Step One Of ?, Check!

What did I find in the mail yesterday? This:



That’s only the first of many tasks to getting a fully functioning winery underway. But you have to start somewhere. I texted this image to one of my friends earlier this morning, and the comment back was something to the effect that the gravy train was ending. Well, not quite yet. And there’s strong likelihood¬†of a friends-and-family discount, I imagine. Or maybe a stay-at-home-mom’s discount. I’m thinking that one would be a great idea ūüôā I’m not altogether business savvy. The production and design side will be easier than the marketing and sales, methinks.

Oh, and on top of that, I finally did it.

Less Beardy This Morning

Less Beardy This Morning

Then decided to do some more this evening:

Nice and Neat

Nice and Neat

Night, one and all!

Ginger Ale, Take 2

Ginger Ale/Beer, Just Started

Ginger Ale/Beer, Just Started

My first effort at ginger ale was a definite success, with Kim especially pleased. It required adding additional club soda each glass, and there was still plenty of ginger flavor to go around. But that was the “cheat” method. Now, it is time to try it the “old-fashioned” way. Little bit of yeast, little bit of time…

But first, I had to check out “ginger beer”. Was there any technical difference? Well. Seems with some, no. But with most, ginger beer is the alcoholic (even if only slightly, as is typical), while ginger ale is not. Seems added to that¬†the fermented tends to be more gingery (which may explain the fact that the recipe for the same quantity uses much less ginger). And¬†“ginger beer”¬†tends to be less carbonated and less sweet (though the recipes I have used both called for equivalent amounts of sugar). Then again, the limited amount of alcohol and carbonation and ginger beer would consume some of that sugar, thus making it less sweet.

This all seems to make sense.

So, I threw 1 cup of sugar in a 2Q¬†jug (sanitized, for the safety of all involved). I added 1/4 tsp. of bread yeast. Hopefully that won’t come off bready. I mixed that up well, and proceeded to grate the ginger until I had about 2 tbsp. of finally grated ginger, both skin and pulp. I added the juice of one lemon to that (removing the seeds). While the recipe did not mention it, there was a noticeable color change, with the ginger-lemon mixture turning¬†a pink/reddish shade, rather than its previous yellow. And you could tell it was the lemon hitting the ginger pulp, as the stuff untouched by the ginger remained yellow. This I mixed with a little water¬† and then added to the jug (funnel handy). I used some more water to clean out what was left in the ginger-lemon bowl, adding it to the mix. A little bit more water, to about three-quarters¬†full, and then I shook the living daylights out of it. Topped up to about 1 inch from the top, shook once more briefly, and set it out of the way.

And now we wait. All that was finished at around 4PM, so should be pre-dinner either today or tomorrow.

I’d Love Some Ginger Ale!

A friend on facebook asked if anyone liked ginger ale. I’ve always wanted to try making it, and so given a spare moment, thought, “Why not now?”

Not bad for a first time, only took about 30 minutes or so. I have hopes in the future to do a naturally carbonated version (or two), but tonight I cheated and used the syrup method, with club soda. Didn’t pull it off as well as I might have hoped, so I think it is a bit under-carbonated…but we’ll get to that.

I started with a recipe over at wikihow. I’m in no way endorsing the site or any of its ads… And with that out of the way, I did “modify” the recipe. That recipe is really geared around individual glasses, and fairly small ones in my mind. I wanted a solid 2Q worth to share with friends tomorrow morning. That meant calculating out the right portions.

Basically, the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of ginger water : 1/3 cup sugar syrup : 1/2 cup club soda. 2Q is 8 cups, so do the math, and that is multiplying the recipe by 6. So,¬†3 cups of ginger water, 2 cups of sugar water and 3 cups of club soda. But…but…

If you check out the recipe, it calls for 2 cups of water and 1 cup of peeled and diced ginger. And that is just not going to cut it here. Not to mention that we need 2 cups of sugar syrup, and that is not going to be the end result of 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. So we wing it a bit. Guesstimate. Approximate. I started by throwing 3 cups of water in one pan and 1.5 cups water in another, and setting them on to boil. To the former I added 1.5 cups of peeled and diced ginger. To the later I added 1.5 cups of sugar. And then we wait for a boil to begin.

Boil on, I let the ginger boil at a slightly lower heat for 5 minutes, and then steep it for 20 off the heat. The syrup, I just take it off once the sugar is completely dissolved. Once it was cooled a bit I added it to the 2Q jug sitting waiting, with a small dribble of lemon juice. Once the 20 minutes were up, I strained and added the ginger water. And finally, I measured out the 3 cups of club soda, adding it to the top.

So first, I think there is a tad too much lemon. Better luck next time. Second, don’t measure your club soda before putting it in the glass. Wing it and trust your vision. Because I think I lost a lot of bubble in the process, sort of defeating the purpose a bit. Then again, I didn’t want to sample too much, so maybe it was just the limited ginger ale, mostly still warm, over ice to cool a bit. Maybe chilled the experience will be better.

Of course, it still tastes decent. There is that definite ginger tickle/burn on the edges of the tongue. So we’ll just wait and see in the morning.

Kim decided to try it and did so without ice. She then proceeded to remark on how much of a bite it had (still noting that it was very good). She forced me to try some more, without ice this time, so still slightly warm. The burn goes all the way down to the lungs, but the taste is quite good. Apparently the ice just watered it down too much when I sampled. So, yay!

My “Private” Label

So I finally took the time to work on my own personal label. I had already messed with a picture of myself that I liked, and cartoonized it a bit. Not too much, but enough that it was no longer photograph-y. I thought I should go ahead and get it all worked out now while I had bottles waiting to be labeled…

In all I labeled 92 bottles today; over lunch I labeled 54 bottles of Hard Cider (Batch 33,¬† 6.7% ABV), and this evening 16 bottles of Muscadine¬†Wine (Batch 32, with an unknown ABV due to no recorded original gravity), 6 bottles of Oaked¬†Cyser¬†(Batch 34-O, 14.6% ABV) and 16 bottles of Cyser¬†(Batch 34, 14.7% ABV). Couple weeks till the cider is primed fully, and a little longer before I’ll try the Muscadine¬†or any of the Cysers.

Now, with all that out of the way, I need to get back to the remaining batches…pretty sure the quad is ready for bottling (with additional sugar and yeast), and the plum wine was pretty close even before this round of bottling.

Back To It

Bottling the cider took way longer than I originally expected. But I think the results will be well worth it. Only a couple of weeks to see!

I started by making a syrup by boiling 1/4 cup of water along with 3 ounces of sugar – enough to hopefully prime a five gallon batch of cider. I then racked the cider onto the sugar syrup. It went much better than last time, thankfully. I then started bottling.

Filling a whole bunch of bottles (the guess was near 50 for five gallons) takes quite some time. And I’m afraid I made a mess of every nearby surface. But I still came away with more than expected. End result was 17 11.2 ounce bottles (love these bottles, recycled from St. Bernadus ABT12), 34 12 ounce bottles (most of them recycled cider bottles), and 3 larger bottles (not sure the exact size¬† – maybe 24 or¬†so ounces). I even had enough after all that to fill a glass, a pleasant thought.

Initial reactions? The apple is not lost! I’ve made cider with lesser ingredients, and this is by far better. Not carbonated of course, but it was still pleasant. The vibrant amber in the carboy is not so bright in the glass or bottle, where it takes on a lighter yellow hue.

Good night!

Looks Like It’s That Time

So today I began bottling things that I’ve been meaning to get to over the last couple weeks, but, for one reason or another, had not been able to. I spent the better part of the afternoon washing and sanitizing wine bottles, interspersed with¬†episodes of helping kids with homework. Then, I got to work, starting with the Muscadine wine.

With 3 gallons of Muscadine wine in a carboy, and the knowledge that my wife would prefer a sweeter Muscadine wine, I calculated 12 ounces of sugar (a ratio of 4 ounces per gallon). I brought these 12 ounces to¬†a boil in one cup of water, and transferred the resulting syrup to my bottling bucket. I then transferred¬†the wine to the bucket, letting gravity do the work of distributing the sugar into the wine. Bottling took about a half hour in all (including heating the syrup), and I ended the process with 15 75 cL bottles of varying shades of brown and green, and one clear 20 cL¬†bottle filled with yummy, musky wine. Having¬†tasted the remainders in the bottling bucket, I’m quite happy. It’s not a very dark red wine, more of a rose color –¬†thin, but with a great smell and taste.

Muscadine bottled and corked, I began planning for next things. For dinner, we were scheduled to attend a chili “cook-off”. It went quite well, and was a great time with friends. Returning home, kids were placed snugly in bed, and I got to work on the next “ready” brew, the cyser.

First, I addressed the single gallon of oaked cyser. I had no plans to sweeten it, so I quickly moved to bottling. Took about five minutes, and I was done. It wasn’t as simple as originally intended, though. Luckily, I had the rest of the un-oaked cyser ready to go. I ended up with 3 75 cL bottles of oaked cyser, one more with just a tiny bit of un-oaked cyser to top, and then 2 bottles that were 2/3 oaked, and 1/3 not. Basically, I had just a bit over the typical 5 bottles per gallon, and I stretched it to a full¬†six by adding some un-oaked cyser to the mix.

I then moved on to the three gallons of unoaked cyser. I wanted to vary the level of sugar, and so plotted out a course of adding sugar in gradiated amounts for each gallon. That basically meant adding 6 ounces of sugar at the start, filling five bottles, adding 4 more ounces of sugar, then filling another 5 bottles, finally adding a last 2 ounces of sugar, before filling the final 5 bottles. But that isn’t what happened. I started as I suggested, with 6 ounces of sugar (syrup boiled in 1/2 cup of water). That resulted in the first five bottles sweetened 2 ounces per gallon. I then added the next dosage of sugar syrup (4 ounces of sugar boiled in 1/4 cup of water), and bottled the next five.

Since I¬†was rather messy, I had opportunity to taste some of the cyser. My impression was that it was plenty sweet. So I decided to skip further sweetening, and bottled the remainder as it was. End result, five standard wine bottles sweetened at 2 ounces of sugar per gallon, and another ten bottles at 4 ounces per gallon. Plus¬†one 37.5 cL bottle…so cute.

With that, I decided to work on the cider. It had seemed to bubble forever! The five gallons glows a lovely crystal yellow. After the long wait, the cider has finally stopped all bubbling, and I was ready to prime it and start bottling. I washed the bottles. I put the priming sugar (boiled syrup of 3 ounces of sugar and 1/4 up of water) in the bottling bucket.¬†I was attaching the syphon hose to the racking cane, when I jiggled it more than intended and stirred up the sediment at the bottom. Oops. I watched in sullenly, then decided it was a good excuse to call it quits for the evening’s labors.

So, I dumped the sugar solution and washed everything. Hands are a bit dried out from all the cleaning and the StarSan…In any case, the bottles are ready, sanitized, and I can pick back up with the process tomorrow, maybe over lunch.

And that only leaves four gallons of plum wine that is oh-so-close to being ready to bottle (as with the cyser, some oaked but most not), 2…no 3¬†five gallon batches of braggot happily bubbling away (all at different stages of completion), a cranberry wine not very far along, and the quadruple that I think has finally stopped bubbling (six weeks my foot). Oh, and the blueberries (1 gallon of wine, 1 of mead) that refuse to finish!