Archive for the ‘homebrew’ Category

Elderflower season is relatively short, and during this window of opportunity, whilst the elders are actually flowering, we make our entire year’s supply of elderflower cordial, batch after batch.  (recipe below) It comes at the right time of year too, just as the warm weather arrives, so do the ingredients for a soft drink.  I make other cordials too, and most require citric acid, for both the sharp flavour, but also the preserving qualities.

Buying citric acid brings its problems.  Not available from the supermarket, the chemist is the next port of call, and quite often they wont sell it to you – as citric acid is used with certain drugs.  Sometimes they just question you – the mentioning of the secret codeword ‘cordial’ might score you a 50g packet.  And that isn’t going to make a year’s supply of  soft drink.  Try and get some more, and eyebrows rise.   It’s a tad ironic that the chemist is careful about who they let have citric acid, when the stuff is handed out for free, along with needles to keep users safe from using other things.  I only want to make cordial.  I am a pusher. A cordial pusher.

In my village chemist, they are more familiar with the cordial making, but at this time of year, everyone is doing the same and they run out. Homebrew shops sell it no problem (I’m guessing serious drug users have no need for homebrew).  But alas we don’t have an actual homebrew shop nearby.  So what to do?  Well obviously have 1 kilo packets of white powder delivered to our house.  (Yes, the last lot did come from a company called Bigger Jugs…and yes it was on the packaging….).  I do wonder if people can get the wrong impression.

This made me think about last time we bought saltpetre.  We bought it, of course, to use in the making of bacon, ham and salami.  We don’t use it any more, as we are not actually trying to make ham that will actually keep – we have the fridge and freezers for that, and the only other thing saltpetre can bring to the party is keeping the meat pink, a side effect, and given too much saltpetre is bad for you, we can live with not so pink bacon.  When I bought it, though, I did notice the suggestions.. ‘other people who bought saltpetre also bought: fuses, rocket tubes, a book on pyromania, fertilizers….’ – it’s a bit worrying isn’t…..

To complete the wrong impressions purchases, we finish off with some small measurement scales.  This set from myco is great, pocket sized, battery operated, they can measure a fraction of a gram.  I recommend them.  We bought them for measuring dye.  We dye our own sheep’s wool, and for repeatable results, you need accurate measurements of dye to weight of wool ratio.  Also great for measuring spices and eggs ( I like to keep an eye on egg sizes from our  breeding flock).  From the ‘other people who bought this also bought’ links, I think other people are using these scales for something else…

It probably doesn’t help that himself insists on referring to them as ‘the drug scales’, and doesn’t hesitate to shout it out in the garden, pub,  where-ever.

So now, in this post I have mentioned, drugs, fuses, pyromania, white powder, bigger jugs, score, acid,  needles, users, and more.  I expect to have the authorities around within minutes of publishing , and have to hope that when they see the elderflowers steeping in syrup, an egg balanced on the scales and the dye pot simmering on the side, they will believe we are innocent!

Elderflower cordial

20 heads of elderflower (picked on a sunny day)
2 lemons
1.8 kg white sugar
1.2 L water
50g citric acid

Peel the lemons, aiming to get only the yellow zest and not the white pith, and place in a heatproof boil along with the elderflowers. Squeeze the juice from the lemons and add to the bowl. Heat the sugar and water together, dissolving, and bring to the boil. Pour over the elderflowers and add the citric acid.. Leave overnight. Next day strain through a sieve and bottle. I tend to keep it in the fridge, or freeze it to keep even longer. To drink, add water or fizzy water if feeling posh..

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This morning, when I woke up refreshed, thanks to an extra hour in bed, and it was nice and light, the clocks changing did not seem such a bad idea. But by 5, when it was dark, and miserable.. suddenly it seems winter is upon us.

I think we have been fooled, by hot weather earlier this month, the fact I am still picking tomatoes, into forgetting how late in the year it is. And now suddenly reminded.  And I have not considered getting ready for thingymas at all.

So a start.  Home produced is slow.  I must consider the liqueur stocks and make some more beer.  And a ham.  But this weekend we did make the mincemeat, and four huge jars now lurk boozily in the fridge.

We also processed more pork, making a mountain of minced pork and sausagemeat – some of the later now labelled for use for thingymas – for making chestnut stuffing and pigs in blankets.

And the dark evenings give me more time to make things as presents.  Well if we weren’t doing so much DIY…

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apple juice day

apple pressing Today, a sunshiney day, became apple juice day.

The sweet apples I shook out of the tree a while ago have been lurking in the freezer, and they were thawed crushed and pressed.

We made 15 litres of juice. Some is already on it’s way to cider, whilst the rest frozen to be drunk as juice. This year the apples were very rosy  in colour, and the juice is pinky too.

We got sticky, we attracted wasps, and we got tired too, but a rewarding time and delicious juice to drink while we did it.  that wassailing earlier in the year clearly paid off!

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lots of fruit coming in now, so I can spare some for the rumptopf – 200g of cherries, and 200g of victoria plums – with 200g of sugar and a slosh of dark rum.

The pears are ripe, and falling from the tree, so time to pick and ripen them – and I think there will be plenty for the rumptopf too – our pear tree appears to be biannual, but on its fruiting year, it makes up for lost time.

Early for apples too, and many are small, but rosy and ripe, and we have already been gathering windfalls – time to think about picking them too – a friend tells me you can’t pick them before October and they wont keep if you do… but I find they keep long enough for me to process them into the freezer and the certainly dont keep if they rot on the ground or the sheep get to them first!

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A few weeks ago, I came across a rumtopf pot in a charity shop.  I’d been keeping an eye out for one, and there it was in an unobjectionable colour for £1.50  (bargain when you compare to prices on ebay).

I have a feeling people only ever  make a rumtopf once – whether this is because the results are not good, it was a present that they felt obliged to try,  or the hangover too painful to repeat, I have not established, so in the interests of research, I am obliged to give it a go. Besides I like liqueurs and this ia another way to store fruit without using up freezer space.

The idea is you layer fruit in the pot as it comes into season, along with sugar and rum, starting in June with strawberries, and eating the boozy fruit and drinking the resulting liquor come thingymas.  And now it is June (already?!) and I have strawberries.. time to start.

So I shall keep a little record of what has gone in – on the off-chance it is actually nice, I shall want to repeat it.  So far 400g of strawberries, hulled, 200g of white sugar and a bottle (70cl) of cheap dark rum.

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It’s a good year for elderberries – surprising given how we tried to have all of the flowers earlier in the year as fritters, champagne and cordial, but still the elder is laden with berries.

We picked few kilos and I now have two gallons of apple and elderberry wine on the go.  What to do with the rest?.

I did have a go at making an elderberry rob – apparently a cold cure – but it really wasn’t that special, and unfortunately came at the same time as strong competition:  we had just made a load of freezer-space giving blackcurrants into home made ribena- by following the recipe in the river cottage preserves book, and it was wonderful – well the rob was lame by comparison and  went by the wayside after that.  That and it set in the bottles….

So – I decided to try pontack sauce.  It seems to be raved over, and mutterings of how it is best stored for seven years and the like.  Again, I followed the recipe in the river cottage book.

It’s erm… strange, interesting, odd.. I’m not sure about it.

Maybe those seven years are a requirement?

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apple pressWe have picked most of our apples now – and a good crop it is appearing to be – early again though – and they say they don’t keep if picked early – however, if they are ripe, they wont keep if we don’t pick them either. So they are in the cold shed – freshly cleared out due to recent shed manoeuvres, and we are hoping they will keep for a while  – at least until  we have the pigs back and in the freezer, and then we shall know the true extent of the freezer crisis ™. Hopefully then we shall be able to freeze some apples.

Meanwhile – we are cooking appley things, and have juiced some for drinking – freshly pressed sweet apple juice is wonderful.  Some of the pressed bramley juice is now in demijohns with sugar and water,  to be made into wine.

Oh woe is me. I have to make wine due to lack of freezer space…!

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