. By the time I added my litre of juice and topped it up to a gallon it was exactly the right temperature for the yeast. Quick stir, lid on and that was that. Did I mention that it looked like liquid manure? Smelt better though.

So there you are. Another rough enough recipe from Nelly.  I'm sure I must be annoying somebody out there by alternating between imperial and metric measures. If anyone wants me to make it more exact I will. But perhaps better wait a few months to see how it turns out.