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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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Redcurrant Shrub

Redcurrant shrub

  • Servings: 1 litre
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:
* 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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Flower Wines: Elderflower

Lilac Wine

  • Servings: 1 gallon
  • 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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Simple, easy sharbat (drinking sherbet)

Drinking Sherbet

  • Servings: 30 glasses
  • Difficulty: ridiculously simple
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Ingredients:
* 2 cups icing sugar
* 1 tsp citric acid
* 1 tsp tartaric acid
* 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
* 2 tsp flavourings (optional)
Multicoloured sherbet

It even comes out in pretty colours depending on the flavour

Sometimes (and I’m well aware that this is probably blasphemy) you just don’t want an alcoholic drink. Even the fermented soft drinks have a little alcohol and, frankly, are a bit of a faff if what you want is a glass of something fizzy, refreshing and fruity right about now. Having to brew it all, wait a few days for everything to ferment, refrigerate and then drink it within the next few weeks might just be more than you can be bothered with on a boiling hot day.

I know that occasionally I just want something I can throw in a glass and drink, and since it’s socially unacceptable (apparently) to drink alcohol before eleven in the morning this seems to be the solution. Sharbat (also sherbet, sorbot, and various other corruptions) is basically the old familiar powder that comes in tubes with liquorice, looking like sticks of dynamite. It also works very well stirred into a glass of water to give it a little fizz and flavour. Along with all this it’s very easy to make, will keep forever if kept dry, and is cheap. If you’re not thirsty you can even just eat the powder.

So to the whole making bit. Very simple. Get a big bowl. Put all the ingredients in. Stir together thoroughly. Sieve if you want it to look a little more powdery, but that’s not essential. Store somewhere dry. When you’re ready to use some just drop a couple of spoonfuls into a glass of water, stir, and glug.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2014 in Recipe, Soda

 

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Nettle Beer

Nettle beer

  • Servings: 2 gallons
  • 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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Cold Brewed Coffee

Cold Brewed Death Wish

Ingredients
* 100 g coarse ground Death Wish coffee
* up to 2L water
Death Wish Coffee, The World's Strongest Coffee

Death Wish Coffee: The World’s Strongest Coffee – this is an Amazon affiliate link

And now for something completely different. Or a little different anyway. Like many people I’m a big fan of coffee. Not an addict, despite the twitches and headaches when I don’t get my daily dose. Definitely not an addict. Nope. Never.

But recently, and I have no idea why I’ve never come across it before, I discovered something called cold brewed coffee (also known as Dutch coffee, Kyoto coffee or sometimes toddy coffee). This seems to be quite a big thing, with specialist equipment, alchemy-workshop type setups and all sorts of other bits and pieces being available. So naturally I decided, in my amateurish and rather haphazard way, to give it a shot.

It works. It gives a really nice coffee concentrate that keeps well, works brilliantly as a quick shot in the morning to wake you up (a very strong shot, I understand why people talk about diluting it now), is much sweeter and less acidic, and so, so easy to make. Really, I can’t express how easy it has been. Well, actually I can.

I’ve been making it using Death Wish coffee. For those who haven’t heard of it this is supposedly one of the strongest coffees you can get. All I can say is that I love the stuff and highly recommend it to any other caffeine aficionados. I’ve also skipped all of the complex preparation, straining, and most of the filtering to come up with my own method. It’s rather simple. Any other beans will work, but if you’re basically looking for the coffee version of an adrenaline injection to the heart then Death Wish is probably the one to go for.

First take 100 g of coarse ground coffee beans. Then take a big preserve jar, jug, or whatever else you have lying around that can hold two litres and be covered. I’m using a 2 quart preserve jar which is working fine. Put the ground coffee into the jar. Top it up with water and close it up. Leave the whole thing for 14 hours or so, then pour it (slowly) through a funnel lined with a normal paper coffee filter into one or more bottles.

That’s it. Use it as a coffee syrup, cooking ingredient, wake-me-up shot undiluted, very strong coffee diluted about 1:1 with water, slightly less strong 2:1. Use hot water if you prefer your coffee hot (though I’ve started to take a liking to it cold), pour over ice if you like it iced, whatever you want.

There are much more advanced, complex details available all over the place online for those who want to put in the time and effort, but for those like me who want a simple life this works just fine.

And for anyone worrying that I’m drifting away from my brewing obsession, I am thinking carefully about how to turn some of this into a coffee wine.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Coffee, Recipe

 

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Heritage Carrot Wine

Basic Spirit Mix

  • Servings: 2 gallons
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients
* 2 kg bright purple heritage carrots, peeled and chopped
* 1 kg castor sugar
* water to two gallons
* wine yeast
* yeast nutrient

While walking through town last weekend we found that our local food stall was selling carrots. Purple carrots. Naturally on seeing these heritage carrots (I’ve heard of them, but never actually had a chance to try them) my immediate thought was ‘I bet those would make great wine’.

Purple carrot wine

Bubbling away very enthusiastically still

It has been suggested that my priorities may be slightly off, and some people would have wondered how these organic heritage carrots would taste as a foodstuff. I dispute this, as the evidence so far is that they will indeed make very interesting wine. It’s certainly colourful, though I was hoping for a more distinct purple out of the mix.

The recipe itself is very simple. Get a big pot. Put in lots of water and throw in the chopped carrots, as if you’re going to cook them. Simmer gently, and keep simmering for a few hours. Throw in the sugar at some point as well, as it’ll dissolve nicely.

Once you’re fed up of the smell of boiling carrots, let the whole mess cool and pour it into a must bucket. Top up to two gallons, throw in your yeast starter and nutrient, cover the bucket and leave for a couple of nights. After that you should have a nice froth on top of the bucket – siphon the liquid into two demijons, top off with an airlock apiece, sit back and listen to it bubble away happily. Wonder curiously about how it’ll taste.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Ingredients, Recipe, Wine

 

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