Friday, 28 November 2014

Home Made Wine Making

It is with pleasure I report how good the wine I made at Christmas is to drink after 9 months of aging.

Last Christmas we had a lot of grapes ripen.  We ate them fresh, I made jam (mainly for my parents), protected them with netting from the birds and still ate more.  There were kilos and kilos of the gorgeous, plump grapes, far too many to consume by eating alone.

As it was my Christmas break - 3 1/2 weeks of glorious sunny holidays  I decided to make wine.

After doing research from existing cookbooks and online research I went to buy essential equipment.
It was New Years Day and nearly every store was closed so we took a day trip to Port Macquarie and bought goodies including plastic 'vats', airlocks, yeast, hydrometer and steriliser.

It was impossible to buy a grape press so I improvised and purchased two large colanders and a strong masher to squash the juice from the grapes.  It took muscles and a lot of effort to obtain the precious grape juice.  My mother, husband and teenagers helped to squash the grapes
(yes naturally our Italian friends asked if we had washed our feet first).

Then I suspended the skins and seeds in muslin to extract every last drop of grape juice 
(or grape must by which it is known).
Then I weighed the juice and placed the grape must into sterilised vats
using a hydrometer to test for acidity.

Luckily I WROTE DOWN EVERY DETAIL for future reference.

Warning:  My diary is quite lengthy. 

Day 1 Pressed 7kg mixed white/pink & red grapes,  7 litres of must
Placed into vat and added 1/4 teaspoon metabisulfite, stirred and covered with a tea towel tied on by a rubber band.

Day 4 8am   Tested with hydrometer, at 1060 acid is 5% (should be 3.8%) so I added 2 cups white sugar, stirred and put tea towel back on top.   at 9pm hydrometer reading 1080 (perfect!)  Acidity however was raised to 6%

Day 5 Added 2 litres cooled boiled water and another 1/4 teaspoon metabisulfite.

Day 6 Hydrometer 1060 acidity 5% so I added 1 1/2cups sugar and 1.5 litres water.

Day 8 Hydrometer 1070 Acidity 4.1% I then added 500ml water and 1/2 cup sugar.
2 hours later Hydrometer 1070 Acid 5% then added 1 cup sugar
2 hours later  Added 700ml water
4 hours later Hydrometer read 1075 Acidity was 5%
at 9pm I added 2 teaspoons citric acid
Day 9 Hydrometer 1075Acidity 6.2% which meant I added 2 tspns cream of tartar and 1/2 cup sugar
Yeast is added!  4g white wine yeast stirred into mixture then I put on the airlock.

I am definitely learning quickly on this journey and having fun with this project. 

By midday the mixture is bubbling away.                                
There is a bubble every 1.2 seconds in the airlock, this is exciting. 
After 3 days the bubbling has stopped so I open the vat and taste to find the flavour is quite bitter.      I added 1  1/2 litres of cooled boiled water and 500g sugar.
It rested for one week then I added 2 litres more of fresh grape must with 1/4 tspn of metabisulfite.
2 days later which meant it is now;

Day 19 I added 1 cup sugar and 4g dried wine yeast.
I put the airlock back on and after 3 days I added 1kg sugar, putting the airlock back on.


I had saved glass wine bottles for months and bought 4 litre glass flagons as well.
They were washed in hot soapy water, rinsed and sterilised with the sterilising solution.

From this batch I bottled an impressive 14 litres of WINE
with 10% alcohol content and 7% acidity.

At this time the wine tastes okay, it is neither sweet nor sour, it just tastes pleasant.

Even my non-drinking parents were impressed,  I was ecstatic!

On the long weekend in June we tried a bottle but it was not very nice, I thought I had made a lot of vinegar.  Then on the long weekend in October, 9 months later, I tried the wine again and was pleasantly surprised that it was not only drinkable, it was actually very lovely and refreshing.

This year, I have purchased a stainless steel wine press to squash the grapes.  Bring on the grapes!

Buon appetito, I hope you have enjoyed this wine making tutorial.
Enjoy, Merryn.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Home made Cough Syrup that actually tastes good.

Friends were visiting the other day and I offered the gentleman a glass of water as his coca cola was finished.  "No thanks" he said, "I don't drink water, water rusts you from the inside".  

I don't think I will ever forget this quote Trevor.

Dylan has had a cough for two weeks, one of those nagging, dry coughs that hang around forever.
He doesn't like the traditional cough lozenges so I made a bottle of simple,  home made cough syrup from ingredients in the cupboard.

I have to share this recipe as it works and  is easy to drink as it tastes good.

I thank Wellness Mama for her suggestion.

Make it and store in the refrigerator for up to two months, if it lasts that long.

Note the scribbly hand writing as a last minute thought, before I planned to share it here.

Home Made Cough Syrup
1 litre of filtered water (I used rainwater)
1/2 cup chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup dried chamomile flowers
1/4 cup dried marshmallow root
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup honey

Put the ginger and herbs into a medium saucepan and add the water.
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer until the quantity is reduced to half.  
Pour through muslin or cheesecloth to strain the herbs out, discard the herbs.
While the liquid is still warm mix with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey.
Mix well.  Store into a sterilised air tight container, label and keep in fridge for up to 2 months.
Give 1 teaspoon to children and 1 tablespoon to adults as needed for symptoms.

(Dylan is having a medicine cup full per time, it is really helping his cough and sleeping.)

Bon appetito, enjoy, Merryn xx

Monday, 10 November 2014

Bottarga Made at Home

Home Made Bottarga from freshly caught fish

Thanks to a sweet friend who gave us flathead fillets, especially the sweet tails.
He also generously gave us some fresh, whole flathead fish roe.
I have been keen to get my hands on some roe to make Bottarga - a salted, preserved fish roe.
This is prevalent in Sardinia and specific Italian coastal communities 
make Bottarga as their own specialty product.

Bottarga is salted, cured fish roe and it is traditionally finely sliced or crumbled onto pasta.
   Try sprinkling some crumbled Bottarga onto Aglio e olio (garlic and oil spaghettini).
  It can also be added over bean or asparagus dishes for an intense addition of flavour.

1.  Gently wash and then place the fish roe sacs into salted water and leave overnight.

2.  Next day:
Drain the fish roe on absorbent paper, blotting dry very gently, you don't want to break the sacs.

3.  Gently coat the sacs in a little olive oil, turning to coat them completely.

4.  Roll in pure coarse sea salt and place on fresh, absorbent paper.

5.  Cover all of the sacs with fine sea salt, making sure they do not touch each other.

Cover with muslin to keep any bugs away.
All you can see is a salt filled bowl.

6.  Check after four days, you may need to change the absorbent paper and add more fine sea salt.
 Here I additionally used an anti-insect cover to protect the bottarga.

On day 7 check the bottarga again to see if paper needs replacing and to ensure they are salt coated.

7.  After fourteen days here is the completed project.
It is cured after ten days but it doesn't hurt to leave it a bit longer.

Remove the bottarga from most of the salt, a little salt will still cling to them.
To store, vacuum seal or place in a glass jar in the fridge or store in freezer for up to one year.
When a piece of bottarga is sliced or ground the rest will lose flavour quickly so use all of the piece.
Try it over pasta and please, tell me what you think of the intense flavour.

Bon appetito, Enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 3 November 2014

Merryn's Menu: November 2014 Garden Share Collective

Merryn's Menu: November 2014 Garden Share Collective: The bees are buzzing, the vegetable flowers are flourishing and everything is G-R-O-W-I-N-G. These lovely crisp beans are hanging ri...

November 2014 Garden Share Collective

The bees are buzzing, the vegetable flowers are flourishing and everything is G-R-O-W-I-N-G.

These lovely crisp beans are hanging ripely for the picking.  
They will grow for months and we will still be picking from the same vines in January.

Picking out the strawberry plants to weed their roots and top up the bed with compost and dirt, there were enough strawberry plants to make two patches.  Hence there are strawberries to be picked daily.
I prefer to pick them at the end of the day when the sun is lower and they have ripened all day.

Artichokes are especially a seasonal delight.  I picked the first ones last weekend and will pick about three weekly for a few weeks.  The plants are perennial so this artichoke bush will be even stronger next summer.  I simmer the artichokes and simply serve them with a hollandaise sauce for dipping.

 These shallots are flowering, so the seeds will blow in the wind and produce more shallots.

Likewise, we are now letting the radishes and lettuce go to seed as well 
so the next plants will be a pleasant surprise when they pop up, well, everywhere.

The leeks are now producing baby leek " puppies " so I hope they grow to maturity 
after the main leek has been picked.

Here are the baby grapes.  This is the second year for the vines.
There are Thompson Seedless, Golden Muscat, Black Isabella and Pink Iona amongst others.
They will be netted when the flowers have finished and the bees have fertilised them all.

This corn, grown from seed is growing daily and as well as pleasant eating,
also create a delightful wind break for a while.
The husks are dried and we burn these in the bee smoker for a pleasant stream of smoke. 

 After 3 and 4 years in the ground our olive trees are flourishing and are about to produce fruit!
I cannot begin to describe how excited I am by this happening.
Last year we harvested 20 and they were the sweetest olives I have ever pickled.
This year, I believe there will be at least one or two buckets = how wonderful.

These broad beans were planted a bit late but have now come to fruition.
There will be broad beans daily, or bi daily for weeks to come.

It really is a dynamic time in the garden, we are also growing cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes, snow peas, soy beans, lettuce, fennel, kale, garlic, chillies, capsicum, eggplant and broccoli,

Please, browse the other gardens of all members of the Garden Share Collective.
You will be amazed at the variety of vegetables and fruit that can be grown.
Till next month, bon appetito, enjoy, Merryn.