Apple Mint?

Sampling The Mint Wine

Sampling The Mint Wine

So I though it might be nice to get a “first glance” at the mint that has been aging. It isn’t “ready” per the recipe until March, but no harm in trying, right?

It is sweet (I did sweeten at bottling), and it has a subtle mint flavor. It is quite drinkable – tasty, even. But Kim pointed out that it has an apple note to it as well, which she is quite right on further tasting. Turns out our yard’s naturally growing mint is “apple mint”. I didn’t know such a thing existed, but searching online, Kim appears to be absolutely correct. Most people speak more of the “smell” of apple from the mint. Maybe fermentation has cut back the minty-ness to the point that the apple is more pronounced in the flavor.

Either way, the result is delightful.

“Weird” Cherry Braggot, And Other Things

Well this should be interesting.

I threw 2.5 gallons of water in the freezer, and another 4.5 quarts of water on the stove. Typical recipe stuff, but this time done correctly. I may have already mentioned it, but my recipe actually has conflicting numbers here, but after the last batch, I now know what the right numbers are…but…

I threw all my leftover grain in a bag. That included 2 pounds of pale malt, 2.5 pounds of crystal malt, and a pound of chocolate malt. That’s a total of 5.5 pounds of malt grain, so I should have gotten just a bitt higher temp on my water before adding the grains to mash in. I got it only to 170. The recipe is written with 4.5 pounds of grain in mind (and of course a completely different sort), so the rest temp dropped to around 140, a little lower than is really acceptable for starch conversion in this process. I heated up some of the additional sparge water (1G is specified), and in the end added about a third of a gallon of higher temp water to get the temp up to a solid 150F.

I mashed in for 30 minutes, nothing unusual there, and then sparged with the remaining water (at 180F). I set this on to boil, and then went to check on the cherries. Turns out my daughters with both responsible for eating the cherries. And the eldest says she “didn’t know” she wasn’t allowed to eat them. We’ll just move on from there, I suppose. While the boil continued, with my wife minding the house, I ran to the store and picked up some more cherries. Back home, I halved 3 pounds of cherries, added them to a fermentation bag, and during the last ten minutes of the boil, threw in the cherries.

And I went ahead and purchased an extra pound for the girls, while I was at it.

I put 10 pounds of sage honey in the fermentation bucket, followed by the bag of cherries. The taste of the sage is decent, but I am not exactly a fan of the smell. It is what I have on hand, and we will see how it goes. In any case, I took the pan of boiled mash and placed it in an ice bath for a bit (got it down to about 120F). I then poured it into the honey-cherry mix, and stirred up to combine. to this I added the chilled water, followed by some additional tap water to make up to 5.5 gallons. Turns out that the boil evaporated quite a bit of water.

A Muddy Rendition of Braggot, by the name of "Weird" Cherry

A Muddy Rendition of Braggot, by the name of “Weird” Cherry

But all this worked out perfectly, with a resulting temp of 69F, a reasonable temp to start yeast. I tossed in 2 tsp. each of yeast nutrient and yeast energizer, then had to take off for lunch. A superb sausage, ricotta and spinach calzone later, I rehydrated 10g (2 packs) of K1-V1116 yeast according to package directions (typical, 15 minutes at 104-109F). I pitched the yeast and covered the bucket.

So in the end, we have a grab bag of grains, a grassy-smelling sage honey, and 3 pounds of halved cherries. A deeply opaque black-brown, it came out to a 1.090 SG when measured prior to adding the yeast.

As for the other things: I racked the braggot started early in the week to a 5 gallon carboy. Uneventful, honestly. I did get to sample some, and it needs more time to develop. If memory does not escape me, this is a “hopless” version of my typical recipe. And it shows, with a very mead-like flavor, with the maltiness of the “beer” side not nearly as in-your-face, at least for the time being. Still good, I thought. The specific gravity measured 1.020. So I might be a teeny bit premature in racking it, but in my estimation it needed to get under a good airlock, and my bucket doesn’t have a good enough seal. Once I saw limited bubbling through the airlock (meaning air was escaping through the lid’s sides), it was time.

And finally, I just put the yeast on to rehydrate for the cranberry wine started yesterday, a 5g package of Montrachet yeast, per Garey’s recipe. Right on time for the 24 hour pectic enzyme soak, I’ll toss it in and we’ll watch it get underway, too. Oh, and the SG came out to a whopping 1.132! Cheerful, indeed!

Sampling the "Hopless Braggot", or Braggot V (Batch 35)

Sampling the “Hopless Braggot”, or Braggot V (Batch 35)

Heads Will Roll

As my grain mashes for the weird cherry braggot, I headed to the refrigerator to process the cherries. At which point I find that my children (one or more of them) have eaten a pound of the cherries. Cherries I told them explicitly not to touch. Cherries which I had already caught them sampling, and instructed not to touch again. Or, I assumed sampling. Maybe they had already eaten the pound of them by the time of that final warning.

Not pleased. But, I suppose it’s just cherries. They could have gotten into worse. Still, not happy.

Get ready… Get set… Ahhhh.

And so vacation begins. I’m not much of a person to sleep in, though I’m no early riser, either. So, with the kids awake and readying themselves for school, I arose, started a pot of coffee and got my shower. I should preface this, I suppose, with many thanks to and for my wife who allowed me such a leisurely rise this morning! Finding myself clean, I moved on to a couple of honey-do tasks…putting in a new kitchen trash bag (Monday is trash day) and taking out the recyclables. That didn’t take too long, so here I am, mug of coffee in hand and ready to get something done today.

Two things are essentially on the plate for today. One, I will begin a weird cherry braggot. And two, one of my daughters sings in a school concert this evening, which I shall be attending. That’s it. I know, full plate. But it’s vacation! Ah, but wait, first I must tell of the cranberry wine I began yesterday…

It all began with leftover pomegranate arils and cranberries, from making a delectable cranberry sauce (compote?!) for a Christmas party. Not one to let extra fruit go to waste, I needed something that would use the remaining berries. I did have to pick up some more, but we’ll ignore that…

I started with Terry Garey’s recipe for “Cheerful Cranberry Wine”, from The Joy of Home Winemaking. The recipe calls for:

3 lbs. fresh or frozen cranberries or lingonberries
3 3/4 quarts water
3 lbs. sugar or 3 1/2 lbs. mild honey
1 lb. golden raisins (optional)
1/4 tsp. tannin
1/2 tsp. acid blend
1 tsp. yeast nutrient
1 Campden tablet, crushed (optional)
1/2 tsp. pectic enzyme
1 packet Montrachet yeast

Loading The Cran/Pom Mix Into The Bag

Loading The Cran/Pom Mix Into The Bag

I say started, as I made a number of modifications; for starters, I added the pomegranate arils – nearly a pound of them. To that I added 30 ounces (almost two pounds) of cranberries (rinsed and picked over). Those went into a pan, with some of the water and were brought to a boil, then promptly removed from the heat and tossed into a fermentation bag sitting in my fermentation bucket. I then put the sugar (not honey, since I have other plans for the honey in my pantry) in about half of the remaining water, and began to bring it to a boil. Three pounds? Cheerful, indeed.

The recipe called for soaking the raisins overnight and then chopping and throwing them in the bag. Um, no, that didn’t happen. First, I used “normal” raisins, not golden ones. The raisins are needed for adding body, says the author, which is why they are optional. That’s all well and good. But I’ve made raisin wine, and it’s pretty good in its own right. So, anyway, I used the non-golden raisins. Rather than soak overnight ands then chop, something I have attempted before and rather hate, I simply tossed them in the blender with some of the heating sugar-water. Bzzzzz. And then I tossed the slurry into the fermentation bag.

I just now realize that I forgot to mash up the fruit blend at this point, as instructed. Hmmm.

The Point At Which I Forgot To Mash The Fruit

The Point At Which I Forgot To Mash The Fruit

Once the rest of the sugar-water had been boiled, that got poured overtop the now tied-off bag. And then I added the rest of the water. I checked the temp, still too high to put in the pectic enzyme (I was skipping the Campden tablet/potassium metabisulfite). I put the lid on the bucket and put it in the freezer. An hour later, I checked the temp again.

A Beautiful Cascade

A Beautiful Cascade

Well, it still wasn’t quite as cool as I wanted, and I had a hike to go on with my son. I did go ahead and toss in the remaining chemicals (the yeast nutrient, acid blend and wine tannin, as instructed). To that I added a 1/4 tsp. of yeast energizer, as well. I put the lid back on and left it on the counter while we hiked. Returning, a couple of hours later, I was satisfied, and added the pectic enzyme.

And then there was the Christmas party. Fun with friends, great food, and the guys won the game of Bible Outburst. I would say it was due to our massive intellects (ahem), but I believe it was more due to our skilled use of “passing” (per the rules, of course). The girls didn’t know what hit ’em. Places Where The Israelites Camped During The Exodus? Oh, yes, please, let’s pass.

[And around 4:30 this afternoon, I will add the yeast.]

Almost Christmas!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Things are progressing, bubbling as they should. But today, I took some time and went through reviewing each of my batches and checking specific gravity where appropriate.

Hard Cider, With Pre-Oak Plum in the Background

Hard Cider, With Pre-Oak Plum in the Background

  • Batch #25 (Blueberry Wine) Finally some progress! Still the slowest batch I’ve seen to date, with an SG this afternoon of 1.016. It is still coughing up tiny bubbles on a regular basis.
  • Batch #26 (Blueberry Melomel) The melomel, on the other hand, is down to an SG of 1.005. Which is still pretty high for all the time it has had to ferment. But it, too, is happily bubbling tiny bubbles.
  • Hungarian Oaked Plum Wine

    Hungarian Oaked Plum Wine

    Batch #29 (Plum Wine) Since my last post, the plum wine has been clearing, split among a 3G carboy and a 1G jug. I checked their gravities individually, finding the 3G carboy at 0.992, and the other at 0.994. Both could stand some racking, which will probably be done after the new year.

  • Batch #29O (Oaked Plum Wine) With it clearing nicely, but a bit of time until I will act on it, I decided to add oak chips (they are actually small cubes) to the single gallon of plum wine. I used 0.5 ounces of Hungarian Oak. We’ll see how it does.
  • Batch #30 (Belgian Quadruple) The quadruple just bubbles and bubbles. They’re tiny, but there are enough of them to form a sizeable head at all times. With such a stream of carbon dioxide, I decided to skip testing SG. Another time.
  • Batch #31 (Braggot IV) The bubbles continue on this one as well, also forming a head, though much smaller. I skipped testing SG on this as well.
  • Batch #32 (Muscadine Wine) The Muscadine wine is looking good, and has a wonderful “musky” flavor to match its composition. It’s thin for such a dark red wine, but no big deal. No activity, and it continues to clear nicely. SG measured at 0.998.
  • Batch #33 (Hard Cider) While racking the hard cider and the cyser below, I ended up topping up the cider with some of the cyser. Seemed like a better decision than topping with water. Should add the smallest of amounts of additional alcohol to the cider, and a little more spice. Neither of which is a problem, of course. The hard cider still has a couple of drifting bubbles, so is not quite ready for bottling (the SG is 1.000). But it is already a crystal-clear amber.
  • Batch #34 (Fall’s Bounty Cyser) In late November, I racked the cyser, splitting it between a 3G carboy, a one gallon jug, and a 1.5L bottle for the leftovers. Both are clearing nicely. The 3G jug measured an SG of 1.000 this afternoon.
  • Batch #34O (Oaked Cyser) When I racked and separated the cyser above, I added American oak chips (0.5 ounces) to the 1G jug. My wife and I sampled it yesterday, and both agreed it is already it has quite an exceptional flavor. Today, the SG measured in at 1.001. Looking forward to bottling it!
  • Batch #35 (Braggot V) This is a “true” replacement for the “burnt” braggot, which had been a test of an un-hopped braggot. I started it mid-week, and so far so good. It is still in the primary bucket, and bubbling nicely. I’ll probably move it to a carboy early in the week. It makes use of Orange Blossom honey, and came together easily – almost like I knew what I was doing (almost). It started with an SG of 1.082, respectable for something that will likely end up in carbonated ~12oz bottles.

Most of the liqueurs are done – the apple, the Asian pear and such. Quite good. Still working on just the right amount of cinnamon so that it is noticeable, but not too strong. Have examples of both the low and high of that spectrum. But with those out of the way, I did start some new liqueurs, which should be ready just in time for Christmas! One is a deep red, made of pomegranate arils and cranberries. Another is brown sugar and cloves, with some added Arkansas Black apples – just enough to add a little apple flavor, hopefully. Another is for Kim; she asked me to try and make one with just brown sugar and cinnamon, not adding any fruit. So I did. And lastly is one I’m prematurely calling “Cranberry Sauce”. It combines key limes, tangerines and cranberries. Not sure how it will turn out, but I hope well.

Tomorrow or the next day I have plans to start two things. The first is a gallon batch of cranberry wine. ‘Tis the season, I guess. It combines a bunch of sugar, a bunch of cranberries with additional pomegranate, and a hefty dose of raisin, for body. Could have started it this evening, but decided to watch some White Collar on Netflix with my wife.

The second is (another!) 5G braggot. But it is not going to be the typical recipe frame I have used. It will have more crystal malt and less pale malt, plus a large (the recipe calls for none, so any is large, I suppose) dose of chocolate malt. And cherries, instead of hops. That’s the plan anyway. I’m guessing it will be darker than my first batch, but lighter than Braggot IV. Probably darker than Braggot V, as well. I’m hoping it shines a blackish-red in the light. I bet it will have much more of a tart punch than any of the previous ones.

Looking forward to a week off of work next week: starting some new batches before the holidays roll around, making some Muscadine jelly from the ones I tucked away in the freezer, maybe some “honey-do” list activities and enjoying some of what I have set aside this year…