Pyment, grape conserve, apple wine, elderberry harvest


This sums everything up, even though it’s not about wine


Late summer into early fall is a busy season for a winemaker and food preserver. Gerry completed the stand for my fruit press, which is lovely and functional.

14359269_10154488847242442_6855223071569342717_n  You stand on the lip in the front of the photo and turn the crank.  It works well and is easy to disassemble, so it’s in the shed now, with the press.  (Side note: what a messy kitchen!  I should have cleaned up before the photo, but instead you can see the box the apples came in, my shopping bags hanging from the door, the primary fermentor, rumtopf aging in the corner….)  Anyway, I got a little over a gallon of juice from the apples, so that’s now in a couple of secondaries.  No photos because it’s just a fizzy brown-yellow like last year’s.

I also started a batch of pyment or grape mead.  It’s 3 pounds of Concord grapes and 3 pounds of local honey.

I  kept the grapes in  for 4 days and then strained them out, so hopefully the final product will be less foxy than last year’s Concord wine.  I want some flavor and color, obviously, but I don’t want it to be too strong.  It’s a nice purple, which seems like a good start.

I also started a second-run wine with my Leon Millot grapes and some grape concentrate.  I took the grapes out of the first batch  and popped them into a new primary with some grape concentrate, water, and sugar– the yeast is just what’s left on the grapes.  I also drained the yeast from the first-run, since my hydrometer sank all the way when I tested the specific gravity.  That’s a pretty fast complete ferment, which I think was from the warm kitchen.

And, of course, since I have lots of Concords, I made some conserve, too.  2016-09-10-21-32-54  I did a batch flavored with lemon rind and one with orange.  You can see the walnuts floating to the top of the jars, even though I cooled them upside-down.  We had some this morning on biscuits and it’s very tasty. Funny how the foxiness doesn’t matter in sweet applications like conserve and Welch’s grape juice.

And finally, I harvested my first elderberries.  I got a little over half a pound, which is pretty far shy of the 3.5 I would need for wine, so I’m making syrup instead.  It’s the fruit, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and honey. 2016-09-14-19-49-25I simmered it for about 20 minutes and then strained it.  I’m letting it cool a bit, and then I’ll press the juice out of the fruit and figure out what to do with the syrup.  I might freeze it in an ice cube tray for handy single-servings for cold season.  And since the wine is so good, I’ll make another batch with dried fruit once I have a free primary fermentor.  If I get enough at some point, I will try elderflower wine, too, though I’m more excited about what I can make from the fruit.

And now it’s getting close to bedtime.  I’m a little sneezy, so I may dose myself with my lovely elderberry syrup before I hit the sack, too.  Satisfying!


A short Sriracha post


2016-09-05 12.42.15

I had big plans for today, but so far all I’ve managed is a quadruple batch of Sriracha.  It did come out to 14 jars, though, so that’s kind of exciting.  I had 4 pounds of mixed peppers, not counting the ghost pepper I bought yesterday but was too chicken to put in.  Mostly I used Jimmy Nardellos (sweet Italian frying peppers), jalapenos, and cayennes, with one accidental scotch bonnet.  Tried to go heavy on the garlic to give it a bit of extra flavor beyond just hot, too.  In case you ever wondered what a cup of garlic, 10 cups of vinegar, and 4 lbs. of roughly chopped peppers looks, like, it looks like this:

2016-09-05 09.34.31  After it sat around for a while (I presume this is to meld the flavors, since it doesn’t seem to ferment), I poured off the vinegar and reduced it, then added the vegetables and cooked them until they were soft, and then blended the whole thing up: 2016-09-05 11.17.10. So I now have some for us and some to share!  The only real drawback to making it is that it’s kind of a pain to blend in the food processor because it leaks, and the blender will be tricky because of the heat.  I think I’ll try the immersion blender next time.  I also found a recipe online for a fermented version (obviously not canned), so that seems worth trying out, too.  So there you have it: a day mostly wasted, except for 14 jars of Sriracha.

Apple wine and actual grape wine


It’s a busy harvest season!  Lots of stuff to be prepared and me with just one long weekend to do it.  Things started when the most excellent Molly gave me a giant box of apples from her mother’s tree.  It was 18 pounds of giant, in fact, so I decided to try a fruit-heavy apple wine recipe.  I started by chopping up the apples, no mean feat when there’s that much fruit. 2016-09-03 13.05.07 It only took an hour or so, I think, but I had to put a bandage on my right hand where it met the knife handle.  To these I added a gallon of water, yeast nutrient, and a packet of Champagne yeast.  I’m supposed to let it all sit, stirring several times a day, for about a week.  After that, I will press the apples to get all that good juice out, and add sugar (how much depends on how much juice I get, so Gerry’s going to rig something for my fruit press to sit on) and whatever else is needed.  2016-09-04 08.46.52 (1)  The apples are browning less than I thought they would, and they make a pleasing fizz when I stir.

Then last night, I was out back with the dogs and I started harvesting my Leon Millot wine grapes, sort of on a whim.  As it turns out, I had just shy of the 16 pounds I need for wine (15.83, I think) so I decided to give it a go. 2016-09-03 18.58.53  Unfortunately for me, the first step in real wine, unlike my normal country wine, is to pick the grapes, removing stems and other debris, which turns out to be hard physical labor.  It took ages!  I finally finished at around 10:30, having spent over 2 hours standing at the sink and getting pruny fingers from the water the grapes here in.  (I also had to run outside a few times with the small survivors of my picking: a beetle, several spiders, and a ladybug.)  So I covered the bowl with a towel, took a bath for my aching feet and back, and went to bed.  This morning, Jolyon and I crushed the grapes by hand, though after a few minutes, he resorted to the potato ricer, which did quite a nice job.  I just kept using my hands, which was sort of satisfying, even if I did feel a lot like Lucy stomping grapes.  It took us a little less than an hour, I think, and I had to add a little more than 2 cups of sugar to get my specific gravity up to 1.100.  (I don’t actually have an acid tester so I will have to trust that these are appropriately acidic, though the extremely nice Rykers Cellars guy offered to test it for me.)  At first I had all of this in a 2-gallon bucket, but my instructions say to be sure a fifth of the primary is empty because the must expands, so I moved it (messily) to my big bulb fermentor.  I have the grapes tied in a bag, which doesn’t really fit the mouth of the bulb, so I might untie  and dump, though that will mean straining afterwards.  We’ll see.  Anyway, it doesn’t start off a nice color. 2016-09-04 08.47.30  But this photo is from almost immediately after crushing, and the skins are all still in there, so it should look much nicer soon.  So far, it’s just the juice, sugar, and a crushed Campden.  I’ll add yeast this evening, though I haven’t decided what kind yet– probably Montpelier.  I think I’ll try a second-run batch too, since the actual wine grape thing is so exciting.  (I’ll need to get grape concentrate but that should be easy enough.)  Regular wine a different process, since I didn’t really need to add much of anything else.  Here’s hoping it’s good!

The Concords are coming along quite nicely too, and I got some clover honey last weekend at the farmers’ market at East High School with Jen.  So a pyment will be next, when I have a free primary.  I’ll probably do some grape conserve, too.  And I got more nice red jalapenos and cayennes at the South Pearl market with Kim today, so I really need to get on that Sriracha.

And, of course, the weekend always means lots of regular cooking for the rest of the week.  There’s a big pot of bhindi masala on the stove now, and apple-carrot muffins, marbled banana-chocolate bread, and lemon-blueberry loaf are cooling.  Lily, however, is unimpressed.2016-09-04 09.42.00