Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Orange and Spice mead recipe.

Well, it did take a bit longer than the recipe suggested to start the fermentation cycle. It didn't start straight away, but I noticed the first few bubbles showing in the valve last night.

This morning, it's bubbling just nicely. So all I have to do now, is wait until the main foaming part of the fermentation has finished. A couple of days ? dunno, so I'm planning to wait until next weekend before I top it up with water to just below the top of the containers neck.

Then it should just be a case of putting it under the side table in the dining room to "finish" - god that sounds final, no when I say "finish" I mean exactly that. Let it carry on to the end of the fermentation, so that it clears, the lees settle and eventually the oranges should also drop.

I'm gonna have to ask around at one of the forums I post at, to see if it needs ageing or not. If not great, I'll be able to test it (a glass or two) and then bottle it. Should, hopefully, be ready by crimbo!

Pip pip!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I nearly forgot..........

Recipes I've made from the books, are the dry mead I mentioned earlier, using "dessert/high alcohol" yeast from the local HBS, then I made the same recipe, but in a 5 US gallon/19 litre batch - the only difference being that I made that with about 20% more honey, to try and have a higher residual sweetness/honey flavour (again with the dessert/high alcohol yeast).

I also made C.J.J.Berrys' "medium" apple wine recipe. It's a bit of a strange recipe, as it uses 10 kilos of fruit. I actually got enough "wild" apples last year to make 3 gallons. I followed the recipe as closely as I could, but the description that Mr Berry puts in the book
It is strong, yet delicately flavoured, with an attractive faintly "cidery" bouquet.
doesn't "ring true". Well inasfaras it does have a "cidery" bouquet, but otherwise, it tastes like a rather syrupy apple juice - with an alcohol kick, but very sweet.

I don't know what I might have done wrong. Though I think I'm going to blend it a bit with some vodka, as I'm guessing that the additional alcohol should "cut" the sweet/syrup texture of it some, then bottle it and give it away as "crimbo" presents. I'll tell the recipients that it's basically a dessert/aperitif type wine - a description of mine that seems about right.

I haven't decided yet whether it'll be in 70cl bottles with corks or 33cl beer bottles with "crown" caps (various bits that I've read suggest that the mead makers prefer the beer bottles, though I suspect that might be because it's less to waste if the recipient doesn't like it).

Books and other bits of info

The two books I've bought too learn about this home brewing "lark", are C.J.J.Berrys' "First Steps in Winemaking" (ISBN 1-85486-139-5) and Ken Schramms' "The Compleat Meadmaker" (ISBN 0-937381-80-2).

As you can probably tell from the titles, the "First Steps in Winemaking" is more of a general "howto" type book. It gives various bits of advice about equipment, chemicals, etc etc and then is laid out in a diary sort of way, so that you are advised what wine is suitable for making in a given month, based on what fruit is likely to be available, when.

I've made the "dry" mead recipe and apple wine recipe from this. It seems quite a comprehensive book, though after my first effort at mead, I'm glad that I'd also got the Ken Schramm book as well. It explained a few things that might otherwise have lead me to believe that I'd screwed up. The main one being, that freshly brewed mead, can taste rather like "listerine" (a brand of mouth wash). I'm guessing that this is to do with the yeast/alcohol level achieved during the brewing. It then explains that this is why mead often has to be aged for 12 months plus.

Well to me, thats not a problem, as I have the brief burst of effort in making the brew, then I just "bung" it under the side table in the dining room until it's finished fermenting and hopefully cleared. Then I rack it off and leave it to age in bulk (which I understand is supposed to be better than ageing it in bottles - something about it being less susceptible to temperature fluctuation). Ha! in truth, I haven't actually bottled anything yet, but that isn't about to happen until I'm happy with how it tastes.

Pip pip!

Todays brewing efforts etc....

So, this week I finally got my finger out my arse and got the honey to try the Orange and spice recipe that I mentioned in the post below.

I've just finished making it, following the recipe exactly, except that I made it in a 3 gallon (well sort of - I've made it in a 12 litre water cooler bottle - and 3 US gallons is a little less than 12 litres, while 3 imperial/UK gallons is about 13.5 litres), I also had to use Allinsons bread yeast, still the same amount as stated in the recipe i.e. 1 teaspoon per "gallon".

It doesn't seem to have "started" as immediately as suggested by the recipe, but I suspect that by tonight it will probably be bubbling away nicely.

I did use all the spices in the recipe (having a penchant for spices) i.e. including the "optional" allspice and nutmeg. Plus I used 2 cloves per gallon.

We don't have any spare "dark cupboards" to store it in (hell, I'm in the UK and we don't tend to have kitchens the size of a football pitch). So I've made the bottle a "shroud" from about 4 thicknesses of newspaper (couldn't see any light through it so I have to presume that that'll be OK).

I'm gonna give it a week before I top it off with water, so the main part of the foaming that the recipe suggests should (hopefully) have subsided by then.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Another Recipe (and two posts in one day)

I found another recipe that looks quite easy/straight forward to try at the "winesathome" forums. I suspect I'll try it when I get back from my hols. The recipe looks like this:

Joe Mattioli's Ancient Orange and Spice Mead

It is so simple to make and you can make it without much equipment and with a multitude of variations. This could be a first Mead for the novice as it is almost fool proof. It is a bit unorthodox but it has never failed me or the friends I have shared it with. (snip) will be sweet, complex and tasty.

1 gallon batch

3 1/2 lbs Clover or your choice honey or blend (will finish sweet)
1 Large orange (later cut in eights or smaller rind and all)
1 small handful of raisins (25 if you count but more or less ok)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 whole clove ( or 2 if you like - these are potent critters)
optional (a pinch of nutmeg and allspice )( very small )
1 teaspoon of Fleishmann’s bread yeast ( now don't get holy on me--- after all this is an ancient mead and that's all we had back then)
Balance water to one gallon


Use a clean 1 gallon carboy

Dissolve honey in some warm water and put in carboy

Wash orange well to remove any pesticides and slice in eights --add orange (you can push em through opening big boy -- rinds included -- its ok for this mead -- take my word for it -- ignore the experts)

Put in raisins, clove, cinnamon stick, any optional ingredients and fill to 3 inches from the top with cold water. ( need room for some foam -- you can top off with more water after the first few day frenzy)

Shake the heck out of the jug with top on, of course. This is your sophisticated aeration process.

When at room temperature in your kitchen, put in 1 teaspoon of bread yeast. ( No you don't have to rehydrate it first-- the ancients didn't even have that word in their vocabulary-- just put it in and give it a gentle swirl or not)(The yeast can fight for their own territory)

Install water airlock. Put in dark place. It will start working immediately or in an hour. (Don't use grandma's bread yeast she bought years before she passed away in the 90's)( Wait 3 hours before you panic or call me) After major foaming stops in a few days add some water and then keep your hands off of it. (Don't shake it! Don't mess with them yeastees! Let them alone except its okay to open your cabinet to smell every once in a while.

Racking --- Don't you dare
additional feeding --- NO NO
More stirring or shaking -- Your not listening, don't touch

After 2 months and maybe a few days it will slow down to a stop and clear all by itself. (How about that) (You are not so important after all) Then you can put a hose in with a small cloth filter on the end into the clear part and siphon off the golden nectar. If you wait long enough even the oranges will sink to the bottom but I never waited that long. If it is clear it is ready. You don't need a cold basement. It does better in a kitchen in the dark. (Like in a cabinet) likes a little heat (70-80). If it didn't work out... you screwed up and didn't read my instructions (or used grandma's bread yeast she bought years before she passed away) . If it didn't work out then take up another hobby. Mead is not for you. It is too complicated.
If you were successful, which I am 99% certain you will be, then enjoy your mead. When you get ready to make different mead you will probably have to unlearn some of these practices I have taught you, but hey--- This recipe and procedure works with these ingredients so don't knock it. It was your first mead. It was my tenth. Sometimes, even the experts can forget all they know and make good ancient mead.

I happen to have a couple of 12 litre containers going free, so I though I might try it in 2 gallon batches, one with bread making yeast and one with a general purpose wine yeast - which apparently ferments it out to a "dry" tasting mead (yes, I'm well aware that as it has fruit in it, technically it could be called a melomel, but it's got spices in it as well, and that'd make it a metheglin - so I think I'll stick to the "fruit/spice mead" name). I just can't make my mind up whether I'd like/prefer it sweet or dry. So I'll have to wait until I've got it made won't I.

Pip pip!

More about "Barshack Ginger Mead".....

Ok, so I made some last weekend. Which means that as I couldn't be arsed (well I didn't have the time either) to check the specific gravity as mentioned in the recipe, it's time to rack it to a "carbouy" - well as anyone in the UK might be aware, the word carbouy is usually associated with the handling/carriage/movement of smaller quantities of chemicals - usually acids as they often had (historically speaking) be sold/moved/handled in glass containers from the 1 to 5 gallon size upwards - having never towed a "chemical" tanker, I don't know if they're still glass lined - anyway, I digress.

The "carbouy" that I've actually used is an old "bottled water" container (like the ones you see in offices). It's a 5 US Gallon/19 litre sized one. I'm unsure whether thats such a good idea as it's made of "polycarbonate" type plastic (and as it has a 44mm neck hole it's a bastard to get decent quality stoppers for it) and apparently the reason that the bottle manufacturers say not to use it for anything other than water is because polycarbonate plastics can take up the smell/odour of liquids and also sometimes stain - I think I should be OK as the previous liquid it held was water and the sterilising/cleaning agent I use has a very mild "bleachey" sort of smell that goes completely when I rinse the bottle after the sterilisation process.

The mix I made was 20 litres so that it would fill the "carbouy" and have enough room for the yeast lees to remain in the bottom - apparently the idea being that at the 1020 sg/7 days period the mix can be racked off. I'm not entirely sure of the point of this, because I made the mix in a 25 litre HDPE (High Density Poly Ethylene) brewing bucket, and as I wasn't sure, fitted a grommet and bubbler valve. Strangely enough, the bucket did show signs of fermentation (as it's supposed too), but the bubbler valve would only bubble if I put some pressure onto the lid - I'm guessing either the valve was blocked in someway, or the large air space above the liquid was taking too long to get up enough pressure to actually make the valve bubble.

Anyway, I racked it off this morning and almost as soon as I plugged the neck of the "carbouy" with a cork/valve, it started bubbling - telling me that it still had some way to go before the fermentation was complete - I can't remember, but I think the recipe said that I had to leave it to finish for a further 6 weeks before anything else is done i.e. bottling/re-racking etc.

I'm thinking that I might try to make some of it "sparkling" when it's time to bottle it - I suspect that that will mean the use of beer type bottles and "crown" caps (which do seem popular in the mead making world - I'm not sure if thats because of the smaller size than a 70/75cl wine bottle or what, but .........).

I did taste it, and it didn't seem as strong tasting as I'd thought it might be. Though whether thats because I should have exceeded the maximum suggested 6 oz's of ginger or used more honey or sugar ??? Whichever it was, it was quite reasonable tasting and I'm thinking that it would be nice to have as sparkling in the warmer weather.

Ah well, I'll have to wait until it's ready before I make my mind up.