Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Racking the Red

I racked the Cranberry wine this weekend. It tastes pretty dam good already. Hope I can keep from drinking it til next Thanksgiving. This, my second time racking, went much better than the first. I picked up a short racking cane at the brew-shop. The bend in the rod stands only about 2 inches out of the top of the jug - still I couldn't get enough head pressure to keep a siphon on it. This time I didn't mess around trying. I just used the hose and siphoned down to about an inch of the lees and then slowly poured off the rest.

It worked out good. I barely lost any wine - but got most all the sludge off the bottom. I have a picture somewhere of the lees. I'll find it. Here:)

They were a purplish-puce color. Kind of ugly. The wine remains a beautiful cranberry color. It looks like it should have bubbles, but I'm not sure that I'm up for adding CO2 yet. At some point I'll try fizzing some drink.

Peace Linny

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bartering - Alive and Well

My good friend Sailor Ted has agreed to trade me a 5-gallon carboy for a pot of chili.

I picked up all the chili ingredients, but only realized once I started browning up the burger, that I was out of onions.

So, Ted shall have his chili tomorrow. I shall have my carboy by Christmas. I'm guessing AFTER Christmas before I get out and get my grape juice. But THEN I shall brew my first REAL batch of wine.

Help me: Should I start with a Merlot or a Cabernet Sauvignon?

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I made up a gallon batch of Cranberry wine. Here is my process - it's rather half-hazard.

I made a must by simply chopping up about 2lbs
of cranberries. You'll find cranberries are hard to chop - they roll. I just made sure each one had the skin broken. I put these into a brewers sock and into a pail with a gallon of water, a couple lbs of sugar and about a 1/2 tsp of pectin enzyme
(to help break down the skins). I let this sit, covered, for 3 days.

Most all the recipes I found for Cranberry wine called for raisins. I had not raisins and I also dislike raisins enough to not want them tainting my wine. The raisins, I'm sure are to provide nutrient for the yeast, so the day before I was set the wine to brew I added a tsp of yeast
nutrient, and also a pectin tablet.

The Must:

The night before Thanksgiving I strained out the cranberries. I squeezed the bag good (squeezing your fruit is not always recommended) and poured most all of it into my jug. Then I added the prepared yeast (about a 1/2 package to a cup or so of warm water - let sit for about 10mins) added the remaining must and shook for about 5mins. Then added the airlock and that was it. It began bubbling pretty well before the evening was out.

Isn't the color lovely?!

It's now been two weeks. The bubbles did not go as long or as vigorously as I would have liked or expected. The benefit of using the small jug, however, is that I was able to swish the brew around every couple of days - this seemed to help prolong and reinvigorate the fermentation. It's still fermenting now, but slowly. I'll probably rack it this weekend. I'll post. :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

No Title Required

My good buddy Glen, whose family owns some cranberry bogs down in MA, brought me a couple pounds of bog-fresh berries yesterday. Tomorrow I'll create cranberry wine.

After this though, I'm going for the full deal. I'm gonna try a full 5 gallon batch of some kind of grape concentrate wine. I think I'll start with a cab.

It's raining cats, dogs and wombats. But it's Friday - who cares. :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Rack That!

Funny term: to rack wine is simply to siphon or slowly pour off the winebrew from the solid sediments on the bottom. I racked my mead the other day.

Ok, like I said it's simply removing the solids from the liquids - easy peasy right. Something I did a bajillion times with great success in laboratories. Ugh, racking the mead was a learning experience.

Firstly, the brew shop STILL had not 1 gallon glass jugs. So what was I going to rack into for the secondary fermentation?...I pickle bucket would be too big, but other containers didnt' have a proper top to put the air-lock onto.

Well it just so happened, my husband, for whatever strange reason, bought a big plastic economy container of cheap cheesy puffs. I threw them all away and cleaned and sanitized the container. I Cut a hole in the plastic top to fit my air-lock and wallah!

Next problem was my siphon. I bought some fancy -shmancy siphon rod from the brew shop. The concept is simple enough, but my little one gallon jug just didn't have the head pressure to make the thing work. So, I just used the nice teflon attachment hose and bravely primed it by sucking up the mead (it's tasting pretty good). I wasn't able to get about the last 1 1/2 inches of liquid off the sediments with the siphon, so I slowly poured it off. The glass jug worked really well for this as the shape makes a natural sediment trap. I think I may just use the pouring technique for now on if I'm just making a jugful of something. All my careful sanitizing and planning went down the tube, literally, when I actually had to do this step. But it's done and it looks happy. I'm a bit bummed at how much I lost to the racking process. I guess this is why people do bigger batches. I'll maybe have two bottles when all is said and done.

I also picked up all my stuff for cranberry wine (except the cranberries). I think it will be next weekend's project.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bog Shinies

In honor of Thanksgiving, I think I'm going to try and make cranberry wine. It seems pretty straight forward. Cut up the berries, let um soak for a while, strain, activate, brew. HAH!...Sounds easy.

I'm also testing a theory: Am I more apt to follow through on these leisure time musings if I document my desires here in this blog?

TGIF, Linny

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quick Update

My mead is bubbling along nicely. I think I put too much yeast in as there is a nice ring of dead yeast around the neck of the bottle at the liquid line. I don't think it should adversely impact the brew much....I hope.

~Salut Linny

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Let the Brewing Begin

Last night, All Hollows Eve, under a full Hunter's Moon with the wind a-howling, I began my apprenticeship as a brewer. I made some mead:)

Ok so, while I've pondered my brewing capabilities over the last couple weeks, I decided that I was scared of large glass containers. So, I started with small glass containers. Only one jug. I made one jug of Mead. But it was easy.

Thanks goes out to Will over at Storm the Castle for a nice simple one-gallon recipe and step-by-step instructions for my mead-making entrance.

I got my stuff. I had to go to two different brew shops as the quaint friendly little shop nearest my house isn't terribly well-stocked. But, both the shops and their keepers were interesting and helpful. Obviously it is a career chosen out of love for the drink - and they're happy to share....and maybe even make a sale.

Next obstacle was sanitation. I was a bit freaked out reading up about it. I've got a good grip on the importance of sanitation from canning, but reading about how, while creating a nice warm, nutrient friendly habitat for your yeast, you're also making a nice nurturing environment for about any little germy that might accidentally get into the process worried me. I hadn't bought any special sanitizer! I ALWAYS worry about something. None-the-less I plowed forward with the sanitation technique I was comfortable with. I boiled everything.

This was a pain. For later batches I'll be picking up some sanitizer. Still throughout the process I ended up pulling stuff out of the cupboard, to use in my creation, that I hadn't foreseen and therefore didn't get boiled. It'll be ok (I keep telling myself this). Oh and my boiling pot is the same pot my husband often boils chicken in. The first pot of water I set to boiling ended up with just the slightest film of grease on top - my son must of washed it last. 'sigh'. I scrubbed it up good and started again.

Here's my stuff all boiled up (sans the canning jars in the back) and ready-to-go.

Everythings clean. I put a bit of the spring water to heat on the stove for the yeast (the small sauce pan I used was one of the items that I forgot to sanitize - meh).

My honey was a 2# jar from a local apiary. I'm not sure what kind it was, but it was VERY dark...and tasty. Unsure if 2#s was enough I picked up a small jar of pure blueberry honey from the grocery store. While prepping stuff, I put these into warm water to loosen them up.

I started. First some spring water into the jug, next the honey (I used most all of it), 2/5 tsp of yeast energizer, and 2/5tsp of yeast nutrient...and I shook it all up. This pic give you an idea how dark my honey was. It was dark.

My yeast water was warm, I poured 2 cups into the mixing bowl and added 1/5 package of yeast. Haha, the recipe TOLD me to add 1/5 package. I totally eyeballed it. How does one measure out 1/5 of a package of yeast?

After the yeast sat for about 15mins, I added to my jug, filled it the rest of the way with spring water and shook it all up again. For FIVE minutes. My arms were totally tired. A full glass jug is heavy when you're a wimp.

But that was it!!...I put on the airlock and set it in the basement. This morning it's bubbling nicely.

I plan on imbibing in my own mead NEXT Halloween. Cross your fingers and stay tuned. I'll post again when it comes time to rack it.....

~Salut Linny

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Should Kick Myself

Apparently, somewhere along the line, we Mainers let a bill get passed that outlawed kids from being able to 'observe' wine-tastings. It went into effect Sept. 12.

I try and stay on top of bills and laws being bandied about, proposed and passed. I missed this one completely.

It seems rather innocuous, and really, it won't negatively effect me as I don't have any kids to bring to wine tastings. But still, it's arbitrary. I'm a bureaucrat. It's in my very nature to guard against the arbitrary!

This law doesn't affect kids viewing people drinking in bars or restaurants or even on street corners. The only alcohol drinkers that are too risque for the eyes of our wee-ones are wine tasters. I guess it's cuz we so hot. Still it's arbitrary, verging on discriminatory. And just plain stupid. Kick me.

The nice thing about Maine though, is it's never too late or impossible to change a law. I shall get busy on that.

For more detail HERE is a story from a local paper.

Salut, Linny

Monday, October 19, 2009

Vintner Wannabee

Why wine?

Wine is such an enigma. It makes me feel refined and cosmopolitan, not to mention a bit coquettish. At the same time I get all homey and comfortable before the first glass is fini'.

I'm starting this blog in hopes of keeping my desire to actually make some wine until I can get the stuff together to do it.

My plan:

Get a wine-making kit and make some wine using some concentrate until I get the hang of things.

By next fall, hopefully, I will attempt to make some wine with all, or some of my foraged goods - blueberries, quinces, chokecherries, staghorn sumac, and maybe rose hip (I've never harvested these but I've spotted them in various places nearby). I'd also like to try to make mead - I like mead. I have honey-making acquaintances that will hopefully give me a good deal.

While this is all happening, it will be imperative that I taste, sample, use and abuse various wines to educate myself in 'what makes a good wine'.

I will also query the masses via the internets. Starting here:

Tell me reader and connoisseur,
What, to your tastes, makes a glass of wine a lil' blessing from the heavens?

~Salut Linny