April 29, 2013

Saturday, I began the day sanitizing jugs so that I could rack and apply potassium metabisulfite and sorbate to the “finished” strawberry melomel. But it was not to be. Moving the carboy to the counter-top, I found it bubbling little tiny bubbles once again. So I’m slightly bummed that I didn’t get to start the bottling process (it is still actively bubbling), but happy that the reason is it’s not yet done turning sugar into alcohol!

As for the sweet mead, it bubbled quite aggressively before settling down a bit. Now it is still bubbling quite actively, but the large bubbles from the airlock are separated by a couple of seconds, with the smell changing from the obvious sweetness of honey to a little more of the sulfur/egg smell. Probably will be looking at the pH this weekend to make sure it is in a good range (>3.7) to keep the yeast happy in their sugary-sweet environment. I picked up test strips at the wine supply shop on Saturday afternoon. I have not used them in wine/mead-making before, so it should be interesting. Also picked up a wine-thief. Hopefully it will make gravity testing a little easier.

Sunday afternoon, I began what is not, strictly speaking, fermentation, but is nevertheless a wonderful use of a fig tree (and vodka or gin, and sugar). I made Fig Leaf liquor. For three bottles (750ml), I collected just over 20 fig leaves from branches that I didn’t want fruit from in the first place. Taking a mixture half water, half sugar by volume (for three bottles it was 4.5 cups each), I brought it to a rolling boil and added the rinsed fig leaves. I stirred occasionally, keeping it at the boil for 20 minutes. I then allowed the sugar-fig-leaf-tea to cool. Once sufficiently cooled, I discarded the fig leaves and added the remaining liquid to wine bottles (sticking to the kind that needed no cork; no need to waste a cork when there is no chance of re-fermentation). To each of the three bottles I added 1.5 cups of vodka/gin, then I sealed with screw tops and stored away in a dark place in the basement. A month from now they will be done, and I will take them out of hiding.

The original inspiration for the drink called for gin, and I used vodka instead last fall. Still was wonderful. The three bottles I made this weekend are each unique, to test the difference the alcohol makes to the flavor. To one I added gin, another vodka, and the last received half and half (3/4 cup each of gin and vodka). Not as high quality vodka as what I used last year, nor a high quality gin. But hopefully good enough for this application. Last year’s batch was made with the last leaves on the tree as cold descended, but this batch will have been made with newly green leaves. So I hope to see if there is any difference in the end result based on the timing of leaf “harvest”.

And I still have to get my next braggot under-way. All the ingredients sit on my supply shelf just waiting to be put into action. Things have simply been too busy to perform the initial steps.

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