Tag Archives: homebrew

Bottling that Blackberry wine

It does feel a very long time sine I posted anything that was plot and allotment related. Well, I am today.  Kind of, at least, as the blackberry wine that was made last year was finally put into bottles. For just over a year, two demi-johns have sat on the side in something of a silent slumber; a very cold, silent slumber.

blackberrybottled

This was the largest batch of wine that I had cooked up, so having two demi-johns I had to make sure that I had enough bottles to put it all into. I even had parental supervision doing it; it does help that I am well over the age of being able to drink the stuff-well over! And it didn’t taste so bad, even if I do say so myself.

It is potent; that, for some daft reason, is the reputation that Blackberry wine has. A wine that is heady, potent, flavoursome; it has welly, oomph and all whole range of orchestral movement within it. There as also a second batch; this batch was from this summer and alongside Plum wine, was ready to be racked off into the next phase of demi-johns.

This second batch of blackberry wine, is in it’s current phase, rather sweet and fruity. The plum wine-a new one on me-is not bad either, and does rather carry the sweet and tart, fleshy flavour that the fruits had on harvest. I know that the blackberry wine can be stowed for a while, that it develops over tome. The plum wine might be returned to the stage a lot sooner, it doesn’t come across as a wine that has to be matured for aeons. It does rather taste like the raspberry sauce you might find in a sundae.

strawberryapple

I have actually ran out of small bottles, and there are two further experiments yet to be bottled. There is the summer wine made from strawberries and rhubarb as well as the very experimental Apple wine that are currently loitering with intent. It will most likely be Spring before I consider doing anything with these and wiping the slate clean for any future experiments.

As for plot adventures.

We are now in festive season, Advent has reached its halfway point. The plan is, that at some point during The Twelve Days of Christmas I will sow chilli seeds. I have pellets, will rummage and root in the shed for the heated propogator before trying to decide what seeds to sow. I still haven’t fixed the poly tunnel, so the will need to probably house any plants in Mum’s poly during the summer. It does all feel a rather long, long, way down the line, but we shall.

For the moment, enjoy the rest of your weekend and Slainte!

Summer of 2017: Pause in Play #gdnbloggers

As I sit here, I have Adele singing ‘set fire to the rain’ on loop in my ear phones. This is the summer  of 2017, and I am having a rest.  I’m not very good at having a rest; school and counselling training form a big chunk of my life, then there is the allotment, writing and occasionally I go on adventures. So when school ended about two weeks ago, I took the conscious decision to not fill my diary.  This is time for a full stop.

From August 2016 until now, there has been a lot going on. Work has been busy, there have been lots of students; I have spent my working days, prepping, marking, teaching; doing my day job to the best of my ability. Alongside that, I have also been at night school and undertaking a two-year level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic counselling.  That’s two fairly big plates and spinning all the time.  I had forgotten just how demanding a degree-level course was, and it has been ten years since I got my Psychology degree from Aston University. Training to be a counsellor and a being a  Psychology teacher are at two different ends of a spectrum

Anyway. The first year of the diploma ended in July, but school continued for a bit. When it did, I wasn’t going to go around spinning plates this summer.  I was and am, going to try and have some down time.

Whilst the plot hasn’t had the best year, it has had some therapeutic value over the summer.

For example, the growing stash of homebrew. I didn’t think that I would do much homebrewing or any other preserving for that matter. Only for blackberries to catch me by surprise and appear abundantly on the allotment. I have made blackberry wine before, I made some last year and added plums and currants. This year’s experiment is purely blackberries with some cinnamon and star anise thrown in.  I had been given some plums by a plot neighbour, and only today the must made from them has been transferred into a demi-john.

I have seen lots of fellow allotmenteers start to worry about blight warnings. This can be awfully demoralising, and when you have been working hard to maintain a crop, it’s awful to see it decimated. There are less than half a dozen plants on my plot, but I have harvested lots of green of tomatoes. I think that we currently have all of one red marmande tomato! I wasn’t too convinced by the crop of Roma tomatoes. I do believe however, that there was just something not right about this year’s growing season, least f all because of my own reduced productivity.  The tomatoes that have  been harvested have been used alongside apples and fenugreek to make a green tomato chutney.  There has been less playing with the preserving pan, and to return to that was actually really nice. I have yet to make jam, though Mama F and her sister did borrow my kit to make some blackberry jam. Making Jams, jellies and chutneys is actually really nice; it is a form of mindfulness, I guess, but more on that later! The batch of chutney now needs some time to mature and mellow; hopefully, it will find loving homes.

A bit delayed, but better than never; we  have glads! Appearing a lot like Roman candles, they have burst into bloom all over the plot in a riot of colour.  I don’t dig them out, and let them be. May be, once I have cleared the plot, I might consider sinking some more next year. It never ceases to amaze me, how colourful or abundant they are. They also attract  a lot of fuzzy bottomed bumbles, so having them on the plot for them is doubly useful.

All that any would be suitor needs to worry about, is investing in Diamonds; I can grow my own beautiful flowers, and petrol station flowers are never crossing my palms.  So may be just by my bulbs and things, that would work yes? You’ll have do your own weeding, mind.

 

I started off, saying that I was having a rest; that there were no adventures planned. In some part, that is true. I am very fortunate to be within a stone’s throw of Sarehole Mill. Something of a landmark and a beauty spot, the mill is said to have inspired J.R.R.Tolkien. Whilst I am not a real hobbit-the last that I checked-taking a walk down to the mill was something of an adventure. I’m glad that I did, that I wandered around by the Mill Pool-the mill still works-and even sat in the tearoom with a cuppa and tea cake. There was something magnetic about the place, and no wonder that Tolkien was inspired by it.

I had taken my notebook with me, thinking that I might sit there and write. I ended up taking pictures so that I could write about it later; I could imagine a protagonist stood musing his existence whilst looking at the mill pool. I made a note on the ‘to write’ list, and have plans to write when my brain feels like it. You can’t see it very well in the photo sadly, but there is actually a veggie patch outside mill. I remember seeing raspberry canes and rhubarb; there is all an apple espalier that overhangs a door. I’m not the only would be ‘obbit, that likes gardening.

Having a rest, will hopefully give both my brain and my soul a rest. There are no concrete plans per se as to what I shall do over the summer.

I have re-discovered my colouring books, I had forgotten just how much I enjoy this. I must have sat there for hours, with my pencils, fineliners and fibre tips just not thinking, but just colouring. I cannot describe the sensation, but it does feel as though you are floating away as you feel your attention span loosen out and become aware of your breathing, your heart rate;  all occurs whilst your mind empties.

As a well as colouring, there are books to write and to read.

In terms of writing, there are three, no wait, four separate notebooks/folders waiting to be looked at. But no mojo. Whilst colouring completely empties the mind, writing requires that it is full and with all sorts; for me, the day dreams have to be in full techi-colour and able to flow through my inky pens. It is only when my pens have a mind of their own, that I am able to write, commit things to paper. I don’t type and write. I write it all out in notebooks, it feels a more soulful in analogue rather than doing it via digital.

Having nothing to write, makes trying to rest a little difficult. You, I know that I, feel as though I should be doing something. Trouble is, the impetus, the drive is not there. Waiting for it to come back, the ideas to come back, is a trifle disarming. It is also unpredictable, and I have no idea when it will come back. I don’t want to call this a ‘writer’s block’, not in the least. There is no congestion-as it were-no back up, that needs a wiggle, or a flick to let it pour. Just no material to set a spark to, that oxygen might then fuel.

I can’t write anything at the moment, that doesn’t mean that I won’t in the future. In the last two years, I have written three books, and have another scheduled for release in Spring 2018. Whatever happens next, is the next phase, the next chapter; what will be, will be. I don’t want to force it; I am great believer in things-creative things-happening organically, spontaneously, to make your soul zing and may even a smile appearing on your face. I am going to sit on those four books, and let them appear when they are ready. Trust, me, when they turn up, make themselves known, I will tell you.

I’m not writing anything, so I will read. I am currently two thirds of the way through the Malbry Cycle by Joanne Harris.  Alongside that, I have the Hannibal Quadrology, written by another Harris.  I have only made a small dent in ‘Red Dragon’. Now both of the Harrises have written anthems for my doomed youth. I read ‘Blackberry Wine’ and three out of the four Hannibal novels during my A-levels. At 33, I am having a literary renaissance by making my way through Ms.Harris’s back catalogue and taking on Hannibal once again. Then I have lots of other random stuff-George Eliot, Virgina Woolf, Gustave Flaubert and lots and lots of historical fiction-on the ereader to also look at. There is no shortage of works to read.

I need to read, I want to read; as with colouring, with gardening, it’s time to submerge my soul into what makes it zing.

waltonscarecrow

Last but not least, my thanks to waltons! They very kindly sent my Spike and Drusilla the scarecrows.  There was never any doubt in my mind as to what they would be named.

Right, colouring, reading, watching Bones, Angel, Buffy or Star trek….all options on doing nothing…..

 

Moonshine and Mooli pods #gdnbloggers

There are two parts to this blog post. The first involves the stash of home brewed wine that is developing rather nicely.

 

Today, I have bottled up a batch of Rhubarb and currant wine. This has been lingering for sometime and was brewed in August last year. One of many different varieties, the batch was racked off into small bottles, wrapped up and stowed away. When bottled, it was actually transparent-you could see right through it, and there was little or no sediment left behind. Like all the others, this batch has been wrapped up in brown paper so that it doesn’t fade.  I have taken a quick inventory, and we do have something of a stash developing. To date, we have bottled up:

  • Strawberry wine
  • Blackberry, plum and currant
  • Rhubarb and Currant

There is apple wine, blackberry and mixed berry and Rhubarb and goosebery left to do later in the year.

Most of the wine is transparent on racking, and you can see right through it. It is only through repeated racking that you get wine that is completely see through whilst keeping it’s natural colour. As the wines are so varied, they will need to be stored and allowed to  mature sufficiently. I have to say though, that the blackberry ones are a rather nice claret colour that does look rather proper! There id definitely more than one way to preserve alloment produce, and Petal plonk isn’t too bad at all.

That’s the home brew developments today. Then come the mooli pods. Mama F has found some Mooli pods-these are seed pods from bolted radiishes-in the freezer.

Very simple to make, Mama F created a sauteed base of onions, garlic and ginger before adding the mooli pods, tomatoes and potatoes. We might not have got any radishes, but the seed pods are edible and you can see use the produce that you do get quite effectively.

Chateau Petal…or Petal Plonk…#gdnbloggers

Yeah, Petal Plonk doesn’t sound that good, now does it?

 

Not every thing on the allotment ends up being cooked. There is after all, more than one way to preserve something that has been sow and grown for the future.

2016 involved Petal and I carrying out a number of home brew experiments. Whilst there was a lighter than expected vegetable yield, there was quite a bit of soft fruit. Quite a few blackberries were harvested, and there was something of a bumper crop of currants. We also had a fair few strawberries; which since I don’t really like that much were going into ice cream, be used to make wine or be given away. I decided to go with the home brew by way of experiment.

Strawberry wine was the first of the home brew endeavours; the batch where I learned and saw what the fuss was all about. Al the subsequent batches were about replication and seeing if the straight forward recipe given to be my the fabulous Sister Sparrow could be replicated and to what effect. Problem is, I had little patience during this year; a great many things were done in a rush and probably not thought through. In relation to the home brew-strawberries in particular-I may have racked and bottled a little early. Though I have heard whispers of it being best drunk and consumed whilst young.

With the racking, especially the early stages, I learned to be firm with the must. Not let it all through, basically. Okay so the the odd blackberry or raspberry might plop through, but to generally let all the liquid pass through. With the bulkiness of the must now removed, that leaves the likelihood of sediment passing through, that’s the super fine stuff that even a muslin will let through. It is repeated racking and uber filtration that will overcome that. However, I am not aiming to supply the world’s someliers or open a vintners; I can deal with the sediment, with the wine being drunk from the top. Just don’t shake it all too much!

Today was about racking and bottling; it was the two batches of blackberry that would be dealt with today, leaving a demi-john of rhubarb and gooseberry waiting in the wings. The one batch, was from August 2016 and contained blackberries, plum and currants. This was to be bottled. You can see it above; it is a little cloud-that sediment-but hopefully should settle down. The strawberry wine did-the one in the glass-and it didn’t taste too bad either. Drinking it, was alot like eating a Sara Lee strawberry cheese cake with biscuit base. I kid you not, it was the biscuit base taste that got me. Any way, the batch is now bottled, will be labelled and stowed for future consumption. To keep the colour, I will probably wrap the bottles in brown paper. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of bottles, actually; I was only expecting six 500-ml bottles to be filled. I must think of an interesting name to put on the bottles in the same vein that all the preserves have names. Answers on a postcard, eh?

The other batch, was very very recent; blackberry wine that is dated December 2016. This has been fermented, left to settle and now been racked off-as it were. Any sediment and must that crept in has been discarded and with the wine in demi-johns, it also needs to be stowed away. This is the biggest batch by far, and I have no idea as to how many 500-ml bottles this might produce when it is eventually put into bottles. The colour is rather cool and it looks very claret-y.

As to whether it all tastes any good. Well, we’ll see!

Blackberry wine, finally! #gdnbloggers

This is probably going to be the last home brew experiment of this year, but I have finally got around to making Blackberry wine.

I have used a recipe-a recipe that is henceforth know as Sister Sparrow’s fruit wine recipe-that is really easy to follow. A quantity of fruit is prepared and placed into a brewers bucket. You boil up a sugar syrup-say a couple of litres of water and a bag of sugar-add this to the bucket. When cool, pectolase, yeast and nutrient are added and stirred in. I then keep an eye on the mixture, it is kept covered and in a warm place; stirred twice daily. After about a week, I transfer the mixture into demi-johns. You can see the mixture brew up as real-life science experiment. I also tend to keep it covered, as otherwise you might get an interesting waft of brewing filling the house.

This time I have used all of the blackberries foraged from the plot. However, in something of a disclaimer, I have also added shop bought frozen berries. This is a mixture of additional blackberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries and currants. The bulk of the wine is blackberry, and that was always the aim.To further play with the flavour, I did throw in some star anise and some cinnamon. We are unlikely to age the wine in oak barrels, so this flavouring with spices might make for an interesting experiment.

You can also view the video here.

There was quite a lot in the brewers bucket, enough to fill two demi-johns, making this batch the biggest batch I have made to date. This will either turn out okay or go drastically wrong! It is always an interesting experience transferring the ferment into the demi-johns as you try not keel over.

blackberrydemijohn

Two demi-johns are now placed aside to clear. There is a slight colour difference, as one demi-john was filled before the other. Red in colour, the wine does look rather pretty! The air-locks are deliberately green so I can see whether or not they are bubbling.

experiments

Over the course of the year, there has certainly been a number of home brew experiments. This latest batch and of blackberry wine carries the tally up to six different varieties. I’m not sure if that is a good thing, or that I should be a little worried as to how much has been made and whether or not it will all be consumed. One thing that is true and most certainly, is that it is all the product of the plot.

I will have to consider how long the wines are left in their containers before racking and putting into bottles. The first batch that I ever made was the strawberry wine, and that is the one inside the bottle beneath the brown paper.  I suspect friends and family are going to get some interesting gifts in the future, other than jams, jellies and chutneys. It has been fun making Petal plonk-as it were-it doesn’t half make you think of what goes into wine, how and why.

With everything stashed away, each batch will need a name-all the preserves have a name!-other than Petal’s Plonk…..

Petal’s Preserve goes a bit…boozy #gdnbloggers

There have been a lot preserves made, in terms of jams, jellies and chutneys. I have also had a go at steeping fruit in alcohol to make liqueurs of a kind. This year, I have used fruit from the plot to test out my home brewing kit that was sat unloved for the best part of twelve months. Plus, we have a lot of courgettes, squashes and spinach flying around and this seemed a way of avoiding the gluts.

The recipe that I have used is simple enough-the Sister Sparrow fruit wine recipe-with fruit being placed into a fermenting bucket. Boiled sugar syrup is poured over the top, with yeast, nutrient and enzyme being added when the must is cool. This is left to ferment, before transferring and racking into an air-locked demi-john. Once clarified, the liquid can be re-racked. (This involves transferring from one vessel to another using a siphon and the best quality gravity that you can obtain. It is a two person job, and I tend to borrow a willing parent.) This involves drawing off the  liquid and avoiding the sediment of yeast et cetra at the bottom.

It all started with strawberries, there were quite a lot of them. This first batch was something of a learning experience, having not had a big enough bucket. I may have got a little enthusiastic with this one, and rushed the process. The wine is now bottled-prematurely,  I think-could have done with sitting for a bit and being racked again. It is however, a rather pretty pink, and tastes okay! I’ve wrapped it in brown paper, so that it doesn’t lose the pink colour.

So that was the starting point, and I have to say I was bit enthused as to what I might do next.

Today, I have some time working with two would be wines. The first, was summer wine. The second was apple wine. The summer wine involved rhubarb, left over strawberries as well a hotch pot of red, black and white currants. This was transferred into a demi-john, and will be left to clarify. This is the second rhubarb wine; a previous version involves the combination of Rhubarb and redcurrant, minus the strawberries. I have to admit, that when it is was in the Demi-John, it looked a lot like I had blitzed a plastic ‘My Little Pony’. (Please don’t do this, you do not wish to be in trouble; that is a figurative statement). That is two. Three, three involves blackberries. As a teenager, I read ‘Blackberry wine’ by Joanne Harris, so this was actually the thought in my head. If wine could talk! The batch made actually involves more than blackberries, there are plums and even more currants in there. The currants were rather rocking it this year! At some point, I will try and make some pure blackberry wine, rather than have additional ingredients.

Apple wine is a little different compared to my previous home brew experiments. I had quite a bit of apples stashed in the freezer as well as some freshly harvested ones. These were cored, peeled and sliced, combined and stewed down to a puree of a sort. Once this has cooled, the magic ingredients will  be added so that it can all ferment for a bit.

Think that actually brings the tally up to five different batches. With blackberry wine being considered, the aim of these is to practice. On the plot, there are three grapevines. These are boskoop glory and Madeline Sylvaner. Whilst these are dessert varieties, I believe these can be used to make home made wine. This is basically why I have grape vines!  Many of the experiments need to stay stashed for a while, they will need to mature and build their flavour. As nice as the strawberry wine was to sample, it will be cloistered away for a while.

Plot experiments abound! #gdnbloggers

Since I have yet to play with the preserving pan and make jam, jellies and chutneys, I have been looking for experiments do. It doesn’t help that I have a lower than expected courgette threshold.

This week, I have considered two things.

  1. ooh, dehydrator; could do home made chilli powder
  2. And hold on, you have a home brew kit that you have yet to christen.

But first, let’s look at what is actually working on the plot.

Plot tomatoes are sprawling, having absorbed a fair bit of sunshine and have sent out lots of yellow flowers. It is quite easy then to spot the red smudge of tomatoes as they turn red beneath the foliage. I somewhat revel in the going red, as with previous experience I have had to ripen tomatoes at home. The raspberries are a combination of polka, a well established set of canes and newly planted ones. Above, you will see that the trug is rather full. Contained in that trug was coriander and fenugreek from Mum’s half plot and my mint. I still have mint to harvest actually, it really is very productive.

And at last! The plot glads are coming through. It does feel a little delayed in happening, but I have spotted two of the blooms breaking up the green tomato foliage. I do rather like the purple ones. Though somewhere on the plot are black ones, and I’ve never seen those in bloom before.

Now, I said something about experiments.

The experiments are two fold. In the first instance, I decided to find  dehydrator. Primarily as I fancied dehydrating chillies for chilli powder. However, we also have lots of mint and fenugreek. These were the first things to go in, as well as some garlic, red habaneros and also some mango. Garlic, didn’t go so well; perhaps I should have sliced it a little thinner. Ir’s still usable, just very very dry. Red Habaneros, had me sneezing and took over a day to dehydrate. These were shop bought though, from a local Indian supermarket and were effectively a pilot study should I actually get a few chillies from the poly tunnel. The mango was also shop bought, and was a collection of under ripe fruit that I wanted to make mango powder. I use mango powder for chutneys, it has further uses in Indian Cuisine. Again, an experiment; as it took two dozen mangoes to get 100g powder. I shall be reflecting further on the merits of garlic and mango dehydration. What did work well, and took hardly any time at all, was the drying of the herbs. I was rather pleasantly surprised by how green the powdered fenugreek was.

Then there is the second experiment. The rather boozy one.

First thing first, I have parental consent (There are people who will huff and puff at this, I assure you; as an activity that a bollywood young lady ought not to do. So let’s make clear, that :: blows raspberries::  Beyond that, not my roof, there are still agreed understandings). I am old enough-yes, I am-to imbibe it, and I’m not distilling anything. Look, there are far worse hobbies, and with less palatable outcomes. With the parental consent, comes the first refusal of quality control and production management.

(I had actually decanted a year old steeping of Cherry brandy actually, as Pop’s wondered where my experiments had gone from the pantry; so it’s not as though the experiments have noses turned up at them. Was a case of “Punam, you had bottles of gooseberry gin, where did they go?” You’ll have to imagine it being said in Punjanbi).

strawberryferment
Fermenting strawberries

As you may already be aware, I dislike strawberries. However, the strawberry God was kind this year and blessed us with with pounds of the things. All frozen, they were waiting for their fate to be decided. With the preserving mojo a little off kilter, I wasn’t too sure about what to do with them. Then I remembered that I had a brewing kit, yet to be christened, and a second hand wine making book. Not to mention, some rather lovely Grape Family members who are rather experienced home brewers. (My immense and heartfelt thanks to these lovelies who have been so supportive in getting my experiments of the ground.)

It just had to be done really.

Fruit was defrosted and the kit actioned. There was a bit of drama this morning, as it became apparent that we were having a ‘Jaws’ moment.

We needed a bigger bucket.

Over night, as expected there was fermentation; happens when you add yeast, sugar and water. I awoke to the smell of fruity boozy-ness, and found myself fighting strawberries off with a plastic spoon. All in an attempt to not make a mess of the carpet in the garage.

Needless to say, we have found a bigger bucket. There is just over five litres of liquid in there. A demijohn is at the ready, to decant the must in the next few days. This is my first foray in proper home brewing, so you can imagine the nervousness, and the first of a list. But first, let’s get this one done.

Experiments. Always the best way to learn.

(Sat here, it is impossible to avoid the waft of fermenting strawberries.)

Hobbit Hombrew: Decanting Day-Festive Finale

Remember, please drink this responsibly. I have also had intermittent parental supervision as they wondered I was doing exactly. They know, and were watching carefully. That goes for all of you.

With nine days left to the big day, today was the last decanting day of the year. All of which was being decanted was made primarily for the festive season. Most of it will be festive gifts, hopefully. The one batch, was the plum brandy that was steeped three months ago exactly. That was the first to be decanted.  The rest, whilst I remember, was

  • Blueberry Gin
  • Blackforest Gin
  • Cranberries, raspberries and cherries in light rum

Having been decanted for the last three hours, I need to get that list down quickly, I assure you.

I learned a valuable lesson with the gin, from the lovely Thane Prince. She of Big allotment challenge fame, and one of Britain’s preserving Queen. Use coriander seeds in the Gin. Decanting those two, the gin gives a lovely spiced smell to it. No idea yet as to what it tastes like, I was trying to concentrate whilst I still could.

Most of what has been decanted today, is a beautiful pink or claret. The Plum brandy is less attractive. Perhaps it was the plums, the sugar or the spices, basically all of it; but its a very dark muddy brown. I assure you that there is no mud in there.

The gins and light rum have only been in brew for about six weeks. The raspberries had gone all very mushy, and just disintegrated with squishing.

Hobbit Homebrew: Decant day 3-Blackberries, brandy and pudding!

On the fourth of September, I harvested the last of the allotment blackberries and put them into a kilner jar. Added to this was some cheap brandy, and probably some star anaise and some spice along with some sugar. The jar was then sealed, and stashed away for three months. I have pedantically been counting down the weeks. Apparently, after three months the berries start to get a bit woody. So that was ringing my alarm bells. I was going to give the jar another week. Anyway,today I have retrieved the jar from storage. The liquid was all decanted off through a muslin cloth into clean bottles. The fruit, was saved and put into a simple crumble. It is cooking through in the oven as I type. This is the type of pudding that you cannot drive after eating. Ma’s kitchen starting to whiff of warm brandy, Probably should get some custard made. I had also saved the berries that were taken out of the dark rum a few months ago. I had secreted them into the freezer for safe keeping. Still have plums in brandy too, that should be done in the next week or so. This was also, yield another pudding. This close to Christmas, what’s another crumble?