Rackin’ time!

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Yesterday, one of the last of my treasured summer half-days, I looked at my wines and saw that the rhubarb, blueberry, and red currant had all cleared.  I was fairly surprised about the red currant, since I made it earlier this month, but it was definitely nice and clear.  So I racked them and, in the process, learned that I am not good at racking.  In fact, you can see a layer of new sediment in the currant in this photo, taken maybe 30 minutes after I racked it.  And it’s not clear at all, but I swear that it was when I started.

racked wine

The red currant is on the right, and it’s cloudy again because my sub-par racking stirred up all its sedimenty goodness.  But it’s so young that I’m not terribly worried.  The rhubarb is on the left, with the blueberry in the middle.  (I got better at avoiding the sediment as I went along.)

And we finally got real tastes of them!  They’re all still quite rough, but I was pleased with all of them.  The blueberry is a particular relief because it had a couple vinegar fly bodies in the airlock, but apparently they weren’t in there long enough to do any damage.  The red currant is dry and crisp and pleasant.  You wouldn’t necessary think “ah, currant!” when you drink it, but it does still have some specific fruit flavor to it.  The blueberry was Jolyon’s least favorite of them, probably because it definitely still has a taste of blueberry.  I thought it was nice, but it will definitely be a little tricky to pair with food if the berry-ness lingers.  It’s fruit-forward, of course, but also dry.  The rhubarb is slightly sweet, and was Jo’s fave.  I’d be hard-pressed to describe the flavor, but it’s got a nice edge to it, and it tastes kind of like spring.  It does not taste of rhubarb, though.  Since I made that one in May, I will aim to bottle it in around March or thereabouts.  I think 3-6 months after racking is pretty standard, and apparently, wine gets better when it ages in bulk.

I also picked a whopping ounce of raspberries from my canes!  I will need as much as 5 lbs. (the recipes range from 2-5) so I might as well start gathering early and keep my harvests in the freezer.  Also, as I took Rose to the vet, I found a chokecherry by the doggie daycare, so I harvested some of those, but came up with an ounce after I removed their pits.  In fact, pit-removal is quite a chore with them, and I now do not aim to make chokecherry wine.  What I did process, though, will go into my Christmas Tutti-Fruti.

Dandelion seems to be starting to clear, so hopefully I can rack that soon.  The mead has a big sediment layer and isn’t particularly clearing yet, but everyone who’s made it before says it just takes a long time, so I can wait.  The cherry has the biggest sediment deposit of all, and I wonder if our 2 gallons will actually be more like 1.5.  I have some beer growlers sitting around in case that happens.

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Lavender syrup

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I made lavender syrup last night, with the dried flowers from my yard and Jen and Mike’s.  This isn’t wine, of course, but it will go into assorted summer cocktails.

lavenderflowers

The recipe (http://www.organicgardening.com/cook/lavender-cocktails) called for a half cup of dried flowers, simmered in 1 3/4 cups water and 1 1/2 cups water for 15 minutes, cooled and then refrigerated overnight, and then the flowers strained out.  I didn’t actually get to those last 2 steps, and it’s entirely possible that mine is now a very strange color.  (I used organic sugar, which is a kind of tan color and doesn’t make a clear syrup anyway.)  I leave work at noon today (hooray, summer schedule!) and will check and photograph the evidence then.

Malbec and cleared red currant wine

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horsekey

(Sorry for the hasty photo.  You can see the edge of a jar of tahini, and my blender features almost as prominently as the wines.)

Finally we’ve drunk something I helped make!  Last night, we had dinner at Jen’s and I brought a bottle of the Horse-Key Malbec that Kim and I made in our first wine-making class back in February at Wine and Whey.  It’s a kit wine, which is why we could drink it so early, and we weren’t exactly on our own when we made it– W&W’s Katrina taught, and there were 4 other women in the class.  Still, we did help to make it, and Kim designed our excellent tags.  (Horse-Key is the name of a club we made up when we were very small.  We liked horses and were latchkey kids.  She was Arabian Anderson, I was Foal Frank, Kirsten was Pony Logan, and Jen somehow missed out on the whole thing.)  I love how the key has a kind of horse shape.

Anyway, so the wine itself was quite nice.  It wasn’t quite as deep and complex as a Malbec from a commercial concern, but I suppose that’s kind of the deal with kit wines.  You can have success but you probably any international competitions.  I think a lot of serious kit wine-makers also customize their brews, sort of like adding chocolate chips to a boxed cake mix.  But I, of course, don’t use boxed cake mixes, and my default setting is making things from scratch (food and drink, anyway; maybe not bookshelves) so I’m not likely to continue with the kits.  I already feel a little like I’m cheating because I’m planning to make my beers with malt concentrate instead of from whole grains, and like the wine I made from frozen blueberries somehow counts less.  This is all quite silly because I wouldn’t feel that way about anyone else’s attempts, but there you are.

The other important piece to this hasty photo (the blender is new, if that matters) is the lovely  cleared overflow of the red currant wine.  I think I might want to rack these, but how does one rack mason jars?  I might try the very sophisticated method of pouring.  Mostly I am pleased by the color, and by the fact that these two smaller containers cleared so quickly.  The wine still tastes quite rough and tart, but I’m hopeful that that means it will age itself into a nice crisp rosé.

I’ve been reading Ben’s Adventures in Wine-Making (there’s a book as well as the excellent blog), and Ben does a Christmas Tutti-Fruti every year, which I think is brilliant.  I will begin collecting extra fruit in the freezer, and am excited to have a potential new tradition for the holiday.  I already have a little over 5 oz. of red currants, but since I now have something to do with them besides vague thoughts of jam and pie, I will harvest more soon.  I saw some cherries in a yard recently while walking the dogs, too, so I might see if I can get up the courage to ask those folks if I can harvest some.  I’m sure I also saw a mulberry tree on a recent dog walk, but for the life of me I can’t remember where.  So at this point, I am reasonably confident my Christmas Tutti-Fruit will have red currants and raspberries, which potentially makes it a mere Bi-Fruti, but we shall see.

Belated but more on mead, red currant, and also cherry!

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Okay, better late than never, right?  Lots of stuff to get to, so hopefully I remember to cover it all.

First off, I put the mead and the red currant into carboys.  The image is fuzzy (I was apparently standing too close) but you can still see the somewhat alarming Barbie-pink color of the red currant.

mead and red currant

I think it will be a nice color when it clears.  It’s in a canvas grocery bag to preserve the color, like the rhubarb.  The mead needed water added– I thought about simple syrup, but figured there was probably still enough sugar left that I just added water.

I think the mead may already need racking, though.  It’s got a lot of sediment at the bottom, and I don’t want it to pick up any off flavors.  Maybe that will be this weekend’s task.

Then yesterday, Kim & I took a country wine class at the always -excellent Wine and Whey.  It was particularly nice because it was just the two of us and Katrina, whose classes I’ve consistently enjoyed.  We started a nectarine and dried elderberry wine in the class.

 nectarines  nectarine elderberry

But it was very casual, so we chatted a lot, I asked loads of questions, and we drank… kind of a lot, really.  We sampled a nice peach wine from last year.  I was a little wary because I bought a peach recently at a liquor store and it was kind of awful, but this stuff was nice.  Light and vaguely fruity, with lots of peach smell.

So we did the preliminary work on the nectarine, but Katrina had started a cherry for us, too.  This one is from puree, and apparently her colleague added the yeast before Katrina was entirely prepared for it, so it was incredibly active already:

cherry at first

I had to pour both batches into a primary fermentation bucket as soon as I got home because it kept frothing up.  So now it sits, apparently quite happy in my hot kitchen.  I’ll stir it daily (or as I remember) and then put it back in the growlers in about a week.

cherry primary

 

 

 

 

 

It’s kind of awful-looking at this point, but I presume some of the brown color will leave once the wine starts clearing.

I’ve also started a batch of nasturtium vinegar (which is supposed to be a tonic of some sort, though I now forget for what) and a honeysuckle syrup.  This last to the mild horror of Jolyon because I picked a few flowers on a walk we took, and he told me I can’t just nick people’s flowers.  But I didn’t take many at all– in fact, the syrup will probably be quite weak.  Those sit for a while longer on the flowers.

And last up, I plan to make lavender syrup with my flowers and some from Jen & Mike’s place, gathered with their permission during cat-sitting duties last week.  There are several nice little bundles drying around the house now, and I’ll post pictures when I make the syrup.  I’m hoping it’s a nice purple color, but since I am a hippy and use natural sugar, my syrups tend to be brownish to start with.  So we’ll see, I guess!