Having developed a yen for hedgerow harvesting; making good things out of my wild gatherings, I have begun another wine brew.
Having developed a yen for hedgerow harvesting; making good things out of my wild gatherings, I have begun another wine brew. A chance conversation with an expert brewer of wine set me off on a mission to brew a perfect red wine. Elderberry, blackberry and something else, a secret other berry, not strictly in season but easily available frozen, in various proportions to give perfume and body and tannins, will it be awful or perfect? It’s nearly ready to bottle now but it won’t be ready to drink till Easter, or maybe I’ll store it till next Christmas.
The first thing to gather were the elderberries, back to the spot where we picked the flowers in early summer, someone had been there before us so we struggled a little to find them plentiful and ripe, and equally not wanting to strip the trees bare we spent a little longer picking a few here and a few there. Washed and picked from the stems, they were frozen, with the intention that the freezing process would help break down the cell structure of the berries to release juice, colour and tannins.
Next were the blackberries, these took two days to pick, we went out to pick and were rained off, being a hardy Northern girl a little rain does not bother me, this was torrential rain, coming down like stair rods, the kind of rain which batters your head, runs through your hair and down your neck; even I admitted defeat.
The next day was bright and breezy, a perfect picking day, we still got scratched and nettled, but the berries were beautifully ripe and juicy.
The berries were briefly boiled to break down and sterilise, then soaked in a bucket with water overnight before the wine yeast, and nutrient were added and mashed for several days. Then the liquid was strained off the berries, the grape concentrate was added, and put in a demijohn to brew. The liquid fermented vigorously for a week but slowed to a gentle tick, and will be racked off the lees this weekend, cleared and bottled.
Perhaps my Dearest will make me a label for my bottles if I ask him nicely.
I love the smell of clove oranges and always make some for Christmas, and put them by my chair so that I can enjoy the fragrance, heaven!
In the run up to Christmas, I always think I will have time to be creative and make gifts rather than buying them, Pinterest has a lot to answer for!
I also thought that I would have time to blog what I have made, then Christmas arrived, work went viral, home life was hectic and the cold virus crept up to bite me too. I didn’t finish the present wrapping till 22.20 on Christmas Eve, and the cards got posted on the last posting day. So let me tell you what I did manage to achieve.
The Limoncello (see a still life with lemons) was filtered and bottled, I tried the coffee filters but it didn’t work very well, so I used a double layer of muslin in a sieve over a funnel, which worked much better. It made a litre and a half of Limoncello. The 500ml bottles were cordial bottles that I have put aside once empty specifically for the purpose. I kept one bottle for myself, gave one to my sister, and put the rest in a beautiful Victorian cut glass decanter I found at an antiques fair in the summer and gave it to my Mum.
There’s something very evocative of Christmas in the smell of spices, I love the smell of clove oranges and always make some for Christmas, and put them by my chair so that I can enjoy the fragrance, heaven! If you want them to last you should wrap them in paper and put them in a warm dry place till they have dried, and then they won’t go mouldy, but if you do they look desiccated and not nearly so pretty. I prefer my clove oranges to have a short but pretty lifespan.
They are so easy to make, just take an orange, a cocktail stick, some ribbon and some cloves. I tie the ribbon on first giving me four quarters to fill, and allowing the cloves to be placed to keep the ribbon in place. Use a cocktail stick to make a hole to push the clove into, if you try to use the clove to make the hole you will find the bud of the clove will be crushed by your finger as you push it in, and it will fall off leaving just the stem behind.
They make nice little stocking gifts wrapped in cellophane, but you’d need to make them the night before they are given to be sure they are given in perfect condition.