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Plum Wine

Plum Wine

  • Servings: 1 gallon
  • Time: 3 months
  • Difficulty: easy but tedious
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Ingredients:
* 2.5 kg plums (picked fresh from beside the canal in our case)
* 1.5 kg sugar
* juice of one lemon
* 1 tsp wine yeast
* 1 tsp pectolase
* 1 gallon just-boiled water
Plums ready to be steeped for wine

Plums ready to be steeped for wine

Along a canal near us there are dozens of plum trees, all of them thick with fruit. In about half an hour we managed to gather 7 and a half kilos of fruit, and there are still plenty on the trees ripening away for us to try and grab another time. So naturally my first thought was of making wine.

Followed closely by a consideration of making chutney, especially as we have some nice chilli peppers for the extra hot stuff.

But as always, the wine comes first.

Firstly wash the plums, then slice them in half and remove the stones. We’re actually making about double the quantities in the recipe, but it should work for a gallon. Drop all of the plums into a bucket, and top it up with water just off the boil. Leave it for a few days to soak out the plummy flavour, stirring whenever you remember, before straining off the liquid into a new fermentation vessel. Add the sugar, top up to a gallon with water and stir energetically to dissolve.

Once dissolved add the lemon juice and wine yeast, and leave it to bubble away for five days – stirring regularly.

After the five days are up siphon the liquid into demijons, and leave it to ferment happily until finished. Rack whenever needed until it’s done, then bottle up and store or drink as needed.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2014 in Recipe, Wine

 

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Flower Wines: Basic Recipe

Basic Flower Wine

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

Pauline Eccles [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Pauline Eccles [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, 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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Flower Wines: Lilac

Lilac Wine

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

Lilac wine bubbling enthusiastically

Lilac wine bubbling enthusiastically

It has been some time since the last post on here, but the busy period should be over (for now) as we settle back down into more of a routine again. Work’s still going on with the apiary project, which you can get updates on from , and we’ll be getting into fundraising at some point.

For now though there’s a few recipes which need to be shared. There’s a bit of a backlog and we have about 20 gallons on brew at the moment (as well as a new, so far untouched pressure barrel for experimental purposes with nettles and others). Today is a rather flowery concoction, made possible by the discovery of lilac plants growing in gardens and generous people in our local community. We’ve sampled it a few weeks into brewing and are pleased to say that it does seem to still have some of the flowery taste that you’d associate with lilac.

As with most flower wines the first thing is to extract the flavour. To do this strip the flowers from their stems, and drop them into your bucket. Boil up enough water to fill the bucket to the gallon mark, and pour it over. Then leave it all to sit for a couple of days. I tend to add the sugar and honey along with the boiling water, but that can be done later.

Strain the mix into a demijon and add the yeast, then seal and leave to ferment for however long it keeps fermenting. Rack as appropriate (I tend to go with every 2-4 weeks, or whenever the sediment builds up to about a half centimetre in the bottom of the demijon). Once finished, bottle and enjoy.

The basic method here will work for just about any edible flowers, and is a variation of the one we use for dandelions on a regular basis.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2014 in Foraging, Recipe, Wine

 

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Nettle Beer

Nettle beer

  • Servings: 2 gallons
  • Time: one week
  • Difficulty: painful
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Ingredients
* a whole lot of nettle tips (about 0.8-1kg)
* up to 2 gallons boiling water
* 600 g golden caster sugar
* 1 lemon
* brewer’s yeast
Nettle beer

20 bottles of nettle beer for bottle conditioning

I need to emphasize how experimental this recipe is, as it hasn’t yet been tested and won’t be until the weekend. Then I’ll be able to give a better idea of what it produces, whether it’s drinkable, and whether it’s worth doing. Until then a few notes:

  • gloves are vital, long gloves, sturdy trousers, preferably armour if you can get it
  • unlike harvesting dandelions, getting enough nettles takes a long time
  • the nettles can be frozen quite happily

I think that covers the important points. Now for the recipe itself. All we did was gather the nettles, bring them home and rinse them quickly (cursing a little at stings), then throw them in boiling water. Added the sugar, juice of one lemon (and the two lemon halves as well) and allowed to simmer for about half an hour. After that the whole mess was poured into our 2 gallon must bucket and allowed to cool overnight.

The next day we skimmed out the nettles and lemon halves (giving a good squeeze to get the liquid out) and a little sugar and yeast was combined with water to activate it, then poured in. Again it was left overnight (this is the experimental bit – normally I’d bottle straight away but since I’m trying to avoid explosions, and have the bottles last for a few days outside refrigeration, I’m trying to let most of the fermentation get out of the way before bottling, in the hopes that the next couple of days won’t cause enough pressure to build up for detonation but will allow enough for a nice fizz).

I will say that the result does look quite good at least, a nice clear golden colour with a touch of green to it. Whether it lives up to my hopes or not I’ll be able to report back on Tuesday.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Beer, Experimental, Foraging, Nettles, Recipe

 

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The Perils of Tapping

The highly sophisticated sap collection arrangement

The highly sophisticated sap collection arrangement

Last weekend we went off to do a trial run of some birch sap harvesting (commonly, and much more accurately, referred to as tapping). With the whole foraging party (of two) being complete amateurs, we’d carefully studied the available material and planned ahead. Heavily equipped (two clean coke bottles, one knife, some twigs and a lot of string) we strode out to confront our destiny. The aim, naturally, being to get some sap to make either wine or syrup (with this initial plan being for syrup, as wine will require a more concerted effort with a little more foresight). The method is one of two advised by various people, and simple in its execution. Rather than the more obvious, less subtle method of drilling a hole in the tree, and using a cork to plug it we went for the primitive route which involves stabbing the tree at an upwards angle, working the knife back and forth a bit until sap starts running, and wedging the cut open until done.

Of course having sap running out of the tree doesn’t do much for your collection, so a bottle was then fixed to the tree through a highly complicated and technologically intensive method, as shown on the right.

Four hours-worth of sap collection

Four hours-worth of sap collection

I wouldn’t exactly say the sap flowed at high speed, but we did manage to collect nearly a full bottle in only a few hours from just two trees. Of course, ideally this would have been done in slightly warmer weather, a little later on, when the sap is flowing more heavily – but for a trial this worked just fine. Birch sap doesn’t seem to have much of a distinctive taste (admittedly I was somewhat distracted by grevious wounds incurred while trying to tap said birch trees), but I think there’s enough there to make a wine that stands alone. I’ll also be planning, if we can gather enough, to bottle some and try for secondary fermentation (don’t tell the missus, she’s somewhat concerned about exploding bottles being more sensible than me).

Birch sap wine is another one of those very, very old wines which occasionally crop up again. I’m looking forward to making it, and have been collecting bottles so that we can get a cycle going to collect enough over a few days next week. With the current batch we’re looking to make some birch syrup, though whether we’ll manage in time before it expires is another question (it’s been rather a busy week).

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Foraging, Sap

 

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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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