Saturday, May 7, 2011

A New Batch

Our morning started with overcast skies and by 8:30 a.m. it was raining. The shrubs and trees that had been delivered yesterday needed to be potted, so Jim took them to the quonsett and he, S., R, and Ed worked there this morning, sheltered from the rain, but not very warm.

I baked some bread, as I often do on Saturday, and then decided to make a pot of Cheesy Broccoli soup for a nice hot lunch. While the bread rose, I ran around doing errands, including bringing all the bottles saved since last September to the Bottle Depot. By the time I got back the rain had stopped, but the soup and fresh bread were still greatly appreciated.

Earlier this week I had taken the remaining pails of raspberries from the freezer and thawed them in my big 12 quart stockpot. It was time to do something with that load of raspberry juice in the fridge.

When I make a batch of wine I record the amounts of juice, water, sugar and yeast in a little notebook for reference. If a batch turns out very well, I put a star beside it. I found a starred recipe that had used a variety of juices and followed those amounts.

So into the primary fermentation vessel (fancy name for this food-grade plastic pail) I put 23 cups of undiluted raspberry juice. Then I measured 8 litres of distilled water into my stockpot and added 20 cups of sugar. I heated this mixture to 140ºF and dumped it into the pail along with 2 more litres of water.

I was lucky--the temperature moderated to exactly 100ºF, which is just right for adding yeast. I sprinkled 2 teaspoons of yeast over top of the juice/water/sugar and put the lid on the pail. If the mixture had been too hot, I would have waited for it to cool before adding the yeast. If it's too hot it will kill the yeast, and if it's too cool the yeast won't begin to work.

Already now you can see the foaming action of the yeast.

Making wine from scratch this way is "by guess and by gosh" as the saying goes. Most of our wines are pretty good, and it's a nice way to use up the vast amounts of fruit we harvest here. I've had only two batches that were undrinkable. The first one was made of chopped up apples (according to a course I had taken at Olds College) that were left too long in the primary vessel. They started to rot and the whole concoction had to be dumped.

The other batch that didn't work was the only time I used chokecherry juice. We have lots of Schubert chokecherry trees on our acreage, so named because the tiny cherries have an extremely bitter after taste. According to the Hutterites (who make lots of wine) chokecherry wine is the best. So I gave it a try, but something went wrong. Perhaps I didn't use enough sugar. The wine was bitter and seemed as if it hadn't fermented properly. After I tried unsuccessfully using it as a marinade, I poured the rest out in the garden.

Last fall I made a very nice small batch of apple wine in a one gallon carboy. Right now there's a gallon of very sweet raspberry wine in the carboy. It started out as 15% potential alcohol and is now down to 5% potential. I think it's stalled there, and I think it stalled because I didn't put enough water into the mix. The specific gravity was too high. I'll try using it as a type of cordial, and if that doesn't work, maybe I'll try adding some water to thin it out.

I've always wanted to do everything "from scratch" which is why I get into all these kinds of old fashioned activities. There's something very gratifying about sitting down to a meal and knowing that most of the food came from your own garden and was prepared using simple ingredients without the mass of additives and conditioners that are found in supermarket processed foods. So here's to "slow food"--one way to good health.

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