Friday, June 26, 2009

Practicalities of larger batches.......

Now I won't bore you with what the actual batch is of......

Suffice to say that I decided to make "double size" batch the other week....... So I weighed out the dry ingredients, worked out the water needs etc and got it all mixed up.

Now the only reason for doing this, was because I'd managed to get a couple of 54 litre carboys cheap via ebay.

The only thing I didn't think of, was the one thing that's turning out to be a complete pain in the arse - I don't have the infrastructure to deal with batches this size.

If I make a 25 litre batch of something, then fine, I have enough kit to mix, aerate, rack from one container to another and moreover, lift it i.e. muscle power!

When I'd mixed that batch, it occured to me that I'd better move it to the corner of the dining room so I didn't get an ear bashing from "erindoors". Fuck me sideways with the rough end of a pineapple! It's heavy. It weighs in the region of 50 Kg's. When it's finished fermenting, I'll have to think about how I'm gonna stir it to de-gas so I can add the finings to clear and how to syphon it so that I can split it into 2 smaller batches (I also got some 25 litre glass demi-john containers as well)!

So before you leap in with both feet, just think about how you're gonna move things like this etc, it's all very well making large batches etc but if you can't move them to where you need to do stuff with them, then as they say, "you're up shit creek without a paddle"!


Information and thieving bastards......

I'm always on the look out for better/extra info on winemaking, specifically on making meads. It's both a minefield and a complete pain in the arse!

There seems to be little, current/U.T.D. stuff available. Yes there's the excellent "Compleat Meadmaker" book by the knowledgeable Mr Ken Schramm, but while his book is excellent, it's aimed at the US market and lots of his recommendations are not suitable/appropriate/available for those of us outside continental North America.

In the last couple of days, I've managed to get 2 "new" (to me that is) books. The first one is "Bee-Keeping at Buckfast Abbey" by Brother Adam. I'm not sure if he's still with us, of whether he's already "shuffled off this mortal coil" (if he is still alive he'll be a very elderly chap). Either way, he's still held in great esteem in the world of Bee-Keeping, and his book (my copy is dated 1974 - though I believe it was republished up to the mid 80's - oh and it's credits don't quote an ISBN, so whether it's still available via the Abbey, I don't know - my copy came via ebay).

The second book is "Mad about Mead" by Pamela Spence (my copy is dated 1997 - ISBN 1-56718-683-1). I haven't really read much of it yet, as it only arrived this morning (again, courtesy of an ebay seller).

The Brother Adam book is primarily about Bee-Keeping, as you'd guess from the title, though there's a final chapter in it about mead making. Which is sort of helpful, yet not. He describes some quite old techniques/methodology, and some of the suggested equipment isn't the most "user friendly" - oak barrels ? obviously he had no appreciation of just how hard it can be to obtain oak barrels of any size that are in good enough condition to use for this, and certainly not the cost............

Plus, having read through it, it seems that he shows a distinct preference for honey type, which is fine, but also only uses "maury" yeast. The honey types he suggests could be obtained without too much difficulty or expense but so far, I'm having a crap time trying to locate either maury yeast or some sort of equivalent....

Hey ho, I'll just keep trying.

As for the "thieving bastards" bit of the title, so many of the recipes and methodology that abound the net for mead making, eminate from the US. Which means that some times, we have to get the materials shipped over (not ideal). The actual prices of the materials is almost always excellent and what I'd call "very competitive". What's a complete fucker is what is charged for shipping. I was looking for 2 items (Di-ammonium phosphate and "yeast hulls"). They came to a grand total of about $6.50, but the shipping charges were from $75 to $82. Now I wouldn't mind that if I was shipping something that weighed about 5 or 6 kg, but the weight for the 2 items was a little over 1lb, plus the weight of the actual packaging. So where those thieving fuckers at UPS come up with $75 to $82 I don't know, other than just conjuring them out of thin air. Plus the actual sellers at Morewine!, surely if they want to sell their excellent catalogue of products further afield than just the US, should try to use a cheaper shipping method (how about USPS, they're much cheaper than fucking UPS!).

I begrudge paying shipping fee's but will only consider it if it's commensurate with the size/weight of the article concerned. For instance, I've just tried the morewine website again, and selected 5 packets of yeast - total weight 25 grammes - they'd fit in a fucking envelope and probably could be shipped for the cost of a stamp! but their "shipping quotation" is

UPS Worldwide Express 69.77
UPS Worldwide Expedited 62.94
UPS Express Saver 66.55

that's in $US. What complete fucking smackhead would ever think of sending something like that ? why default to premium shipping services like that ?

It just looks like that I won't be using morewine!, as there site might seem to have an excellent and extensive range of products, but for all intents and purposed, it's a complete waste of space!

Ah well, I suppose I'd only find up to date mead making info and cheap shipping prices in an ideal world!


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Steam Juice Extraction........

Ok, so last year, after reading some stuff about how to extract juices from fruit, I managed to get a "steam juice extractor" cheap on ebay (less than £20 including the postage).

It's basically a large "ban marie" sort of thing, with a lower pan that holds water, a central section that collects the juice but allows the steam to pass through the middle area (which has a high inverted funnel section with holes to let the steam pass through) and a top section (with lid) that holds the fruit.

The middle section also has a tube that you connect a rubber pipe too (and put a spring clamp/clip on to stop the juice running out until you're ready).

You put the water in the bottom, assemble it, put the fruit in the top and then put it on the hob (gas in my case).

It seems to work quite well, inasfaras it takes about an hour or so for the water to heat up and the steam percolate through to the fruit, heating it up and allowing the juice to drop down to the middle section of it, ready to drain it off into suitable containers.

Obviously, it depends on the fruit, as to how much juice you collect (actually it's designed to handle fruit and vegetables but I don't make vegetable wines etc). For instance, yesterday we went to the local PYO and picked about 2.75kg of black currants, which when processed, filled a "normal" sized kilner jar and 3 x 1lb honey jars. After checking on google, that would be almost exactly 6lb in weight of fruit, or enough to make 2 gallons of black currant wine.

Also, over the last year, after we've done our weekly shopping, any soft fruit left over has been chopped and cleaned, and then frozen. This morning I've chucked it through the steam juicer to see how much juice I get, but also to make some room in the freezer as it's time for the first harvests of the summers earlier fruit i.e. blackcurrant, strawberry, raspberry, etc etc.

I did manage to get quite a lot of juice out of it, about 4 litres which I didn't think was too bad at all.

The reason why I'm posting this, isn't because I'm trying to sound like a "clever clogs", but more to do with explaining that it's a handy facility to have but it's certainly not "the B all and End all" when it comes to juice.

Why's that ?

Well, to start with, it's using steam to get the juice out of the fruit, that implies heat. So if the fruit is either heat sensitive or has the ability to impart a "cooked" flavour, then that's what you're going to get.

Yes, it's fair to say that some fruit benefits from the use of heat, for example, elderberry (sorry I can't remember why at the moment). So when they're in season, it will be rather helpful to only have to remove the berries from the main stalk and I won't have to go through them picking off the tiny bits of stalk right on the berry - it's a bloody laborious job at the best of times.......

Though I've also noticed that in some cases, cold or cool extraction might be better....

The black currants I processed yesterday came out quite well, but I was still left thinking that there seemed to be less colour pigment than I recall. Well that's to say that if you buy a pot of blackcurrant jam or jelly, it seems a lot darker than the juice, which is quite dark. Of course, it might just me being daft and remembering wrongly.

Hence I was thinking that it might be my mind playing tricks on me.

There's also the matter of how to actually add the juice to a recipe so I don't loose too much of the flavour, which if you make melomels (fruit based meads), the fermentation process is apt to do. So in the case of these batches of fruit, I think I'll be making the mead as a "traditional" mead to start with, and then when the gravity gets down to something like 1010, I'll add the extracted juice then.....

Hell, it's still going to be experimental but what the hell, it should only be the same as adding fruit at the "secondary fermentation" stage....

I'll have to wait and see eh!