Archive for the ‘home brewing’ Tag

05-30-2016 Journal – Sake & Memorial Day!   2 comments

I found myself awake much too early this morning for some unknown reason. I usually like to get moving around 7am but this morning I was awake at 4:45am and wondering why.  Yesterday was a nothing-special day and I had no pressing personal issues  preying on my mind . . . so why? I’ll probably never know but it sure is irritating.

Yesterday was a rainy and overcast day which kept me indoors most of the day.  I decided to get back to my home brewing tasks and to bottle my batch of Sake that’s been needing my attention for more than a week.

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I checked the bottles to be sure that fermentation had truly stopped. Once many years ago I bottled a batch of wine a little too early and was awakened in the middle of the night by exploding bottles.  I can’t have that happen again . . .  what a mess! Wine making isn’t as complicated as most people think but it does require a reasonable amount of common sense.  The minute you forget that fact you’re in trouble.  I began the  siphoning process which takes no time at all and everything went smoothly. 

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I decided against using the standard wine corks with this batch. These screw caps work just as well and require much less work for me.  It also makes reusing the bottles much easier and I won’t need to exhaust my limited supply of good wine corks.

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I was pleased with the overall look and clarity of the Sake and was able to fill twelve half bottles and seven additional full size bottles. More than enough to last me for quite some time.

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I was also able to save and store a pint and one half of the Sake yeast which will allow me to make numerous batches in the future and save me money at the same time.  It’s all about the yeast!

After the bottling was completed the better-half cooked up a delicious chicken and veggie stir-fry dinner. I cracked open our first bottle of the Sake, warmed it properly, and we toasted the great meal and the Memorial Day holiday. 

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY

THANK A VET FOR THEIR SERVICE

SHOW THE FLAG

(And maybe drink some Sake too.)

05-26-2016 Journal–Miscellaneous Updates!   Leave a comment

As summer looms in my future I’ve been attempting to close out some existing projects to make room for what’s to come.  My infusion of hot peppers in tequila has finally ended with the hot peppers almost bleached white as you can see. I took a small sample and gave it a taste test and was very very hot.  I can’t wait to give it a try in a my first attempt at a Hot Pepper Margarita. I think it will be fine for me and my better-half but I doubt if most people will be able to handle the heat. We’ll see very soon.

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‘The Tequila sucks the color and heat from them.’

My second project has been the Sake that’s almost ready for bottling. Within the next few days I’ll begin the bottling process and finally be done with it. It’s taken a little longer than usual due to it’s refusal to clear.  It’s looking good now and it also has passed my first taste test.

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‘Nice and clear.’

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Today I’ll be making my second visit to the Saco Police Department. I’m trying to renew my permit allowing me to carry a concealed weapon for another four years.  I’ve held permits in multiple states in the past but I have to say the state of Maine isn’t quite as difficult as some others.  My reapplication was only ten pages long and in comparison to some states it’s rather short. I’ve finished the forms, obtained a new and handsome picture of myself, and a check to the city, of course, for $20.00. By far the cheapest fee I’ve ever paid for this constitutional privilege.

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CAN’T LET THE BUREAUCRATIC MINUTIA GET ME DOWN

05-14-2016 Journal–Home Brewing & Gardening!   Leave a comment

It’s been a week of good weather except for yesterday. The rain forced me inside to take care of something I’ve been procrastinating about.  As I’ve mentioned previously I am in the process of making a batch of Sake.  I began the process on March 18 and it’s been fermenting since then. The point was to let the yeast settle to the bottom of the containers once fermentation was complete and then I could siphon off the clear liquid. Unfortunately this batch decided not to clear and remained very cloudy. I decided to resort to an old stand-bye to clear it . . . it’s called Sparkloid.

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Sparkloid is a very fine clay that is mixed with water and boiled for thirty minutes. As it boils off you continue to add additional water.  After 30 minutes the mixture is added to the wine and thoroughly mixed in.  If it works as expected the wine will begin to clear over a period of days. This first photo was taken just after the Sparkloid was added.

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As you can see the wine is very cloudy.  Normally Sake is as clear as water but due to minerals in our water here in Maine it will eventually be a pale yellow color. This next photo was taken 24 hours after the first.

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It has cleared somewhat but will still need more time. If nothing else winemaking has taught me more than I care to know about patience. This next photo was taken 24 hours after the last.

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I can only guess that another week will probable finish the clearing. I can then bottle the wine and place it into storage.  These jugs will eventually supply me with approximately 17 – 750ml bottles or 34 – 375ml bottles.   Believe it or not it actually tastes pretty good already (I just had to sneak a taste.). It can only get even better with age.

The garden preparation continues and more plants have been purchased today. The next posting will be made after my initial planting has been completed.  I can’t wait to get started.

BACK TO WORK

07-03-2015 Journal – Wine and Jam Day!   Leave a comment

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‘While we were working the cat was meditating.’

My last posting concerned our short but successful foray with strawberry picking.  Even though we only managed to pick three quarts before the rains came, we still considered it a moderate success.  It also succeeded in motivating my better-half into a jam making frenzy yesterday.  It required another trip to the food store for additional strawberries, blue berries, and black berries with rhubarb harvested from our garden as well. As you can see in this photo the rhubarb plants are out of control and trying desperately to take over the garden. 

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She worked diligently for five hours and the results were impressive.  She made one batch each of strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, and blueberry jam. She also completed two additional batches of tripleberry which has become a favorite of everyone (blackberry-blueberry-strawberry) who has tasted it.

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Of course I did my best to taste them all as they were being made, bobbing and weaving to avoid those painful hand slaps. They were all over-the-top delicious and I can’t wait to add the strawberry/rhubarb jam to my breakfast menu.

While she was completing the jam I was in another area of the house preparing to bottle my first experimental batch of wine for 2015. My goal was to make a wine unique to Maine and one never made by anyone else.  I thoroughly searched the net but could find no references to this type of mead. It was made from raw maple syrup and fresh honey. 

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The final product was a clear and sweet mead with a faint bouquet of maple. It was a good first effort and with some fine tuning of the recipe I may make it again soon.  I bottled three and a half gallons into various size bottles and kept one for myself. I always volunteer to be first to sample anything containing alcohol before giving it to others. 

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After two glasses I felt that special glow I’m always looking for.  Testing with my vinometer indicates an alcohol content between 7-8%, more than I anticipated.  All in all a really successful experiment.

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The batch was corked and capped and will go into storage for a few months and then be tasted again.  Most wine improves with age and I look forward to an older version of this mead to enjoy through the winter months.

02-27-2015 Journal–Home Brewing Challenges!   Leave a comment

Today will be a short lesson on making wine.  As I’ve mentioned in past postings I’ve been attempting to make a batch of Honey/Maple Mead.  A few weeks ago I began the process and things were going quite well.  After the initial fermentation the color of the mead was a beautiful golden color and was clearing nicely as the yeast completed it’s alcohol production.   Maintaining a temperature of seventy degrees was the only challenge at first but things appeared to be going well.

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I siphoned the wine a second time two weeks ago and was feeling pretty good about things but I should know by now never to get overconfident.  After completing the siphoning and out of curiosity I decided to take a quick taste.  I was hoping for a smooth and mildly sweet mead.  Wrong, wrong, and wrong. It was extremely dry and tart with almost no aroma of either honey or maple. I’m afraid that the champagne yeast was a wrong choice for this type of wine. Champagne yeast is more resistant to alcohol giving the batch a tartness I wasn’t looking for. Normal yeast would’ve given me a much milder version that was a little sweeter and closer to my goal.

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What I’m really  trying to say is this batch is awful and I was sorely tempted to throw the entire experiment out. I then decided to attempt the impossible and fix the problem.  I needed to add just enough sugar to sweeten the mead to bring back the flavor that is being hidden by the harshness of the alcohol. After experimenting with different sugars I decided to stay with the theme of the mead and to sweeten it with Maple syrup.  I added one cup of diluted maple syrup to each gallon of mead which I hoped would give the mead a much sweeter flavor and a deeper color.  The maple flavor was wonderful and the aroma was amazing.

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I placed the jugs back into a warm room to determine if the yeast would reactivate.  So far it seems to be lightly fermenting which was expected.  I’ll let it sit for a few weeks to allow the yeast to die and for it to clear once again. Then a final taste test and I hope a successful bottling.

I’ll have my fingers crossed the entire time hoping against hope the problem has been resolved. I’ll let you know.

01-08-2015 Journal – Cold Weather & Colder Wine   Leave a comment

I love cold weather but this is getting ridiculous.  My better-half also likes the temperature in the house kept around 65 degrees but even she’s spending more time in the bedroom wrapped in that wonderful electric blanket of ours. We’ve been in the single digits for the last two days and below zero today with wind chills bordering on dangerous and even life threatening.

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I may look a little silly wandering around the house at the end of a fifty foot extension cord but I don’t really care. There are certain male body parts that demand warmth and I’m making sure they get it. So what if I have a heating pad stuffed down my sweat pants and who really cares about that stupid looking orange extension cord.  I have my priorities set and no one will convince me otherwise.

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Trying to stay busy and warm brought me to my next task.  I’ve had three gallons of dandelion wine sitting in the man-cave for almost six months.  After four months it was still a little too cloudy which required me to take emergency measures to clear it.  There’s a product called Sparkloid that is nothing more than very fine clay dust.  It’s mixed with water and brought to a boil for twenty minutes or so. Then each gallon jug receives a portion of that mix and is  left to settle for a few weeks. It worked like a charm because I now have three gallons of a crystal clear golden liquid the exact color of dandelion blossoms.

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After doing a little repair work to my wine racks I began the siphoning and bottling process.  My final tally was thirteen bottles of a beautiful wine that actually tastes a little like a Chardonnay but a bit sweeter.

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I boiled the corks in clean water and corked each bottle. I put a nice golden cap on each and they’re now reading for storage in the wine rack.  As you can see from the photos there are thirteen bottles and a small jar of wine.  That small jar I’ll be drinking with my dinner tonight.  I want it chilled until it’s close to freezing and then I’ll sip it slowly and savor the flavor.  I’ve made dandelion wine a number of times over the years but I think this might be my best batch ever.  It’s always a pain in the butt to make dandelion wine because it takes forever to pick and prepare the blossoms. They must be cleaned of all pieces of leaves and debris and then frozen for a week or so.  The freezing helps to breakdown the blossoms and convinces them to give up their beautiful color when they’re finally put in with the yeast.

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This coming summer will be an interesting time for me because I fully intend to go outside the box with my winemaking projects.  I want to make a few batches from ingredients that are not normally used for wine making but trying to do something never done before can be difficult.  I look forward to the challenge and hopefully the results will be a few bottles of a really unique wine.

B r r r r !!!

07-11-2014 Journal Entry – Summer Schedule!   Leave a comment

Now that my better-half has returned home from her trip our lives have slowly normalized somewhat.  She has returned to work after much whining and complaining and is back to her old self.  I’ve returned to my projects again after pretty much ignoring them for a week. Don’t forget her vacation was also my vacation.

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The garden is growing wild and today I finally spent three hours on my hands and knees pulling weeds.  Don’t misunderstand me, I pulled thousands of weeds, enough to fill the trailer pulled by my lawn tractor.  It was extremely hot and in just a few minutes I sweat through my clothing.  I have to admit it felt pretty good to be digging in the dirt because it’s one of those times that allows my body to do it’s routine work and all the while my mind is elsewhere. It takes a good hour of this kind of work to calm me down and allow me to really relax.  It’s unfortunate that I didn’t discover this outlet a few decades earlier than I actually did.  Once again my father was right but I wasn’t listening as usual.

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As you can see the frames are slowing filling with beautiful green plants of all kinds. I’ll probably begin picking, blanching, and freezing kale this week. After it’s washed and blanched I can cut it into strips and freeze it.  It’ll make for some really flavorful soups this coming winter.

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I was forced out of necessity to take the pruning shears to the mint patches. They grow so damn fast and if not properly controlled will take over the entire garden.  It makes working out here really pleasant when all you can smell is the aroma of peppermint and spearmint.  From the looks of things it’s going to be an unbelievable year for the herbs.  I replanted a number of oregano plants after losing a few last winter and the way these things are growing I’ll eventually have enough dried and stored to last me for two winters.

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After all of the weeding was completed I returned to the houses to take a quick shower, make a close check for any of Mother Nature’s little friends (ticks), and to rehydrate.  The next thing on the agenda was to rack off the dandelion wine once again. It’s clearing nicely and the color is spectacular. Now, if it only ends up tasting as good as it looks.  I’ve been disappointed a few times in the past when a gorgeous batch of wine has ended up tasting like battery acid.  I’m crossing my fingers again and hoping for the best.

We’re expecting a beautiful weekend and I’m sure we’ll be visiting the beach and hitting a few yard sales and flea markets.  The better-half has the weekend off for a change and we can have a little quality time together. Sunday is approaching and we’re looking forward to babysitting the grandson for a few hours to give his parents a little breather and some alone time together. It’s something all of us need.  We just have to search out those things that’ll give our minds a little peace and quiet.  I consider my self fortunate to have a number of outlets like that to clear my mind and keep me mentally calm and fresh. 

In just a few short weeks the festivals will begin in earnest.  Almost every weekend from now until mid- October has a festival of some sort scheduled somewhere in Maine.  Every small town and community has one and it’s a great way to support the local farmers and artisans.  Good food, beautiful summer weather, and communities who love to celebrate and share their community spirit with visitors.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

06-21-2014 Journal Entry – Little Old Winemaker!   Leave a comment

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“I really believe that the feet give the wine that little “special something”. LOL

I’ve been in heaven for the last few days.  We’ve been having San Diego style weather and that’s damn unusual for sure.  I’m pretty good at adapting to change so I’ll be just fine, really!  I’ve been tending the garden, completing a host of BS projects from my better-half’s To-Do List and generally feeling relaxed and at peace with things.

I took a ride without her today (she’s working) and decided to hit a few of the dozens of yard sales in the area.  You just never know what you might find and I do love surprises.  Unfortunately yard sales have been losing their charm for me of late and today was no different. Too many people watching too many TV shows that have convinced everyone that every piece of crap that would have been thrown away in the past is now a precious antique worth big bucks.  I visited three yard  sales in a short period of time and it was all I could do not to say something totally inappropriate like “Are you f…ing kidding me!”.  No purchases today for me and much less interest in visiting any more this summer.  It’s just ridiculous and really getting out of control.

I returned home and decided to take a few minutes to check the wine I’ve been making. I racked the red wine.  For those of you not familiar with home brewing terminology racking means siphoning off the clear wine after the yeast had settled to the bottom of the fermentation container.  This is done two or three times during the winemaking process until the batch is crystal clear.

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I think this may turn into a rather nice medium sweet red wine.  I haven’t used Concord grapes in the past and now I’m thinking I probably should have. The wine has a beautiful almost black color and it cleared itself of yeast very quickly.  I started out with four and a half gallons and lost a half in the siphoning process. I should be bottling approximately 18-20 bottles in a month or so.

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The Dandelion wine will continue to ferment for a while longer. I think it may end up being rather dry with a fairly high alcohol content.  I can’t wait to taste the final product because dandelion is one of my favorites.

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I need to get these two batches completed and in the bottle as soon as possible.  I suspect I’ll be doing two more batches of fruit and berry wine this fall and need to make a little room for them.  All in all it should be an excellent year for winemaking.

06-03-2014 Journal Entry–Small Projects!   Leave a comment

We’re having a rainy, gray, and gloomy day today with little or no chance of sunshine.  It’s an inside day where I can catch up on a myriad of small tasks that I tend to ignore so I can go out and enjoy the nice weather.   Honestly it doesn’t take much for me to blow off these tasks but unfortunately the list keeps getting longer and longer until I’m forced to do something.

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I’ve been in the process of redesigning my  man-cave which requires a few large tasks and many smaller ones.  Sometime ago I ordered two wooden wine boxes. They arrived two weeks ago and were immediately stored away and pretty much forgotten.  Today is their day.

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Yesterday I made a short trip to one of my favorite retailers, Michael’s.  My aim is to line both boxes with felt and to create brackets to hold many of my glass wine making tools.  They include a small collection of hydrometers, a large thermometer, vinometer, and a wine thief.  The hydrometer is used for measuring the sugar content of the wine during fermentation.  The thermometer is a long one that is used to measure temperatures of the "must" in the earliest stages of fermentation. The vinometer is a small glass device that uses small samples of wine to determine alcohol content and proof. Lastly the wine thief is just a glass tube used to extract samples of wine in the final stages of fermentation to test the flavor and finish. I added a spray adhesive to my purchases along with four sheets of royal blue felt and two pieces of balsa wood.  I was ready to get to work.

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“The Finished Product”

In years past I’d been forced to replace these delicate devices due primarily to my clumsiness during moving from place to place or during general use. Hopefully this small project will keep future damages and costs to a minimum.  I returned home and began pulling out old file folders from my archives looking for a collection of old and unique wine labels I’d collected many years ago.  A perfect decorative addition to these  boxes.

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A few hours later I had one box completed to my satisfaction and the second coming along nicely.  I should have the second one completed tomorrow and then I can move on to the next task on my list.  The bigger tasks of building a new siphoning table and shelving units can wait until the better-half has vacated the premises and is on her way to the left coast.

05-17-2014 Journal Entry-Dandelion Wine Day!   Leave a comment

My goal today is to give all of you a tip.  After you get to a certain age never, I repeat never, make dandelion wine. I know that sounds stupid but let me explain.  Over the years I’ve made dandelion wine a few times and it always tastes so incredibly good you might wonder why I’ve only made it a few times. The main reason is the amount of work that goes into making it.  It’s a labor intensive project that becomes more difficult as you age.

Yesterday I was out in the garden just walking around and happy to see that everything I’ve planted has broken ground and looking healthy.  As I’ve mentioned in previous posts the garden is well underway and my batch of red wine is bubbling happily along. I knew I wanted to make a second batch of wine but really hadn’t decided what it would be.  As I was thinking and walking the mail lady pulled into my drive way with a package for me.  It was a small order of winemaking materials I recently ordered to replace what had been used on the red wine.  It must have been a sign from the wine drinking gods.

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As I opened the box to check the order I glanced out the window and noticed that my yard was covered with freshly blooming dandelions.  I decided at that moment to make a batch of dandelion wine out of those blossoms found in my yard.  I should have had my head examined but foolishly prepared for the project anyway.

I dragged a plastic bag, a pair of latex gloves, and an already sore back into the yard and got to it.  Over the next hour I harvested a few thousand dandelion flowers and filled the bag to the top.  I started out just bending over to get the blossoms but the sorer my back became the more I thought about calling it a day. It wasn’t long before I was forced to my hands and knees to complete the collection process.  One of my latex gloves had torn and that hand was now a bright yellow that took some serious scrubbing to remove.  I now had the hands of a thirty-year smoker.

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I finished up and returned to the house to try and work out the kinks in my back and neck.  Unfortunately the worst was yet to come. I wanted to make at least three gallon of this wine which requires five full cups of petals per gallon. The next step was to sit on the deck for another two hours with with a fresh set of gloves and a huge glass of icy cold Sangria.  I sat there and slowly and meticulously began removing the petals from the stems.  With my hands painfully cramping I finally reached my goal of fifteen cups of dandelion petals.

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“Dr. Frankenstein’s Lab”

To make a long story short, I returned to my man-cave, gathered the remainder of the required ingredients and finally had the batch prepared.  I placed the blossoms into  two gallons of filtered water and boiled them for twenty minutes making a beautiful golden yellow liquid.  I added the other ingredients as well plus seven pounds of granulated sugar and allowed the mixture to cool.  That took a few hours and it wasn’t until after dark that I was able to finally able to add the yeast. 

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If I’m lucking and barring any unforeseen catastrophes,  I should get at least 15-17 bottles of a gorgeous golden wine in approximately three and a half months.  Was it worth the effort? I’ll let you know as soon as I can use my hands again and I can bend over without screaming.

This had better be the best damn wine ever made.