Christmas 2014

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remaining dandelion

We opened the first bottle of dandelion for Christmas lunch!  I was quite pleased with it.  It was dry with a slightly, pleasantly musky back-note.  It didn’t go particularly well with the risotto I made, but it was definitely worth drinking. We had quite a nice feast, too.  Mom made appetizers of mushroom strudel, shrimp cocktail, and chips and guacamole (Gerry isn’t eating dairy).  To go with the risotto, I did roasted green beans and Mom did herbed roasted carrots.  Dessert was Jolyon’s amazing trifle:

trifle 2014 Strawberry vegetarian gelatin, strawberry jam, ladyfingers, sponge cake (Japanese kasutera this year, because it’s what I could find), apple, grapes, banana, chopped nuts, homemade custard, and lots of sherry.  Excellent stuff!  Gerry was tempted to have a sample (he also tried a sip of the wine) and Mom had some, but we still have a lot left, which is delightful.  Zach and Meghan are coming over for dinner tonight, so he’ll probably have some, but she’s vegan so I got vegan ice cream for her.  (Dinner plan: Field Roast, smashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, bread, aforementioned desserts.)

However, Mom’s poor old Ginger had built up a lot of fluid in her stomach, which is apparently common with congestive heart problems, so after lunch, I helped take her to the emergency vet.  Ginger did not want to be there Ginger at vet but felt a lot better afterwards.  They took 4 liters of fluid from her!  It started snowing while we waited (and waited and waited) at the vet, so getting home was a bit of a trial, on top of spending over 2 hours there.  When we got back, though, Jolyon and I finished the dandelion wine, and watched “The Snowman” and had a bath, so it all ended well.

Because of all the veterinary excitement, though, I didn’t get my Christmas tutti-fruti wine started until today.  So technically it’s Boxing Day tutti-fruti wine, which doesn’t flow quite as nicely:

tutti-fruti.  It’s 18 oz. red currant, 7 oz. crab apple, 6 oz. peach, 13 oz. raspberry, and, owing to a moment of Japanesey superstition about the number 4 (very bad luck), 4 oz. of blueberries, for a total of 5 fruits.  (5 is very good luck.)  Everything but the blueberries was stuff I’d set aside just for this wine.  I also still have a couple pounds of apple and more red currant, so I’ll probably do a wine with those two at some point.  I added about 2.5 lbs. of sugar and 7 pints of water, to get an original gravity of 1.10, plus the Campden, yeast nutrient and pectic enzyme.  I haven’t decided on the yeast yet, but I’m thinking maybe Champagne.

We got a good few inches of snow, so today will be a nice lazy one of enjoying our presents periodic table (got this in Chicago, but Jolyon got it framed for me for Christmas), cooking, and eating.  A swell Boxing Day!

My first loss!

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No pictures this time, and a short entry: over the weekend, I lost my first bottle of wine!  It was the dandelion, and at some point, the one bottle blew out its cork and poured itself all over the floor.  So sad!  We did get a little sample of what was left, which was nice but still rough.  I’ve taken the remaining bottles out of the rack and placed them standing up in case of further blow-outs.  Planning to crack one on Thursday, too, for Christmas dinner.  I guess maybe my clarifying and bottling was premature after all.

Concord and some bath bombs

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I’m calling my first attempt at fizzy bath bombs a qualified success:

first bath bombs  The cute star mold was a fine idea, but I couldn’t get it to release the molded bombs, so they’re pretty funny-looking.  The half-sphere ones, though, mostly worked out fine.  Some are kind of ragged at the edges from the removal learning curve, but I think I have the hang of it now.  These are lavender, rosemary and lemon, and the second batch is pale green.  I’ll make more soon, so I haven’t packaged any of these as gifts yet, though I did 3 kinds of Christmas cookies yesterday, and have handed those around the office.

The third gallon of Concord wine is now in its carboy, too. frothyConcord  It was pleasingly fizzy as it sat in the primary bucket, but unfortunately the bag I put the fruit in had a hole in it, so there were seeds everywhere!  They got stuck in the siphon tube, and I had to stop and strain the whole batch in order to get it sorted out.  But it is sorted!  This batch is pretty experimental because it’s a third kind of yeast (Montpellier) and when I was making it, I suddenly realized I was low on sugar, so it has a bit of brown sugar to make up the difference.  I suspect this will make the final wine darker, but there’s nothing obvious yet.

wines in sunlight2

In the meantime, aren’t they app pretty in the sunlight?  I have a little piece of cardboard up to protect the previous Concord batches so they retain their nice color.  The crab apple and apple in back right corner are both nearly ready to bottle, too.

wines in sunlight1

That’s what I call a productive weekend!

New space for wines

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A lovely 4-day weekend for Thanksgiving!  I don’t technically get the day after the holiday off, but I took it off because I wanted to get some things done, and also I wanted 4 days off in a row– who doesn’t?

One of my fun tasks was making shower discs, which make a lovely aromatic steam when you pop them in under the hot water.

shower discs  They’re dead simple to make: baking soda, a little water, and some essential oil, dried in the oven in a muffin tin.  I used a combination of eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender oils.  Some of these will undoubtedly become Christmas present add-ons, since I got kind of excited (story of my life) and made 24.  I’m also thinking I’d like to try bath bombs and maybe even toilet-cleaning bombs, though I don’t know about giving anything toilet-related as a festive present.  (Though I’m tempted to do that and add a tag that says, “Yay, poo!”)

My biggest task, which I thought of in the small hours of Sunday morning, after Lily woke us with a howling dream, was cleaning out my new wine space:

new wine space.  This is a funny little area behind the kitchen and above the weird scary back stairs to the basement.  The wall on the right was the original back of the house, before the addition was somewhat randomly stuck on. The space had been a strange pile of junk, mostly canning jars and the like.  In fact, I see now that there’s a single leftover canning lid on the left, standing upright against the wooden wall. The black box on the right is a stackable wine rack.  Alas, it’s alone now, unstacked and slightly sad (possibly just because it’s empty), but I plan to ask for some more of them for Christmas– and, of course, to fill them as soon as I can.  The bottles here are the cleaned empties.  I have a few more out in the back shed, but it’s kind of amazing how many one needs.  Each US gallon fills five, and since I have so many wines going, it adds up!  In fact, here’s what I have going on right now.

bottles of lovely wineThese are the bottled wines so far: rhubarb, cherry, redcurrant, and dandelion, if memory serves.

November wines in carboysAnd these below are the ones still in their secondary fermentation– plus the 3 gallons of apple and the 5 of peach. Jolyon rightly points out that I should have taken this photo in the daytime, since the various colors are so pretty, but I didn’t think about a photo until last night.  Anyway, this is two Concords, a crab apple, two apples, a mead, a peach melomel, and an apple cider. I’ve also taken the last grapes out of the freezer for the third batch of Concord, using the third kind of yeast, which is one of those numbered ones I can’t remember.  Concord with Bourgovin  The Concord wines start out this sort of strangely lovely pink color, and then darken to the color of a light red wine, which you can kind of see in this picture, behind the crab apple.  And, somewhat charmingly, you can also see one of Rose’s kibble toys on the floor: a glow-in-the-dark ball that she pushes around with her nose to make it drop the bits of kibble.  (Lily has some too, but hers are harder to get the food out of, since she’s kind of violent with hers.)

Still waiting for the crab apple to clear sufficiently for bottling.  It’s getting there, though!