Sunday, October 24, 2010

First Sloes.....

1 pint of gin, 1lb of Sloes, 4oz of sugar. Either prick every berry with a needle, or if like me, you're lazy, then just freeze them for a couple of days and then defrost them.

Once defrosted, mix the gin and sugar together. It'll need a quick shake daily until the sugar has dissolved (and you'll be surprised how long that can take).

Once you've got enough for a 1 gallon demi-john (about 4lb of sloes, 4 pints gin and 1lb sugar) you can add a little spices to taste. The recommended ones are allspice berries, star anise and cinnamon (not cloves as that can make it taste too much like a fruit flavoured cough syrup or similar).

If you picked your sloes early october, then the mix will be just about ready to drink by christmas. The downside of picking the sloes then, is that you can often get an acidic "green" or unripe taste that takes a while to age out. Hence I usually try to pick my fruit at the end of october (if the berries are a little soft or shrivelled, it doesn't matter - oh and the old wives tales of not picking them before the first frost, is to do with the possibility of getting the green/unripe acidity, apart from that it doesn't matter).

Me ? I like to make it now and keep it for a year, then it comes out wonderful  :-P


Burbling fool ???

I hope my last two posts don't come across like the burbling of a total fool (ha! they probably do)

If that's the case, I've got an excuse. My friend and colleague Sebastian, is a Polish national. He had a week off on holiday at home with his family last week, but I hadn't seen him this week as his jobs hadn't co-incided with mine.

When I got back to the yard on friday evening, he jumped into my cab as I was reversing into the warehouse and gave me a "present from Poland".......

I wasn't quite sure what to make of it (apart from the nice thought of the gift), as I don't really drink "flavoured" vodka's.

I was a little worried that "Mint Vodka" might taste  like "mouthwash", but it didn't.

It was unusual to drink (I was drinking it neat), but it didn't taste like the mouthwash I'd expected, it also wasn't quite as sweet as I was expecting as I understand that some of these flavoured vodka's can be very sweet.

No, it was good. I wouldn't necessarily try to find some to drink specifically, but if I was given another bottle, I wouldn't hesitate to pop the cap and take a big "schlug" of it.

Thanks to my friend Sebastian. It's all gone now and was much appreciated.

Different flavours etc, and other things - Sunday, October 10, 2010

Marek posted a good suggestion to the above titled blog entry.....
Or maybe something like Banana. It makes great deserts, eaten raw, etc etc, but banana flavoured booze, mead or whatever..

Have you ever tried Strawbana Mead?
I made it three times and I really like it!!!
A small addition of banana to secondary is sometimes great to melomels.
 So the answer would have to be no, because I'm aware that banana can be used to add flavour and/or body to a mead/melomel, but have never tried it.

I've also read recipes for "banana wine", but again, while they're on the "to do" list, haven't, as yet, tried one.

I've read about strawberry and banana going well together, but Marek's recommendation is the first one I've read.

I'm seriously thinking of adding a bit of banana to my current cyser batch that's nearly finished. At worst it might add a hint of banana (which I do enjoy), it might even help the batch finish a bit lower, as it was at about the 1010 mark when I checked it last week.

Damn this blog thing is brilliant when you get good and helpful comments like that. Thankyou very much for the input Marek. I'd probably not have considered that....

WTF? (part 2)

Ok, so today, I've done a bit of experimentation. I started off taking 50mls of the very sweet/sugary melomel must, and then added 50mls of water. The gravity of that measured at about 1090 or so.

The next was 60mls of must to 40mls of water, then 70mls of must to 30mls of water etc etc.

It looked like the best mix would be about 75/25 as I still wanted reasonably high gravity, to end up with a highish alcohol level, but still quite fruity tasting.

In the end I just put the must in a fermenting bucket, and added water at 1/2 litre at at time checking the gravity in between.

I ended up making it up to about 6 litres total volume, which gave me a gravity of about 1.130, which is still a little on the high side but not unmanageably high.

I've reserved 2 x 500ml plastic beer bottles of the original must, which is sealed and in the fridge.

I've also mentioned to a friend about really wanting to use K1V-1116 yeast, but can't as I haven't got any at the moment.

I explained roughly what's available, and it seems that I'll have to check, because if I've got a pack of red start montrachet, I'll use that, if not then it'll have to be EC-1118 which I definitely have got. I don't like using champagne yeasts on musts that have a fruit element as they do seem to blow a lot of the flavour/aroma straight out the airlock during primary fermentation, but as I've got a litre of the must reserved, I can use that for topping up and/or back sweetening.

I know that this will be a batch that will need a long ageing period, but I'm prepared for that. I'm hoping that something like 3 years plus, should do the job....

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Off the scale ! The hydrometer only goes up to 1.150 and that means as a "guesstimate" the must is currently sitting at about 1.165 or so.

It seems that I'll have to remove a 1/3rd to 1/2 of it and top it up with water, then ferment it dry and use the reserved bit of the must for back sweetening.....

Still, shouldn't be a problem as the honey and elderberry juice does taste pretty damn good!

What does seem a little weird, is that the elderberry juice on it's own was so high i.e. 1.120 and that the honey (3lb) only raised that to about the 1.165 - what I suppose I really mean, is that I'm suprised that the elderberry was so high and that the honey has only increased it by about 45 points, I'd have thought that the elderberry would have been lower and that the honey would have increased it more.

Not to worry, I'll water it down some and then ferment it. Then back sweeten it. That should just about maximise the fruit flavour with some sweetness.

We'll see eh!


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Todays Purchase......

A quick visit to the local honey wholesaler, has go me this 3.17kg bucket of mexican honey. Mexican honey for any reason ? yes, because I wanted a strong flavoured honey and this is one of the stronger tasting ones that he sells......

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Different flavours etc, and other things.....

Been reading up on some stuff about some of the different flavours that people over at Gotmead have been using.

Some of them sound excellent, but some of them sound very bizarre - well to me they do anyway......

I mean, Chocolate ? Apart from those cream based liqueurs like Baileys and other similar products, I can't get my head round why you might want to produce a Chocolate, or maybe Coffee mead.....

Surely, the whole reason why those work with the cream based liqueurs, is because of the flavour and the presence of the cream and sweetening in them ????

Or maybe something like Banana. It makes great deserts, eaten raw, etc etc, but banana flavoured booze, mead or whatever ?

I just don't get it.

Yes, I can see a bit of "novelty factor", or even the "make it, because I can" idea but I still just don't see the point.....

Of course, something like the cyser that I'm having a go at right now, well, say to have something like a stronger version of a cider (that's hard cider for those in the US), but "appley" with a honey sweetness, sounds wonderful (and hopefully my efforts will turn out like that).

Sure, I know that there's a few fruits etc that are grown for cropping in the US that are grown less so here (Pumpkin comes to mind), but why anyone might want to make a "pumpkin" flavoured mead is beyond me (hell I've never eaten a pumpkin dish that I've liked anyway - maybe that's got something to do with it).

Oh well, s'pose I'll just carry on reading about some of the weird and wonderful brews others make and continue to keep "scratching my head" over the "why" bit...

As for the "Other things" mentioned, well I've read a number of times about not adding any further "non-organic" source of nitrogen as at that stage, the yeast can't use it and that only "organic" sources of nitrogen should be used after the 1/3rd "sugar break".

For "organic" nitrogen, I've read that "yeast hulls" are good/ideal. The only snag being that I can't find them locally......... though I've read that if I boiled some yeast it produces the same thing.

So yesterday, I dug out a small tin of bread yeast that had gone out of date (probably nothing wrong with it, but it was ideal for an experiment), I added about half a pint of water into a small saucepan, heating it until it was boiling and then added the tin of yeast. I had to stir it a lot and reduce the gas so that the yeast/water mix was just simmering.

My problem is, that the term "yeast hulls" suggests something that at least resembles the tiny yeast pellets in brewing and/or bread making packs. Whereas my "boiled yeast" (I boiled it to about half it's original volume) looks like a yeast coloured sludge. Which I don't mind, because lets face it, most of the additives used in mead/wine/beer making don't look very appetising do they.....

So with the "yeast coloured sludge" image in mind, how do I work out how much to use, if at all. Damn! I'll have to go and dig round the web to see if I can find any further info on this.....


Saturday, October 09, 2010

Cyser (Apple mead ☠ ☺) part 2.

Ok, so I got a bit impatient and have just been through the very messy process of filtering/straining/pressing the juice to remove as much of the dry matter from the apples as I can.

I've still got about 10 litres or so, but am now waiting to see if the fermentation kicks in again, as the filter/press/strain thing tends to knock the guts out of it.

I'm also trying to work out how the hell I can get a rough idea of the gravity of the juice before I pitched the yeast and started the ferment.

The apple juice itself, was about 1.050 - I know that from letting the pulp sit with the sulphite and pectolase, and then managing to take a bit of a sample from below the cap of dry matter/pulp that had settled on top of some of the juice.

I also know, since I remembered to take a reading about 20 minutes ago after I did the strain/press/filter thing - it's currently back down at 1.055 (bare in mind that just the juice was at 1.050 so pretty much all the sugars in the honey have been fermented now).

I just don't know how to work out what the likely gravity the addition of the 3lb of honey to the 1.050 juice might have been - I know there's a way of working it out (albeit not very accurately), but I don't know what that method might be......

edit - I've just found a document on the net, that says "3lb of honey in a gallon gives a specific gravity of about 1.090" - so as there was about 2 gallons of juice @ about 1.050, then that would suggest that with the honey and the elderberry juice, I can make the presumption that the starting gravity would have been about the 1.095 to 1.100 range - I'm not fussed about accuracy particularly but it's nice to have a few numbers to be able to guess what's going on and how far the batch has to run - with D21 it should, theoretically, ferment dry - if I haven't managed to kill the yeast when doing the filtering/straining etc.....

Either way, I will consider the moving of the liquid during that process, it's last aeration.....

Friday, October 08, 2010

Cyser (Apple mead ☠ ☺).....

So, last weekend, my partner came home with a bucket full of apples. She'd spotted some (there's quite a few around here) the day before, but on inspection, found that the ones she'd seen had been messed up/crushed/etc by the local kids. So she'd been to one of the other more accessible tree's and got these ☄ .

Some of them went into a couple of apple crumbles, which are awaiting my attention in the freezer, the rest, well after a little consideration, I decided that it might be best if I had a go at a "Cyser" which is a mead made with apple juice.

It took me an hour or so, to pick through them, rinse them off thoroughly and then chop them up a bit and put them through the food processor (a task that I don't really like as last time I used it to do something like this, I nearly burned out the bloody motor on it).

So after they were all trimmed to remove as much as possible of the bruised parts and any that had been munched by bugs, I ended up with about 6 or 7 litres of apple pulp. To this (as it looked a bit on the dry side) I decided to add a litre and a half carton of apple juice so to make it easier to mix in some sulphite (campden tablets, crushed) and some Pectolase (pectic enzyme).

This was then left until wednesday evening. I decided that I needed to do something with it. As I didn't have sufficient of any other type, I took 3lb of the Polish Buckwheat honey and mixed that in, along with about a litre of elderberry juice (the sulphite had "bleached" any minor oxidation/browning from the apple pulp on sunday evening, but I thought it might be nice if there was a colour other than "appley/cider" brown - in any event, it would add some tannin and other non-honey and apple flavour).

Through choice I would have added K1V-1116 yeast, as it has the "killer" property and would have easily become the dominant yeast (and yes, I'd taken as much precautions of sanitising all the kit as I practicably could). So when I found that I've run out of that at the moment, I decided to use D21 (got plenty of that at the moment..... thankyou Keith, you're a star). That was rehydrated in water, but as I was getting tired, I'd forgotten to use any GoFerm when rehydrating the yeast. So when the yeast had had 15 or 20 minutes at less than the 40 degrees C the packets mention I chucked it in - along with about a half teaspoon of GoFerm and gave it a good stirring to.

Thursday morning, I come down to breakfast only to find that I was glad I'd left the bucket in the sink as it had foamed like hell, blocking the airlock and actually forcing the lid off the bucket......

So after a bit of a mad panic to clean up the mess and some "emergency sanitising", I then gave it a damn good stir/aeration and then syphoned the must, pulp and all, into a 12/13 litre water bottle and then airlocked it, finally leaving it in a sink full of cold water in the hope that the cold water would reduce the temperature of the must/ferment enough to stop it foaming and popping the bung/airlock a second time (Oh and during all the mess - I found no signs of any fruit/fermentation flies, so I presumed that I was safe).

On getting back from work on thursday evening, I found that my attempt had worked, and that the pulp was starting to separate nicely. So I just gave it all a good swirl.

This evening, I got home and it looked basically like this........

Now the only difference between that picture and how it looked is that I took this picture after I'd managed to get enough liquid from below the crust of separating pulp to measure the gravity (it was 1085) and then gave it a damned good stir/aeration and then weighed out 5 grammes of FermaidK and 2.5 grammes of DAP, both of which were added to the 100 mls that was used to check the gravity and mixed in thoroughly before being added to the main body of the must - which was then given a further good stirring and aeration.

So far, the only thing I haven't managed to do, was to check the gravity after the honey and elderberry juice was added to the apple pulp - I did manage to get a measurement from the apple pulp/juice, that was 1050, but I have no way of really knowing what the gravity was before I pitched the yeast - I should have let it stand to separate the pulp enough to measure it..... I didn't.

I'm gonna post a question over at Gotmead, as I understand that there is a way of getting an approximation, from the ingredients alone, but I won't know until I've posted the question.......

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Todays "master plan" 2 .......

Not bad, if I do say so myself. From memory, it was made using one of "CJJ's" recipes from his "First Steps in Wine Making" book, though as Bob over at Wines at Home says, a lot of his recipes do seem to come out very sweet.

Yes, it does taste sweet, almost sugary, but also alcoholic enough (I'll know once I've got pissed enough). The colour doesn't show well in the photo as it's a dull day outside. It's actually a "dark white/hint of rose/pink" in colour (don't forget, canned strawberries aren't as red looking as fresh ones).

So, yes, the bag in a box setup did work, well sort of. My partner had to call me downstairs, as I'd left it to do it's thing i.e. run through the filter into the box/wine bladder, but while I was typing the previous post, it still managed to leak out from somewhere and as a result, it's managed to soak the bottom of the box - fuck!

Just goes to show that even when putting wine in a bag in a box, it pays to have patience and keep an eye on it...... Next time (I bought 2 kits) I'll have to filter the wine into a glass or plastic receptacle and then syphon it into the bag.......

So even the best of "master plans" can go to a sack of shit if not carried out properly. I'll only know it's true worth, if it doesn't oxidise while I'm drinking it.....

Pip pip!

Todays "master plan".......

Ha! Ok, so I'm getting nagged a bit as there's too much WIP.... a.k.a. wines in progress littering the dining room floor (well it wasn't until "she" decided the dining room needed a change round and all of a sudden the wine isn't just "out the way" etc).

So, what to do?

Well, some of it needs to be aged for longer, some is still clearing, some needs filtering and dare I say it, bottling.........

Bottling?????  Aaaaaarrrrrrrggggggghhhhhhhh! The bain of the wine maker (unless you make huge quantities and have some bottling machines to make life easy..... like an ozone generator and plenty of money for bottles by the pallet, etc etc).....

Anyway, I went out with the intention of pillaging some of the local flora for the last of the elderberries, but it started to rain (still is), so I diverted to the local HBS for kit and ideas...

The kit was some plastic bottles and ascorbic acid to put the gallon of steam extracted elderberry juice in (some that I did 2 weekends ago, sorry, forgot to do a write up/article on that).

While at the HBS, inspiration struck, with "how the hell do I get out of having to piss around sanitising bloody bottles etc" ? The inspiration was a small display of "Bag in a box" kits.

You get a flat packed box, an "aluminiumised" plastic wine bladder and a tap.

It's a shit photo but here you are.......

That's the "aluminiumised" bag, with the box behind and the tap in front, the gallon of wine chosen to test drive (an 08 Canned Strawberry) and on the left is the gravity filter unit (an old boots one, not the more up to date "Harris" one - I can still get the filters so it'll do as I was given it by my aunt).

This picture shows the box made up from flat, with the wine bladder in place and the wine is filtering straight into it.

This (one of my less artistic efforts - crap camera work, but it was with my phone) shows the path from DJ down through the filter to the "bag in a box" setup.

Now, I should mention that this is a bit of a pain to do, but it's infinitely better than having to de-label old wine bottles (too tight to buy new ones), then clean them, rinse, sanitise and drain them (you will, if you've got the wine properly cleared, racked and filtered, get a full 6 bottles to the gallon, though in reality 5 and a half).

So, the "master plan" is by using the "bag in a box" kit, the wine has all air removed by holding the tap open and squishing the bag until some wine comes out. Then as the wine is dispensed by the glass, the bag sucks in on itself until it's nearly empty, by which time you just pour yourself the last bit into a glass. Thereby reducing the chance of getting any air into it and oxidation problems that you get by having a part opened bottle of wine.

The same thing can be done by using a "cornelius" keg system, which is pressurised with an inert gas (not CO2 as that is absorbed by the wine and you get a sparkling/fizzy wine, where you'd have wanted a still wine), which will have purged all the air/O2 but also provided enough pressure to dispense the wine. The difference is that a bag in a box kit is about a fiver, a "corny keg" even second hand/used will cost considerably more (seen them go for 30 quid plus on ebay).

Right, I'll close this for the moment so I can go and check to see if the wine has finished running through the filter (it's the one thing that's a bit of a pain, as the filter pad gets blocked by sediment, the slower it runs.... unless you have a mini-jet pump/filter device or similar)...

Will edit and update with a picture of the wine - which does smell of canned strawberry but I have no concept of what it'll taste like......