Using The Ginger Bug

Today was the day to start making use of the ginger bugs I’ve created. The “wild” ferment is not yet bubbling visibly, so I’m going to give it more time to build strength before using. The other two were ready to go!

I may try some teas or other “soda” types of beverages in the future, but for now, it is ginger beer/ale I am interested in. With that in mind, I washed up two plastic juice containers (previously emptied) and added a liter and a half of distilled water to each. To each I added the juice of one half of a lime and one half of a lemon. I added 1/2 cup of white sugar to each, as well. I cut up a 5-6″ piece of ginger and split it between the two bottles.

Such was the prep work. To one of the bottles I added about a half cup of the strained liquid from the bread-yeast ginger beer. The other received a half cup of the Pasteur Champagne yeast ginger bug. I tightened the lids down and shook to mix things together. Now all that is left to do is wait!

I guess there was a little bit more, though. To replenish the bugs, I added 2 tbsp. of honey, 2 tbsp. chopped ginger and 2 tbsp. of water to each of the ginger bugs that were used for ginger beer.


Day Four

Day four, and still no visible bubbling to speak of in Ginger Bug trial 1. Ginger Bugs 2 and 3 are happily bubbling away still. However, it does appear that there is some lee accumulation beginning to form at the bottom of trial 1, which bodes well. It’s not much, and nothing compared to the lees from the other two trials with applied yeast. But it is a step in the right direction!

The Day The Norse Sacked Paris, or, Poulet au Hydromel

With everyone in the family germified and generally feeling under the weather and unhappy, including myself, I almost decided against my plan for dinner. But a warm, chicken-y stew sounded like it just might hit the spot. And so I got to cooking once my workday was done.

Coq au vin. A tasty, warm, comforting french dish. No, that’s not quite right, the chicken I had on hand was at one time female. Poulet au vin? Close, but no; I have no red wine on hand. Or at least, none I want to use on dinner. Poulet au vin blanc!  White wine makes for a nice change every once in while, but, I almost forgot, I’m out of thyme. Eh, I have a better idea: poulet au hydromel,chicken braised in mead”. Oh, this will be interesting.

Here are the ingredients, for starters:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 12 oz. salt pork, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 2 small onions peeled and chunked
  • 6 shallots diced
  • 6 oz baby carrots
  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 8 coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 4 tbsp. flour
  • dry mead to cover
  • basmati rice
  • 1 tbsp. brandy
  • 2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

Step 1

I started by adding the oil to the pan, and using kitchen shears I chopped the salt pork into the pan. The goal is rendering it. Doesn’t take long.

Salt Pork Rendering

Salt Pork Rendering

Step 2

I added all the vegetables to the oil and pork in the pan, and cooked until soft. Then I transferred all to a colander with a bowl to catch the oil, which gets added back to the pan. The vegetables stay to the side during Step 3, out of the pan.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Step 3

I took the chicken breasts and cut them into medium-sized chunks using the kitchen sheers. I browned them to satisfaction. It is not necessary to cook all the way through! I probably could have cooked them to a nicer brown, but they were still a bit frozen, which generated a little more water than desired.

Browning The Chicken

Browning The Chicken

Step 4

I added the vegetables on top of the chicken, and added all the spices, pre-measured, to the pan. Then I mixed that all together, finishing by covering all with mead. Usually, as I’ve already mentioned, this is a wine dish – red or white depending on what you feel like. But today it is mead, honey wine. To cover, it took about 1 1/2 75 cl. (standard) bottles of homemade “traditional” dry mead. And usually I use equivalent amounts of thyme and marjoram, not coriander or nutmeg. But I thought both with go with the mead nicely (and I was right).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Step 5

I brought this to a simmer, then reduced the heat and covered. It cooked for about an hour. The hour is a nice pause to sit down with a glass of the mead, as well as make the basmati rice (or noodles, or plain white rice, or whatever; this time it was basmati because it’s what I had readily available). It’s also plenty of time to tell the kids that it is time for dinner and to wash up (not that they will necessarily pay attention).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Step 6

Finishing touches! The chopped parsley got tossed in the pan, a nice bit of bright green against the light caramel dish. And I also added the bit of brandy. Then it was on to the table.

Finishing Touches

Dinner is served

It went over well. I especially liked the coriander and what it did, in conjunction with the mead. My son cannot be expected to judge food, as it is all detestable to him – he ate little except the rice with pepper. But everyone else enjoyed it, though Jenna was unimpressed when she bit down on a peppercorn. I find the occasional peppercorn delightful, myself. Sigh. A good sigh, I mean, like the feeling you get after you’ve just had a good meal and you want to sit back and just rest. Exactly like that.

Bon Appetit

Still Nada

Over lunch I added an additonal 2 tbsp. of water, 3 tbsp. of chopped ginger (I’ll do less tomorrow!), and 2 tbsp. of honey. Still no noticeable activity, while the other trials bubble away nicely. Two more days is the plan.

Where Am I Going To Age Them?!

Now that it is the wee hours of Monday morning, I am looking back at the activities of the weekend.

I finally got around to labeling the peach wine, the blueberry wine, the blueberry melomel, the fig wine and the raspberry cyser on Friday evening. Should have done it quite a bit ago, but just hadn’t. Finally!

On Saturday, after guiltily having forgotten to make a friend ginger ale for almost a year, I decided to get things started. This time, I wanted a starter that I could keep going past a single batch of ginger ale, and as usual, I had a lot of options. So I started three ginger bug trials (proportions based for the most part on this ginger bug recipe). What is the same amongst the trials is I am feeding the critters with local honey, and using distilled water. But the similarities end there.

Ginger Bug Trials 1, 2 and 3, just begun

Ginger Bug Trials 1, 2 and 3, just begun

The first of the trials is a wild fermentation. I started with 2 tbsp. of honey, 2 tbsp. of water, and 2 tbsp. of chopped ginger, and applied no yeast. Yesterday afternoon (the 22nd) I added another 2 tbsp. of chopped ginger, 2 tbsp. of water and 2 tbsp. of honey. I’ll continue this for another 4 days (starting with today, later in the afternoon). After that, hopefully it will be fermenting – as long as the local microbial flora is not a problem. No real activity visible so far. I hear online that local yeast and microbes make for a more “unique” ginger ale/beer. Honestly, I’m more interested in just seeing it work, as I have not had good results so far with wild fermentation. It is the last third of February, maybe not the best of times…

The second trial is based on bread yeast. I used 1 tsp. of bread yeast, with the container saying it is well out of date, but me guessing that there would be no issue in this setting (and I seem right so far). Since I don’t have to wait on the local flora to catch up, I decided to simply use the same quantities all at once. So that meant 12 tbsp. of chopped ginger, 12 tbsp. of the honey (3/4 cup) and 12 tbsp. (3/4 cup) of the water. That is bubbling nicely. I could probably use it now… but will give it some more time working on itself.

The third and final trial is based on Pasteur Champagne wine yeast, and after a day and some, is the most pleasant smelling to me (not that the others smell bad!). As with the bread yeast trial, I started with all ingredients right at the start – and the ingredients are the same: 3/4 cup each honey and water plus 12 tbsp. of chopped ginger. I didn’t prepare the yeast per normal package directions… just added it to the mixture (that is, only 1 tsp. of the packet, about 2/3 of it). No ill effects, as far as I can see. Bubble aggressiveness is about the same as for the bread yeast.

Mid-stream (punny!) bottling the Saturn grape wine

Mid-stream (punny!) bottling the Saturn grape wine

So with that continuing on its own, I got back to bottling this evening. Couple hours later I had another 45 bottles filled. The first fifteen bottles were blackberry wine, the next 15 Mars grape wine and the last 15 Saturn grape wine. Actually, the last Mars grape had to be topped up with just a bit of blackberry and some Saturn grape wine to fill the bottle.

Now, time for some sleep…


February Is Upon Us

Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?
–  William Shakespeare,  Much Ado About Nothing

No frost, no storm, not even cloudiness. Today was balmy for February, good for being out of doors…or being indoors with plans. So with my daughter and mother-in-law ensconced in my daughter’s bedroom cleaning, I set myself to a cycle of cleaning, sanitizing and racking that lasted most of the day.

Racking And Testing

I started with the Saturn grape wine. It is a lovely pale bronzed red color, with crystalline clarity. I racked the 3 gallon carboy and then measured the specific gravity, finding it at 0.993. It is ready to be bottled, for sure, with no activity for many months. Mainly, it needed off the lees. I will let it go for a couple weeks more before bottling.

I then moved to the next carboy, the 5 gallons of peach wine, American oaked. Last time I tested it, the oak was barely noticeable. It is now noticeable, combining with the peach to a pleasant end. I look forward to it aged and in the bottle! It too is ready for bottling, but I will give it some more time to settle after the racking. The final gravity was found to be 0.994.

Next, after a long delay, was the Mars grape wine, a 3 gallon carboy which needed racking off the oak. It is a dark red, clear and pretty. The Hungarian oak is detectable, but more recongizable is the sharpness that aging should dull. As with both the others, this is ready for bottling, after some time to settle after this racking. Final gravity was measured at 0.994.

Then I moved to the last carboy, the 3 gallons of Blackberry wine. This, too, is ready for bottling with a gravity of 0.995 and no activity for many months. The color is a dark red, darker than the Mars, that is translucent in small amounts, but quickly becomes opaque in bulk. The flavor is nice enough, but the tartness needs some mellowing. It is without doubt blackberry and unlike some fruits, which leave the end wine very dissimilar from the original fruit, this is remarkably fruit-like in the mouth.

Lastly I tested the quite aged Blueberry melomel and wine (each a single gallon). The wine delivered a 1.005 SG, and the melomel a 1.003, holding firm since December despite the semblance of some bubbles in January. These don’t need racking at all at this point, just bottling. But that is a task for another night.

Batch “52”

But once in the groove, I decided I might as well start the mead I’d had on my mind. I’d chosen a medium show mead this time, and picked up some fruit (red grapefruit, red pears, cherries) for secondary while picking up sandwich fixings for the week. I took a 12 lb. jug of “Bakery” honey – very tasty, and described to me as sourced from bees pollinating pepper plant fields – and emptied it into my fermentation bucket. I used some water to thin out the remaining honey until all the honey was gone, emptying this bubbly mix into the bucket as well. In total, I added enough water to make just under 5.5 gallons (f0r a 5 gallon batch) , just a little over 4 gallons of water.

Batch 52 Has Begun

Batch 52 Has Begun

With honey and water in place I added 2 tsp. each of yeast energizer and nutrient. Then I just let it sit while the family ate dinner, a wonderful Italian Sausage and Cabbage soup I made. After dinner was done, I rehydrated my ten grams (two packets) of Lalvin D-47 yeast and pitched to the fermentation bucket.

Over all, a busy day. Lots for the future, as I have 16 gallons of wine to be bottled in the near- to mid- future. And it was nice to finally get movement on some of my older items, the table grape wines, the peach, the blackberry and last year’s blueberries. Which reminds me: I still have table grapes (Venus) in the freezer I haven’t gotten to yet. I probably should do something about that before summer hits!