• 22Aug

    Blackberries

    Me and my children gathered these blackberries on our way back from the library, I had meant to bring tubs but had forgotten and was sad about this as we passed a rather abundant patch of briars when my 7 yr old had an idea – we drank the water out of her water bottle and the babies beaker and then filled them with black berries. When we got back I rinsed them and froze them reasoning there wasn’t enough there to do much with.

    A quick tip is if you find they have lots of grubs or maggots in them then just give them a little soak in a weak solution of water and table salt, this extracts the bugs!

    So having assessed the local forage a bit better this year than I managed last year, I have decided that I want to attempt black berry wine for which I need a lot of black berries – looks like we are going to be out picking most days!

    Jean has requested crumbles and Mary cakes – I like to make ‘blood’ pies for halloween as well which I freeze. I think my main limit is going to be freezer space. We also spotted elderberries, rose hips, sloes, damsons, crab apples and haws so all I need for hedgerow jam is some rowan berries! People have been asking me if I am going to make it again and having already received a lovely jar of black current jam from one friend I feel I should get cracking!

    I am still sadly awaiting an allotment but some of the best forage I found last year was along the pathway next to them last year.

    I am still sorely missing the Perri Pear tree though that I used to get the pears from at the old house but I have just discovered that there are such things as community orchards so I am hoping we can get involved in same way with these things.

    My favourite book for forage is still Food For Free by Richard Mabey – I have a very old copy but there are upto date ones with photographs and stuff.

    The recipe I use for hedge row jam comes from a Womens Institute book.

  • 20Apr

    We are surrounded by pasture fields which tend to be over run with dandilions – the dandilion flower population explodes in April so I spent my first free day in April collecting dandilion flowers. I even made my dad join in and my husband decided to help as did my little girl.

    At the end off it we had a large ‘washing up’ bowl full of the flowers.

    I then spent the evening spliting the green bit at the base of the flower with my finger nail and extracting the yellow petals. Now the books say remove as much green as possible without being too fussy and my perants (who have made various wines when I haven’t) felt I was being far too fussy but I have read up alot on wine making and know that the green bit can give dandilion wine a slightly unpleasant taste so felt it was worth the extra effort.

    I found that three of my books contained recipies for dandilion one – some saying you must only use fresh and others saying dried is fine. I am most closely following one from C.J.J. Berry’s First Steps in Winemaking which is an ancient battered book my dad gave me when I first got married.

    The book is good in that it gives weights and measures in Metric, British and U.S.A however I do find some of the steps a bit ambiguous so am sort of just hoping here that things will turn out ok. Food for Free (one of my favourite books ever) informed me that it is important to pick the flowers when it is sunny and they are fully open. I didnt really appreciate why until I tried drying some last year – basically they can harbour insects which you dont really want in the wine – also if the flowers are wet it increases the chances of them going moldy during the drying process.

    Preparing the dandilions was a bit nightmarish and I found I was very dissapointed to find that I had only managed to get 2 quarts (2 letres / 450g / 1 lb) of flowers. This was only enough for one gallon / 4.5 litres. I managed to stain my thumb nail a dark brown which has taken a week to come off – I looked like I’d hit my nial with a hammer!

    I cleaned the fementation bucket with boiling water and placed the flowers in it. I then boiled (several pots and kettles) and poured in water until it reached the 1 gallon level on the side of the fermentation bucket. I then placed the lid on the bucket but did not seal the unit and left it to steep for two days.

    I chose the recipy with the least added bits – ie this is the second recipy on page 158 and it only adds Yeast and nutriunt rather than all the fancy acids and stuff.

    After the steeping I poured the whole lot into my preserving pan to boil it – it obviously took forever to start boiling, your supposed to boil it for 10 minutes with orange peel added to it – minus the white pith – I grated an orange. The recipy asked for four but unfortunatly I only had one in the house so am a bit concerned about the acidity levels but only time will tell! (also for one gallon this would surely make it orange wine? It smelt really orangy anyway :/ ).

    I weighed out 1.5 kg (3lb) of sugar – again here I sort of improvised as I didn’t have enough white granulated sugar and so added some golden caster sugar. I much prefer the golden and darker sugars and tend to use them in cooking anyway but I’m not sure what affect the molass part of sugar will have on the wine – again only time will tell.

    Once the mixture of orange peel and steeped dandilions had been boiled I scolded (poured hot water onto) the filter bag thing I have. You have to do this other wise the liquid just will not drain through it!

    I placed the sugar ready in the fermenting bucket (which had been cleaned) and hung the filter bag over the bucket. I then poured the contence of the preserving pan into the bag – being very careful not to flop soaked petals into the fermentation bucket!

    The liquid flowed and then dripped through the filtration bag and then I stired in the sugar until it was all dissolved. I then had to wait for it to cool down so put a clean tea towl over the top and went to bed.

    I had discovered that alot of the wine making stuff I had been given from Alaric’s step granddad is still missing since the drastic flood stuff and was not in my kitchen so I sent dad to get me an air lock plus the yeast and nutriunt.

    My mother darkly muttered over the nutriunt etc… as they never used it.

    Dad went to a home brew shop in Stroud (this is also where my second fermentation bucket came from pre-flood). We like this shop :)

    I washed out and sterilised the demijohn with boiling water and a funnel. I scolded the small filter bag, added the juice from the orange and on teaspoon of the yeast and nutriunt mixed it all up a bit and noticed that the yeast wasnt dissolving and was just going to get filtered out so I added 1/2 a tea spoon straight to the demijohn with the reasoning that some of it would probably get through the filter.

    After the boiling the liquid was a dark browny green colour – pre-boiling it was a nice sort of brown yellow. It smelt like oranges and tea bizarlly.

    I poured the mix from the fermentation bucket into the bag filter which I had sat in the funnel and even with the scolding it just dripped. Then I got Alaric to help me by lifting the filter up and the liquid flowed through quickly.

    The demijohn filled we attatched the airlock.

    I have noticed it changing lots and so will be doing more write ups on this – the wine will need to be syphoned off into bottles at some point and should be ready to drink around Christmas apparently!

    So guess what everyones getting this year :)

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