Monthly Archives: February 2014


Simple Kvas Recipe

  • Servings: 5 litres
  • Difficulty: Easy
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* 1/2 kg rye bread
* water to 1 gallon
* bread or brewer’s yeast
* 1 small cup sugar
* 1 fistful raisins or other fruit (anything can be used to flavour, but raisins are traditional apparently)

By User Grant on ru.wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By User Grant on ru.wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Kvas is a popular Eastern European drink with a very long history, along the same length of time as beer or cider. Despite this, and its interesting flavour, it’s not particularly well-known outside of Eastern Europe. It is, however, very easy to make and something I recommend trying at least once.

First let the bread go at least a little stale. Then toast it, and toast it well. A little bit of burning isn’t a problem. If you feel like it you can make neat little croutons, but that’s a preference rather than being important in its own right. While that’s happening have a gallon of water on the boil, and once boiling stir the bread and raisins into it. Leave the mixture of bread and water covered overnight to soak (at least eight hours, but longer won’t hurt the resulting flavour at all). Strain the mixture, adding the sugar and yeast and bottle as you would any other soda (i.e. plastic bottles unless you’re confident enough in your timing to want to risk glass, in which case fill one plastic bottle to test fermentation progress).

Once that’s done you just leave the bottles until they’re hard, and chuck ’em in the fridge. Easy.

If you feel like experimenting then you can also add mint, strawberries, slices of apple, raisins or just about anything else you feel like.

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Posted by on February 20, 2014 in Recipe, Soda


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Basic Spirit Mix

Basic Spirit Mix

  • Servings: 5 gallons
  • Difficulty: Easy
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* 6 kg castor sugar
* 1 kg demarara sugar
* 2 gallons boiling water
* water to 5 gallons
* turbo yeast
* yeast nutrient
Homebrew & Winemaking - Alcotec 48 Hour Pure Turbo Super Yeast

Homebrew & Winemaking – Alcotec 48 Hour Pure Turbo Super Yeast

This is the nice, simple, basic mix I’m trying to put together to dilute things which are a bit too sweet, or a bit too strong on flavour, without reducing the alcohol content. In theory it should only take a couple of days with this yeast – though for this time it needs to be in the bath as the fermentation is somewhat…dramatic.

Young's 100g yeast nutrient

Young’s 100g yeast nutrient

First off add the sugar to the fermentation bucket. Boil the water, and gradually add it to dissolve the sugar. Top up to five gallons with cold water once the sugar is fully dissolved, and add the yeast and yeast nutrient to the directions on the containers (I used one sachet of yeast, and five tsp of yeast nutrient).

Then stand back, keeping it somewhere waterproof as it almost certainly will foam over. Fermentation should finish in a couple of days, and the spirit ready to add to whatever you’re trying to dilute. I’ll be trying this at the weekend, raw, and then doing a lot of experimentation with the mead to try and hit the right notes. Keeping my fingers crossed that it’ll work out, though I may have a fair chunk left over afterwards (and will have to use it on other projects, obviously).

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Posted by on February 19, 2014 in Recipe, Uncategorized


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On Foraging and Farming

One thing we try to do with anything we make, wherever possible, is to make it from beginning to end. Yes, sometimes I’ll cheat and grab juices from the supermarket, or buy other ingredients there, but wherever it’s feasible we do try to either forage for things, or beg/barter from people in my network of friends and family. So before we’ve managed to get around 60kg of grapes from a combination of generous allotment owners and a nearby pub’s generosity, a 5kg marrow from a garden (apparently there’s only a certain amount of marrow that can be eaten before everyone is sick of it), 8kg of chestnuts (okay, actually they were for something else but next year I’ll be trying chestnut beer), a whole load of (poisonous and quickly discarded) mushrooms, several kilos of apples and so on.

I’m moderately proud of this, but determined to do better this year coming. Both with being more proactive in terms of foraging (there are specific things that I want to make, and we will need to do a lot of collecting to get them done) and by negotiating more to get produce. There are two things which might help with this, a lot.

Firstly my parents (who do have a garden available, unlike myself) are thinking about getting a couple of beehives and have already planted an orchard. You can imagine how happy I am about this, though whether I’ll see any of the honey remains to be seen. The orchard I’m fairly assured of getting a fair number of apples from (and we’ve located some wild apple trees as well, which will be harvested before the wind can get to them this time).

Secondly there’s a couple of acres of what seems to be abandoned vineyard nearby, and there’s a proposal being put forward to make this a community project. Whether anyone will find out the owner of the vineyard and be able to carry on with this I don’t know, but it’s worth a shot and I’ve already said that I’ll be happy to do everything I can to help out with the whole thing.

With the organised beg/barter stuff out of the way, my wishlist for foraging over the next couple of months comes into play:
* Nettles (nettle beer being the main aim of this one)
* Spruce needles (spruce needle beer, surprisingly)
* Birch sap (birch wine)
* Young beech leaves (beech leaf noyau – a sort of gin infusion)

So, roll on spring. And a stop to the rain would be nice.

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Posted by on February 17, 2014 in Ingredients, Preparation


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Basic Mead

Basic Mead

  • Servings: 30 bottles
  • Difficulty: easy
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* 1 gallon honey
* 10 tsp yeast nutrient
* wine yeast
* water to 5 gallons
* 1 cup of strong (plain) tea
* juice of 1 lemon

José-Manuel Benito Álvarez [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia CommonsDirections
* Put the honey in a fermentation bucket and top up with hot water to 5 gallons
* Add the lemon, yeast nutrient and tea, and stir until the honey dissolves
* Once the water has cooled to no more than lukewarm, add the yeast and seal the fermentation bucket
* Stir daily for 4 weeks
* After four weeks, rack and continue to rack on a monthly basis until fermentation stops
* Bottle and store for at least six months (longer the better)

Just a very simple mead recipe I’ve used before to great effect. It’s only when I experiment with more modern recipes that I seem to get problems with over-sweetness. Once thing to note is that mead ages extremely well, the taste matures as it gets older and so I highly recommend waiting at least a year (though a cheeky taste when you’re bottling is only to be expected).

I may have to return to this recipe, just to reassure myself that I haven’t lost my touch with mead. As it’s one of the oldest alcoholic drinks known (in fact may well be the ancestor of all modern alcoholic drinks) it’s a good one to make. In fact mead was what initially got me into making my own homebrew, quite a few years ago. Mainly it was because it was so hard to find at the time, and since then it’s just become a general passion of mine. If you’ve never tried mead I do highly recommend it, at least once. There is a reason it’s been made (and eagerly drunk) for somewhere around 5000 years.

At some point I’ll go a bit more into the history of the stuff. The recipe has changed a lot over time, adding in fruits, spices and so on, but the basic concept is still the same as that original mead brewed by some nameless stone age human.

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Posted by on February 16, 2014 in Mead, Recipe


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Red Onion Chutney!

Recipe (2 jars)
6 red onions
2 chilli peppers
225ml balsamic vinegar
200g demarara sugar
olive oil

Chutney making

Raw ingredients turning into delicious chutney

As I believe it has been requested, here’s the recipe for making tasty red onion chutney (goes [Ed: extremely] well with cheese!). I originally found the recipe elsewhere online, I forget where, and have modified it slightly. If you don’t like chilli peppers, reduce the amount down to just one, believe me you won’t notice any burn at all with just one [Ed: absolutely right, or if you’re like me throw in an extra couple], and it does make a real difference to the overall flavour.

Finely chop the onions and chillies and chuck them in the frying pan with a bit of oil, and fry gently until they’ve turned a light brown. Then turn down the temperature and throw in the balsamic vinegar and sugar, then season with salt and pepper before mixing everything together well. Leave the whole lot simmering on the hob on a low heat.

While the onions are caramelising in the vinegar and sugar, it’s time to get the jars ready. Preheat the oven to


Just waiting for the wine, cheese and crackers

about 100 degrees. Get some clean jam jars and wash them in hot water (lids too!), then put them all in the oven for about 20 minutes (about the amount of time it should take for the onions to caramelise!).

You’ll know the onions are ready when you can coat the back of a spoon with the mixture and it doesn’t fall straight off. Take the jars and lids out of the oven (carefully!) and spoon the chutney straight into the jars, then screw the caps on tight. Voilà, home made chutney for cheap! Enjoy!

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Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Preserve, Recipe


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Valentine’s Special: Rose Petal Wine

By Hamachidori (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.1-jp (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Hamachidori (Own work)

Lots of rose petals (enough to fill a carrier bag, dried but unperfumed petals work too)
1 1/2kg castor sugar
juice of 1 lemon
water to 1 gallon
wine yeast

This is one I’ve heard about but not yet had the chance to make myself (collecting rose petals is somewhat challenging without a garden of your own) so all I can do is give the recipe and method as given to me. The rosewater made with this can also be used to make rose mead, which sounds interesting enough to be worth a shot (incidentally if someone has several kilos of rose petals lying around that they don’t want, let me know).

Boil the water and while still boiling pour over the rose petals, then leave to steep for two days. Strain the result through a fine sieve, muslin or cheese cloth and onto the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved add the lemon juice and yeast, then rack into demijons and wait for fermentation to end. After finished, rack into a clean demijohn and leave somewhere cool and dark to clear. If still slightly cloudly, repeat before bottling and allowing to mature for several months.

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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Events, Recipe, Valentine's, Wine


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Valentine’s Special: Passion Wine

3kg of passion fruit
1kg of sugar (if the fruit is particularly sour add an extra 1/2kg)
water to two gallons
wine yeast

Having not had much experience of passionfruit this was originally a super of the moment make, since a local shop was selling the juice ridiculously cheap. Since making it, and watching the bottles disappear in record time, I’ve modified my recipe for next time to use fresh passion fruit rather than juice. It produced a very fruity, almost sharp flavour.

Passion Fruit Win

Passion fruit wine, showing its lovely golden colour

While it’s a little too late to make any for this Valentine’s day I’d highly recommend it when the fruit is back in season, and that’ll have it ready for next year.

Firstly take the fruit and slice them in half, scooping out the orange flesh and leaving the skin intact (it tastes awful). Throw this into a blender to pulp it and add to your fermentation bucket, along with the water and sugar. Add the yeast once the sugar is fully dissolved and leave in the bucket for a week, stirring regularly.

After the week is up strain the mix into demijons and wait for fermentation to stop, racking weekly. Once it’s stopped bottle (feeling free to put a tasting glass or two aside) and put into storage to mature. The colour is absolutely gorgeous, and the taste even when young is truly unique (in a good way).

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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Recipe, Wine


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