Monthly Archives: June 2014

Flavours of Mead

Anyone who has read this blog will know that I’m a big fan of mead. A very big fan of mead.

Last year we made five gallons of elderberry melomel, expecting that with that many bottles it would last a year comfortably. We’ve found ourselves half way through the year and due to wastage (drinking at home), handing out to friends and taking along to events to share around the fire we’re down to the last six bottles. I’m sure that there must be some creature eating the bottles, because I don’t remember drinking the other 19 of them.

So this year we’re going a little more ambitious, with the aim of having a variety of different flavours for people to try (and me, of course) next year. The actual amount is still under discussion, but I’m hoping for around 20 gallons. So here comes the big question. With 20 gallons of mead even I’m going to get bored if it’s the same flavour. I have a few ideas for different flavours, of course, but no idea which ones will be popular with other people. That brings me to the poll.

I’ve been doing some research over the last few days to get a big long list of flavours. Now most of you won’t get to try these (though anyone who wants to, and lives locally, is welcome to give me a shout in private to arrange a tasting once it’s done) but I’m hoping you’ll be interested enough to share your views anyway. I’m not sure how many of these flavours we’ll actually be able to make, but I’d guess we’ll have at least five varieties come the new year. Please vote, comment, share your views and suggestions and help us work out what’ll be popular. You can vote once a day if you want to, and vote on as many flavours as you’re interested in. All feedback and suggestions are hugely appreciated.

Also I made a comment on twitter a while ago about dreaming of one day having a meadery. I doubt this’ll actually bring us any closer, but as there are bees of our own coming in next year you never know.


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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in Blending, Experimental


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Raspberry Vinegar

Raspberry Vinegar

  • Servings: 1 litre
  • Difficulty: ridiculously easy
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* 1 kg raspberries
* 600 ml cider or white wine vinegar
* 450 g granulated sugar
Raspberries just put on to steep

Raspberries just put on to steep

Related to our recent Redcurrant Shrub recipe we now have Raspberry Vinegar on the go. As well as being a pleasant dressing for salads (and I suspect a good dip for fresh bread, with a little oil) this is meant to be a concentrate for drinks and make a very refreshing mix with a bit of soda water.

First take the raspberries, place them in a bowl and smush with a spoon (a highly technical term meaning to crush them a little bit). Add the vinegar. Cover the whole thing with a cloth and leave for 5 days with occasional stirring. Alternatively you can strain the liquid each day, and add fresh raspberries, but that requires a lot of raspberries and more time than we feel like spending.

Once steeped for long enough strain the liquid through a jelly bag without too much squeezing into a saucepan. For every 600 ml of liquid add 450 g of sugar. Turn the heat to low and allow to simmer gently, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for another ten minutes, skimming off any scum that forms. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Finally bottle in a sterilised bottle and seal. Use within 12 months. If mixing with soda water the measures are approximate 2 tablespoons to one glass of soda water.

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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Preserve, Recipe


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Redcurrant Shrub

Redcurrant shrub

  • Servings: 1 litre
  • Difficulty: easy
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* 300 ml strained redcurrant juice (see here for how to do the straining)
* 600 ml brandy or rum
* zest of 1 orange
* 1 tsp grated nutmeg
* 300 g granulated sugar
First stage of infusion with rum

First stage of infusion with rum

Mix together the juice, rum (or brandy), orange zest and nutmeg all together and pour into a wide-necked vessel. You’ll get a sort of jelly, which is why you’ll want the wide-necked jar. Leave it in a cool, dark place for seven to ten days to infuse the flavour.

After you’ve left it to infuse pour the mix into a pan, add the sugar and heat gently to about 60 degrees until the sugar is dissolved. Then strain through a jelly bag or muslin before pouring the resulting liquid into a sterilised bottle and sealing. Leave for a few months to mature, and make sure you drink within two years. We’ve not tried it yet but have a strong suspicion it’ll be a perfect winter drink.

The name shrub describes several things, but in this case it describes the fruit liquer that results. Apparently it was particularly popular during the 17th and 18th Century in England so there’s definitely precedence there. It also describes a cocktail which was popular during the Colonial era in America, made with some form of vinegared syrup and spirits or water.

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Posted by on June 24, 2014 in Blending, Experimental, Recipe


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First Taste

This was our first taste of beekeeping. I’m already listing down ideas for different mead recipes for when we start getting the honey.

Old Boar's Apiary

Used under CCA 3.0 - created by Wojsyl Used under CCA 3.0 – created by Wojsyl

On Saturday the better half and myself went along to our first batch of beekeeping training. While it was interesting I can’t help but feel that the amount of pre-reading and self-study I’ve been doing prevented me from enjoying the course quite as much as I could have done. Without any of the pre-reading it would have seemed packed with information and tidbits – but unfortunately all the theory felt to me like retreading old ground.

There was definitely a highlight to the course though, and that was getting our hands on a hive in order to inspect it. Honestly I was expecting this to be much more intensive and difficult than it was. With a little smoke, and a lot of honey, in them the bees were incredibly placid as we lifted out frames and carefully studied them – checking for…

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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Uncategorized


Redcurrant Jelly

Redcurrent Jelly

  • Servings: 3-4 jars
  • Difficulty: moderately easy
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* 1 kg redcurrants
* 400 ml water
* 450 g sugar
Redcurrant's on for the first simmer

Redcurrant’s on for the first simmer

As you probably know by now we occasionally branch out from just brewing into other preservation methods. As we discovered a redcurrant bush on a nearby abandoned allotment we’ve done just this. Redcurrant jelly holds a particular set of memories for me – mainly of my sister happily devouring whole jars of the stuff at one sitting (this may be a false memory), and we’ll be sending a jar her way once it’s settled.

The actual method to make the jelly is quite simple, although there is a lot of sitting and waiting. First wash the currants thoroughly before adding them to a pan with the water and simmering for around 45 minutes, until they’re nice and soft. Put them in a jelly bag and allow them to strain overnight (or for a few hours if you’re less patient).

Once the juice has strained through the next day, add it to a pan and set to a low boil. For every 600 ml of juice use 450 g of granulated sugar. Once the juice is boiling add the sugar and stir until it’s fully dissolved. Keep boiling for a while longer until the jelly reaches setting point (you can test this by putting a little of the mix and putting it on a cold saucer, let it cool for a minute and poke gently. If it wrinkles then setting point has been reached).

Once it’s ready put the jelly into sterilised jars and seal immediately.

Jars you can either buy from somewhere like Amazon, or just reuse jars you already have. In either case you should wash the jars thoroughly with hot soapy water before sterilising them in the oven at 140 C.

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Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Preserve, Recipe


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Flower Wines: Basic Recipe

Basic Flower Wine

  • Servings: 1 gallon
  • Difficulty: simple
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* 1 large carrier bag of edible flowers
* 1/2 kg castor sugar
* 300g honey
* 1 tsp citric acid
* 1 tsp wine yeast

As has been mentioned everything seems to be in bloom at the moment and we’ve been making quite a few flower wines. The recipes for these are all pretty much the same, with varying flowers but everything else pretty similar. You can also mix flowers if you choose, so an elderflower and rose wine would use the same basic method.

They’re also very easy, simple, ancient country wine recipes (well, except for the rather modern castor sugar of course).

Essentially the method is:

  1. Remove the flowers from their stems/stalks as these will cause a woody taste to enter your wine
  2. Drop the flowers into a bucket
  3. Add honey (if you’re using it), sugar and citric acid
  4. Add boiling water to just over a gallon (you’ll lose some when you strain the flowers out, but you can always top up with cold)
  5. Leave to steep for a couple of days
  6. Strain through a muslin-lined funnel into a demijon
  7. Add yeast and stopper the demijon with a waterlock, then leave to ferment – racking as appropriate

As you can see, all very simple an easy. Mix and match whichever (edible) flowers you want for different flavours. Some (hawthorn) may be edible but rather unpleasant, while others will be gorgeous, but the best way to find out what you’ll like is to try different flowers and different mixes until you hit upon the perfect one for you. On top of that the foraging itself can be very rewarding, and a great way to get out and about.

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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Experimental, Foraging, Recipe, Wine


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Flower Wines: Elderflower

Lilac Wine

  • Servings: 1 gallon
  • Difficulty: simple
  • Print
* 1 large carrier bag of elderflowers
* 1/2 kg castor sugar
* 300g honey
* citric acid
* wine yeast

Pauline Eccles [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Pauline Eccles [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

As everything is in bloom at the moment you may have noticed we have quite a few flowery wines on the brew. The dandelion is still fermenting away at the moment, although we’ll be testing some of it soon. However elder bushes are in full rush, and so we’ve been nabbing some of those flowers (no more than a few from each bush, in order not to over-forage and deprive the area of the plants altogether). So without more ado, an elderflower wine recipe.

First strip the flowers from their stems. I recommend having something entertaining on while you do this, as it is mind-numbing work. Without it you’ll end up with quite a bitter taste to the wine.

Once all the flowers are stripped pour them into a fermentation bucket, boil up enough water to bring it to a gallon and add the boiling water along with the honey, sugar and citric acid. You can actually just use sugar rather than the honey, and add more if you prefer it sweeter, but I find that using a little honey gives wines a slightly richer flavour.

Allow the flowers to steep for a couple of days, and everything else to dissolve, and then strain through a muslin-lined funnel into demijons. Add the yeast, pop in an airlock and leave to bubble away. Rack whenever you feel appropriate until fermentation has definitely stopped (stopper can be added to try and make sure of this, but it is by no means a guarantee and I try not to use additives if I can avoid it, so leaving it until it has definitely finished is my preferred method).

Once finished, bottle and enjoy at leisure.

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Posted by on June 17, 2014 in Foraging, Recipe, Wine


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