Apple wine and actual grape wine

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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

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Lots of bottling

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20150307_170841I didn’t quite get around to writing about it, but I did bottle the 3 gallons of Sudden Windfall apple wine on the 7th.  It was quite a messy process, as I tried to move the siphon smoothly from one bottle to the next– lots of spillage and evening out of bottles– a little more in this one, a little less in that one.  Still, I did get them all done, and I brought a few in for Molly.  I’ll pass a few along to Kim, too, to give to her friends who contributed fruit.

Today was a productive one, since it feels mild and spring-like.  I weeded a bit, and planted fava beans and edamame, and started tomato and tomatilllo seeds in little pots indoors.  I don’t seem to have any saved seed from my Roma tomatoes, so I’ll need to get some more seeds soon.

Then I decided to try out my new Ferrari automatic bottle filler, which turns out to be among the best $15 I ever spent.  It goes on the end of the siphon and automatically stops filling when the bottle is just the right amount of full. So with that brilliant little tool, I bottled 3 gallons of Super Vixen Concord, this with Bourgovin yeast, and all 5 gallons of Peach Perfection.  20150322_154803 20150322_154757  (The second photo is with the flash on, so you can see the little bit of cloudiness in the last 2 bottles I filled, in front.)  It was delightfully easy, and I barely lost a drop.  I had a nice little system going: pop the auto-bottler in, click it open, and, while it filled, grab the last full bottle and cork.  Downright efficient, that.  Plus, talk about a sense of accomplishment!  30 bottles, all nicely full, and no mopping afterwards.

On another note, a friend (HI MARY!) sent me an article about an extremely cool place in England that rescues overripe or unwanted fruit and turns it into wine, beer, cider,  komucha, and kefir: https://old-tree-oz74.squarespace.com/.  Brighton isn’t particularly convenient to Maidstone, but I’m hoping to get out to this place anyway next time we visit Jo’s folks.  The places is doing all kinds of things to reduce their carbon footprint, and they produce booze, so I love them already.

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pumpkins

Well, it’s that time of year, and this year, it’s also Bat Week!  In honor of said, I carved my pumpkin as a bat in flight, which I think you can sort of make out here, below the very toothy one, and a few steps above the Ebola virus.  Alas, as I carved it nearly a week before Halloween, I suspect it will be mush by Friday.  We’ll see!

Anyway, in addition to party attendance, I also got other stuff done this weekend, including more racking:

apple_peach_racked rereacked.

The big carboys were kind of a pain, and they take forever, but they’re all nicely racked now.  Mostly I wanted to get them off all that sediment, but everything tastes pretty good.  The melomel is a little funky, so I wonder if I’m just not that crazy about mead in general.  Both kinds need more time, though, so maybe they’ll become delicious as they age.  The red currant is still quite sharp, but I suspect that will mellow over time.  It’s lovely, though!  And probably nearly ready to bottle: redcurrant2  (I was trying not to get my own reflection here, but I see I failed to wipe the growler down, so you can see all kinds of funny spots, which makes the kitchen floor look filthy.  I’m not exactly Martha Stewart, but I’m not THAT bad!)  So I racked those three, the Concord, and the gallon of apple, plus the cider.  Renee brought some cider to the pumpkin-carving party, so it was interesting to note the differences.  Mine, being older, is much less apple-y and bright, but I think it will wind up being quite nice.  She didn’t sparkle hers, and I’m still on the fence about mine.

I also finally gave in and added some bentonite to my dandelion: Dandelion_bentonite.  It seems to be doing the trick, though I may need to add a little more.  I really did try to let it clear naturally, but maybe because it was my first and I was clumsy with the dandelions (picking off the individual petals, and probably bruising them, instead of just adding whole flower heads), it was just not clearing.  I also bought some Sparkaloid, probably mostly for the name, but also in case the bentonite doesn’t do the trick.  I mixed up what it said on the package directions, and then just poured in what fit.  The wine went all fizzy and active again, but this morning, it looked pretty clear.  I think I’ll rack it soon, and add more of the bentonite mix if it needs it.  Otherwise, it really should be ready for bottling– I made it in spring!  The cleared stuff is quite a nice color, so I’ll bottle in clear glass to show it off– maybe as soon as this weekend!