Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My latest brainwave!

It just so happened that I had a couple of bottles of gin, that'd I'd got when they were on offer in the local supermarket.

Now the first thing that came to mind was "Sloe Gin".

So off I went, to the local Home brew shop. He did have dried sloes, as I'd stupidly managed to miss the sloe season. Unfortunately, they looked a bit manky and I wasn't sure. So I decided to modify the recipe (recipe ? well just the faintest fucking idea really), instead of sloes, I went for dried elderberries. They looked a bit less manky in the packet, even though they were about £1 or so dearer than the sloes. I got a 500 gramme bag of them.

At home, I took the 2 bottles of gin, the 500 gm's of elderberries and 1lb of sugar (the thinking being that because the elderberries are naturally sweeter than sloes, they wouldn't need so much sugar) and placed them into an empty 2.25 litre jar (formerly used for cider I think).

They came up to the top, leaving a nice 1 to 1.5 inch air space (oh this was last saturday).

It's taken till today, for all of the sugar to be dissolved, despite me giving it a good shake twice a day.

So now, it looks for all the world, that I've got 2.25 litres of very concentrated blackcurrant cordial. I think that I've fucked up a bit, I'll have to correct this. I think I'll have to get it out of the small jar and put it into a 4.5 litre demi-john jar and top it up with gin.

I suspect that 500 grammes of elderberries was a bit too much - I don't know how much I should have used, but not that much.

Ah well, it should still turn out OK. If I can, I'll get some pictures and post them so you can see.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Fermentation re-start - update

Ok, so after what is it? 3 days or so, my canned strawberry has restarted fermenting, and I've just put the last of the stuck ferment onto the restarted part of the must. It seems to be bubbling fine. I'm expecting it to ferment to dry as I used EC 1118 yeast to do the restart - it's a champagne yeast that should ferment the sugar to a maximum of 18 % abv.

Unfortunately the "Winter Mead" didn't want to restart. I'm suspecting that this may have been because it had already fermented about as far as it wanted too and the alcohol content was about as high as the original yeast would go, but there was also already some residual sweetness.

So what I've done with that, is to blend it together in a bucket with the honey water I was using to try to restart the ferment, then I've added a couple of litres of vodka, that's mainly to bash the sweetness down a bit (when I say sweetness it's mainly the fruit flavour sweetness of the original apple juice, cranberry juice and frozen cranberries I used in the recipe). So it'll still be quite fruity, but it's now in 4 demi-johns, with bubbler valves just in case there is any further fermentation, but mainly so it can start to clear naturally. If it doesn't clear in a month or two I'll probably bang it with some finings to clear it that way. It's not gone as well as I'd hoped but it's not a problem because it isn't infected in any way and tastes fine. I'll see what happens when it's aged for at least 6 months. I'll have to rack it off anyway, so I'll have a taste then.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Latest in the "home brew" saga (02/01)

So, I've just been through checking the brews that "seemed" to be stuck.

The canned strawberry was showing a gravity reading of 1.050 so I had to presume that that was definitely stuck.

To try and sort this, I'd put some yeast nutrient in it yesterday - to see if that'd kick it into life, and no that didn't seem to make any difference. So I've taken the last pack I had of Lalvin EC-1118 champagne yeast, rehydrated it and while it was "mashing" (15 minutes max in water thats between 40 and 43 degrees C) I took about half a pint of the stuck must/wine and mixed that with half a pint of water (at about the 40 degrees C mark). Then after the yeast had had it's 15 minutes, I added it to the must/wine and water mix. I quickly made up some "honey water" from the couple of bits of honey I had left in a couple of jars, I then placed the newly innoculated water/wine/yeast mix into a cleaned/sterilised demi-john and finally added a little of the honey water. I have to wait for about 24 hours to see if it will start to ferment, if so, I can then add another pint of the original stuck must/wine, wait and see. If that's ok then I'll add another pint. If it's still ok after the third pint I'll put the rest of the stuck wine into it and put it away to finish fermenting out.

The Winter mead recipe wasn't as bad, inasfaras, it was a 3 gallon batch that had been split into 3 X 1 gallon demi-john jars, one of them measured a gravity of 1.010, the second about 1.015 and the third about 1.025 which compared to the canned strawberry isn't nearly as bad - I'm presuming that it might have been the cold that we had before crimbo that must have knocked out the yeast - a guess!

Any way, I've taken a pint of the highest reading one, mixed it with a pint of water, rehydrated a packet of Redstar Champagne yeast (same as for the EC-1118 mentioned above) and then mixed it together - I've used more of that, because I intend to mix all 3 gallons back together in a 3 US gallon/12 litre jar - so as long as it starts to ferment again ok it will all finish at the same gravity/strength. I also added some of the honey water to this (and yes all 3 bottles got some yeast nutrient yesterday).

Hopefully it'll all end up below the magical 1.000 reading on the hydrometer before I have to bottle it - otherwise I'll age it in bulk.

As for the sweet mead recipe I made the other day, that's bubbling away just nicely. As is the "turbo cider" recipe I made at the same time. I left the turbo cider on the kitchen draining board because when it started to ferment (the same day) all of the pulp in the mistakenly added peach juice foamed out through the bubbler/fermentation lock. I managed to suck some of that out with a baster, but then gave it a swirl a couple of times. That seems to have stopped it foaming any further, so I added the last of the apple juice to top the demi-john up and that's also now consigned to the dining room to ferment - it's bubbling well.