More peachiness



First things first: I have made my Rebel Rhubarb wine labels!  They print four to a page, so one bottle will just get a note on the side in Sharpie.  If the wine turns out as well as my label, I will be very pleased.

peach  I’ve also made some progress on the Peach Perfection, though I can’t say I’m a fan of the directions.  I find the recipe unnecessarily confusing and headache-inducing.  But here’s the pre-sugared wine in its carboy.  With the sugar, it looks quite different.  This is only one pound of brown sugar and four of white, but it’s so dark! peach with sugar(1)

I’ve also added the yeast nutrient and pitched the yeast. There’s about half a gallon of overrun left, so I will hold that back for when the active fermentation is over– there’s more room here, but not for all that frothin’ and fussin’.  I’ve also taken the leftover fruit from this wine and cooked it with a little sugar, maybe to become ice cream or something.

It turns out that a five-gallon carboy is quite a cumbersome thing.  It’s sort of shoved into a corner for the primary fermentation, but the big jugs don’t come with nice little handles like the little ones do, so to move this sucker any distance, I have to get my hands under it and lift it up.  Once it’s safely in my arms, it’s not hard to deal with, but there’s that brief moment of terror as I juggle it initially, half expecting the whole thing to tip over.  

Finally, here’s the melomel:

peach melomel  It’s fermenting quite nicely, and the kitchen smells nice and yeasty, and slightly peachy.  The wine was pinker at first, but clearly the pink has faded.  The orange juice I pitched the yeast into didn’t help.  I do hope this goes a little pinker when it clears, but my last mead hasn’t started clearing yet, so I’m mentally prepared to have great patience with this one.  This is just a single gallon, and may be joined my a pyment (grape mead) if my Concords don’t give me enough for regular old wine.  Sarah and Tom next door also say I can have some fruit or juice if I don’t have quite enough.  I hope I do, because I do want to try my hand at a more traditional wine!

I also gathered some windfall apples on campus yesterday with a friend (also confusingly called Sarah), but I haven’t weighed those yet so I don’t know what I’ve got. Not a lot– most of what was available to us was squirrel- or bug-eaten, or half-rotted.  I’m guessing two pounds max, but if I keep collecting, that will eventually be enough for apple wine!


Peaches and peaches and peaches


Wow, Kim’s friends really came through!  Thursday, Kim brought over a giant bucket of peaches from their tree:


I got just over 15.5 pounds, once I’d taken out the bad bits and rotting fruits.  12.5 of that is going to be Peach Perfection wine, and 3 (with the addition of a farmers’ market pound from Ela Family Farms) will be peach melomel.  The last 6 ounces or so are in the freezer, reserved for the Christmas wine.  Here’s what 12.5 pounds of prepared peaches in a 6-gallon bucket looks like:

prepared peachesIt seems oddly small, but that’s 2 mesh bags of pitted, sliced peaches.  Jolyon had to help me get the fruit into the bags.  I froze the whole lot and then defrosted, since that really seems to make a difference in the juice yield, and since I had 15 lbs. of fruit I couldn’t quite deal with yet.  After we got the peaches in the primary, I poured 4 gallons of boiling water over, and then, when that was cooled, I added tannin and 2 ounces of pectic enzyme.  (That actually necessitated a run to Wine & Whey, because the enzyme comes in 1-oz. containers, and I only had 1.8 oz. left.)  Tonight, I will take the fruit out and put the juice into the carboy.  It’s an unusual process, actually.  Into that, then, go all the other additives except the yeast and sugar.  I’ll dissolve about half the sugar in hot water in the primary bucket, and when that’s cooled sufficiently, add it to the carboy.  Then I add enough water to bring it to the shoulder of the jug, and then I pitch the yeast.  We’ll see how that all goes!  The damned vinegar flies are losing their tiny minds for all this peachy goodness, so it’s been a tiny bit on the unpleasant side, keeping them out of muh bidness.  So far, so good, though.

I started the melomel over the weekend, too.  It was a more familiar process: I prepared the peaches, put them in the mesh bag, added sugar, crushed Campden, pectic enzyme, and tannin.  Then I boiled the honey (2 lbs.) in twice as much water, skimming off the scum.  When there didn’t seem to be any more scum rising, I poured the mixture over the peaches and let that sit for 24 hours.  Then I added the yeast and yeast nutrient to some orange juice in a large bottle, let that sit for a couple hours, and pitched the yeast.  I hope it was really activated– I used a big plastic bottle instead of a jar, since the recipe called for a cup and a half of juice, and I didn’t have a jar large enough to allow for that and the fermentation.  I guess I’ll know when I stir the mixture tonight.  I’ll also try to get pictures, since both are kind of pretty orangey-pink colors.

My other weekend excitement was bottling the rhubarb wine.  bottled rhubarb  I opted just to pour the wine through a sterilized funnel instead of messing with the siphon equipment.  It was actually quite easy, and I was pleased to get a nice, tidy 5 bottles of wine.  I was also pleased at how easy the hand-corker is to use.  You just pop a sterilized cork into the hole on top, place the little grips over the neck of the bottle, and bring the arms of the unit down.  Oddly satisfying.  I kept the bottles upright for 24 hours, as directed, lest they explode, but I was pretty sure they didn’t especially need it, since there was no residual fizz when I bottled.  And now the bottles are delightfully resting in  my wine rack, next to the remaining bottle of Malbec we made in class.  I just need to design my labels, which I think I can do today or tomorrow.  And, of course, wait.  And wait and wait.  The patience thing is definitely the hardest part of this endeavor.  It must be good for me somehow, right?

Wine-makers’ party and more racking


Kind of a fun weekend, now that I look back on it.  Friday was a wine-makers’ party at the always-excellent Wine and Whey.  I would normally not have gotten an invitation since I’m such a novice, but since I’ve also been making stuff on my own, and since I’ve developed a friendship with Katrina, I got in with the cool kids.  Also, you can’t say I’m not enthusiastic about my new hobby.  Anyway, it was a fabulous party.  Mom had been planning to join me, but then she was worried about Ginger, who hadn’t eaten all day.  (She seems to be feeling better now, though, thank goodness.)  Jolyon was busy drawing some WWE folks for a comic cover, and Kim’s still out of town, so I wound up solo at this thing, but all was well.  Everyone was really nice, and very welcoming to the newbie.  There was also an amazing collection of wines to sample:

wine party

My modest contribution, the Malbec Kim and I made in class, is towards the back, with the maroon foil.  In front, you can see the chili wine, which I actually quite liked.  I think it was a Cabernet Sauvignon kit that the maker added dried red chilis to during the primary fermentation, so it gave a nice little back-of-the-throat kick.  You can also make out the Sunny Peach Chardonnay with the ink-splash label, which was sweet but surprisingly nice.  It was also a kit, with a packet of peach sweetener added at the end.  I wouldn’t drink that one all day, but I did have a couple small glasses of it.  Also, I was thrilled to meet Steve, co-creator of the fabulous Labelnator, a tool I find indispensable for removing wine labels.  The co-owner of the shop (a huge Dr Who fan whose name I can’t remember to save my life) had made some excellent cheeses for us, and Adam grilled burgers.  (I brought marinated portabellos and kimchi for the vegetarian option.)  There were also lots of nice little pot luck items to share, including an excellent broccoli-and-tofu bake and a great big salad.  I’d brought a pasta salad with garlic scape pesto, too, so there were plenty of things to soak up all that wine.  And there was a board of labels for us to vote on– I’ll have to see what the results were, but of course I voted for our Horse Key ceramic label.  There might have been wine-ranking voting as well, though I’m not sure about that.  All in all, a most excellent and delicious party.

Then on Saturday, I noticed that several of my wines had cleared, so I racked (or re-racked) them.

 reracked wine  The rhubarb is probably quite close to ready for bottling, and is Jolyon’s favorite.  It’s a little sweet and kind of strong, and only tastes faintly of rhubarb, which makes it sound kind of nasty, but it’s really quite pleasant.  The blueberry has mellowed in even just the last few weeks since its previous racking, and I think it might just turn out to be quite nice.  The red currant is still pretty young and harsh, but I hope it will eventually become crisp instead of sort of whooooo!-inducing.  The magic is in the aging, or so I keep hearing.

The cherry was a bit of a conundrum, though.  I have 2 gallons from the fruit wine class, but they have huge sediment deposits.  I racked the one (and still, alas, got lots of the sediment– I really need to get better at this racking gig!) but then was confounded about the other.  It was too much for my half-gallon jug, but if I actually managed to leave the sediment behind (which is really kind of the point), it would be too little for a gallon jug.  So in the end, I left it there, sediment and all.  I may try to figure out what to do with it this weekend.  Maybe I’ll re-rack the first one more carefully and see how much I’m left with.  Or I could just rack the second one into the half-gallon growler and put the overflow in a mason jar.  Really, I think I’m overthinking this.

My crab apple seems to have stopped fermenting altogether, which seems kind of premature.  Not sure if I have a stuck fermentation or what, so just in case, I added a pinch more yeast, and I’ll see how it’s doing tonight.  Interestingly, I also noticed that the dandelion, my first batch ever, still seems to be fermenting!  No wonder it doesn’t seem to be clearing.  I wonder how long it will take.  The mead is still completely un-cleared, too, but I’d read that meads can take a long time.  I don’t mind if those two need more time, but I only have 2 empty gallon-sized growlers (and one each of 3- and 5-gallon carboys) so I’m hoping to bottle a few things soon-ish.  I’m still hoping to do raspberry, Concord grape, and maybe peach this summer, so I do need to get some stuff out of the growlers and into bottles.  I’m also interested in pyment, which is Concord mead, and in raspberry-rhubarb and folly, made from the leaves and tips of the grape vines.  I have some pea pods in the freezer for pea-shuck wine, but that can wait until winter, as can the lavender methoglin, or herb mead.  I guess I probably need more growlers, really, though I bought another at the wine party.  And more space.  Like I said, you can’t say I lack enthusiasm for my new-found hobby.

Crab apple mania


crabapple with yeast


Pitched the yeast in my crab apple wine this afternoon.  I definitely added a liter or so too much water!  After I squeezed out the juice from the fruit pulp, I took the specific gravity, which was very low so I added sugar to get it up to 110.10, and then promptly broke the hydrometer– again.  Next time I think I’ll buy two.  Someone really needs to make hydrometers for clumsy people. Anyway, then I pitched the yeast– no starter this time, just straight in.  I’m considering taking the fermentor out of the kitchen because it’s hot in there and I keep reading that cool ferments taste best.  The slower fermentation apparently lets more complex flavors develop.  Everything else has fermented pretty hot, though.

Then, since I had a little over 4 lbs. of crab apples left, I decided to try crab apple butter.  It’s a bit labor-intensive: you cut off the blossom ends and then quarter the fruits– which is a lot when there’s 4 pounds of small apples!  Once they’re cut up, you cook them in a small quantity of water until they’re tender, and then you pass them through the food mill and measure out 6 cups.  Also kind of a lot of work, but probably because I’m not used to the food mill.  Anyway, the finished product looks good:

crabapple butter

I’m a little concerned about the air bubbles in some of these, but I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of them because the butter was so thick.  The recipe said it would make about 6 jars, but I got 7 that I canned and one more that I just refrigerated, so the return on investment is good, at least.

There’s about 6 ounces of crab apples (I keep wanting to call them crabs, but either way you take that, it just doesn’t sound right) left so I chopped those and put them in the freezer.  They will likely go into the Christmas Tutti-Fruti.  I’m also slowly collecting raspberries, but they’re not quite there yet, so I probably have about 3 ounces– not quite the 2-3 lbs. I need for wine.  But there are lots of little white ones on the canes, so fingers crossed!

Crab apple wine


holy crabapple tree


This tree, laden with crab apples, seemed to be calling to me.  It’s right outside the Center for International studies school where I sometimes walk the dogs, so I called the school this week to make sure that the tree hadn’t been sprayed and that I was allowed to harvest fruit fromit.  As both proved true, I headed out this morning.  I like this photo because I couldn’t really see as I was taking it, so it has a sort of holy glow to it.

picking crabapplesAnd here’s a nice one I took while I was picking, because it’s really quite pretty.  You can see the school behind the tree.

mom and ginger picking crabapples  Mom and Ginger came along to help.  Ginger proved slightly less than helpful, though, wanting more walking and less standing still in uninteresting places, so they left after a bit.  Mom got 1 lb., 10.5 oz. of fruit.  I managed a kind of insane 8 lbs., 6.6 oz., but after I took out all the wormy ones, I just had about 9 lbs. left.  Half of that will be for crab apple, butter, I think.

The other half, though, the reason I wanted this harvest to begin with, will be wine.  I used the recipe from Winemaker’s Handbook, the little purple booklet I somehow have 3 copies of (after giving one to Sarah & Tom next door).  I think I inadvertently added an extra pint of water but I’m not sure.  Anyway, as of about 2:00 this afternoon, crabapple wine it is on the Campden tablet, and everything but the yeast is in.  I shredded the apples in the food processor with the grating attachment because the recipe calls for chopping them and that sounded like it would take at least all of today and possibly most of tomorrow too.  My other adjustment was in the raisins.  The recipe calls for a pound of golden, but I found I only had 12 oz., so the rest is dried currants– not real currants, but the small raisins that get called dried currants, for reasons I do not fathom.  I haven’t taken the specific gravity yet because the recipe just calls for dumping in the sugar, so it won’t have dissolved yet.  I’ll take it in 24 hours, when I’m due to remove the fruit pulp.  (I may actually ferment on, though, since I do want this to taste at least a little of crab apple.  Maybe just another 24 hours after I pitch the yeast.)

The dogs now tell me it’s time to play.  This is definitely good, as Rose has just had her few remaining teeth taken out, and spent yesterday feeling sleepy and sore.  She seems quite happy now, though, so I shall go entertain them, and maybe go get more sugar so I can do that crab apple butter.