This is a blog about everyday life. Food, gardening, photography, and nature. What you won't find are pictures of lots of people.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Primary Fermentation and a Problem

The berries smelled wonderful when I took the lid off and peeped inside.  I gave it a good stir after adding a tablespoon of yeast nutrient and when it quietened I "pitched the yeast.  This simply means sprinkling  the packet of yeast on top.  NEVER use bread yeast. NEVER.  The character and flavor of wine is largely determined by the type of wine yeast you use.
I used the whole packet (pictured below).  It is enough for 5 gallons but I usually use the entire amount for 1 gallon, or divide it between two if I'm running low on yeast.  You always want to have more than enough yeast or the wine will be sweet.  Wine can be sweetened but not the other way around.  Kinda like salt in cooking.

For this batch  I used Red Star Pasteur Red which produces a very smooth dry wine.  It likes to ferment for at least 3 months.
After adding the yeast I laid the lid on the bucket and the next morning before work.......

Notice the yeast is reacting?  I give it a good stir......

And it bubbles and gives a satisfying sizzle.  I observe the slight musty scent now and lay the lid on again.  The next day....

Its a bit hard to see but there are now clumps of the thick foam on the surface.  My house is cool in the winter and this slows the fermentation.  If your situation is warmer you might get this overnight since the process is accelerated by an increase in temperature.  Another good stir.....
And we wait another day after I cover the "must".  During this time I sat the bucket on the edge of a heating pad covered by a thick folded towel.  Yeast is happiest around 68 degrees Fahrenheit as a minimum.  The object of primary fermentation is to allow the yeast to start and then quiet so that it doesn't blow off the airlock in the secondary vessel.  Knowing when to transfer comes with experience.  This particular wine I usually allow 3 to 4 stirrings then transfer.

The next morning...........

OH NO!!  When I laid the lid on a piece of a tea towel was lodged underneath and the must was allowed too much air.  This moldy substance smells like wet hay, which any country person will tell you is a sad state of affairs, but not a tragedy.  I skim off all the white mold I can and immediately begin the transfer to secondary fermentation.  The wine will probably recover, as does the hay in the field, so don't throw it out.

 You've probably been wondering where is the sugar? Well now I strain the must onto 2.25 lbs of sugar.


Stir it til the sugar dissolves and then add to my gallon jug.

Notice the water level in the air lock.  After I put it on the jug in just a few seconds.....

The carbon dioxide that is released when the yeast is working begins to push the water up to escape.  A very good sign this is!  But if your wine doesn't do this immediately do not worry.  It will be bubbling by the next morning most likely.
I cover the jug to keep the light out so the wine doesn't fade and I lay a wet dishcloth over the top just in case the yeast hasn't quietened to a steady fermentation.  I learned this from experience of wiping down the walls.  I would get home from work and the walls and everything would be covered in a fine spray of lavender mist.  The good news is it washes up easily with warm water!

Now we wait.  For weeks.  Since this batch wasn't optimal I will "rack" (siphon) the wine off the "lees" (dead yeast and solids) in about a month.  I'll know then how good the wine will be.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mixed Berry Wine

Come on in to my house and we'll start some wine!

That is my street out of the window as I drove home.......we just had a minor ice storm.

The fruit is mashed then boiling water added. Cover. Allow to cool then add pectin . The next day add yeast nutrient and "pitch" the yeast. Cover loosely. Each day for 3-5 days stir the must and cover. On the last day strain over sugar, mix well and add to jug and attach airlock.

The Basic Recipe Ingredients

3.5 - 4 lbs of mixed berries
2.25 lbs of sugar
1 tsp pectin (or pectic enzyme-same thing)
1 TBSP yeast nutrient
dry red wine yeast

Now let's make some wine!  This mixed berry wine is easy to make and uses the most basic techniques and ingredients.  You will need berries, a bucket, and a potato masher to start.  I have left the berries out and they have thawed.

Here are the berries I use.  In general, frozen fruit is as good if not better than fresh.  Freezing help to extract the juices.

Into the bucket they go!!

Next you mash them to a pulp.

Boil 2/3 or so of a gallon of water and pour it over the mashed berries and stir.

Put the lid on loosely or cover with a thick cloth.  I use the lid because it cleans easily.

This morning before I left for work I added one tsp of pectic enzyme and stirred.

The pectin helps in the maceration process (extracting juice and flavor) and it also prevents pectin haze which will make your wine cloudy.  It isn't essential but it makes a prettier wine.  The nutrient will be needed tomorrow when I "pitch" the yeast.  But for now my bucket of berries is resting on the table doing whatever it is berries do to prepare for the  yeast!

It is winter here and my house thermostat is set for 67 degrees F.  That is the ambient temperature so liquids will be slightly cooler.  Fermentation likes cooler temperatures that do not fluctuate so I try to make most of my wine in the winter when I can control the temperature.  Anything above 75 degrees F the wine ferments too quickly and the result is an inferior wine.  Note I said inferior, not bad.

Tomorrow morning the real fun begins!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Air Locks ~ The Essential Winemaker's Tool

With this post I thought I would begin a series to share some general information that I've gathered in the time I've been making wine.

How did I get started?  Well one spring day I was gazing out my window at work and the empty field next door (which is now a fenced in soccer field) was covered in beautiful yellow dandelion blooms.  Being an opportunist  I announced to my co workers I was going to make some dandelion wine since there was a pristine supply next door where no lawn chemicals were used.  I've always had a soft spot in my heart for this beautiful yet hated plant.

 The research began and I was overwhelmed by all the details but I finally just jumped in head first.  I went to the local liquor warehouse (called Liquor Barn in these parts) and bought an extra glass gallon jug, 2 bungs, siphon hose, and a mesh bag for straining.  The clerk also recommended a book called "First Steps In Winemaking" by C.J.J. Berry so I bought that as well (more another time on that wonderful little book).  I picked a recipe and picked my dandelion flowers and my future as a vintner was born!

This is a close up of air locks.  They are your best friend in winemaking.  In fact, without them you will most likely get vinegar.  This isn't the only type of air lock available either.  I have seen pictures of airlocks that look like little buckets perched atop the bungs.  The bung is the rubber stopper in the picture in case you aren't familiar with the term. 

Air locks keep oxygen out of the wine so the anaerobic process can succeed.  It also keeps out fruit flies which will spoil your wine and appear from nowhere even in the dead of winter in freezing temperatures.  Basically, the yeast eats the sugar and the byproduct is a gas that bubbles up through the water in the airlock and is released.    The sugar in turn is converted to alcohol.  The trick is to keep out as much oxygen as possible while all the yeast is working.  The air lock, your best friend, keeps it ALL out while sitting on top of the bung. 

If you want to make wine you must have a good air lock.  I like these because you can watch as the gas as it pushes its way out of the jub and it helps to judge how well your wine is fermenting.  And especially when it ISN'T fermenting which is when you have to help out a bit.

Winemaking can be made a complicated process but my intent here is to give you an overview and to get you started so that you can enjoy one of nature's oldest processes and not be bogged down in scientific terms, equipment and verbage.  I want to inspire you to make your own wine.  Even if it turns to vinegar you still have a product that you can use in your household!  How is that for a no fail project?

Friday, December 17, 2010


In the corner of my dining room I have my "babies" swaddled for the winter .......

Come back and join me with the next batch of wine!  And thanks to Rhonda for allowing us to meet.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Attention Potential Winemakers!!

Hello and Welcome!

In response to Rhonda's post over on her blog down-to-earth I'm going to be blogging about my winemaking process.  For those of you who stop by and want to join in I'll go ahead and list the items you need to start.  Don't worry. Wine is a patient slow process and you can start any time.  All of the fun is at the beginning as is most of the action and it isn't a race so you can join at your convenience.

These are friends sampling a bottle of my favorite recipe!

See how happy it makes you!


2 gallon jugs (glass)  (if you want to start 2 gallons have 3 jugs etc)
airlocks for the jugs 
2 gallon food grade bucket with loose fitting lid


wine yeast
fruit and or concentrate

You will also need some citric acid or acid blend and pectin.  Depending on the type of wine maybe some tannin.  Wine can be made without these things but it greatly improves the flavor and the chances at your wine being a success.  I will select a wine and list the necessary additives later.

Please Note

I use metabisulfite to sterilize.  I do not use campden tablets.  They are used to stop the fermentation process completely......I've not found it necessary to add.

Here in the USA it is legal to brew wine and beer as long as you do not sell it.  I do not know the laws in other countries so if you are outside the US you might want to check.

Leave a comment if you have starting questions and I'll try to answer them or point you to a resource.

 I talk American so keep that in mind.  Making wine isn't like bread so a few ounces here and there won't matter as long as you have hungry yeast.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Here are some of my Xmas hats.  I still have a couple to make.
The three in the foreground bottom right are for the kids.

This one is the coolest hat.  Its for my neice's husband with a big head....

This one is for my neice.....just basic hat.

My first serious attempt at mittens....I hope the kids have swollen thumbs  :)

And finally my Jaunty Hat.  It ended up with a little brim that allows the wearer to go out with a bit of style...my sister in law. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Finger Puppet!

I wanted to make some presents for Christmas this year and it started with hats.  Then while I was waiting on head sizes I took a detour into finger puppets.  I thought it would be a nice surprise for my little great neices all aged < 6.  I made two out of cotton. 

Meet Gus!

That is my friend modelling Gus on her finger.  I don't know if I will give him eyes or not.  I got his nose from an elderly lady's old sewing box I inherited as she is too old to sew now.  My sewing skills are minimal but I managed (with my friend's help) to get Gus a very fine nose!  He also has a mate named Sadie (not pictured).

Making all these Xmas goodies is fun!!!  What are you making for Xmas?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Dear Visitors,

I'm having a lot of stress at work. 

How do you all cope?  I need suggestions on what I can do to calm down and not throttle my "boss" .

There I feel better if I pretend I'm Woodstock...............

Sunday, December 5, 2010

More Snow!!

It is still snowing.  We have had a record snowfall for this time of year. 

I love my window!  I feel lucky to have a job where I can look out at this.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Squirrels and A Snowy Morning

This is the view outside my window this morning.......
As you can see we are getting more snow today!  There will be lots of people in KY that will be sadly disappointed if we do not get the rare white Christmas this year.  Its unusual here but not unheard of.    I'm warmly tucked into my office working and enjoying the view out my 4 ( count 'em) windows!!  I'm on the second floor and it is a lovely scene.

My little furry friend the squirrel has been renesting and doesn't visit as often but I can see his new home high up in the second tree from the left in the background.  Previously it was in a smaller tree out on a limb in a tree at the right.  There were days last winter when the wind blew my friend and he and his wife must have been swaying like they were in a boat at sea!  He's a young squirrel that replaced the older squirrel that came to my window for nuts.  I often wonder if its his son.  I could tell he really fought for this home because his ears would be scratched and he lost the tip of his tail!

Friday, December 3, 2010

This Is On My Mind

The motivating scene out my window at work............

Because I have hats to finish for Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Morning at Work

Hello Dear Readers!

You may or may not know that I'm a civil engineer and I work an average of 50 hours a week.  I haven't always done this, but that is another story I will tell you sometime.   This time of the year is often a busy one because our state transportation department is preparing for those projects that will built next year.  That means we have to get all our detailed engineering plans together for them with an estimate of cost.  The work is tedious and seems to never end and in this case we are rushing.  I hate to rush because there will be errors in the work and later on they will have to be corrected.

This is my messy desk.  It is very dark outside right now and I took this picture with my phone camera.    I don't like to work in an environment with overhead lights (flourescent) so I use lamps.

When I first get to work I check a couple of blogs I follow and my email then I usually get to work.  Today's task will be finding the quantity of different types of pavement that will be needed to construct the road.  This is one of the most expensive items in highway construction so it needs to be very accurate.  I make the work more enjoyable by color coding everything.  My day usually starts by 6 am and I like being the first one here and working in the darkness of the morning.

I took a look up from my screens and this is what I saw........

The sun is just coming up over the trees.  Yes this is the view out of one of my windows.  A parking lot and the back of a motel.  But a girl can dream!  The fabulous mountains of eastern Kentucky are not more than a hundred miles that direction.  Mountains that sadly, we are cutting the tops off to make roads so that people can drive fast to get through them when in fact their lives would be enriched by slowing down to look at their beauty.  I have co workers that have left the mountains to come and work in cubicles because of the lack of jobs in the mountain regions.  Seems like we build roads but the jobs stay away.