Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bottle Bombs.....a salutory lesson!

Last week, "erindoors" made some chutney (green tomato....) Part of the recipe included some root ginger.

Initially, she was gonna use a recipe from Mrs Beeton, but ended up using a James Martin recipe.

Anyway, there was some root ginger left over, so I collared it to make some ginger beer. I got the recipe from the net (one that I've used before) and it turned out that I had enough ginger for 10 litres.

So I mixed it up i.e. 2 x 2 litre bottles and 2 x 3 litre bottles. I then put it on top of the kitchen cupboards so I wouldn't get nagged about it taking up room in the kitchen.

Now normally, you'd wait about 24 hours for it to get to the stage where the bottles can't be pressed in and the plastic stays firm/hard, then you'd put it in the fridge. Whereas, because I'd put it on top of the cupboards, I remembered it at about 0600 on Wednesday morning.

Actually I noticed that the 2 x 2 litre bottles were starting to stretch under the internal pressure...... so I took the bottles down from the cupboards and put them on the floor in front of the fridge..... as I was picking up on 3 litre bottle, I knocked the other one over and it exploded.

So apart from some grazes and bruising on 1 hand and 1 shin, plus ginger beer all over the inside of the fridge, the outhouse (where the fridge is) and over both the cats that were eating their breakfast biscuits behind me (no injury or harm.... fortunately), oh and having been dazed by the explosion a bit, no harm was done.

I realise that I was lucky to be making the ginger beer in plastic bottles, because I'd have probably have suffered harm if it had been glass. But it also points out that to have exploded a plastic bottle like that, there must have been a hell of a lot of pressure built up inside.

I mean, the whole point of making ginger beer like this and then chilling it, is because you want to stop an active ferment with the cold of the fridge so that it carbonates the ginger beer, but doesn't ferment all the sugar so there's still plenty of sweetness left. But caution must be observed as this method has fundamental hazards to it, especially, if like me, you forget to get the bottles into the fridge soon enough.....

Apart from that, it makes a nice drink.......


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Sloe Gin.......

I've been watching the sloes for weeks, and it's been bugging the hell out of me as they haven't been ripening consistently because of the slightly weird weather.

My first mission, I managed to pick 5lb 9oz's, which, according to the recipe I found on the net, was a little over what was needed (the recipe suggested 1 pint of gin, to 1lb of sloes, to 8oz of sugar...... optional cloves, cinnamon, almond extract).

As it was more fruit than needed, I just thought "what the hell", but with just the gin and fruit in a 1 gallon demi-john, there was no room for the sugar.

So, what to do? Well my only option is to make it in my 5 gallon (5 US gallons/19 litre) jar. I just decided that I'd make a larger quantity instead.

With that in mind, I went out a second time to pick fruit but only managed to get about 1lb 8oz's before it got dark (actually also because where I went, most of the Blackthorn was on a bank that I couldn't get up to get too any more fruit than that).

So today, I went to a different place. It's on the side of a busy main A road, but there was a place I could park my car about 500 metre's up the road and the actual bushes where about 2 or 3 metre's from the road. When I got there, I couldn't believe my luck. The bushes where absolutely heaving. So I just "picked away" until I found that the plastic carrier bag I was using was cutting into my wrist. I've ended up with another 8lb 4oz's. Excellent.

I haven't used "paid for" gin. A friend bought me some cheap Polish vodka when he went home last and I've just bought commercial gin flavouring to mix with that (it makes very good gin).

Apart from the first batch of the fruit, which is still in a 1 gallon demi-john with it's gin, all the rest of the fruit is freezing down, as the "freeze/thaw" method is far less laborious than trying to prick the skin of each and every sloe for the spirit to get at the sloe flesh. Tomorrow, I'll just put it all in a bucket, I'll add the rest of the gin to defrost the fruit enough so it's not in a big lump when it comes out the freezer, then I'll use a funnel to get it all into the 5 gallon jar. Only then will I add the sugar, which I'm intending to add at a rate of 4oz's per pint. How sweet I want it, well that's gonna depend on how it turns out. It's easy to add more sugar if it's not sweet enough but it's a bastard to get it out again.......

{edit}Ok, so I've added the picture for you to see. It's only just been mixed. I've given it a single shake (and not a particularly vigorous one though). You should be able to make out the layers i.e. the remnants of the 3lb of sugar added (equates to 4oz per pint of gin), then the lighter looking sloes, which are the ones that have been in gin for about a fortnight (in a 1 gallon demi-john), ontop of that are the sloes that I picked, washed/rinsed and froze yesterday and finally, the layer of both the older gin from a fortnight ago and the 4.5 litres that have been added this morning (Sunday, October 4th).

I've situated a torch/flashlight, behind it so you can get some idea of how the colour from the fruit develops. The gin from the 1 gallon DJ was a beautifully dark maroon in colour, and it doesn't seem to have been diluted too much by the addition of this mornings 4.5 litres of gin. I hope that you can see enough of the colour showing through the liquid to get some idea.

I haven't added any of the optional spices at this stage as I'm still thinking about how much and which ones to use, though I suspect I'll add a single clove (powerful little buggers...... as my efforts at making Joe's Ancient Orange Spiced Mead have shown), plus I'm not sure about the cinnamon as the pack I have is from India, and is actual pieces of bark, not like the ones that the Schwartz spice company produce, all nicely curled up into little "tubes". I don't want to use too much as I'm aiming at a hint of flavour, and don't want to over power it (all the effort I've gone too so far, and it would be a complete pain in the arse to fuck it up......).{/edit}