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Monday, January 31, 2011

Bear Parts and Apple Pie

I had hoped to rack some wine yesterday but it wasn't quite ready so instead I decided to start on my first bear and bake an apple pie.  First things first..I had bought some good cooking apples last week so I peeled them and sliced them in different sizes.  I cheated and put them in a frozen pie crust after mixing them with some sugar, salt and fresh apple pie spice...
Since they were mounded up so high and I don't particularly like pie crust I opted for a different type of topping.

Then when it came out of the oven it smelled heavenly.  At this point I didn't care if it was fit to eat.  The house smelled so cozy and wonderful.

All that bubbling goodness was almost too much to bear!  Wait?  Did I say bear?

Yes.  That is the beginning of my very first Teddy Bear.  I am learning to sew!  I am very excited about the little bear.  I found a bag of old clothes I had meant to take to Goodwill and right on top was a light blue gingham cotton shirt.  Perfect.  So I took my free pattern and with the help of a friend (she pinned the pattern on showing me how to do it) and I cut all the parts to my bear.  The pie was still hot so I decided to go ahead and make his little body.

It was quite the ordeal to sew around all those curves, but with help I managed quite well.  I was amazed how quickly I had flashbacks to seeing my mother's hands at work.  My friend watched and showed me how to stop sewing, keep the needle down, flip the foot up, turn, flip down and sew.  With that one little sewing trick so many memories came flooding back!

Little Bear's body is just waiting for me to reinforce some seams and stuff his little body.  Stuffing.  I guess in the old days people used old rags, but I've been advised by an experienced bear maker (are you listening Susan?) to use a high quality fibre fill. 

Next of course, I will have to give Little Bear a head.  It looks quite difficult to get the symmetry and I hope to make little bear handsome.  And after his head is attached I shall name him.

A historical tidbit for you history buffs out there.  The "teddy bear" is named for President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt.  On a hunting trip he refused to kill a black bear that had been caught and tied to a tree.  Apparently, the other hunters had killed an animal and the well meaning hunting party wanted to ensure the president was successful as well.  However, they underestimated President Roosevelt's integrity.

Now how we got from that to a cuddly loving stuffed animal I'm not sure.

Oh and the pie is ready!
The vanilla ice cream balanced out my heavy hand on the cinnamon apple pie spice!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


It is the dead of winter here.  We have already doubled our annual average snowfall amount....
I have to buy all my fresh produce and I'm needing a salad a day.  Any suggestions, recipes, or ideas on how to get raw vegetables in my tummy?

As always...a thanks to Rhonda for hosting this!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Racking Wine

The most fun part of the waiting game of winemaking is racking.  Its just a term for siphoning the wine off the lees (sediment).  When the yeast has lived its productive life of transforming sugar into alcohol it dies and falls to the bottom to join all the solids from the mashed fruit.
This is the 2nd or 3rd racking of a mixed berry.  A closer look.....

Its just a thick bunch of unwanted solids that will cause your wine to go "off" if you leave it in there too long.

Here is a better picture of some white wine I most likely made from a concentrate of white grapes and peach....

If you look closely you will see a little cup embedded in the dead yeast.  This keeps most of the gunk from being siphoned into the new bottle.  It isn't a must (pardon the pun) but it keeps the waste of the good wine at a minimum and makes life a lot easier.  So if you are serious go and buy you one of these......

And the hose to go with it.
The hose has a clasp so you can stop the siphoning in midstream...

When you pinch it together it stops the wine flow and allows the bottom to drain.  Then you can put the hose in another bottle, release the clasp and keep siphoning.  This is a very important tool when you begin bottling your wine.  It allows you to keep as much oxygen out of the wine as possible once it has "fermented out". 

Lastly, there is no magic number of days or weeks to know when to rack wine.  As a general rule I rack the first time after at least a month, or when the wine stops fermenting.  You can tell this when the water levels in the airlock are equal.  If you give the bottle a vigorous shake and it only ferments for a short while it is ready to rack.  Once you  rack the wine begins a nice slow ferment again.

I will be racking my wines in the next few days or so and will add some more information about racking with that post.  I may even be bottling some soon!  Til then....


Thursday, January 20, 2011


This past Monday we celebrated Martin Luther King Day here in the USA.........a gentle reminder to extend a helping hand, to accept others as they are and to practice tolerance and kindness in all that we do....

Friday, January 14, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Strawberry Wine is Lovely

Strawberry wine is my favorite.  Wait!  Didn't I say that about the mixed berry?  Well, it is my favorite today for a number of reasons.  I adore the aroma of strawberries macerating in sugar.  There really is nothing quite like it.

First I strain the strawberries (3.5 - 4 lbs) which have been mashed then mixed with 2.25 lbs of sugar and 2 quarts of tap water (not hot).

This wine, unlike the mixed berry, macerates in the sugar.  The yeast, nutrient, etc is added before bottling in the secondary fermentation vessel.  The recipe like the last one is from CJJ Berry's little book.  I have used several different wine yeasts with it and they all have made very drinkable wines.  I have selected this yeast for today's batch.

Its supposed to be good for "blush" wines.  Strawberry can be slightly pink to a full blush or light red depending on the berries.  From looking at this mash I'd say its going to be beautiful!

Then I add another quart of water (well a little less) and strain again.
I add the rest of the ingredients except the tannin.  I add it last because it gums up and while it doesn't seem to make any difference if it goes into the bottle in clumps it bothers me and for a short while I'm on a mission to try and mix it in without clumping.  You can't see the little brown blobs but they are there.

And yeast nutrient! (not pictured)

Now its time to pitch the yeast and stir it in then bottle in the secondary vessel.  If you have more than will fit in a gallon jug you can put it in another smaller bottle (less than a fifth of a gallon or a typical wine bottle or you have too much water most likely) and put an air lock on it.  If you don't have an air lock that will fit use wet cotton stuffed in the top or a fitted lid that will allow the gas to escape but not let oxygen in.

Mine fit perfectly.  The room at the top will allow for the foaming.  I left the bottle on the table where the ambient temperature was 68 degrees F.  The next day I moved it next to the bottle of mixed berry I started last week.

Arent' they lovely?  Then the next day......

You can see the yeast is becoming very active and the wine still has the deep red color.  This will be a beautiful wine!  I snuggle my strawberry baby in where it will stay warm....

This picture is a couple of days later. Notice how the color has lightened considerably.  The yeast is on a binge!  The morning prior to this when I got up the wine had foamed through the air lock and made a little mess.  I didn't get a picture of it, but its easily cleaned up and the air lock refitted.  The color was even lighter that morning.  This batch of berries are very very red and will most likely produce a rosy wine if I keep it covered so the light doesn't fade the color.

That is Uno, my nosy little chihuaha/pomeranian mix puppy with the boss pekingese in the bottom left.  Uno is showing off his sweater I made him from scrap yarn!

Back to wine....

Now isn't that a lovely lovely bottle of lushness?   I particularly enjoy making strawberry wine because of the colors I observe as it ferments.  Little things like that give me so much pleasure!