Wednesday, September 25, 2013

3 gallons of maple mead - what's a twentysomething to do?

This past weekend, I finally broke the big Memorial Day Maple Mead batch out of the primary fermenter (where it was still sitting on the lees after 3-4 months). Oops! Why did I wait so long? First, I'm a neglectful mead maker who's better at starting things than finishing them. It came out dry, as I should have expected. This is what happens when your must is light on sugar. The yeast eats through everything and brings out a dry white wine flavored beverage. On the whole, though, not bad at all.

It initially tastes like white wine, almost on the sour side. The flavor carries on, though, and has a complexity that is very welcome. Add a little extra maple in the bottling process, and you have yourself a tasty homemade wine. I have to admit that the first public tasting of it was as part of a blend. I mixed some of the big batch with maple syrup and the tasty dregs of a separate wild yeast maple mead in a half-gallon jug. Mixed it up and served it at a game-night/party. The verdict was good. My only tasting note was to tell everyone that it was approximately like white wine mixed with maple syrup (which in essence it was!). Reception was good overall, including the reception that I gave it. I may have had half the jug, but it was only to gin up support for the product of my labor. It was a little sweet, with the complex white wine flavor, and it went down easy. It was at least a competitor with beer for the attentions of party-goers.

I siphoned out two additional half-gallon jugs from the primary fermenter and added maple. They're topped off with airlocks and aging up a little bit before Thanksgiving, when I will serve them to my unsuspecting family. Let the adventures begin! The only problem I have: There's still at least a good 1.5 gallons left to deal with. This may turn me into a small-batch winemaker for a while. Get in touch if you want some.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dance Yrself Clean (Wine Edition)

This weekend, when I'm not rocking out to the breakdown at 3:08 or attending the National Book Festival, I'm going to make Spiced Beet Wine. The 1 gallon recipe from the wild wines book I got from my mother calls for 3 pounds of beets, 2 pounds of white sugar, and 1 pound of honey. I'm using packaged Montrachet yeast and some yeast nutrient for this go-round to ensure a lively fermentation, but I'm not averse to doing this recipe with the wild yeast air-capture method in the future. The spices also seem pretty mild in the recipe. No reason why the amounts shouldn't be jacked up to nausea-inducing levels of fresh ginger rather than a pinch of dry. This seems like the perfect time to try and fail with exotic recipes. Beets, tomatoes, garlic wine. I may learn something, even.
May the beet wine I make now be dug out of a dusty cellar in 2088!

This project has partly come about because I'm obsessed with beets and their color. It's But not just red, it's a living, pulsating reddish-purple. I want to capture this color and turn it into wine and keep it in a bottle for several years. The color is itching to get out of the beets, too. If you scratch them they will bleed deep dark red juice into your hands that doesn't come out except under prolonged scrubbing. If you cut them, your hands and your cutting board will bear the mark long after. I wear it as a badge of honor now, the pink hand of the beet-preparer. They have a sweet, earthy, wholesome taste as well and a delightful crunch. I would eat them every day in an ideal world.

Image credit: untitled (Alexandre Moha) / CC BY 3.0

Monday, September 9, 2013

17 or more Fermentation Possibilities, who's counting, really?

Potential future fermentation projects:

-Kvass (Russian bread soda, basically)
-Beet kvass kraut (or pickled beets, you might call it)
-Beet wine
-Beet hot sauce (sweet and hot)
-Fermented beet and corn salad (very close to becoming a real thing)
-Beet yogurt (getting the theme yet?)
-Tomato wine
-Sourdough pizza
-Fermented tomato sauce (we'll need this on our sourdough pizza)
-Fermented peach preserves
-Sour pickles
-Hard cider

-Beet hard cider (why not?!)
-Fermented ginger preserves
-Pickled potatoes

Any more suggestions? I'm open for business.

Let's not hold back here. The possibilities are limitless, constrained only by imagination and equipment. People have laughed when I told them my plans. I understand fermentation is easy to dismiss as a mad scientist-type hobby without productive consequences. This is real, though. I'm going ahead with it anyway, but I want people to know that it's not a joke. There are vast opportunities for fun, financial savings, and health improvement. I plan to laugh all the way to a tasty bank of jars containing the products of my labor combined with friendly bacteria.

It's mostly for fun right now, but it feels good to have a modicum of skill that creates something you can eat and drink and give to people. It feels good to make your own. And when people laugh at you, you can go home to your pickled beets and feast until your lips turn red.

Also, let's not lie, it's fun to be able to make alcohol. It's not just fun, it's easy too. I'm a little short on jugs, but once I get my operation running, there's going to be a large quantity of wine in production. If you're nice to me, you'll be on the distribution list.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Latest sauerkraut

New batch of kraut going in today. Equipment has been sterilized and the summer heat is waning fast (air conditioning off) so I'm hoping to avoid the mold bloom of the last batch. This batch is only cabbage, beets, and salt. I want to keep it pure and simple and see how that lets the straight kraut flavor shine through. Beets may add a little bit of sweetness, but the ratio of cabbage to beet is probably 5:1. I want crunchy cabbage with brilliant pink hues to catch the eye. I want the magic of creation again. Where there was cabbage, there is now kraut. We will feed on it through October as the temperature drops.