Real Fermenting: 2010

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Honey Wine

This is another recipe using wild yeast. It is a honey wine, or mead. It isn't Tej (Ethiopian honey wine) because we are not using gesho in the process. Gesho acts kind of like hops do in modern beer. In fact, all manner of other herbs and spices have been used in beer before hopping gained its current dominance. I would be interested in finding some gesho for use in later wines, but for right now, I am going to see what this wine is like in a couple of months and if it is lacking anything I can add some seasonal berries. As it will be around thanksgiving, I am thinking cranberries might be good.
So this method came from Mr Ryan Wade of Portland, Maine. I started with a honey bug, capturing some wild yeast in a mix of water and honey. I bought my honey from Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies store, on like X and 21st. It is a great store for tasting their honeys, and they also have some books on making honey-based booze. I bought 5lbs of raspberry honey for $27.95. It is raw and delicious. I would say any honey would probably work, but raw is best because it tastes better. Just don't get clover - I have no idea why that most bland of honeys is so popular.
The water is also important. As with everything you ferment, if you add a processed food or juice or whatever from the store, the preservatives they add to protect the food from decomposition will hurt your yeasty buddies. Water from the tap seems to work fine, but my understanding is that you live in a place where there is chlorine in the tap water, like us, you should go ahead and let the water stand for 24 hours before you add the honey. The chlorine will blow off in that time, and there is the chance it will kill the yeasts that came with the honey. You can also just buy a gallon of spring water for pretty cheap, which we have also done. If you know of your own local spring, that would get you maximum points.
So you mix 2 cups of water with 1/2 cup honey and leave it open to the air until it starts to bubble. You need to cover it is with cheesecloth (breathable fabric) so that yeast can fall in but flies can't get in there. This will probably take about 3 or so days but it really depends on your conditions, with respect to temperature and the yeast that live in your area.
Once that bug is bubbling, put it in a gallon container and add 1lb of honey. I did this by putting the whole jar on my digital scale, which was super easy, but you can find a generic figure for honey density and work out the equivalent volume. Here I did it for you: It's about 11 fluid ounces.

Then top the gallon jar up with water (again no chlorine please, you will kill your bug). We let this mixture sit in the primary fermenter (wide-mouth gallon jar = ~$5), stirring daily, for about a week. It was weakly bubbly and very mild tasting. Then we siphoned it into a narrow-neck gallon jar of the type that gallons of juice come in (hello cider) and airlocked it. It has now been bubbling away (still fermenting) for about 2 weeks. I tasted it today and it kind of had a hint of nail varnish remover, so I am looking into what the deal with that is.

So to recap:
Time: ~3 days in catching stage
~1 week in primary fermenter
~2 months in secondary fermenter (until it stops bubbling)
1. 1/2 cup honey, 2 cups unchlorinated water to catch some yeast.
2. Add 1lb honey, water to make 1 gallon, stir vigorously. Leave for a week.
3. Siphon into secondary fermenter. Airlock. Leave until it stops bubbling.
4. Consume!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Hard Ginger Cider

Hello folks,

A current work in progress: speedy Ginger Hard Apple Cider. We started this on Thursday, and plan on drinking it today (Sunday). Again it is a pretty simple recipe, and we mostly made it because we wanted another 1-gallon narrow-neck jar as a secondary fermenter for our country wines.
To get the ginger flavor, Maddy chopped roughly 3-4 inches of gingerroot into matchsticks. She received a good old fashioned ginger eye-squirt for her troubles. That'll wake you up. Then we simmered that chopped fresh ginger in about 2 cups of apple juice (no preservatives!) for 30 mins or so. That made an extremely spicy decoction. We added the spicy juice to the regular juice in a wide-mouthed gallon jar (remember, we were cannibalizing the jar the juice came in, but you could use that jar). To that we added about a quarter (1/4) of a teaspoon of champagne yeast (Lanvin EC-1118). Champagne yeast is available at your friendly neighborhood homebrew store, or from the Internets. That yeast was just to speed things up to get it ready for the Oktoberfest event tonight. You could just leave it open to the air for a week or so and get similar results with wild yeast, I guess. I plan on finding out.

To recap:
Time: about 4 days
1. Boil 3-4" of peeled chopped ginger in 2c. apple juice.
2. Add decoction (including ginger pieces) to 1-gallon juice.
3. Stir in 1/4 tsp. champagne yeast.
4. Leave for four days in a warm room (we left it a propped open gas oven, so the pilot light would keep it comfortable), stirring when you remember.
5. Siphon into another jar (preferably one you can pour from easily) and strain out the ginger pieces.
6. Drink!

As with all these recipes, I think it is a good idea to taste them whenever you stir them. First, it gives you an idea of how things are developing. Second, it encourages you to stir it often, because you get a little tasty treat every time.

As of Saturday night, the cider had this wonderful crisp foam upon its surface. It is strongly gingery and has a clean, snappy ginger punch followed by a sweet, yeasty apple flavor. It is effervescent on the tongue and is clearly alcoholic. Can't wait for my pals to taste it tonight.


Saturday, 30 October 2010

1st hard cider

This recipe couldn't be simpler (?). It comes pretty directly from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, like many of our recipes will. I cannot recommend this book too highly to you!

You buy a gallon of apple juice (AmE: apple cider) with no preservatives in it. It will probably be pasteurized. You take the lid off and cover the opening with cheesecloth, letting air (and yeast) in, but keeping bugs out. You leave it for a week. You drink.
So to re-cap:
Time: about 1 week
1. Buy apple juice.
2. Let it sit.
3. Drink.

Yeast falls in and feeds on the delicious sugars. The juice will get less sweet. The yeast also makes carbon dioxide. The juice will get frothy and effervescent. The yeast also makes alcohol. The juice will be hard, or alcoholic.
Yeast is a fungi which eats sugars and makes CO2 and alcohol as by-products of its metabolism. We also make CO2 when we metabolize sugars. Yeast is our friend. We found that if you actually just leave the cider, then mold can grow in lumps on the surface (unattractive to say the least). So we picked those out and stirred the cider twice a day or so after that. We don't currently have a way of measuring the alcoholic contents of our boozes, but I think those who partook would describe it as "deceptively strong".
For our first (drunk) attempt at alcohol, I am extremely happy. I do think we could have let it go harder still, because there were clearly still sugars remaining and the brew was clearly actively fermenting as we drank it. I had three or four 12oz glasses and felt no ill effects the morning after. No pictures for this one, as we drank it before the blog started...



Hello folks,

Maddy and I have started fermenting a lot of different things just recently, and I wanted to make a record of our recipes, our successes and our failures. So far we have made hard cider, country wines, sourdough and sauerkraut.
I feel like we are experimenting, completely, but we are trying to be good experimenters in keeping records of our ad-hoc recipes and in documenting fully. Beautiful things about these kinds of experiment:
  • They are most often tasty.
  • They are most often cheap.
  • They use local ingredients.
  • Our friends and family can consume them, and enjoy them.
I am still working on the layout etc, so apologies if you find this hard to read. If you have any tips, let me know!