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Posts Tagged ‘winemaking’

Hi, misfits!  Today I want to introduce you to an overlooked and underappreciated character on this blog.  Everyone?  Take a good look at those photos up there, and say hi to Crap Table.

Hi, Crap Table!

Crap table is old and rickety and faux-ish wooden and scratched-up and borrowed, but it’s quite the trooper and it does the job.  In fact, the half-Jew in your BMG might even go so far as to call it a Real Mensch.

Real Crap Mensch Table.

Well, now that you all know Real Crap Mensch Table, I’d like to get to the real reason I called you all here today…

Real Crap Mensch Table has a serious wood glue problem, and this is an intervention.

No, wait, that wasn’t right…why were we here again?

Oh, right, we’re moonshining again!  Twist your arms, why don’t I?

You just know you’ve got some melon on its last legs sitting in your fridge taking up valuable space.  And that unstoppable Robocop garden mint (unsurprisingly, not the first time I’ve compared a plant to Robocop) needs its ranks thinned out SOMEHOW since apparently the cold weather is doing NOTHING to dampen its spirits (GOD COLD WEATHER WHY YOU SO LAZY YOU NO HELP ME NONE).

So why not do what we always do in times like these, Pinky?

What is it we always do in times like these, you ask?

Why, we band together and we moonshine!  We moonshine for all we’re worth.  We moonshine to prove to the bad guys–NAY–to ourselves, that we will not be defeated.  Because united we stand, divided we fall, but when we come together to moonshine, we stand up and then fall and then repeat the process again and again!

Kinda makes me tear up just thinkin’ about it.

**I’m linking to a reliable source for any optional special equipment or ingredients, and am telling you when there’s a  free alternative. Before settling, though, consider that most of this stuff is surprisingly dirt-cheap, SIGNIFICANTLY easier, and will last you.  Why not invest in your future as a slutty moonshiner?**

Homemade Watermelon Mint Wine
Makes 1 Gallon

Go Get:
a buncha water
3 lbs. honey or 6 cups sugar
4 lbs. watermelon cubes, seeded (yes, I am ruining your whore-tastic manicure)
1 cup packed mint leaves
juice of 3 freshly-squeezed lemons (don’t use the preserved stuff in the bottle)
1/2 cup strong black tea
1 packet wine yeast
OPTIONAL: 1 tsp. yeast nutrient
OPTIONAL: 1/2 teaspoon pectic enzyme (gobbles up the suspended pectin to prevent the formation of snotty-looking ropes and haze in your wine)

Special Stuff you’ll want to have on hand:
*A primary fermenter: 1 gallon glass jug, crock, or food grade bucket–recycled wine jugs are, obviously, perfect for this
*An auto-siphon with tubing for transferring the wine from the fermenter to the bottles without kicking up sediment; you can also just use about 4 feet of clear, plastic tubing if you’re willing to siphon manually.  If you REALLY don’t care about wine clarity or the potential for off flavors, you can use a kitchen ladle to separate wine from sediment, but you’ll need a wide-mouthed fermenter, like a bucket or crock.
*Bottles for the finished wine: 5 750-ml wine bottles (recycled is fine), or a 1 gallon wine jug, or swing-top beer growlers; if you’re not using wine bottles fitted for a screw top, make sure you have the corks for sealing them.  Sanitized, plastic 2-liter soda bottles aren’t ideal, but they’ll also work as long as you cover them to keep out light–you’ll need about 2 2-liter bottles
*A fine mesh sieve for straining the pureed fruit
*OPTIONAL: A hydrometer (not necessary, but it’ll help you figure out how alcoholic your wine is and how far along the fermentation is)
*OPTIONAL: Airlock (this keeps air from getting to your wine while still letting CO2 from the fermentation escape–you can also use plastic wrap and a rubber band to seal, though results are not as secure
*OPTIONAL: Rubber bung (heh heh…bung) to seal the fermentation jug (if you’re using one) and have a place to stick the airlock-if you’re using a fermentation bucket, the airlock can go into a pre-drilled hole in the lid. If you’re not using an airlock, do that plastic wrap/rubber band thing.

*OPTIONAL: Candy or meat thermometer (highly recommended)

Go Do:


Clean, rinse, and sanitize all tools, spoons, etc.–basically anything that is going to be touching the wine and isn’t getting boiled needs to be cleaned, rinsed, and sanitized.  See my post on doing that for the products and processes you’ll want to use.

Puree watermelon and mint in batches in a food processor.  The resulting mixture will be thin and soupy (about 9 1/2 cups).  Put it in a large pot with 2 cups water and all the honey or sugar.

Heat until very hot, but not boiling (185 degrees), and hold it at that temp for half an hour, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, boil a second pot of water and let it cool down to room temperature (70 degrees F).

Pour the hot fruit mixture through the fine mesh sieve into a sanitized bowl or pot.

Toss the pulp into the compost heap, or find a fun use for it and share your idea with the class.  Now stir in the lemon juice, tea, yeast nutrient, and pectic enzyme, if using.

Cool the mixture to room temperature (you can set the mix over an ice water bath, as shown, to speed the cooling process), and pour into the fermenter.

If the wine doesn’t fill the 1 gallon fermenter to within a few inches of the top, add water from the spare water pot (the one you boiled and cooled) and stir.  Take a reading with your hydrometer if you’re using one–write the number down for later (mine was 1.113).

Now take a half cup of the spare pot water and sprinkle on the yeast packet.  Let it sit for ten minutes to allow the yeast to reacclimate.  Then throw the yeast mixture on top of the wine mixture.  No need to stir, the yeast does a good job of that.

Now put in the rubber bung (heh heh) and airlock (or put on the lid and airlock, or use some plastic wrap secured with a rubber band).  Make sure you half fill the airlock with water to make it effective.  You may want to set the fermenter in a larger bucket in case there’s spillover during fermentation.  Put the whole deal in a dark, room-temp location.

Now we wait.  We let the yeast do their thing, periodically checking to make sure there’s still water in the airlock.  Over the next week or two, you’ll hear lots of bubbling and gurgling going on and will see bubbles coming out the airlock.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Then things slow down and yeast die and drop to the bottom of the fermenter–ah, sediment, can’t live with you, can’t live withou–actually, I just can’t live with you.

Anyhow.  If you were an advanced winemaker, you’d transfer the wine to secondary and tertiary fermenters, but it’s not strictly necessary, and I’d like to keep things simple for you beginners.  Leave the wine in that fermenter for about 2 months–the wine should have stopped fermenting and will hopefully have cleared itself (if you didn’t use pectic enzyme, or let the mixture boil, it may never clear completely).

At this point, a hydrometer really comes in handy to know how much sugar, if any, is left in the wine.  If the yeast have eaten all the sugar, you can safely bottle your wine.  Use this handy online calculator to figure out the final alcohol percentage of your finished wine.  You can test-sample, but fair warning, IT WILL BE HARSH AND PUNISHING, MISFITS.  Worry not, it shall improve immeasurably with time.  Just.  Like.  Us.

Now use your sterilized auto-siphon to transfer the wine from the fermenter (on a table or counter) to your sanitized wine bottles (on the floor), being sure to leave the sediment in the bottom of the fermenter.  If you’re using plastic tubing, set one end in the primary fermenter, the other end in your mouth–suck until the wine siphons up into the tube and quickly stick it into the secondary fermenter to catch the wine in time.  Then send me a video of you sucking on the tube.  If you’re ladling, well, ladle away!  You’ll have to leave enough space at the top of the wine bottles for sealing, about 2 inches.

Now seal using a corker if you’re fancy or a rubber mallet and some bravery if you’re not, or just apply the swing tops or screw-tops.  Put the containers back into a cool, dark location, stored sideways if you used corks, and let your wine age for a minimum of six months–a year is even better.

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By Mila Zinkova. Edited by Alvesgaspar

Heya, moonshining misfits!

It’s time to hike up your fishnets and…

clean.

I know.  That doesn’t sound badass at all.  But if you want to make your own beer, wine, and spirits, you need to know how to do this stuff.  This post will be my resource for you

Whenever you’re making alcohol and dealing with the long-term process of fermentation, you’ll need to first cleanse, then rinse, then sanitize any equipment that isn’t getting boiled.  The results if you slack off could be grody, unsafe, and unpredictable.

Sometimes grody, unsafe, and unpredictable conditions make for good times!  Not in moonshining, though.

The Boy brews beer professionally, and he turned me onto a simple system that I love and use every time I make beer or wine.

Get three 5-gallon buckets from the hardware store.  Label the first “Cleansing,” the second “Rinsing,” and the third, “Sanitizing.”  Now let’s talk about the mixtures that go into each–you have “best” options, and you have “cheap-ass” options:

Cleansing
The best option: PBW or B-Brite diluted per the manufacturer’s instructions with HOT water.
The cheap-ass option: A bit of dish soap dissolved in HOT water, though it may leave a residue that can affect the finished product.

Rinsing
Fresh, HOT water.

Sanitizing
The best option: BTF Iodophor diluted per the manufacturer’s instructions with COLD water.
The cheap-ass option:  A mixture of unscented bleach and water –1 ounce bleach per 5 gallons of water.  After doing this, you should rinse with water again and again AND OH HOLY HELL AGAIN to eliminate any remaining chlorine smell.  For obvious reasons, I’m not a fan of the bleach method, but it works.

If filling buckets in your sink seems a bit unwieldy, do like we’ve done and buy a new garden hose and sink adaptor that you can attach to your faucet.  This gives you the flexibility to work anywhere in your kitchen, and prevents you from having to do so much lifting and spilling.

The Process (you may need to do this in batches):

1) Fill the three buckets with their appropriate mixtures (see above).

2) Put items into the cleanser solution, being sure to hold any hollow items under the surface until they expel enough air to sink.  For hoses and tubing, slowly insert one end into the mixture, then gradually drop its length into the bucket, snaking around the sides-this prevents air bubble formation and ensures proper coverage.  All sides of all pieces, including the insides, need to be in contact with the cleanser for at least a minute, 2-3 minutes being preferable.

3) Move the freshly cleansed items into the rinse bucket in the same thorough fashion, agitating the items until the cleanser is off (items won’t have that slippery soap feel anymore).

4) Drop the items into the sanitizer, again taking care to coat everything and prevent air bubbles, and leave them there for at least 3 minutes.

Whoohoo!  Now you’re about as clean as you dirty, dirty misfits are gonna get.  Who knew sanitizing could be such a turn-on?

Ready to make some booze-o-hol?  Okay!

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Hey there, pumpkin muffins.

I’ve only met one of my grandparents, and none of my great grandparents.  But according to the tale I’ve been told, a great grandfather on my mother’s side was quite the Moonshine makin’ man during Prohibition.  Bathtub gin was on the menu, oh, pretty much every night.  Until that fateful day.

(Asshat Neighbors pound on door.  Great grandpa swears under his breath, gets up slowly–his knees just ain’t what they used to be–and hobbles over.  He opens the door and sees Asshat Neighbors.  Criminy, what do they want?)

Asshat Neighbors were all, “Give us some of that bathtub gin you make, or we’ll tell on you!”

And my great-grandpa was all, “No deal, Asshats!  Make your own.”

Well, maybe he didn’t say “Asshats.”  But who knows, he could have.  He is related to me.

And do you know what the Asshat Family did?  They told on him!  To the cops!  Now, where I come from, you don’t go tattling on neighbors, but I implore you to remember, dear readers, that these people were Asshats to the 10th degree.  Maybe even the 11th degree.  I’m not really sure what level of Asshattery happens at the various degrees.  I’ve also never been too clear over what the various sexual courtship “bases” are.  Which, actually, explains a lot.

Anyhow, the cops came and took my sweet little great grandpa to the slammer for making his sweet little bathtub gin and let him make one sweet little phone call to my sweet little great grandma, who had to show up to post his sweet little bail.

Wait…from what I’ve heard, there was nothing sweet, nor little, about the bail she posted.  Great grandma be pissed at great grandpa.  Great grandpa be pissed at the world.  Great grandpa sweared on the family Bible that he would have his revenge, mwahahahHAHAHAHA!

Okay, that didn’t happen.  But the bail part did, and the getting pissed part did.  And you know what else happened?  My sweet little great grandpa kept making his sweet little bathtub gin.  ‘Cause you know what?  Eff The Man!  Who is he to come between me and my gin!?

I mean, between great grandpa and HIS gin.

Well, thankfully, Prohibition eventually ended (where alcohol is concerned at least.  Did you know that weed was wiped out with alcohol when Prohibition began, and that it was never allowed back?) and when Jimmy Carter was President (remember my thank you to Jimmy Carter?) he legalized home brewing, making adventures like these (and The Boy’s career) possible!

Now, remember when I was talking about how I’m saving the pods from shelling peas in the freezer for a batch of peapod wine?  Well, I also loaded up on beets when my CSA began trying to clear them out.  Really, you don’t need too many–about 3 1/2 pounds will do just fine for a gallon of wine.  AND you get to eat the beets after you’re done with the boil.  AND it’s a great way to use up the beet boiling water that you’d otherwise have thrown out or tossed in with the compost!

People, this is free wine.  FREE WINE.

Mostly free wine.  I had everything home for this, but I was out of wine yeast.  So The Boy picked up some wine yeast for me.  For $0.36.  Then came home.  And went, Oh.  I brewed all day.  And now we’re going to brew some more.  Okay.  It’s fine.  It’s not like I wanted to sit.  Or anything.

Actually, The Boy isn’t passive-aggressive at all, nor would he ever turn down a brew project.  In fact, I ordered him to the couch and slipped the remote into his hand, but he jumped back up to bring out his sanitizing buckets and fancy tools (which you will not need).

If ever you have lied to yourself and assumed that wine making would be, OMG like sooo hard!, you can forget it.  This will take you an hour of active time to get started, tops (not at all like making beer, which, admittedly, can take kind of a while).  Even less time than an hour if you count the beet boiling time as part of dinner prep.

Which I did.  Because I like cheating the system.  Also, because I forced mass quantities of beets down our throats last night and I feel like I should get some extra credit out of that.

In case you’re curious, the finished wine is like a deep, dry, earthy red.  Or more like fuschia.  I likeses that.  I want to go to there.  Do you want to go to there with me?

Then shut the blinds and cast a suspicious sideways glance at your neighbors!  Gather round, children!  It’s beet wine we be makin’ tonight!  Bathtub optional!

No Asshats allowed.

Beet Wine
Makes 1 gallon

Go Get:
3 1/2 to 4 pounds of beets, peeled, with the tops and a sliver of the bottoms cut off (I used a mix, which will influence the color somewhat.)
5 3/4 cups sugar (I myself think it would be kinda awesome to use beet sugar for this part.  Just for parallelism.  Or something.  Whatever, I used evaporated cane juice.  I’m betting you could also tweak this and use honey.)
Juice of 2 large lemons, or 3 small ones
1 1/2 cups strong, cold black tea
1 packet wine yeast
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient (not strictly necessary, but recommended.  Hit a home brewing store–I like Brew & Grow in Chicago.)

Stuff You Should Have on Hand:
1 gallon glass jug
Another glass jug or food-grade bucket
An airlock
A siphon (or a ladle)
Wine bottles and corks

Go Do:
Hi!

Cleanse, rinse, and sanitize any equipment that’ll be touching wine but that isn’t getting boiled.

Okay, so now you put those rough and ready beets into a pot, cover ’em with, oh, 12 cups of water or so, and bring it to a boil.  Then lower the heat and simmer the beets until they’re tender enough to eat (for me, this took about 30 minutes).  Take out the beets and eat ’em or save for another use.

Stir in the sugar until it’s completely dissolved.  Now cover it and let it all cool to somewhere in the area of 70 degrees F.  When this happens, stir in the tea, yeast nutrient, and lemon juice.

Pour the liquid into your bucket or first jug (use a funnel if you need to), and fill with enough filtered water to make a gallon (but leave some room for 1/4 cup liquid).  At this point you can take a hydrometer reading to determine the original gravity of your mix.  Why?  Well, ’cause if you know it, you can take a final gravity reading after fermentation and determine the exact alcohol percentage of your finished wine.  Click here to figure out how to use one properly.  But admittedly, this is a totally unnecessary step.  We have a hydrometer that gets pretty regular use around here, so I took a reading.  If all goes according to plan, my finished wine will be between 12 and 13 percent alcohol.  Sweet!

Now mix the packet of yeast into about 1/4 cup lukwarm water…around 100 degrees F.  Let it sit for 5 minutes and re-acclimate to the liquid world.  There’s a science-y reason we do this, but I won’t bore you with that now.  Scrape down the sides of the yeast bowl and pour it into the beet stuff.

Mmm…beet stuff.

Even Bad Mama Genny makes messes. It's okay. Calm down.

Stick a sterilized airlock (filled with a little water) into the jug’s neck or a tight hole in the lid of your bucket.  The airlock allows CO2 to get out without allowing bacteria in.  And you need to let CO2 out.  Otherwise, I hope you like exploded glass.

‘Cause I know I heart exploded glass!

Put your jug in a dark place that’s between 70 and 75 degrees.  Let the whole thing sit and ferment for about a week, or until activity slows down.  What activity? you might be asking.  Well, about 12 hours after the yeast is pitched, you’ll notice signs of fermentation.  The jug may produce a gurgling or bubbling sound, or a clicking from the airlock.  You’ll see lots of air bubbles moving around, perhaps some foaming up top, and lots of gas bubbles rising up out of the airlock.  Once the little yeasties have eaten lots of nommable sugars, though, they’ll get tired.  Their environment is full of alcoholic waste, and there’s no more food.  Man, this really sucks!  Fermentation slows.  Some of the yeast will drop to the bottom of the jug and die.

<Sad trombone sound>

So after fermentation has slowed to a stop, use a sterilized siphon or ladle to move the liquid from the first container into another sterilized jug.  Be careful to leave the yeast sediment and general STUFF on the bottom of the first container.  You’re going for a clear wine, and muddy stuff does not aid this process.  Stick that airlock back on top (again, with a little water inside), and put it back in its dark, happy place.  You’ll want to leave it until the wine clears itself.  If you’re not sure, there should be no signs of fermentation, and no air bubbles in the air lock.  This usually takes about 8 weeks.

Dios mio, you mean I have to wait to drink this wine?!

Yes, yes, I do mean that.  And you’ll have to wait longer:  After that 8 week thingy happens, use that sterilized siphon (or ladle and funnel) to transfer the wine into sterilized wine bottles.  Leave a little less than an inch of space at the top.  You can take another hydrometer reading now–click here to figure out how to use one properly.  Cork or seal the bottles and move them into a cool, dark place to age for ::drumroll::…

4 to 6 months!  I know, I know, waiting to get drunk is NO FUN, DUDES.  No fun at all.  So I recommend having other alcohol on hand to meet your party animal needs.  Don’t try to drink the beet wine before this time has elapsed, though, and leaving a little more time will generally make it even better.  Wine that’s way too young?  Not as tasty, my friends.  Not. As. Tasty.

So whaddya think?  Sure, it’s a wait, and sure you can buy wine, but this is fun!  It gives you bragging rights, and it will make people at BYOB places think you’re a total badass.  Not to mention it’s waste-preventing and almost free!  How can you turn down free wine?

I’ll tell you, my sweet little cucumbers–you can’t.  You just can’t.

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Albert Chevallier Tayler - Girl Shelling Peas 1886

I’ve already hinted at my strange fixation over dandelion wine, and talked about planting dandelions (HA!  PLANTING DANDELIONS!  LIKE, ON PURPOSE!), but really, the boozing doesn’t stop there.

No, sir.

I recently came across a recipe for peapod wine that I’ve been jonesing to try.  Apparently the result is along the lines of a Riesling.  Of course, peapods aren’t the only food you can turn into wine (beets are supposed to make fab red wine), but I love the idea of using the leftover veggie parts you’d ordinarily toss or compost to make something of value.

And wine has some serious value around here.

There are three kinds of peas coming up in the garden right now, and two kinds of shelling peas.  Plus, the CSA has already delighted me once this Spring with a big ol’ bag of English peas.  It was fun to leave the tv off, cuddle up next to The Boy, and shell some peas while he tapped away on his laptop.  Every now and then I’d smack him in the mouth with a handful of peas and he’d mumble something that I’m going to assume was grateful in tone.

Ah, love.

I’m thinking that by the time summer’s heat kicks in, I should have the requisite four pounds of shells, maybe more, to do some tinkering in our fermentation room.

What are you folks brewing these days?  Home distilling is still illegal ’round these parts, but most states have permitted home brewing for some time (you can thank Jimmy Carter for that).

Also, why was Jimmy Carter so unappreciated in his time?  Poor Jimmy Carter.  You know I’ve got your back, right, Jimmy?

Right.

I’d love to hear about any family moonshine recipes you’ve picked up from relatives or an old homesteading book or two.  Bonus points if they use foraged or “leftover” ingredients!  Extra special super-duper bonus points if you’re actually Jimmy Carter.

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