January 19th, 2018
I'm not sure how often I'll be posting going forward, but my intentions are to overcome some of the demands on my time (except for fly fishing). Anyway, it's good to be back so I can say hi.
Medical Stuff (skip if not interested)
First of all, I feel obligated to share with you some (but not all) of the reasons for my lapses in writing. I've already covered the many months of technical issues with my wireless connectivity so will not repeat those. They're boring to read anyway. The other issue is health. I feel very healthy most; of the time, but issues have arisen to rob me of that last bit; and it haunts me. Health issues are also boring, so skip to the next segment if not interested.
I may or may not have mentioned I have had chronic bronchitis for years, sometimes as often as seven times in one year but usually five or six. This evolved into bronchial obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), requiring three daily intakes of two different inhalers. My daily walks were slowly reduced from 1.6 miles to less than a quarter-mile. Bummer.
Having experienced frequent bouts of imbalance and light-headedness, I then experienced three episodes of blackouts resulting in unconsciousness. A few days after the third one I had a routine appointment with my cardiologist and shared with him these developments and my fear of blacking out while driving. He ordered an MRI/MRA to look for signs of an oncoming stroke or a series of TIAs. The results indicated no such diagnosis. He then referred me to a neurologist who ordered a CT scan of the temporal lobes and inner ear canals. It turns out I have fluid in my inner ears, and this is causing the imbalance problems and could contribute to blackouts. He prescribed a medication for vertigo and the result was no more imbalance, dizziness nor any more episodes of blackout or a while. When the symptoms returned he upped the prescription and I am fine.
I also underwent cataract surgery that required a new prescription. The latter was a bit tricky because it seems that my left eye is slowly drifting outward, causing double vision. If you've never experienced this while sober, it can be disturbing while driving, especially when the car passing you on the left suddenly appears directly in front of you in your lane as well as in the left lane. It took two adjustments to my prescription to eliminate this.
Finally, my macular degeneration has advanced to a scotoma (blind spot) smack in the center of vision in my left eye. I get periodic injections in that eye, which helps reduce distortions but doesn't eliminate the scotoma.
There are other issues I won't go into, but having had two heart attacks, naturally I have regular visits with my cardiologist. Medical posts are boring, and I've bored you long enough.
Fly Fishing Update
I have always loved fly fishing for native trout. Except when camping and fishing for my meals, I release my catch. I'm not really there to decimate the native trout population. I'm there for the experience, the tranquility, the union with nature.
The results from my neurologist, ophthalmologist and two other doctors were satisfied enough to allow me to drive up to the Driftless Area of Wisconsin in 2016 for my annual fly fishing trip with four buddies. We usually go to a different state each year but during that trip we were caught in a flash flood that generalized into a "1,000-year flood" and cut our trip short. I almost drowned but that is another story. We returned in April 2017 to some fabulous fishing in the same area. I drove from Texas to Wisconsin both times without incident, except for a deserved speeding ticket in Iowa.
Our trip to the Colorado Rockies last September was cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control. Bummer. Two of us are heading for the trout streams in the Poconos when it warms up in the Spring, so all is not lost.
It is my habit to create email folders and populate them with emails I receive by subject matter. Last year I was delving through several folders and noticed a few were about various flower wines. I then created a "flower Wines" folder and moved more than a few emails into it.
Several were questions about the suitability of specific flowers for wine and if I had a recipe for them. A few were recipes or variations of a recipe (see below for an outstanding example). For the former, I always refer them to my page Edible Flowers Suitable for use in Home Winemaking. If you've never seen this page, go to my Advanced Winemaking Basics and look at the 19 other subjects of interest listed at the bottom of the page
I received an email from Michael Goodwin in Bali, Indonesia that brought joy to my heart. It is a story of perseverance that defines an artisan winemaker as well as a perfectionist. It began with the recipe I published on this blog on May 11th, 2011 and is presented below.
Plumeria Wine Recipe
- 6 cups fragrant plumeria flower's petals
- 8 fl oz 100% pure white grape juice frozen concentrate
- water to 1 gallon
- 2 lbs granulated sugar
- 2 tsp acid blend
- 1/4 tsp grape tannin
- 1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
- 1 finely crushed Campden tablet
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- general purpose wine yeast in starter solution
Pick the flowers just before starting the wine so they're fresh. Do not pick any that haven't fully opened yet. Boil 7 pints water and stir in sugar, acid blend, grape tannin, finely crushed Campden tablet, and yeast nutrient until dissolved, then pour over flowers in a primary, stirring gently to submerge flowers. Concurrently, activate yeast in starter solution and tend to it until needed. Cover the primary with clean cloth or plastic wrap and set in a warm place for about 24 hours. Add thawed grape concentrate, pectic enzyme and yeast starter solution and re-cover the primary. Set aside until vigorous fermentation subsides, stirring daily, but do not exceed 10 days. Strain liquid into secondary fermentation vessel and attach an airlock without topping up. When fermentation stops, top up. Rack after 30 days, then again after additional 30 days. Wait additional 30 days and stabilize wine with potassium sorbate and another finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet. Wait 2-4 weeks to prove stability but do not sweeten. Bottle when clear and store in dark, cool place. It will be fit to drink in about 4 months, but will improve enormously if allowed to mature a year. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
Michael Goodwin's Tweaks
Michael made numerous batches and kept copious notes (his words). His initial problem was to know what size cup to use. I don't know what a cup is in Bali, but in the USA it is 8 dry ounces (Google knows). Anyway, his next problem was whether to pack the flowers in tight or what? Here Google would be no help and I failed to stipulate lightly packed---my bad.
Michael eventually decided to count the flowers. He made a 5-liter batch using 125 flowers. The wine did not have a pleasant taste. Michael found someone on another blog who used 88 flowers, so he tried that.
Using 88 flowers produced much better results than any of his other efforts, but he felt he could probably reduce the number again, so he tried 80 flowers. This wine was too light. So he soldiered on and found he could make a very pleasant plumeria wine using 85 flowers. Now that's perseverance and a great example of knowing what you're looking for and experimenting until you found it.
Way to go, Michael!
Headaches and Red Wine
Thanks to Jack Turan of the Rochester Home Wimemakers for sending me an article some time back from Waterhouse Lab of UC-Davis on sulfites and their real and mythical negative effects to consumers. The article is brief and linked at the end of today's entry. It begins….
Sulfites or sulfur dioxide is a fruit preservative widely used in dried fruits as well as wine. It is also produced by the human body at the level of about 1000 mg (milligrams) per day. Consumption of food preserved with sulfites is generally not a problem except for a few people who are deficient in the natural enzyme to break it down. For these people, the additional sulfites from food can be a problem. There are reports of severe and life threatening reactions when sulfites were added at erroneously and enormously high levels (100 times what was supposed to be used!) on salad bar vegetables.
Sulfites in wine average 80 mg/liter or about 10 mg per typical glass of wine. White wines contain slightly higher amounts of sulfites than do reds. As cited above, very, very few people react to extremely high levels of sulfite consumption.
When sulfites are increased to 300 mg/liter or 45 mg/glass only 4 of 24 extremely sensitive people experienced an asthmatic effect, while none experienced any effect at half that dose.
Langer's Organic 100% White Grape Tart Cherry Juice
Too many months ago Ron Guidotti sent me the following recipe for Cherry/Grape Wine. I apologize for not addressing it sooner. This is another example of experimentation and perseverance I applaud. What follows should be in quotes, but for stylistic reasons is not. Just be aware that this is Ron Guidotti's post to me.
I've been experimenting with various wine recipes over the past two years and depended heavily on your blog and experience in this arena. I recently tried making cherry wine from juices rather than whole fruit. Here is a recipe that I came up with that worked pretty well for me using a grape/tart cherry juice that I bought at Costco.
- 1 gal of Langer's organic white grape/tart cherry juice (try Costco or Trader Joe's)
- 13 oz. sugar
- 1/2 t acid blend
- 1/2 t pectic enzyme
- 1 t yeast nutrient (DAP)
- 1/2 t yeast energizer
- 1/2 t Go-Ferm
- 1/2 t Sparkolloid
- 1/2 m sorbate
- Sugar syrup or agave nectar
- 1 crushed Campden tablet (0.5 - 0.6 g potassium bisulflite (KHSO3)
- 1 t Lalvin 71B-1122 yeast
Add the juice to the primary fermentation vessel and add the sugar and stir until it is dissolved. Add the pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient, and yeast energizer and stir well. The specific gravity at this point should be approximately 1.095 (~°Brix of 21.0). Take about 1 C of water and heat it to between 104o and 108oF. Add the Go-Ferm and yeast and stir well until dispersed and hydrated. Let the mixture stand for 15 min until signs of fermentation are shown. Add the yeast slurry to the primary fermenter and cover with a sterile cloth and store in a warm place to encourage fermentation.
After 4 or 5 days, the fermentation should have slowed. Cap the fermenter and attach an airlock until further signs of fermentation stop (up to another two weeks). The specific gravity at this time should be less than 1.000 (typically, 0.997) at this time. Rack the wine into another fermenter and add the potassium sorbate. Heat about 1/2 C of the wine with the Sparkolloid powder for several minutes and add to the wine. Cover the fermenter and add the airlock. Store until the wine has cleared (another two to four weeks).
When the wine has cleared, rack into another container and sparge with a paint stirrer to remove dissolved CO2. There should be little to moderate foaming at this time. Taste the wine to see if it has the desired dryness. If a somewhat sweeter wine is desired, incrementally add sugar syrup or agave nectar until the desired level sweetness is achieved. (I ended up adding 5/8 C of sugar syrup to mine, which gave me a final specific gravity of 1.010.) To prevent further fermentation if syrup was added, add 0.5 - 0.6 g of potassium bisulfite (basically, one crushed Campden tablet). (I personally prefer to add this in a powdered form, as it dissolves more readily. Inexpensive scales for weighing small amount of such powders are readily available from eBay; search under: "small digital pocket scale".)
If a stronger cherry flavor is desired, incrementally add small amounts (e.g., ¼ t at a time) to the wine and check after each addition, to avoid adding too much. This will be a matter of personal taste. (I ended up adding 1 t of extract per gallon.)
The final wine can be stored in the original plastic container in which the juice was container for bulk aging. Individual bottles can then be filled from this later. Or, simply fill the bottles after bisulfate and sugar syrup addition. I would age the wine at least 6 months and preferable a year for best results.
The beauty of making cherry wine from juice such as this is that one avoids all the hassle of de-pitting and de-stemming of whole cherries, which can be very time consuming and messy. It also makes scale-up to a 5-gallon batch very easy. [Ron Guidotti's recipe, with permission]
October 20th, 2016
An aside: It irks me that I pay for a program and then have to pay for technical support when it goes awry. I won't list the programs I'm referring to, but there are more than three. Other than that, things seem to be working smoothly again in my computer and on the web. My thanks to a little money for large blessings.
I'm waiting for a phone call to head for San Antonio for an MRI and MRA. I'm optimistic that the results will simply clarify some incidents that happened in the recent past and not reveal a larger issue. In the meantime, I'm going to try to post this entry. Hope I finish before the summons. Fingers crossed….>/p>More Ramblings Through My Email
Several emails caught my attention as suitable for sharing. We'll start with passion fruit.
A Passion Fruit Dilemma
We are experienced home fruit wine makers, but since we have moved from the cold country to Southern CA, we find ourselves with an abundance of Passion Fruit--a very good, tart, flavorful variety called Fredrick. We have used your wine recipes in the past, but this time noticed that you state: "chop fruit coarsely" and wonder if you are referring to the whole fruit, shell and all. We scoop out the pulp to freeze our leftover Passion Fruit until we have time (on a raining winter day) to make our wine. Should we be using the fruit with the shell, or just the pulp?
I replied that I use the whole fruit but see no reason just using the pulp wouldn't work. I thought it just might be difficult to extract the pulp later and leave more lees than one wants. But I really didn't know since I've never made it that way. I recommended they try it and let me know what they did and how it works out. If there is another way to do it, I want the recipe.
They replied later that they used my recipe #1 (see link at end of entry) with the frozen passion fruit pulp. They said it just went into the carboys and is looking and smelling good. They used Cote des Blancs yeast. I never heard how it turned out but see no reason why it shouldn't have come out fine.
My passion fruit wine recipes make sweet wines unless you use a super yeast (one that ferments to 18% abv or above). To make a drier wine, use a non-super yeast and about 1/2 pound less sugar than the recipe calls for. By drier I mean an off-dry or slightly sweet one, as I never cared for a bone dry passion fruit wine (although you might).
3-Gallon Welch's Recipe
I get a lot of nuggets of gold in my emails. Noel Liechty, an avid winemaker, shared with me his recipe for 3 gallons of wine made from Welch's products---Concord, Niagara and Niagara-Raspberry. To be clear, each is a separate batch, each made from the same recipe.
Noel started with my recipe and he tweaked it into his own. That's what experienced winemakers do. If I remade any of my hundreds of wines, I know I would tweak them into a new entity.
I bought the juice (Welch's 100% White Grape Juice concentrate, frozen, which is Niagara) to make a batch but the past year has been like negotiating a minefield and I haven't made it yet. Thus, I cannot personally attest to its actual greatness yet, but believe Noel and am sharing it anyway, with his permission. I can attest to the amount of freezer space 13 11.5-ounce cans of Welch's frozen concentrate occupies---way too much. That in itself is reason enough for me to try this soon.
3-Gallon Batch of Welch's Wine
The recipe is broken down into steps, which are as follows:
- 11 11.5-oz cans Welch's Frozen Concentrate
- 2 tsp bentonite
- 2 tsp powdered pectic enzyme or 15 drops liquid
- 2 tsp acid blend
- 4 qts water
Mix well in primary and set aside loosely covered for 24-hours. Stir occasionally. Then stir in:
- 1 lb sugar
- 3 qts water
- 1 tblsp yeast nutrient
- 1 pkt yeast (Noel used Lalvin 71B-1122)
Cover with clean, tightly-woven linen. Stir daily. When vigorous fermentation subsides, rack into secondary and attach airlock. Do not be concerned that it is not yet 3 gallons. When fermentation is complete, rack and stabilize with:
- 1/4 tsp potassium metabisulfite
- 1-1/2 tsp potassium sorbate
- 1/2 tsp Sparkoloid
The Sparkoloid will help the wine clear. When wine clears, or is as clear as it can be after 30-45 days, add the following :
- 2 11.5-oz cans Welch's frozen concentrate
- 1 to 2 oz glycerin
- 1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
- water to bring to 3 gallons
The Welch's and glycerin add sweetness, flavor and mouthfeel to the wine. The pectic enzyme is to remove any pectin haze from the Welch's. Wait 30 days and rack from sediment. Bottle when your instincts say to do so. Wait a few weeks to taste. If acceptable, dig in. [Noel Liechty's recipe with reordering by Jack Keller]
I love it when people share their recipes with me. I've been sharing mine for over 2 decades.
Strawberry-Chocolate Wine Problem
A very patient Steve in Nashville wrote about his Strawberry Wine not clearing. He tried using a fining agent, which he said helped a lot. But the wine still had a haze and gel-like floaters. He thought it was a pectin problem. I agree and have added pectic enzyme to the recipe.
Haze is indicative of pectin, but the gel-like floaters are a dead giveaway. If the wine still has a haze after 60 days of bulk aging, add more pectic enzyme.
In hindsight, I do recall adding pectic enzyme to many of my Welch's wines while in the clearing stage. I thank Steve for bringing this to my attention and jogging my memory.
The GKCC Annual Wine Classic
GKCC 18th Annual Wine
A few years back, before MineMaker magazine's competition in Vermont got going big, the Greater Kansas City Cellarmasters Wine Classic was becoming one of the premier home wine competitions in the nation. It still has a stellar reputation and is one of the better competitions for entering both varietal and country wines.
If you are looking for a quality venue to compare your wines to similar ones in a competition setting, look no further. The 18th Annual (2017) Wine Classic is only several short months away, so go to its page (link below) and start planning now. It really isn't that far off if you have to ship your wines.
My time with the Cellarmasters was a treat. I met great people, sampled great wines, and came away with a better understanding of the organization. If you live within 50 miles of Kansas City and aren't a member, you're doing yourself a disservice. If you live anywhere, make home wines and don't enter their Wine Classic, you're missing one of the stellar competitions in the nation (and you won't have to take out a home loan to enter 10 wines).
Some wine competitions are really tasting competitions. The best tasting wines win. The Greater Kansas City Cellarmasters Wine Classic is not this kind of competition. Your wines are rigorously evaluated.
A wine competition should be about feedback regarding your wines. Yes, it is a competition to be sure, but that should be secondary to feedback. What did the judges think of your wine? Do their comments identify any specific deficiencies or otherwise help you to improve it in the future? This should be what competitions are about, with ribbons and medals secondary. But if it's the other way around, that's okay too.
- Passion Fruit Wines, my site
- Requested Recipes: Strawberry-Chocolate Wine, my site. This wine presents itself when the page opens. Below it is a growing list of other wines.
- Requested Recipes: Welch's White Grape and Raspberry Frozen Concentrate [Wine], my site, my originalfrozen concentrate recipe
- Greater Kansas City Cellarmasters, official website
- 18th Annual Wine Classic, a premier home wine competition welcoming grape wines from scratch, country wines, and kit wines of all varieties
- Free PC Services, secure your computer, my site
- Help Keep the Winemaking Home Page a Free Website, a self-serving plea for support
October 15th, 2015
Rambling Through my Email
I have been slowly catching up on email, which I'll admit to being tardy on many. When you are overwhelmed with spam from many quarters, opening email is not my favorite pastime. I am slowly turning off the unsolicited newsletters and product promotions, but the political stuff is more difficult because it keeps surfacing from different sources. I can't wait for the elections to be in the read-view mirror.
I thought I'd share some of the more interesting and recent email concerning winemaking. I've selected three that are representative. One was a revelation, another concerns something we have all probably struggled with at one time, and the third is a good question
Michelle in eastern Washington state wrote:
In 2009 I made 3 gallons of watermelon wine by your recipe. Once it finished, I did not like it, but let it sit. Avoided the temptation to dump it several times. So glad. It has some sort of whiskey/tequila thing going on. My sister in law told me to quit my job and start a brewery. My whiskey drinking friends love it. When I sit down and have just a bit, I think about doing just that. Thanks for the recipe, and it was the note in your plum wine recipe that inspired me to wait and see... 7 years. Lots of happy folks here owe you thanks.
I replied, "I've had 3 wines turn into what I can only describe as whiskey in taste. All were long agers. But a 4th wine (Carrot) developed the flavor much quicker and I posted the recipe as Carrot Whiskey in my Requested Recipes. I have no explanation for the taste, but am glad you are enjoying it."
Calculating Sugar Additions
Alfrado wrote me of a problem most of us (or all) have experienced in the beginning. He bought a carboy and 5 gallons of Delaware juice. The directions said to add 8 pounds of sugar and it wouldn't fit in the carboy with the juice. He prepared two 1-gallon jugs and spent a lot of time mixing the sugar and juice. Somewhere along the way he called the supplier and discovered the juice had (or should have had) a specific gravity of 1.060.
Alfredo knew that a pound of sugar dissolved in water has a specific gravity of 1.046. He asked if there was a formula to calculate this. I assume he did not yet own a hydrometer when he wrote, because the numbers 8 X 1.046 + 1.060 created a haunting problem for him. My answer to him below (edited for this blog entry) was an attempt to lead him out of the wilderness. I hope it succeeded.
Adding sugar should always be done before adding to the carboy. You will probably end up with extra juice, which you should ferment separately and use for topping up the main carboy.
There is a formula but you are better off using my hydrometer table (at http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/hydrom.asp). The specific gravity indicated there is for any amount of juice. One gallon with a SG of 1.090 is exactly the same as 5 gallons with a SG of 1.090.
I know the table can be confusing. Sugar = SG was the most difficult part of my early winemaking experience I had to learn, and so I did all the calculations and created the table for my own use so I didn't have to calculate formulas every time I made wine. There are other tables out there, but at the time I created mine I hadn't found them yet (the internet didn't exist back then and my winemaking library was very small). There is a very small error in my numbers on my table (I will correct it when I have time), but it is so small that you can still use the table as is.
Now to your problem. Do your calculations using my table. To make it simple, pretend you started with 1 gallon instead of 5. If the SG of the juice was originally 1.060, it already contained 1 pound 5 ounces of sugar per gallon (see "Sugar in Gallon" column in the table). But if it had a SG of 1.000 you would have had to add 1 pound 6.5 ounces to get 1.060 (see "Sugar to Gallon" column). This is because the sugar increases the volume of the juice and you end up with 1 gallon 13.6 ounces of juice (see the "Volume w/Sugar Added" column).
To get to 1.090 (from 1.060), you'd have to add an additional 14.1 ounces of sugar (the difference between the sugar added to SG 1.000 to get to 1.060 and 1.090) and the volume would now be 1 gallon 26.1 ounces. However, you started with 1 gallon with 1.060 SG, so adding 14.1 ounces of sugar only increases the volume by 12.5 ounces at 1.090 SG. Multiply everything by 5 for 5 gallons and you'll see why you ended up with so much extra juice.
Yes, it can be mind-boggling at first, but take my word for it that the calculations are close enough to be right. To reach around 12% alcohol by volume, you only have to add enough sugar to raise the SG from 1.060 to 1.090, which is 14.1 ounces per gallon, or 4 pounds 4.5 ounces for 5 gallons. Using the table would have told you the instruction to add 8 pounds was wrong. But it will produce enough alcohol to give you a real kick.
Once you get your mind wrapped around using the table as intended, the next big hurdle is understanding and adjusting pH, but that is advance winemaking stuff so don't think about it now. Just get the sugar right.
Kieffer Pear Wine
Image from The Walder Effect
Kathy wrote, "I found the recipe for cooking-pear wine. I was gifted with a lot of Kieffer pears, which I turned into pear butter. In the cooking process (approximately 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 bushels pears), I used about 1 total cup water and in the end yielded approximately 1 gallon of absolutely divine juice (no sugar added).
"I understand your recipe for how to use whole fruit for the wine, but how do I go about using the juice? (It is quite sweet, but not cloying). I'm sure this is a very novice query, alas, this is how one learns!"
My reply was as follows.
There should be about 10.5 grams of natural sugar in 100 grams of raw pears, or 10.5% (1.040 SG or 10.4 Brix, see table at http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/sugar.asp). You must be aware of that before adding sugar. However, natural sugar varies from pear to pear so measure the SG of your juice. It could be much lower depending on many factors.
The raw juice presents a decision you must make.
You can make a pure pear juice wine. You can bring the Brix up to 21.4 (1.090 SG, or just above 12% alcohol) by adding 1 pound 3.6 ounces of sugar (assuming the natural SG is 1.040). Adjust this according to your actual SG or Brix. If 1.040 SG, this will increase the volume of juice to approximately 1 gallon 12.8 ounces. Ferment the extra separately in a wine bottle and use it to top up the gallon after each racking.
You can also dilute the juice with water to make either 3 or 5 gallons (I would do 3 gallons if taking this option). Obviously, the flavor will also be diluted, but will be closer to my posted recipe. Three gallons would still be more flavorful than my posted recipe.
Personally, I'd make it pure just to see the results. Be sure to adjust the acidity.
A Visit to Kansas City, Part 2
l-r: Jim Nicholson, Steve LeVine,
Jack Keller at February GKCC
My trip to Kansas City was as the guest of the Greater Kansas City Cellarmasters, a wine-centric club founded in 1974 and host for 17 years of the Greater Kansas City Cellarmasters Wine Classic (more on this competition later). I socialized with some of them Friday evening at a residence.
I want to preface my comments by saying I tasted homemade wines at four venues. I intended to mention the ones I really liked and mention who made the wines, but I neglected to write them down and rediscovered later that wine and memory do not mix as well as predicted at the moment. I therefore can't say with certainty which wines I tasted where, but do want to mention the wines and winemakers I was able to verify. My apologies to the GKCC members who made and presented any wines not mentioned, but I am only human.
Having said that, I must say I tasted some very good wines. They were both country wines and traditional grape varietals. Country wines included Sal Coco's aged 2010 Apple/Pear, Kevin Johnson's 2014 Blueberry and Tom Augustin's 2015 Dandelion. Grape wines were Bill Frazier's 2013 Noiret, Kevin Johnson's 2015 Riesling and 2015 Viognier, and Jim Borth's 2013 Sevyal. What was impressive in these presentations was that some wines were obviously held back until they reached optimal maturity while others were young, fresh and excellent. I can only imagine how that Dandelion will taste next year and the year after.
Sal Coco and Jack Keller
discussing Sal's Apple/
The first wines I tasted were Friday night at a small social and dinner at a private residence with what I asummed were the senior members of the GKCC. It isn't often you meet a group of strangers and quickly feel absolutely at home with them. These folks were very cordial and hospitable and I sampled several of the wines mentioned above—both independently and with dinner—with a fine group of fellow winemakers.
When it came to wine tasting I won't play innocent. I was drawn to the non-grape wines like a magnet. I never pass up a chance to taste Dandelion or Blueberry, internalizing the experience in a deep database of experiences. Then there was the Apple/Pear, a difficult marriage to execute with excellence. I thought these thoughts as I poured myself a sample but also realized it would not be at this function if it could not hold its own weight. And it did—a sublime union of apple's acidity and pear's rich sweetness, with neither overcoming the other.
I honestly don't remember what I tasted next. Social interaction and food stole my attention and I remember scanning the grape wines and pouring myself some of the bottle that had been most heavily consumed. This is a sure sign it is well liked and probably very good. Whatever it was it didn't disappoint. Nor did the wines that followed it. It was a very good Friday night to be in Kansas City.
Greater Kansas City Cellarmasters'
Saturday night was Friday night on steroids. I was greeted by the Greater Kansas City Cellarmasters at their meeting at Brookdale 119th, a wonderful setting. I enjoyed their hospitality, which included good wine, food and conversation. I was honored to be invited to speak to them, share a few vignettes, respond to questions and then be made an honorary member of this fine club.
Awards were handed out for their Greater Kansas City 17th Wine Classic, one of the better home wine competitions in the nation open to all amateur winemakers. My host, Kevin Johnson, was named the Cellarmasters' Winemaker of the Year based on total placements in the competition. And who says home wines don't age? Sal Coco scored a Gold Medal with a 2006 Grenache/Mourvedre and a 2008 Norton took a Bronze. It was good to see that wide assortment of not only grape wines, but country wines too.
The final event they had scheduled for me was a visit to Amigoni Urban Winery. Through some miracle of bonding, we were able to bring wines into the tasting room and taste both Amigoni and GKCC wines. Finger foods were provided by both the winery and Cellarmasters and it was a great social---a mingling of club members and the general public.
Good friendly people willing to share their knowledge (and wines) and pick your brain for nuggets (we all have a few whether we know it or not)---what more could you ask for?
October 13th, 2016
A word about the long hiatus between my blog entries. If you don't want to read about the details jump to the next segment.
Readers of previous entries will know I had a mild stroke last October, contracted bronchitis which evolved into pneumonia, had several scans which found and characterized many spots in my lungs, underwent two biopsies, and finally was diagnosed with and am being treated for COPD. I recuperated through the Christmas holidays and into January, and in early February I ventured out and was head judge at a wine competition in Fredericksburg, Texas. It looked like life was returning to normal.
I spent two weeks researching and writing an article for WineMaker magazine (look in the June-July issue). In late February I flew to Kansas City to meet with the Greater Kansas City Cellarmasters (details in next segment), returned home and had little to no internet connectivity.
I swear, I've had more than enough computer and ISP problems. One drawback to living in a small, rural town is limited choices. I won't go into that, but take my word that I am stuck with my wireless connection. Except for the entire month of March I had little to none.
Typical tower, not mine.
Photo: jerry0984. CC
When I say little, that means I could over time send and receive email because email is broken into small packets that can be sent/received in milliseconds and then reassembled by the receiver's computer. Images take longer, but can squeeze through over time. But large data packets time out, so blog entry uploads and internet connectivity is out of the question.
Once again, it was the equipment on the distant tower that is supposed to serve my wireless connection. It had degraded to a gasp and had to be replaced. We're talking about over 2,000 pounds of equipment. Not exactly a small feat to be sure, but not building the Ark either. I never, ever thought it would take half this long to accomplish. After all, in World War II we were launching a new capital warship a day! If you really want to do it, you can.
My regional service provider was recently (June 2015) absorbed by a company in Colorado. I don't know if they're strapped for cash after this and other acquisitions, they just don't care about a small cluster of users in rural Texas or some other incomprehensible reason, but when learning of a tower failure since at least February 28th, they decided they couldn't lease a crane to replace the equipment on the tower until April. Unbelievable. Even more unbelievable, April became May and May became June.
The problem was reportedly fixed on June 30th, but in fact was not. Oh, they replaced the worn-out equipment, but my service did not return. A service call helped restore some usability, but the technician also explained some critical information.
Other wireless ISPs in the area (whose towers I cannot access because of the trees) evidently raised their rates and many of their customers switched to my ISP. As a result, the bandwidth supported by my tower was and still is insufficient.
My tower is not the only tower in the area my ISP uses. Some of the other two are accessible to some customers while others are not. I have no way to verify this, but I think some were switched to the other towers which freed up a little bandwidth recently. However, my tower still has insufficient bandwidth to support its users during periods of high usage, like during a 2-hour period corresponding with staggered lunch breaks and after 4:30 when people get home from work or school.
During those periods I may or may not get connected and if I do get connected I often lose it for short to prolonged periods. Service after 1 a.m. is usually pretty good, which is why I often stay up until 3-4 a.m. That is not the best time for me to post anything on the web as I am tired and much more liable to make mistakes that can cause the post to display improperly or not at all.
But at last they've fixed the problem to the point where I can post an entry and I hope it remains reliable. This has been a long time-out during which life continued.
Crossing Off A Bucket-List Item
My wife and I struck one off our bucket list in late May and early June. We flew to Fairbanks, Alaska, took a land trip to Denali, saw the great mountain (Mount McKinley, unilaterally renamed Mount Denali by our President in 2015) from several sides (the highest mountain in North America), took a 5-hour scenic train ride from Denali village to Seward, Alaska, then made the Inland Passage cruise to Vancouver, Canada. We saw all manner of wildlife---two grizzly and several black bears, mountain goats, and other small mammals (beavers, foxes), dozens of eagles and other birds of prey, humpback whales (but no Orcas), and many dolphins. It couldn't have been better (except maybe seeing the Orcas). Well, almost….
I suffered several minor medical incidents. Two involved uncontrollable shakes for several hours that reminded me of my malaria shakes in 1970, lasting into the night but gone by morning, another involved a total body collapse upon leaving the train at Seward (my wife caught me after my knees hit the ground but before I fell face forward into the asphalt), and the fourth involved the inability to breathe sufficiently after about 50-60 steps in the airport at Seattle on our return home. The collapse at Seward was probably caused by having mistakenly placing two blood pressure medications in my pill case for each day. I took out the extra pills and had no further problems with fainting. The last was also my own fault, as I had miscounted the number of inhalant doses I would need and ran out three days before the return flight. As soon as I returned home and resumed taking the missing inhalants my breathing improved to normal for my COPD.
Despite these minor incidents, my wife and I both consider this one of the best land/cruise excursions we ever experienced. The scenery was breathtaking and Mount Denali was in clear view under clear skies from the ground and train and was breathtaking in majesty. We took way too many pictures of it.
We also had three port calls along the way that were both instructional and fun (shopping in port cities always is) and docked in Vancouver, where we spent extra days because we were there and could. I highly recommend this vacation package.
Annual Adventure Becomes A Misadventure
I recently drove to Wisconsin's Driftless Area (Southeast of La Crosse) for my annual flyfishing trip with friends. The area is called "Driftless" because it is the only part of Wisconsin that wasn't covered in glaciers during the last Ice Age and therefore has no glacial drift (moraine) that resculptures the landscape and causes lakes to be formed by damming up valleys. The streams are perfect for trout and flyfishing. While I generally had a great time, I suffered several mishaps.
One, I was completely submerged in deep water at one point, wearing waders that filled with water and prevented me from reaching the surface without a struggle. I barely got out alive but did with help from Charlie Gallagher. Thanks Charlie. During that incident I consumed a lot of creek water and caught a very bad intestinal bug. I already had an intestinal problem and this exacerbated it and is only now clearing up.
Second, I had what I believe was a TIA, a neurological event that had me confused and unaware of my environment. I evidently was talking incoherently, saying things totally unrelated to anything others were saying. This spanned about 2-3 hours, most of which was spent sleeping, but I have only a brief memory of the waking portion and that memory is of a dream. I won't go into details, but it is added to my medical history.
Third, we got caught in a flash flood situation that ceased all fishing activities, trapped us in our lodge for a day and cut our stay short by a day or two. No need for details here, but it was an adventure.
Way back in early May I wrote a blog entry entirely on my trip to Kansas City. I think it would be odd to post it now, so will post portions of it in this and the next two blog entries.
A Visit to Kansas City, Part 1
Staff, customers and hosts listen
to Jack Keller
I flew to Kansas City on February 27 for a meeting of the Greater Kansas City Cellermasters (GKCC) the following evening. I was met by Kevin Johnson, president of GKCC and my host. He gave me a nice tour of Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri and dropped my gear in my room at his place. We had an informal social that evening with some of the GKCC members.
Saturday afternoon he took me by Bacchus & Barleycorn. If you've followed winemaking on the web, you've undoubtedly seen their ads. They've been around since 1968 and are one of what I consider the anchor homebrew shops of America.
Proprietors Alberta and Jackie Ranger have been in it for the long haul. Bacchus & Barleycorn is packed with almost anything one needs for making homebrews or wine. If a specialty item is not in stock they can recommend a suitable substitution. Each member of the staff is a wealth of knowledge and they are the go-to people in the greater KC area for tips, tricks, methodology, and supplies..
l-r: Kevin Johnson, Jackie
Ranger, Jack Keller at
Bacchus & Barleycorn
My arrival was expected and they had a nice table of finger food set up for guests. They both made me feel at home. We chatted with customers and had a great time of it. Although I seemed to be the guest of honor I felt a bit odd and want to tell you why.
Many years ago while researching some aspect of yeast (I don't recall the specifics) I found myself at their website looking at a long list of articles, mostly about brewing beer but some about wine and many about yeast. I bookmarked that page and visited it several times but one year my computer crashed and my backup of bookmarks (I was using Netscape then) was old and I lost many valuable links.
Yahoo was becoming the big search engine then (I hadn't even heard of Google) and got me back to the Bacchus & Barleycorn website. I spent a lot of time looking for that list of articles.
I'll save you some time. If you look in the upper right corner of every page there are several links. Click on that inconspicuous "Learn More." It will take you to the list. I think I've read them all. For the winemaker, even the brewing articles offer nuggets worth digesting.
So there I was, playing guest at Bacchus & Barleycorn and enjoying every minute of it. My thanks to Jackie and Alberta Ranger for their hospitality and to the GKCC for arranging the visit. It was fun and relaxing.
Finally, my apologies for the very late posting of this enjoyable visit.
Smokiness in Wine
I was sent a bottle of Norton wine by a fan with a request for my evaluation. I have more than enough wine to drink and set it aside on the kitchen counter—to pair with an appropriate meal. Some weeks later I made a pork and beef meatloaf and opened the Norton. As I poured the wine I admired its color, and upon finishing the pour I stuck my nose in the glass and inhaled deeply. This allowed me to capture the wine's bouquet, which is fleeting—the underlying aroma of the grape would remain, but the bouquet can usually be resurrected by swirling the wine in the glass. I was surprised by a subtle but unmistakable hint of smokiness, as well as other earthy ethers I never really try to isolate unless they are unpleasant. I emailed him with my evaluation and asked about the smokiness I detected.
He confided that this was a secret he didn't wish to share.
I bugged him repeatedly, pointing out that I've shared all my secrets so folks like him could broaden their winemaking experience.
He finally relented and said he had added 3 drops per gallon of wine of Liquid Smoke. He said there is a danger in doing this if the wine is not made from pure juice. He said he ruined 3 batches of wine before getting the dosage right. He told me, "All but 1 of your recipes only require 1 drop. Any more will be overpowering, but I have a sensitive palate so more might work for you."
In amateur winemaking (non-commercial) we should all be willing to share our pioneering discoveries. That allows everyone to experiment from a new baseline, and that makes it interesting for all of us.
I had thought of doing this but never did. I'm glad someone tried it as I'm sure I would have added too much Liquid Smoke. My thanks to Charles in Topeka, Kansas for sharing.
November 23rd, 2015
It finally got down to freezing last night but is warming up fast. For those experiencing all that white stuff, my jealousy and sympathy at the same time. I loved living in Colorado and Washington states, but I do not miss scraping ice off of windshields, putting chains on tires or shoveling snow. But I do miss making snowballs.
Every song you really like should have a memory or a host of memories. If it doesn't you need a life.
About two weeks ago I was playing some of my 800-plus albums and reliving many moments of my life. One of them was the American Graffiti soundtrack. Forty-one classics from the late '50s and some of the greatest hits I grew up with. They've been recycling through my head ever since, along with some of the other songs from other albums.
This morning an anomaly popped into my head and I cannot explain it, but it sent me searching YouTube. I knew with certainty it was by Bonnie Tyler and I knew with certainty it was "Total Eclipse of the Heart", but finding the right version was a very long excursion. It is called "Total Eclipse of the Heart (Literal Video Version)" and is nothing like all the other versions out there by the same artist. I've linked it below. If you've never seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it. If you've already seen it I know you'll play it again. For me, no memories associated with it except big smiles and a Chianti. Go figure.
Bonnie Tyler, "Total Eclipse of the Heart (Literal Video Version)"
Literal video versions are redubs of original music videos in which the lyrics are rewritten to parody the illogic, disconnection or visuals in the original video itself. The concept was originated by Dustin McLean and associates with the first example uploaded to YouTube in October 2008. On May 25, 2009 David A. Scott uploaded his sixth literal video--- Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart", which received 1,009,331 views in its first ten days and more than 2,000,000 views in three weeks. The voice-over is by Persephone Maewyn and it is considered one of the best literal videos to date.
2009 was the year in which literal videos hit their high before fears over copyright battles brought their production to a crawl but not their accolades. Over 100 were uploaded to YouTube before most were taken down by YouTube itself upon notification of copyright disputes, but many have been restored. "Total Eclipse of the Heart" received nearly 11,000,000 views before Sony had YouTube take it down worldwide in 2011. The video was unblocked in 2014 and copies of the original, like the one linked to above, began to appear. The longevity of the current unblockage is uncertain, so if you haven't seen it do so quickly before it disappears again. If it disappears, you can search YouTube for it and there may be another instance of it posted that hasn't yet been taken down.
Calculating Sugar in a Two-Stage Recipe
Some recipes ask you to add your sugar in two stages---half at the beginning and half a little later. This can confuse people who have never done it that way. For example, a winemaker in Huntsville, Alabama wrote:
I'm trying the persimmon wine recipe, and am wondering how to get an accurate OG if I'm waiting until after fermentation has been going on before I add all of the sugar.
I answered him thusly:
First you make the must with the mashed persimmons and other ingredients (without the yeast) and let it sit a while (covered) so the natural sugar in the persimmons permeates the whole. Now measure the specific gravity, which we'll call the raw s.g. Remember that recipes are guidelines and not carved in stone. They work when you view them as such and make allowances for fruit quality and the variables in the fruit and recipe.
Compare that number (raw s.g. of the must) with the hydrometer chart at Using Your Hydrometer. Suppose the s.g. is 1.030. The must already has 10 oz. of sugar in it according to the chart. The recipe says to add 1 lb. 12 oz. of sugar. If you add 1 lb. 12 oz. to 10 oz. you have 2 lb. 6 oz. of sugar, which could produce a 14.8% alcohol wine---a bit high. For persimmon, shoot for 12.5% alcohol, or a total s.g. of 1.095. If the goal is 12.5% alcohol, the must requires 2 lb. 1.3 oz. of sugar. Let's round that down to 2 lb. 1 oz. Since there is already 10 oz. in the must, you only have to add 23 oz. of sugar, or 1 lb. 7 oz., not 1 lb 12 oz. as the recipe calls for. Adding 23 oz. in roughly halves, you should add 12 oz. initially and 11 oz. later.
If the raw s.g. number is higher, you add less sugar. It's in your handsâ€¦.
There are numerous types of persimmons growing in the United States--both wild and domestic--but the two most common native types are the common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) and Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana). The first is found from Connecticut and southeastern New York westward to southeastern Iowa, and south from eastern Texas to the Atlantic. The second is found in Texas and the Gulf states of Mexico. Of the various domesticated persimmons (cultivars), the Oriental Persimmon is the most common and many fine varieties have been bred---many of which are nearly seedless and non-astringent.
Persimmon trees grow from 25 to 50 feet high and are distinctly male or female in gender. Their fruit is typically globular and small, from 1 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Domestic persimmons can reach 4 inches or more. They have 4 woody calyx lobes at the base which often can bepulled from the fruit when very ripe. Wild (and many cultivars) are quite astringent until ripening around October through December, and then are very sweet and juicy. They ripen to an orange to orange-purple (some cultivars turn red) and persist on the trees until absolutely ripe, which may not occur until early winter or after the first freeze. After ripening, the fruit drop or can be shaken from the tree, but if very ripe they can split when they hit the ground (still safe to use if harvested right away).
Persimmons make a fine, slightly fruity wine, but it will be ruined if any unripened fruit are utilized. The large, red domesticated Oriental persimmons make the best wine with a delicate, amber color, but the wild natives also make a good-tasting, although somewhat unsightly brown wine. Texas wild persimmons make a brown to black wine, very tasty even though it might look like motor oil.
Persimmon Wine Recipe
- 3-4 lbs ripe persimmons
- 1-3/4 lbs finely granulated sugar
- 1 tblsp acid blend
- 1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
- 6-1/2 to 7 pts water
- 1 finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet
- 1/2 to 3/4 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1 packet Montrachet, Pasteur Red or Champagne yeast
Wash the persimmons, cut into quarters and scoop out the pulp from the skin. If the persimmons are very ripe (which is preferred), you won't be able to cut them into quarters, but you'll figure it out. Mash the seeds out with your hands. Mash the pulp well, put into primary, and add half the sugar, the acid blend, yeast nutrient and crushed Campden tablet. Add water to total one gallon. Stir well to dissolve sugar, cover the primary, and set aside. After 12 hours add pectic enzyme and recover. After another 12 hours, add yeast as a yeast starter solution. Ferment 5-7 days, stirring daily. Strain through nylon sieve. Do not be concerned if a lot of fine pulp gets through; it will precipitate out. Add remaining sugar, stir very well to dissolve it completely, then transfer to secondary while leaving about three inches headroom. Fit air lock and set aside. Rack every 30 days until wine clears and no additional lees are laid down (4-6 months). Stabilize only if you feel the need to sweeten the wine before bottling. This wine should age in the bottle a year in a dark place. [Recipe adapted by Jack Keller from Dorothy Alatorre's Home Wines of North America]
To stabilize, dissolve 1 finely crushed Campden tablet and Â½ teaspoon potassium sorbate in 2/3 cup of the wine. Stir until completely dissolved. I crush the potassium sorbate in my mortar and pestle to aid it in dissolving. The time spent crushing the K sorbate is about equal to the extra time required to completely dissolve the uncrushed prilled form of the product. The advantage of crushing is that you don't see a lot of undissolved floaters that can take a while to dissolve.
After the ingredients are dissolved, stir into the wine, attach airlock, and let the wine sit a while (I wait about 3-4 weeks). Then sweeten and let the wine sit another month to make sure it doesn't referment (it shouldn't, but there are no certainties in winemaking and I've had corks blow from bottling too soon after sweetening). Stabilizing doesn't kill the remaining yeast, but rather renders them incapable of reproducing. Whatever live cells are still in the wine will die of old age eventually, but could get another lease on life from sweetening the wine. Just watch the airlock and rack off any dead yeast before (or during) bottling.
Those Problems With Sugar and Fruitiness
Another winemaker wrote that someone told her that you should only add enough sugar to bring initial specific gravity to between 1.070 and 1.080. This is by no means a rule.
Indeed, some fruit wines are best when made at 10-11% alcohol by volume (abv) and become unpleasant when made at higher alcohol levels even when balanced. Others can tolerate 14,15 or even 16% abv as long as the wines are brought into balance to account for the higher alcohol. However, 80-85% of all fruit (and berry) wines can easily be balanced at 12-13% abv and are most enjoyable in that range.
Most fruit wine recipes (on my site) will yield more than 12-13% abv unless you use Montrachet yeast, which tends to die off at that alcohol range and leaves a residual sweetness that helps to balance the wine. That does not mean it is the optimal alcohol range for that particular fruit or berry, but is what I used and is reflected in the recipe. If the wine did well in competition, that is a general indicator that the recipe is "in the ballpark" for that fruit wine. However, most other wine yeasts will yield higher abv levels and require more intervention by the winemaker to balance the wine.
As I say in many places on my site, the fruit I use will almost certainly not be identical to the fruit you use (if you haven't read that, you really need to read my Basic Steps and other writings---the archives in my blog, for example). Let us take fig wine, for example. As far back as 1993 I counted 77 fig cultivars offered by nurseries. I tend to make fig wine from three cultivars that are very common in this area as they tolerate our severe heat, low rainfall and alkaline soils. These three are not the dominate yard figs in East Texas where greater rainfall, humidity and more acidic soils influence what grows best in that area. This example can be applied to any fruit and any geographic area you wish to name.
Because the figs I use may not be the same as the ones you use, one has to expect that our wines will differ. Recipes are just guides. If you follow them as one would a cookbook recipe, you will generally produce a good wine. If you tweak them as an experienced cook or chef might tweak a recipe, they might be greatly improved upon (or they might not). Knowing how to tweak a wine is something you just naturally learn as you make more and more batches of wine. I hope this reply helps.
The writer referred to above also noted that most wines made by my recipes are very dry, lovely wines with very soft fruit undertones. They do not, however, taste like the fruit from which they were made, so she asked if adding more fruit might help.
Many, many times I've stated that most wines will not taste like the base they were made from, but rather like wine made from that base. There are dozens of wine grapes which, if eaten along side of the wine made from them, will astound most people in the dissimilarity. But, having said that, I'll admit that adding more fruit will yield a fruitier flavor.
My winemaking guru was the late, legendary C.J.J. Berry, the British authority on homemade wine who wrote prolifically. It took me a long time to realize that Berry's recipes reflected two things.
First, his recipes were for Imperial gallons, which are considerably larger than U.S. gallons for reasons dating back to England's trading policies with her pre-revolutionary American colonies.
Second, they reflect the economic realities established by seven years of World War II rationing and conservation of food that was continued for a post-war decade (it took that long to obtain sufficient stocks to allow people to "splurge"). Berry established his recipes during that crucial period and his books were what I cut my teeth on. Thus, his frugality became my frugality, and since I won hundreds of ribbons, medals and top awards I saw no reason to change them.
Over the past dozen or so years I have added more and more fruit to my own wines but have not gone back and changed the recipes already posted, which I had adapted or developed early on. Still, I often use the published amount of fruit because I have grown fond of the wines made with those amounts. So I say unto you, if you are dissatisfied with the taste of any wine made using my recipes, add more fruit next time and see if that is more satistying.
- Literal Music Video, Wikipedia article
- [not named], source of persimmons photo above, Wikipedia, photographer Jon Richfield, CC by SA 3.0, displayed under Fair Use Doctrine for illustrative purposes only
- Common Persimmon wine, my site
- Fruit sugars 'may worsen food cravings', source of strawberry and fructose photo above, displayed under Fair Use Doctrine for illustrative purposes only
- Free PC Services, secure your computer, my site
- Help Keep the Winemaking Home Page a Free Website, a self-serving plea for support
October 24th, 2015
I have not written anything here in a long time. I will not go into all the episodes of Murphy's Law I have encountered, but suffice it to say they were numerous and often severe. Most recently, my health took a turn for the worse and a full diagnosis is still pending.
However, I promised someone that I would post my recipe for Black Raspberry Chocolate Port the next time I posted anything, so that is the main event of this entry, followed by a reprint of an earlier piece on Dutched Cocoa Powder, an essential ingredient in the recipe.
Black Raspberry-Chocolate Port
Black raspberries and Dutched chocolate make a great combination for a special port wine. I have long kept this recipe a secret-not because I didn't want to share, but because I wanted something that was "just mine" and when I tasted this I knew it was the one. Over the years I have had so many requests for this recipe after I inadvertently mentioned it in a blog post that I had finally decided to share it in a future TidBitt entry, mainly to entice more people to subscribe to that now defunct enterprise. I suppose the time has come. At 18.5% alcolol, it slips up on you whether you serve it by itself, on the table or after a meal.
I have made it several ways, the easiest being using farm squeezed and filtered black raspberry juice. For me, it is also the most expensive since I have to buy the juice from afar and have it shipped to me. The recipe here is my first attempt using frozen black raspberries purchased as a rare find at a local supermarket. I bought the last five remaining 2-pound bags and made a wine and a port side by side using 5 pounds of berries in each.
The frozen berries were tied into fine-mesh nylon straining bags and left to thaw overnight and half of the next day in sealed primaries. Each bag was then slowly pressed in a basket press that I guess extracted about 90% of the juice. The juice went directly into the respective primaries and was sulfited using 1/16th teaspoon potassium metabisulfite. The bags of pulp were also returned to the primaries and the primaries were again sealed. After about 8 hours I untied each bag, sprinkled 1 teaspoon pectic enzyme into the pulp while stirring and turning the pulp with a long-handled spoon. The bags were retied, left in the primaries and again sealed. The next morning I began making the wine and port. I won't mention the wine again so as not to confuse anyone. But it is at this point that the recipe begins. None of the above will be restated below, so you must include this as prelude to the recipe.
Black Raspberry Chocolate Port
- 5 lbs black raspberries, pressed, pulp confined
- 4 oz Dutched cocoa powder
- 11.5-oz can Welch's 100% Red Grape Juice frozen concentrate
- 1 1/4 lb finely granulated sugar (may vary, so shoot for s.g. 1.090)
- 1 1/4 tsp acid blend
- 1 1/4 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1/8 tsp powdered grape tannin
- 4 1/4 cups water (may vary depending on final juice extracted
- 1 pkt activated Gervin Wine Yeast Varietal B, or Lalvin 71B-1122, in a starter solution
Bring 5 1/2 pints water (11 cups) to boil, remove from heat and set aside. While water comes to a boil, place the pressed raspberry pulp in a fine-mesh nylon straining bag or one knee-high ladies nylon stocking tied closed and black raspberry juice in primary.
Measure the Dutched cocoa powder (see item following this entry for background on Dutch cocoa powder) in dry ounces and add to one pint of warm water in a blender until thoroughly mixed. Add tannin, acid blend and yeast nutrient and pulse in blender to ensure all are well mixed and then set aside. Pour the sugar in the hot water and stir very well to dissolve sugar. Pour over bag of black raspberry pulp. Add the thawed grape concentrate and stir again to integrate. Finally, add the cocoa water while stirring and continue stirring for a full minute. Cover the primary and set aside to cool to room temperature.
When cooled, add activated yeast in starter solution and cover primary with sanitized, high-count muslin. Punch down the bag of raspberries several times a day, checking their condition after several days. When they start looking thoroughly ravaged by the yeast (about 4-5 days), remove the bag and hang to drip-drain (do NOT squeeze) to extract readily available liquid (I hang the bag from a kitchen cabinet door handle with a bowl underneath for about 20 minutes). Add dripped liquid back to primary and cover primary. Discard raspberry pulp.
When vigorous fermentation slows, transfer to secondary and attach an airlock without topping up. Allow fermentation to finish and rack. If a slow fermentation lingers rack it anyway. At this point add the fortifying brandy in the amount dictated by the first calculator (Blending to Adjust Alcohol) at Blending Wines. Enter your desired alcohol (to greatly simplify the math, I suggest 18%), the base alcohol (assume 12% if you did not measure the specific gravity before adding the yeast), the % alcohol of the fortifier (80-proof brandy is 40% abv, 100-proof is 50% abv). When you press the Submit button it will tell you how many parts of the base and fortifier are required to achieve 18.5% abv.
Since the answer is in parts, you're going to have to do some math to figure out how many ounces of each to use. For example, using the input numbers 18, 12 and 40, you get 22 parts base and 6 parts brandy. Use a handheld calculator to divide the number of ounces of base by 22. For example, if you have 13 ounces of black raspberry base, dividing by 22 will give you 0.59 ounces (let's call it 0.6). To that base, you will add 6 x 0.6 ounces of brandy, or 3.6 ounces.
I once added a blackberry flavored brandy (couldn't find black raspberry) and the result was good but not outstanding. The blackberry flavoring they used did not compliment the black raspberry. I recommend using plain brandy.
Once the port is blended, set aside in a dark place for 90 days. Personally, I let it bulk age 6 months, but if you are in a hurry 3 months will work. Some cocoa powder will almost certainly precipitate out as a fine dusting on the bottom. You can carefully rack the port off the dusting and then bottle it or you can very carefully bottle without racking. Age an additional 3-6 months in the bottle before tasting. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
The resulting port is full-bodied and heavenly tasting. To retain color, this port is best bottled in dark glass and cellared in darkness or very low light.
I have never oaked this port as I feel it doesn't need it. If you wish to do so, you're on your own. I will offer no advicve on that.
Dutched Cocoa Powder
The following is a reprint of a February 5, 2012 entry. I have not attempted to update it.
If you have shopped for cocoa powder in any sizeable supermarket, you probably know there are choices. But if your choices are between Baker's, Hershey's and Nestle's, you might consider looking for a larger supermarket. Even then, your choices may be limited but could open up a couple more brands. Why is this important? Because all cocoa powder is not the same, and if you are making a base-chocolate wine, you want the right kind.
At the most basic level, there are essentially two kinds of cocoa -- natural and "Dutched." Dutch-process cocoa powder is made from cocoa (actually, cacao) beans that have been washed with a alkaline solution to neutralize their acidity. Natural cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that are simply roasted, pressed to extract at least half the cocoa butter and then pulverized into a fine powder.
Natural cocoa powder and chocolate contain more antioxidants because the "Dutching" process removes some; "heavy Dutching" removes as much as 90%. However, experts tell us that cocoa is so rich in antioxidants that removing 90% still leaves it in the "super-antioxidant" class of foods.
Natural cocoa powder has a richer, more acrid aroma, but accordingly has a more acidic and bitter taste. Contrary to intuition, natural cocoa powder is lighter in color and more difficult to dissolve in water. Dutch-processed cocoa has less acidity, a smoother flavor and darker, redder color, and it is also more soluble, which is really important when making wine. .
So, which kind is best for integrating into wine. If you are used to making base-chocolate wines from natural cocoa powder and know how to adjust the amount to balance the acidity, then natural cocoa is probably your best choice except with more delicately flavored base ingredients like strawberry, kiwi, mint, nectarine, and peach. These bases can easily be overwhelmed by a rich, natural cocoa flavor and leave you wondering what the base actually was.
The first time I made strawberry-chocolate wine the strawberries were frozen slices and very flavorful, but I only used 2 1/2 pounds and a rich natural cocoa. Only the aroma hinted at what was under the chocolate. Still, the aroma was so intense that everyone "tasted" strawberries when in reality they didn't. This was proven when we all pinched closed our noses while drinking the wine and all but one admitted not being able to discern the strawberries.
When it comes to baking with cocoa powder, the type you use is dependent on the recipe. If it calls for natural cocoa powder, you must use it or risk having a flat or dry product. Natural cocoa, you'll remember, is more acidic. As a result it reacts with baking soda and causes a leavening (rising) action within the batter and finished baked goods. If the recipe isn't clear on which type to use but calls for baking soda, use natural unsweetened cocoa powder. If the recipe leaves out baking soda but includes baking powder, use a Dutch-processed cocoa powder. It's all in understanding what various ingredients do for a recipe. The same applies to winemaking recipes.
The following are some of the Dutch-processed cocoa powders I've identified, although most will never cross your path in a supermarket. I have only found the Hershey's, Ghiridelli, Lindt, and Penzeys. I am told the U.S. military commissaries occasionally carry Pernigotti and Van Houten but I honestly have never looked for them when I shop there. However, you can buy any of them (and a lot more) online. As I said, these are some:
- Bensdorp Cocoa Powder "Royal Dutch"
- Callebaut Belgian Chocolate "Belgian Cocoa Powder"
- Droste Cocoa Powder
- Ghiridelli Chocolate Dutch Process Cocoa Powder "Superior"
- Ghiridelli Chocolate Dutch Process Cocoa Powder "Sunrise"
- Guittard Cocoa Powder, Full Dutched Process "Jersey Cocoa"
- Guittard Cocoa Powder, Full Dutched Process "Perfection Cocoa"
- Hershey's Special Dark Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
- Lindt Dutch Process Cocoa
- Michel Cluizel French Chocolate Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
- Penzeys Dutch Process Cocoa
- Pernigotti Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder
- Poulain Dutch Cocoa Powder
- Rademaker Dutch Processed Cocoa
- Ramstadt-Breda Medium Dark Cocoa (France)
- Ramstadt-Breda Rich Dark Cocoa (Holland)
- Valrhona Pure Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- Van Houten Premium Dutch Cocoa
There are also some non-branded, generic Dutched cocoa powders that reportedly are high quality. Most notable of these are Pier 1 Imports, Trader Joes and nuts.com. But they also sell natural cocoa powders, so read the descriptors carefully or ask before you buy.
I do think I will splurge soon and order some Valrhona Pure Unsweetened Cocoa Powder online. Absolutely every authority I've read rates it as the very best...with a price to match. But I know I am mortal and would like to taste the very best once before I check out.
One last thing, most of the online recipes for base-chocolate wines were ripped from my site or adapted from my 2007 recipes. I don't really care about that except if you copy you are supposed to attribute the source. My greater concern is that most copiers and adapters see "4 oz Hershey's Cocoa Powder" in the ingredients but fail to notice (or understand) the following: "I measured the cocoa powder in dry ounces...." Over and over again I see the cocoa in the ingredients listed as "4 oz (1/2 cup) Hershey's Cocoa Powder". There is a huge difference between a half cup and 4 ounces by weight. Four ounces -- that's 114 grams -- of cocoa powder is a lot more than a half cup, in which case you may very well want to use Dutch processed cocoa powder.
July 3rd, 2015
In response to many emails and personal inquiries, I must explain that these long interludes between blog entries means life is consuming my time, not that I am experiencing any heavy depression or health problems. No need for details, as I'm sure they would bore most of you. Thank you, Fred, Al, Desmond, Mike, Kaylene, Cathy, Keith, Dave, Karen, and any I may have overlooked for your thoughtful inquiries.
Well, I completely missed the months of April, May and June in my WineBlog. Filing my taxes and then filing an amended form was nerve-wracking enough. Other complexities, mini-emergencies, technical difficulties, personal demands, and writing projects ate up my time. I regret it, but life happens.
I hope to get back on schedule soon. Several upcoming travels will make that difficult. We'll see how it works out.
I hope you all have a relaxing yet fulfilling 4th of July. As you celebrate this holiday, it is worth remembering that of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence on that date in 1776 five were captured, tortured and executed by the British, nine died of wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War, two lost sons serving in the Continental Army, 12 had their homes, properties and businesses burned by the British, and two were wealthy when they signed but died in utter poverty as a result of the war. That is the price they paid when they pledged upon that piece of parchment their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. We should all remember the cost of our freedom but few do. I hope you take a moment to reflect upon it.
The WineBlog and website have now been rendered for mobile devices. In time, I hope to do far more in optimizing the pages for the huge variety of platforms out there. Naturally, the larger the screen the better. There are many downsides to this rendering. One is clutter. I will work on reducing that in the future. Another is the on-site search engine—it simply doesn't work on mobile devices. I'm sure I'll discover more as time passes. This is all new to me, so please be patient.
I was driving home late one night and flipped stations, only to catch the opening notes of an old classic, Al Stewart's Year of the Cat. My God, what a timeless masterpiece. If it had been the only song Al wrote and recorded under the production genius of Alan Parsons it would still make him one of the best song writers of the '70s at the very least. And you didn't "have to be there" to love it. You only have to listen to it—preferably through headphones in a dark room, where the music and lyrics can carry you wherever.
The '70s was a decade in which you really had to be talented to rise above the outpouring of clutter that filled it. Much was often good, some very good, a few were great, and then there were a very few magical gemstones. Year of the Cat was, and still is, a timeless jewel.
The tale of this song has been told and retold so many times it is with hesitancy that I dare to tell it again, but some may never have heard it.
Stewart wrote the music to very different lyrics as a song entitled "The Foot of the Stage." In 1966 he had witnessed a very depressed comedian named Tony Hancock come out, break his routine, and walk to the edge (or foot) of the stage and tell the audience what a loser he was, that it all had no meaning anymore and he might as well just end it all here and now. The audience laughed at the man, thinking it was a new routine but totally in character of the man known for his self-deprecating humor. But to his dismay Stewart realized the man was serious and on the verge of a total breakdown. Stewart wrote the song after Hancock killed himself with a drug overdose in 1968. He never released it, feeling it was too dreary and not really wanting to take advantage of the man's tragedy.
At some time Stewart's drummer went on a tour in North Africa. At one small town the man left the tour to visit the bazaar and do some shopping, soak up the local ambiance or whatever, intending to rejoin the tour at the bus. Instead, he saw a woman, a local, walk out into the sun in the stunning dress of flowing silk and he became enraptured. We don't know if she was a "working girl" or not, but the man had a sensual interlude with her and later realized he had both lost his tour ticket and missed his bus. So he decided to make the most of it and stayed with the woman for some time. We are not told when or how he left.
References in the song to the film Casablanca suggest he was in French Morocco. The title and tag line suggest it was in 1975, the year of the cat in Vietnamese astrology, but it could have been 12 years earlier. Stewart later said he saw a book by that title in a friend's flat and wove it into the song as a time marker. This fits 1975, as he recorded the song in early 1976.
Stewart, a Scottish songwriter and performer, was well known by then for his construction of clever lines that captured the imagination and allowed the listener to weave or paint the story in a personal way. His talent for doing so peaked when he put new lyrics to his 1966 "The Foot of the Stage" melody in Year of the Cat. It charted worldwide, especially in China where the audience had no idea what the words meant or the story it told but loved the music and the sounds in the lyrics.
The link is to the studio version, but there are live performances on YouTube that are instrumentally better but the lyrics are not as crisp. The lyrics are below the viewer so you can read along if unfamiliar with the song. But even if you are familiar, it is fun to read the image-inspiring phrases and turns on words.
Al Stewart's studio version of 'Year of the Cat'
On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolour in the rain
Don't bother asking for explanations
She'll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat.
She doesn't give you time for questions
As she locks up your arm in hers
And you follow 'till your sense of which direction
By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls
There's a hidden door she leads you to
These days, she says, I feel my life
Just like a river running through
The year of the cat.
She looks at you so cooly
And her eyes shine like the moon in the sea
She comes in incense and patchouli
So you take her, to find what's waiting inside
The year of the cat.
Well morning comes and you're still with her
And the bus and the tourists are gone
And you've thrown away the choice and lost your ticket
So you have to stay on
But the drum-beat strains of the night remain
In the rhythm of the new-born day
You know sometime you're bound to leave her
But for now you're going to stay
In the year of the cat
Generic Recipe for Unknown Cultivated Grapes
When I recently received a request for a recipe to make wine from unspecified grapes, I did the best I could with what little information I had. Despite inquiries, the gentleman could not tell me what kind they are. It makes a difference, as it could take between 12 to 18 pounds of grapes per gallon of wine. Only after I gave it my best shot did he mention they were cultivated grapes, but could not or did not identify them. What follows is my reply, edited somewhat for a larger audience.
First, some remarks on what is desired when you request a recipe. The original request was, "I'm looking for a proven recipe to make wine from grapes...nothing fancy. We are planning on picking them in September from a local grower and going from there. I would like to try and do around 30 gallons." This is so vague as to require a book to cover all possibilities.
If one wants a good, reliable answer, then one needs to supply good, reliable information. Are they wild grapes or cultivars, red grapes or white, wine grapes or table grapes? Taking the time to contact the grower and identify the cultivar would help a lot. There are an estimated 60,000 cultivated grapes. No one recipe fits all.
Since no further information came back to me, I selected 15 pounds per gallon as a working number, realizing this could be too many or too few. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of specificity when requesting assistence.
Reviving a Yeast 9 Years Past its Expiration Date
I don't know if this will interest anyone, but every 2-3 years I order a bunch of yeast from the UK-Unican, Gervin, SB, Ritchie, CWE brands, etc.. I don't order those I know the equivalency of and are readily available in the US. I keep my yeast in a container in a spare refrigerator used for chill-proofing carboys of wine, so it only has a top shelf with about 8 inches of clearance, a bottom shelf to keep the carboys off the original plastic shelf, the meat and vegetable bins I rarely use, and a freezer section stuffed with ZipLoc bags of grapes and other goodies.
Two months ago I was "taking inventory" by thumbing through the long plastic container I keep my wine yeast in---I keep between 50-80 sachets (packets) of yeast on hand all the time (you never know what you might need). My inventory sheet long ago became unusable due to too many notations, erasures and additions, so I just thumb through them every now and then. It was then I noticed a packet that had slid down under the other packets. It was a sachet of Youngs Dessert/High Alcohol Wine Yeast that should have been used by 2006. I have never just thrown out a yeast without giving it a chance, so I brought it to my kitchen refrigerator and stood it upright against a tub of butter. Every time I opened the refrigerator I saw it and that and chance finally motivated me to try it.
I was in my local supermarket and saw a bin of yellow honeydew melons at a good price. I tested them by pressing the flower end and found several that signaled they were close to full ripeness. I bought 4 and set them on the kitchen counter. After 4 days I let the yeast come to room temperature and made a yeast starter using orange juice, sugar and yeast nutrients. I sprinkled the yeast in the starter, whisked it a bit with a fork and covered it with a coffee filter held in place with a rubber band. I fed it every 8 hours for three days. At that time I began a second starter using Lalvin QA23. But that evening I noticed activity in the Young's starter. I kept both starters going and the next day began chilling them and the melons in my second refrigerator, reset to 55 degrees F. I also chilled the melons.
The next day I cut and chopped the yellow honeydews, stuffed them in a sanitized knee-high nylon stocking and pressed them in my basket press. I adjusted acidity, sugar, added nutrients and a dash of powdered tannin, and now had to choose the yeast. I chose the Young's and used the QA23 on a hurriedly prepared must of dried hibiscus flowers and frozen mulberries.
Nine years past its expiration date and the Young's yeast was still viable. What's more, it carried the yellow honeydew to (an educated estimate) 18.35% alcohol by three additions of sugar (as simple syrup). The high alcohol is proving a bitch to balance, but it's almost thereâ€¦I think.
Lesson learned---don't give up on an old yeast if you stored it in a refrigerator. Just treat it with respect and give it time. If only 3-5% of the bulk is still viable, in a starter solution they will in time thrive enough to give you a healthy inoculation. In melon wines, that is critical.
The recipe? I used the steps elucidated in the current (June-July) issue of WineMaker magazine, pp. 34-39. Not a subscriber to WineMaker yet? You can correct that by subscribing here. You can also order back issues.
March 9th, 2015
I've received several emails and two phone calls about my message in TidBitts about March 30th being my last entry. TidBitts itself is shutting down on March 31st. Let me explain it here.
TidBitts is a platform that allowed people like me to make periodic or, in my case, twice-weekly posts of exclusive content not published elsewhere. Subscription was just 99¢ a month. The venture was based on obtaining a certain number of subscribers to pay for all the people working behind the scenes that did PR, creator and subscriber support, IT technicians, etc. After several months of operation (September 2014 through February 2015), the number of subscribers required to make payroll and access fees did not materialize. Thus, they had to fold.
My own experience was a slow start and then a rising momentum of subscriptions until TidBitts made a promotional change and new subscriptions slowed and almost stopped. I believe they made a crucial mistake when they changed from "the first month free" to "a 30-day free trial." They sound like the same thing but are not.
With "the first month free," you had to subscribe to gain access to the content. At the end of the first month you could actually cancel and pay nothing, but if you did nothing you would be charged the subscription fee each month until you chose to cancel.
On the other hand, at the end of the "30-day free trial" you had to then subscribe, but there was no mechanism in place to prevent you from simply signing up for another 30-day free trial. There was no incentive to require you to subscribe. In the "first month free" model one was already a subscriber.
New subscriptions almost stopped under the "30-day free trial" model. I suspect all TidBitts authors experienced the same loss of subscription momentum. Whatever the reason, TidBitts simply did not obtain enough subscriptions to render their publishing platform viable.
I'm sad to see the venture fail. I had much more to publish and am sorry that opportunity will soon be gone. I thank all of you who did support Winemaking With Jack Keller. I owe you a debt of gratitude. Drop me a line at WinemakingWithJackKeller at outlook.com to tell me what you thought about the service.
151-Year Old Wine from Shipwreck Tasted
One of 5 bottles of sealed wine salvaged from the Civil War blockade runner Mary-Celestia, which sank off Bermuda in 1864, was uncorked and tasted in Charleston, South Carolina on Friday, March 6, 2015. The wine was grey and undrinkable.
The wine experts present said it actually smelled and tasted like crab water, gasoline, salt water, vinegar, with hints of citrus and alcohol. Indeed, the wine was actually 37% alcohol. With no label to identify it, it is most likely the wine was heavily fortified or was in fact a brandy.
Some wines salvaged from shipwrecks actually taste great, having aged slowly in the cold depths and covering of the seabed. In this case, however, sea water obviously invade the wine through its cork closure.
A sample smelled like camphor, stagnant water, hydrocarbons, turpentine and sulphur, wine chemist Pierre Louis Teissedre of the University of Bordeaux said after analysing samples. [His] analysis showed it was 37 percent alcohol.
You can read the full story at the link at the end of today's entry.
Salvaging Under-Ripe Avocado
Yesterday I bought 4 avocados. This morning I struggled to even cut one in half and then had to pry the two halves apart. Try as I did, I could not pry the seed from the half containing it. I went to the internet to see what might be done and read several blog entries and threads on using microwaves to soften the flesh. Some reported failure while others reported success. I decided to give it a try.
First, a little background. I eat an avocado a day as a healthy snack. One of my local supermarkets began importing avocados from Mexico that were consistently bad---large portions of flesh that were brown and showed signs of larva infestation. Those that were sound tasted bland to bad---nothing like an avocado should taste. I complained repeatedly to no avail. So, I took my business to the other big supermarket in my town.
The first avocado I cut open from the other supermarket was terribly under-ripe. I decided to try using the microwave oven to soften it up. Thirty seconds on high caused some give, but not enough. An additional 30 seconds created some more softness and freed the large seed, but the center of the flesh was still very hard, so back to the microwave it went for a third 30 seconds. When removed, the halves were too hot to handle. You could say they was cooked. With the use of w kitchen mitten and spoon the flesh was removed from the skin, but it was still pretty hard and the bright green of an unripe avocado. I considered what I might do.
I didn't photograph my delicious
concoction, but Lindsay Nixon's
"Vegan Tuna Melt" looks close (just
imagine an avocado-based spread under
a warm tomato slice)
I took the idea of a blog entry I had read and placed the two halves in a bowl large enough for my potato masher to lay flat against the bottom. I added about 2 ounces of cream cheese, 1-1/2 tablespoons of chili sauce and a teaspoon of lime juice. It was difficult to mash but yielded to determination until it was chunky but spreadable. The avocado was turning greenish brown but that could have been because of the blending. I tasted it and decided it needed a bit of sweetness, so I added about two teaspoons of mint jelly and blended it in with a fork. It tasted wonderful.
While two halves of an English muffin were toasting I cut two thick slices of tomato and microwaved them 30 seconds. The avocado mix was liberally applied to the muffin halves, topped with warm tomato slices and served open-face. Delicious!
I had enough to smother two more English muffin halves topped with warm tomato halves. It was a wonderful breakfast!
A Mead Experiment
Small, medium and large Meyer Lemons
After all the marmalade, wine and frozen juice I made with the Meyer Lemons I was gifted (see Feb 23, 2015 entry), I still had 12 Meyer lemons spread on newspaper on the living room floor. I also had 3 pounds of orange blossom honey. The solution was obvious.
Because Meyer lemons ares sweeter than regular lemons, I decided to go all in. I juiced 6 lemons and produced 1 level quart of juice, quite a bit more than I'd normally use but I decided to take a chance---Columbus did. Here is what I did.
- 6-7 Meyer lemons (enough to yield 1 qt juice)
- 3 lbs honey
- 5 cups water (divided)
- water to make up 1 gal
- peel (stripped of inner membrane)of 2 Meyer lemons
- 1 1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
- 1/4 tsp powdered grape tannin (optional)
- 2 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1/4 tsp yeast energizer
- 1 pkt wine yeast (I used RP15 [Rockpile 15]) husbanded in a yeast starter solution
Number of Meyer lemons used depends on their size and the juice produced. More pectic enzyme may be be needed if mead does not clear. If unable to separate inner membrane from peel, use sharp paring knife to cut outer peel off in strips and place in jelly bag, tied closed. Approximately 2 1/2 quarts of water will be needed.
Add finely crushed Campden tablet (not listed) at first and third racking and before bottling, if needed. Stabilize with potassium sorbate (not listed) 1-2 months before sweetening.
Meyer lemon mead in primary,
peels not bagged
Make a yeast starter solution. Put 1 quart of water on to boil and stir in honey until dissolved. When water boils, remove from heat and skin off any scum. Cut lemons in half and juice them, reserving juice and discard any seeds (pulp removed during juicing can be used in a number of ways---just think about it). Turn lemon halved inside out and with a sharp paring knife start separating membrane from peel, then just pull the membrane off and put with saved pulp. Cut peeling halves into quarters and place in primary or, optionally, put in jelly bag, tie closed and toss in primary. Add all remaining ingredients (except yeast) to primary and pour in honey water and then enough water to make 1 gallon. Cover primary. When water cools to room temperature record specific gravity (sg), add yeast starter solution, cover, and set aside. Stir daily. When vigorous fermentation subsides remove lemon peels and discard, transfer mead to secondary and affix airlock.
Rack after 45 days and measure sg regularly (weekly). When at or below sg 1.000 add 1/2 teaspoon potassium sorbate. If not at or below sg 1.000, continue checking sg weekly. Mead takes longer to ferment than wine so be patient.
If mead does not clear when at or below sg 1.000, add and stir in 1/2 teaspoon pectic enzyme every 7 days until it clears. If mead is not bone dry (sg 0.990-0.992) when K sorbate is added, measure sg every 7 days and when it stabilizes (does not change) for 21 days, rack and sweeten to taste and balance with very clear honey. Even slightly hazy honey will spoil the polished clarity of a mead, although this can be corrected with bulk aging (recommended) or filtration. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
I have never used this much lemon in any wine or mead, but these are Meyer lemons and they are not nearly as tart as regular lemons. I've eaten one a day for the past two weeks, so I know their tartness. The recipe dilutes this tartness by one-fourth, but I suspect it will still require some sweetening to balance. Just how much I don't know. I am still making this mead myself. But I have played with this lemon's juice for two weeks now and I am confident it can be managed or I wouldn't publish it before I've tasted the results. But if you want to wait, I'll report on it here when it's ready.
February 23rd, 2015
Making wine is easy. Balancing a checkbook is hard.
It seems like once a year I realize that even if all the checks I have written that haven't yet cleared are accounted for, my balance and the bank's balance are different. I guess I need to start using a calculator.
Please don't write suggesting electronic banking. I'm not gonna do it! Without a little pain and suffering, what would be the point of it all?
And consider this: if everyone used electronic banking there wouldn't be that Monopoly card giving you $200 because the bank made an error in your favor. Do you really think the bank's computer would suddenly say, "Oops, I made an error in your favor and owe you $200"?
Many times I've explained that I do not use blogging software to publish the WineBlog or The Winemaking Home Page, but rather do all the coding and markup myself. It takes me much longer to write and post an entry than it does someone usingâ€¦WordPress for example. I choose to do it this way so this is a bed I have chosen to lay in.
HTML sample from a previous WineBlog entry
Any sample of HTML markup could demonstrate how it is done. So why mention this at all? Simply because I want you to know that writing a WineBlog entry isn't just sitting down and writing. It also includes the extra time and attention it takes to markup the text so your computer can display it the way I intended. The extra time is probably not all that long—maybe 30-45 minutes max—when all goes well. But it doesn't always go well. All too often what I intend and what displays are two entirely different things. Then I go into troubleshooting mode and try to locate the problem. Sometimes it's easy—a missed open- or close-tag bracket (technically, a "less than" or "greater than" symbol)—but sometimes it is very difficult to find the problem. A typical difficulty is when a comma is inserted in the markup where a period goes. Sounds easy to spot but it isn't when you've got advanced macula degeneration and, even with frequest prescription glasses upgrades, they tend to look alike at times, especially after more than a few hours at the computer or delving into reference books. I once spent over two hours trying to figure out why a code snippet didn't work when it was copied and pasted from a sample that always worked. Turns out that when I typed in the variables that related to the current content, I inadvertently entered a capital "o" (O) instead of a "zero" (0). Every time I checked my variables the O looked like a 0. I only discovered the problem when I retyped the variables one letter or digit at a time, running the snippet after each singular entry.
What I'm trying to do here is explain why things don't always look right. My vision is deteriorating quicker than I ever anticipated. I require periodic injections in my left eye just to slow down the inevitable. Very often I see slightly double. My right eye is registering the image in the right place but my left eye is shifting the image to the right just a tad. How much? Just enough to frequently hit the key to the right of the one intended. When that happens repeatedly, I compensate by typing the key to the right of what is intended. The result is I usually hit the correct key but sometimes actually hit the one to the right. It's very frustrating. I write less and less because of it. My TidBitts were just the right length to get in and get out without fatiguing my eyes to the point where I started seeing double.
Every now and then someone contacts me to say my page is screwed up in some way. Last night I was told my recipe ingredients were all run together on both Firefox and Opera. I then spent well over 3 hours trying work-arounds to make them appear as I intended on those two browsers.
There are standards for HTML and CSS, the two major components that tell a browser how to interpret and display the coding sent to them. I am not up-to-date on the latest standards but have slowly attempted to incorporate new elements as I can. Just so you understand what is involved, It would take the better part of an entire day and evening to bring any one of my archived files to where this page is (and it is not where it should be) as they would have to be completely recoded. Someday I may have time to do this, but it isn't in my near future.
When my current page displays inaccurately on one or two browsers it means those browsers haven't adopted the standards for the elements I've incorporated or I have simply done it wrong.
Essentially, I write for the Chrome browser. I long ago gave up on Internet Explorer, which often seems slower than me in adapting to new standards. For a while, I looked at my entries in five different browsers and most of what I posted consistently displayed okay in four of them. Then I got real busy and stopped checking the various browsers. The result is the message I received yesterday.
If you think this blog is not displaying correctly on your laptop or PC, please let me know. I know it doesn't display worth a damn on handheld devices (but my TidBitts stream does). It will get there one day, but not tomorrow. In the meantime, please let me know of obvious display problems you have on your PC or laptop. I'll appreciate it very much.
Sometimes a gift can be overwhelming. A friend said her friend had a Meyer lemon tree and they had used all they wanted, given others all they wanted, and still had more on the tree. If I wanted them she would pick me up. I said sure and asked what size bag I should bring. She said to empty my laundry basket. It holds at least a bushel and we filled that sucker to over-flowing and still there were lemons left on the tree.
Meyer lemons (Citrus Ã— meyeri) are native to China but commonly named after Frank Meyer, a Department of Agriculture employee who brought a sample of the plant to the USA in 1908. It is thought to be a cross, probably natural, between a true lemon and either a Mandarin orange or true orange, all of which are native to China.
A typical Meyer lemon is large, about the size of a normal navel orange, but some are much larger. They have a thin peel which is easy to remove by hand. They are much sweeter than true lemons and the sections can be eaten raw as a fruit, Their taste is much better than true lemons and certainly better (my opinion) than sour oranges. Previously, I was familiar with very thick-skinned Meyer lemons in California but learned that the thick peel is a result of nitrogen or potassium deficiency and seasonal applications of the right fertilizer will eliminate the thick peel. They are not two variants of the Meyer lemon.
The thin peels make excellent marmalade. I use the attachment to my food processor for juicing citrus and it does a magnificent job of removing most of the pulp as well, which is caught in a strainer. I have made three half-gallon batches of Meyer lemon marmalade, a 5-gallon batch of Meyer lemon wine, a Meyer lemon pie, stored three quart bags of Meyer lemon peel for future marmalade in the freezer, six quarts of frozen juice, and still I have a 5-gallon pail of Meyer lemons. Sigh. I guess I'm going to make a lot more juiceâ€¦.
Most of you know that now and then I share with you what I consider to be special moments in musical performance or stylistic development. I do this because music touches my heart so very dearly that I just want to share it and explain why a performance is special to me.
There are talent auditions that are timeless. Susan Boyle and Jackie Evancho are two that jump immediately to mind, but the list is much longer and yet it is also short—less than a dozen have enriched my soul to the point of bringing tears. In October 2013 on Holland's Got Talent a 9-year old delivered one of the most astounding auditions in history. A petite Amira Willighagen stood calmly on the stage and began to sing.
Few singers rise to such prominence that they are immediately recognized by fans by their first name alone—Elvis, Cher, Reba, Beyonce, and Madonna are some—but after this single performance Amira meant only one person to millions. Please do yourself a favor and watch the video to see why. Incredibly, she did this without having a single singing lesson—she heard the song, learned it and found the notes on her own.
Amira Willighagen's October 2013 audition for "Holland's Got Talent"
This performance was so astoundingly good that she was awarded a "Golden Ticket" straight to the finals, without having to win weekly competitions to get there.
This darling girl with the big smile, the friendly wave and a voice that is rare beyond belief went on to win the competition. For those who do not know Dutch, here are a some links to other performances (for English speakers):
Ave Maria, the Semi-Finals
Nessun Dorma, the Finals (and she wins!)
Amira & Andre Rieu Live in Concert at Maastricht July 2014 sound quality is not pure but worth watching nonetheless
Nella Fantasia, selection from Amira's album, 2014
To be up-front, a 12-ounce jar of "Bread and Lettuce Sepo Sauce" was sent to me by the manufacturer to try. It looked like brown mustard and I already had two jars open in my refrigerator—a spicy Colman's and a coarse Dijon, so this sat on my kitchen counter for a while. When I finally opened and used it, I kicked myself for waiting so long. This stuff is amazing (to me, at least—your mileage may vary).
Called "Bread and Lettuce Sepo Sauce," the name hardly says it all. My first use of this was on a fluffy salad of hearts of romaine, baby spinach, arugala, and red lettuce, with thin slices of portabella, Roma tomato, English cucumber, and cashew nuts, plus a dusting of ground flax seed. To be honest, I dribbled the sauce sparingly over the salad, unsure of what it would taste like. Lightly tossed, I took a bite and began chewing.
Wonderful things began happening in my mouth. I quickly added more to the salad and tossed again. Just what the doctor ordered ! Besides the Dijon mustard, the flavors of garlic, basalmic, onion, and a slight hint of something peppery melded together perfectly into a creamy masterpiece. This is a mayonnaise-based spicy blend, smooth and easy to fold into salads of all kinds—spicy and savory but not piquant, not hot.
After several salads, I finally decided to try it on the other part of its name—bread. I visited a local barbecue place and bought some of their black bread. I love to toast it, smear it with Dijon mustard, place ham and cheese on it, pop it in the microwave for about 45 seconds, and eat it hot. I replaced the Dijon with Sepo Sauce and built my masterpiece, using thick-sliced Black Forest ham and French Gruyére cheese. The Sepo Sauce was as detectable as the black bread, ham and cheese, but the balance was perfect. Since then I have tried it on a variety of sandwiches without a single regret.
I once stayed in an English inn near Wales and for breakfast was served two broiled tomato halves with an unknown salty cheese melted on top, poached egg, ham, and fresh-baked rolls with butter and strawberry jam. I occasionally attempt to repeat this breakfast and it has evolved with my own tweaks. I sprinkle a Creole spice mix on firm tomato halves, broil them until the edges begin to blacken, take them out and top with pre-cut cheese rounds, return these to the broiler until the cheese browns and blisters, and serve with chewy thick-cut bacon, eggs over-medium and fresh baked biscuits, butter and marmalade. Yesterday morning I made this without the Creole spice mix and smeared Sepo Sauce over the cheese-topped tomatoes. It was divine, adding just the right savoriness to the tomatoes.
I'm sold. My imagination is racing with using this as a dip, a marinade, a brushed sauce for roasted chicken, ribs and lamb chops, but I'm scraping the jar for residue. I have no idea where to buy this stuff so ordered six 12-ounce jars directly from the manufacturer for $4 each—$28.92 with taxes and only $3 shipping. See the links below for the website.
When Life Gives You Lemons
Meyer Lemon Marmalade, photo
by Stacey Morgan Smith
Earlier I mentioned I was givena huge number of Meyer lemons. I made 5 gallons of Meyer lemon wine, a Meyer lemon pie, and 3 batches of Meyer lemon marmalade. I also have several gallons of Meyer lemon juice and several quarts of Meyer lemon peels in the freezer for future projects. I'll report on the wine when it's drinkable and can be assessed, but for now I wanted to share with you one of the three recipes I used for marmalade.
My lemons came with a recipe and an 8-ounce jar of Meyer lemon marmalade so I could sample it before I made it. The recipe is flexible, allowing you to add more or less sugar to make a sweeter or more sour marmalade. I decided to go all in, but departed from the recipe in several ways, including harvesting the natural pectin from the lemons for a thicker set (they're loaded with pectin, so don't even think about canning pectin). Here are the ingredients:
- 5 lbs Meyer lemons
- 5 lbs sugar
- 5 cups water (divided)
- 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice
- jelly bag
- 8 8-oz or 4 16-oz mason jars w/lids and lid-rings
Scrub lemons well with brush, cut in half crosswise and juice them (a food processor juicing attachment is a Godsend for this). Strain all pulp and seed from juice and save both in separate bowls. Remove any pith from lemon shells (a thick central column of pith is in each lemon) and place with pulp and seeds. Cut half-shells in half and stack in pairs. Use sharp knife to cut peels crosswise in thin slices (an electric meat slicer will save you an hour of time, but be very careful).
Place lemon strips in non-reactive pot and add 3-1/2 cups water. Tie pulp and seeds in jelly bag and drop in pot. Bring to boil and hold boil about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and use tongs to remove jelly bag. Place jelly bag in bowl and float in sink of cold water.
When jelly bag is cool enough to handle with rubber gloves (about 15 minutes), remove bowl from sink and squeeze jelly bag to extract all liquid you can.
Add additional 1-1/2 cups water to pot of sliced peels, return to heat and bring to medium boil. When boiling, add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved (about 6-8 minutes). Add squeezing from jelly bag and 1/2 cup of reserved Meyer lemon juice. Continue stirring to prevent anything from sticking to bottom of pot.
Meanwhile, wash and dry mason jars and place in 200° oven without lids for at least 10 minutes, then remove. At same time place a teapot with 2-3 cups water on to boil. When water boils, pour over lids and lid rings in bowl fo sterilize them. Do NOT boil lids or the rubber seal will become too soft, but rather pour boiling water over cool lids in cool bowl.
Back to the marmalade, hold boil, place candy thermometer in pot and increase heat slightly, stirring often. When temperature reaches 220°, hold boil for one minute. Remove from heat and begin filling sterilized mason jars using canning funnel and ladle. Wipe mouth edges of jars, place lids and rings, tighten just past finger tight, and place jars in oven (still at 200°) for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cooling racks. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
Go clean up all the pots, bowls, utensils, cutting boards, countertops, etc. Store reserved juice in ZipLoc freezer bag for another use, sit down and enjoy a glass of wine. You deserve it. After an hour or two all lids should have popped in and sealed. Tighten rings a little more. You can add labels now or later and store in pantry when completely cool. Any jars that don't seal (I don't think I've had one in the last 50-60 jars of marmalade, jelly or jam I've made) should go directly into the refrigerator for early consumption.
This is a thick but spreadable marmalade. As I said, I made three batches. Each was different—to one I added shredded carrot and zucchini and the other sliced apricot and pineapple. But I have plenty of material to make more with, and when I get some blueberries I know just what I'm going to do with them.
- Meyer Lemon, photo cropped from original posted to Flickr by Debra Roby, and then obtained by Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
- Seponifiq, the only source I know of for Sepo Sauce
- Meyer Lemon Marmalade—Wordless Wednesday, photo by Stacey Morgan Smith, December 21st, 2011, Shenandoah Valley Fowers blog, used under Fair Use Act for illustrative purposes only without commercial gain
- Free PC Services, secure your computer, my site
- Help Keep the Winemaking Home Page a Free Website, a self-serving plea for support
January 24th, 2015
Yesterday morning I ran into a local home winemaker I had not see in years. He said he had stopped his internet/email services about two years ago as they were just taking up too much time he could be using hunting, fishing, playing golf, and visiting his grandkids. Then he asked why I stopped my blog. I said I didn't and he said his son, also a winemaker and still with internet services, said I had not written anything in a long time. That's when I realized how off-track I have gotten since my old computer started failing and my trials and tribulations since.
For those who don't follow my Winemaking page on Facebook, I bought a new computer, only to discover how totally unintuitive Windows 8.1 is and how incompatible some of my favorite programs were with it. I finally had a local geek wipe everything off the hard drive, reformat it and install a clean copy of Windows 7 on it. After that I spent several weeks reinstalling my old programs (had to call many companies to obtain reactivation codes) and reinstall my old data (thank God for Carbonite, who sent me all my backed-up directories and files on an external hard drive). In between these actions I flew to Oregon to spend a week-plus with my mother and sister and her husband. I wrote many TidBitts and the Wineblog just got lost in all of this.
My sincerest apologies to you and all my followers. I'm back.
If you don't know of this incredible movie, you've been in a deeper hole than I've been in the past three months. Chris Kyle was an American hero, the most lethal sniper in American History. However you felt about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, if you know someone who served in them and came home alive, there is a chance you might have Chris Kyle to thank for that. Considering the numbers who served, it is a small chance indeed but a real one nonetheless.
Clint Eastwood and Jason Hall teamed up with Chris Kyle to turn Kyle's best-selling book, American Sniper, into a movie. Condensing 448 pages into a 2-hour script was Hall's daunting task. He delivered his "final draft" on February 1st, 2013. The next day Kyle and companion Chad Littlefield were shot and killed at a shooting range by USMC veteran Eddie Routh, whom they were trying to help with his war-related PTSD. This event required a rewrite of the script. Jason Hall then worked closely with Kyle's widow, Taya Kyle.
The rewrite required compressing and compiling some events to allow time for a very different ending. The film has been criticized by some for not portraying certain personal, marital-related and timeline events exactly as they were described in Kyle's book, but the very essence of it is there and it is powerful. As for the exactitude of events, Taya Kyle diemisses them as necessary. "It brought Chris back to life," she said.
As for Rolling Stone's ludicrous review, all one has to do is consider the source. Rolling Stone has not celebrated or embraced American patriotism since the immediacy of the 2001 9/11 attacks subsided. And American Sniper is the story of a real-life patriot, not the kind of character Rolling Stone champions.
There is a reason this movie was nominated for six Academy Awards. There is also a reason Clint Eastwood was not nominated for Best Director and the movie was completely snubbed by the politically correct Golden Globe Awards, further diminishing their statue as anything more relevant than a insiders' pat on their collective backs. They have snubbed Eastwood since 2012, when he openly criticized President Obama at the Republican National Convention and moved outside Hollywood's inner circle. Screw them all. If you are at all objective, see the film and judge for yourself.
If you haven't seen this movie, see it in IMAX if you can or any format if IMAX is not available. It is one of those rare movies that, when it ends, the theater is silent and no one gets up to leave. Rare. Powerful. Masterfully directed, filmed, set, and acted. See it and let me know what you think.
Acids and Acid Blend
I received an email asking about acids, acid blend additions and the acids in common fruit. I quote the email:
I have been home winemaking and reading your web page for two years now, and I've come to a point where I would like to understand better the chemistry behind recipes. I understand sugars but want to understand acids better. My questions, for instance, are around why one fruit wine recipe may call for 1/4 tsp acid blend and another might call for 1 1/4 tsp. I would particularly like to see a chart with a side by side comparison from apples to oranges that lists each fruits TA, tartaric, malic, citric, etc. I think this would help me a lot to understand adding acids to recipes and other things like selecting yeast strains for their propensity to lower malic acid during primary fermentation.
The question is a good one. I explained part of it in my January 19th TidBitts stream and won't repeat it here because I've promised my TidBitts subscribers what I publish there is exclusive and stays there for a considerable period. But click below and you can read it by accepting a free, 30-day trial. I'm not being elusive here, but I've explained it. You can read it free. You don't have to subscribe 30 days later if you don't want to, but if you do you'll have to pay 99 cents a month for the twice-a-week stream.
As to why different amounts of acid blend are called for, it is to bring the base within the correct acid/pH window for the style of wine being made. This was explained in the 3-part TidBitts stream on acid correction that ran from January 3rd to the 15th.
But keep in mind that acid concentrations in fruit and berries varies considerably, as is evident in the January 19th entry referenced above. The only way to "get it right" is to measure the acidiyu of every batch before pitching the yeast. This is impractical for most of you, but if you use the amount in a given recipe you should land within the window of acceptability.
If the acidity is low in the finished wine it will taste flat and lifeless but can be corrected by adding acid blend. If the acidity is too high the wine can be brought into balance with the acid or the acid can be buffered to bring it into balance with the wine. p>
Most home winemakers never test for TA or pH. But if you have to test for one, I'd recommend pH. As I've explained before, it is far more important and greatly affects the amount of sulfite required to attain an aseptic level.
Clementine-Blanc du Bois Wine
Last year I had a poor harvest of Blanc du Bois grapes. I had lost two vines the previous year and last year another refused to awaken from its winter dormancy. A late freeze killed the flowers but new flowers, although fewer than the first ones the freeze claimed, survived to bear some fruit. I harvested them before they were fully ripe. It was either do that or watch the bids eat them
I knew I had pitifully few, not nearly enough for a gallon. In fact, they only pressed out about 1 Â½ liters of juice. Not willing to waste it, I went to the supermarket to see what I might find to round out a gallon. What I found were Clementines.
The Clementine is a variety of tangerine (Citrus reticulate) and a close cousin of the orange (Citrus sinensis). They are more acidic than most tangerines and can be made into an excellent wine. Usually they are sold in bags or boxes weighing 5 pounds, but these boxes held 8 pounds. So be it.
Blanc du Bois just happened to be the white grapes I had. Any white grapes will do, or any white grape juice, providing it is 100% pure and doesn't contain sorbic or benzoic acid, either of which will prevent fermentation.
Clementine-Blanc du Bois Wine Recipe
- 8 lbs Clementines, juiced
- 9 lbs Blanc du Bois (or any white grape) crushed and pressed
- 13 oz sugar (or as needed)
- 1/2 tsp tartaric acid
- 1 Campden tablet, finely crushed
- 1/4 tsp grape tannin
- water to 1 gallon
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- Vintner's Harvest BV7 wine yeast
Crush and press grapes. Peel and press Clementines. Combine juices in primary and add sugar. Stir until completely dissolved. Add remaining ingredients except yeast, which should be sprinkled in a yeast starter solution. Stir well, cover primary and put in a cold place for 12-24 hours. Allow to return to room temperature and add activated yeast starter solution. Stir must daily until vigorous fermentation begins to diminish, then transfer to a sanitized secondary. Attach airlock and set aside 30 days. Rack, top up and reattach airlock. Wait 45 days or until wine has fallen clear, then rack into a fresh secondary into which another finely crushed Campden tablet is waiting. Allow another 30 days and bottle. Age 3-6 months before drinking. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
Since there was a glass of wine remaining in the secondary after bottling (there always is), I drank it (I always do). It was quite good. I actually made this with Lalvin ICV-D47 yeast, but felt it needed a bit more body. The BV7 yeast is noted for high glycerine production which should enhance mouth feel and excellent fruit expression when fermented below 72 degrees F. I think this is a better choice.
December 10th, 2015
I'm excited by the response to my TidBitts stream. There clearly was a need
for this format and I have long wanted to post the many insights that come to
me but are too short for this blog. My last stream entry (tidbit) was both
educational for me and my readers. It was a good one for me as I learned a
great more about Amarone (a splendid wine) than I thought I might. And reader
feedback suggests I cleared up a few things about malolactic fermentation for
them, too, which of course is what all writers strive for. But MLF is a large
and complex subject, so I'm sure it will be revisited again.
TidBitts reference page was taken down March 31. Prior to that there was a
visual pointer to it here.
There is more to say about malolactic fermentation than I penned, which I know
will fit fine in a future entry. I'm just pleased this format allows me to
address more email subjects than I previously could. You might notice I've
removed the warning about sending me emails from this blog and my Home Page. I
still don't answer all of them, but I am answering most.
For your information, some of my upcoming TidBitts will be
"Cold-Proofing A Wine," "Reducing
Alcohol in Finished Wine," "Problem with Dandelion Wine," and
"Yeast Nutrients" to name but a few. Remember, you can try them free
for a month without obligation. They are ad-free as well and can be delivered
tpany connected device (wired or wi-fi) you own or borrow.
If you've read much of this blog you know I
love music, especially the songs I grew up with. I suppose we all do that. I
think there is a profound difference between the music I grew up with and the
music the kids and young adults of today are growing up with—especially to
those who gravitate to rap. I could write a book on this subject but I'll sum
it up succinctly. The music of my youth and early adulthood was actually music
and not a monotonous laid-down track over which someone who can't sing recites
bad poetry. If this insults your musical taste then just skip the rest and go
to the next subject.
This difference was highlighted recently when I left the home of a young
winemaker who was playing rap music in the background. The lyrics I could
understand were obscene by any standard—degrading to women and disrespectful,
even hostile, to authority and especially police. I could not wait to escape
the monotony of sound in that apartment.
In my car, I switched from a talk station to one I knew played my kind of
music. A George Harrison number from the '70s was playing and after that the
following piece by Simon and Garfunkel.
For the last 40-45 years had anyone asked me what my favorite Simon and
Garfunkel song was I'd have named another ("The Sound of Silence",
but had they asked me what I thought their greatest song was I'd have named
this one without hesitation. The music itself is both complexually
sophisticated and beautiful in word and delivery. While the lyrics are free
verse, they are outreaching, supportive and loving. This song is everything
that rap music is not.
Listen to it and tell me I am wrong.
Simon and Garfunkel, 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'
I had the privilege of watching them perform this in person while on R&R
in Hawaii in 1969. Sitting not more than 35-40 feet away, I was totally
captivated by their perfect harmony and delivery. It was, fortuitously, the
first time I ever heard the song as they had just finished recording the album
and my companion and I were both blown away by the accompanying orchestration.
Black Raspberry Chocolate Port
Label of a smaller, earlier,
less intensely flavored batch
I mentioned in my Facebook Page back on October 21st, "Sunday won Best of Show with a non-kit Black Raspberry-Chocolate Port. Might publish the recipe, but maybe not. Some things are worth keeping secret...." People wanted me to publish it, so I will—in a future TidBitts or WineBlog entry. Right now, I just want to tell you about the trials of making this port.
In June 2001 my wife and I attended the 100th anniversary celebration of the Pierce Arrow automobile in Buffalo, New York, where the cars were hand-built. 620 of the cars converged on the event and we rode in a parade through Buffalo in the rumble seat of a 1920-something 2-seater roadster. When the 4-day event ended we stayed on and toured up-state New York.
We stopped at numerous roadside fruit stands and bought baskets of ripe Bing cherries, whose seeds we spit all over the landscape from buffalo southwestward and on to Pennsylvania. At one stand a sign announced black raspberries. We saw none and inquired. The young lady said they had sold out but called her father to ask if there were more that could be brought to the stand. He said no and I asked to speak with him. I asked if he ever sold just the juice and he said yes, but the harvest season for black raspberries was rather brief and he would not have enough to make a gallon of juice until next year. I wrote down his name and number and we departed.
Black raspberry juice is not cheap and it was several years before I called, well before his announced harvest season, and ordered a quart of juice, which he shipped to me. I added to it a little blackberry and blueberry juice and diluted with water to make a gallon of wine. A few years later I ordered a half-gallon and this made a much better tasting gallon of wine.
In 2012 I ordered two gallons of the juice and it evidently was not packed well. FedEx notified me it was destroyed in shipment, meaning at least one of the gallon jugs broke and FedEx tossed it to prevent it from doing more harm to other parcels than it had already done. I filled out an insurance claim and eventually was reimbursed, but the harvest season was over by then. In 2013 I placed an identical order and requested that he double-box it and wrap the jugs in bubble wrap. He did so and I made a 3-gallon batch of Black Raspberry Chocolate Port. If you want the recipe, get on board with my TidBitts (see link above).
In the meantime, you have until June to line up a supplier of black raspberry juice. It isn't cheap, but you have plenty of time to save up for it—it will be worth every penny. Oh, and you have the same amount of time to order some Dutched cocoa powder. Shop online....
The Spice & Herb Bible
The last book I reviewed here was The Food Substitution Bible, now an indispensible companion in my kitchen. Today I am reviewing The Spice & Herb Bible, third edition, by Ian Hemphill and Kate Hemphill. It, too, is now a permanent resident of my kitchen. Read on and discover why.
This 800-page (paperback edition) book is a reference and cookbook wrapped into one and it is stellar in each role. The introduction (Part One;40 pages) is well worth reading first, however tempting it is to jump to the heart of it all. It explains how each alphabetical listing is organized, the difference between herbs and spices, how spices fall into five key flavor groups and herbs belong to another with four additional flavors. Knowing this up front helps immensely in blending for complimentary and even counter-intuitive flavors.
Part Two is the bread and butter of the book—638 pages of alphabetical listings of 97 herbs and spices. That's over 6.5 information-packed pages per entry, each accompanied by excellent color photos, background and plant information, varieties, processing, buying and storage, spice notes and tips, interesting anecdotal travel notes, culinary information (combines with, traditional uses and spice blends—arguably the most valuable info-graphic for each entry), occasional potential substitutions, and recipes highlighting the ingredient. As mind-blowing as this is, there is more.
Part Three, The Art of Combining Spices, might just be the most important section of the book, depending on your prior knowledge. It discusses (separately) the principles and art of blending spices, using herbs in blends, and the spice and herb combination pyramid. Theses are essential prefaces to a listing (many with showcase recipes) of 66 distinctive blends. A healthy bibliography and essential index wrap up the whole.
If this isn't enough, the second edition of this book was joint winner of the Best Reference Book category at the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Cookbook Awards—not an insignificant testimonial. With the third edition, The Spice & Herb Bible will undoubtedly remain the definitive reference book in renown kitchens everywhere.
If the foregoing doesn't convince you that this belongs in your kitchen or
is the perfect gift for that special person you know who aspires to be a chef
in his or her own mind, there is one more thing to consider—the from-scratch
It opens a whole new world to spice and herb wines. Just about everything
you need to know is there—the flavors, the aromatics,
the combining potentials. What isn't there is the underlying base—a mead, a
Niagara, a Muscat, a perhaps not-up-to-par Riesling, etc. I've already begun
two spice wines from ideas gleaned from this book and will be reporting on them
when they are ready to drink. By then I suspect I'll have another dozen
fermenting or aging.
If you are interested in this book, buy it here and now in time for Christmas delivery.
November 26th, 2014
I had a computer crash. It took 5 days to bring it back to life. When it
returned, it had problems I no longer wanted to deal with. I bought a new
system (keeping only my printer and external hard drives) and the new keyboard
did not work. The vendor (a 70-mile round trip away) said the machine was under
warranty and I'd have to deal with the manufacturer. It took EIGHT days for a
new keyboard to arrive.
Living in a small town has genuine quality of life benefits I love, but the
big box stores are all in the big city to the north. Every coin has two sides.
Once again, I have to plug my TidBitts stream. I appreciate each and every
one of you who have subscribed. My email has been glowing. I hope those of you
taking advantage of the free trial subscribe in the end. Ninety-nine cents a
month isn't much for what I deliver, and I could use the money.
Yesterday's entry, "Flavoring Wine or Mead Using Wood Other Than
Oak" brought this comment from Colorado: "You just answered a lot of
questions for me and probably saved me countless weeks of experiment and who
knows how many wines? That in itself was worth $0.99."
Read the tidbitt at http://www.tidbitts.com/free/9ac326.
"Why is My pH Changing?" brought this from Louisiana: "I've
used my new pH meter a lot and have asked myself this same question a couple
times. Thank you for the answer." And this: "I never would have
thought of that…."
Two more TidBitts coming every week. Take a look.
The first month is free.
Pairing Pie with Wine
The big day is tomorrow. Most of you have figured out what you're going to
serve with the turkey or ham or whatever main meat you're having, but what
about dessert? Thanksgiving dessert is traditionally pie. Wouldn't it be nice
to pair a good wine with a good pie? Here are some recommendations from Josh
Cellars, a label known for bold, appreciable wines that deliver the flavors and
quality you expect, but any quality like-varietal will work.
Try: Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
Bright aromas of lime and citrus are the core of this Sauvignon Blanc, with layers
of white flower nectar, peach, and tropical melon. The palate of the wine is fresh
and alive with clean fruit flavors and a perfectly balanced finish. The sweetness
of the apples enhances the citrus flavors in the light and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc.
Try: Josh Cellars Chardonnay
As there are different preparations of pecan pie, Chardonnay pairs well as it is a
medium bodied wine that is versatile enough to stand up to some of the richer
flavors and sweetness in the pie. The Chardonnay features tropical fruits and
citrus, beautifully married with harmonious notes of oak. A delightful harmony of
bright yellow and white stone fruit lingers on the palate and finishes with fresh
and clean acidity.
Pie: Pumpkin or Sweet Potato
Try: Josh Cellars Pinot Noir Aromas of cherry and strawberry on the nose with layers of spicy oak are
captured in Josh Cellars Pinot Noir. On the palate, the wine is plush and subtle
yet has a firm texture. Dark cherry and chocolate flavors fill the mouth with a rich
intensity and lingering finish. The earthiness and spice of the Pinot Noir
compliments both pies—cinnamon and spice.
Try: Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
This Cabernet is an approachable blend with aromas of rich, dark fruit and
baking spices on the nose yielding to fresh plum, blackberry, violet, dried fig,
vanilla bean and Chinese five-spice. The wine is juicy with plum and blackberry
flavors, prominently layered with smoky and sappy maple oak, roasted almonds
and hazelnuts. Its firm tannins and full body will stand up against the rich fruit
flavors, spices and brown sugar featured in this decadent pie.
With all the love, planning and sweat that goes into the Thanksgiving meal, let the wine be of equal quality. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Cranberry-Table Grape Wine
Just after Thanksgiving, cranberries will go on sale in most supermarkets.
It's a good time to load up and make an unforgettable wine. Pure cranberry wine
tastes a lot like White Zinfandel. I have twice served it as a mystery wine and
White Zin was the most submitted guess for the variety. But pure cranberry wine
is a tad thin in body. For that reason I like to add
some 100% pure grape concentrate. For a 3-gallon batch I'll typically add two
cans of white and two cans of red grape concentrate. This recipe is different
and makes one gallon using red table grapes with the cranberries. Do the math
for a 3-gallon batch but only add one packet of yeast.
Seedless red table grapes are still available in the supermarket. Yes, they
aren't the same as the Noble Grapes of Europe, but they still add flavor,
sugar, tannin, and body…and some color. Last year I used equal weights of
cranberries and grapes and the wine was very good. This year I changed the ratio and think it will be just right
Here's how to do it:
- 3 lbs ripe cranberries
- 2 lbs red seedless table grapes
- 1 lb 12 oz very fine granulated sugar
- 3 qts water
- 3/4 tsp pectic enzyme
- 1 Campden tablet, finely crushed and dissolved in 1/2 cup water
- pinch of grape tannin
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1 pkt Champagne wine yeast in a yeast starter solution
Put the water on to boil and prepare a yeast
starter solution. Meanwhile, wash the cranberries and cull out any that are
unsound or unripe. Coarsely chop the cranberries, and put them in a nylon straining
bag. Destem and wash the grapes. Cut in quarters, reserving any juice, and add
to nylon straining bag with cranberries. Tie bag closed, in primary, adding any
juice from grapes. Pour sugar over fruit and then pour boiling water over all
and stir to dissolve sugar. Cover with sterile cloth and let cool about two
Add crushed and dissolved Campden tablet, cover with cloth and let set about
10 hours. Add pectic enzyme, tannin and yeast nutrient. Stir, cover with
sterile cloth and set aside for another 10 hours. Add yeast starter solution,
re-cover and stir daily, punching down the bag. When
vigorous fermentation subsides, squeeze to extract all juices from bag before
adding contents ti compost pile, transfer liquid to secondary,
and fit airlock. Rack after 30 days, top up, refit airlock, and ferment to
dryness. When clear, rack again and wait 30 days. Carefully rack into bottles
and age at least 9 months before sampling. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
This is a good dry wine. You can sweeten to off-dry, but do not ruin it by
adding too much sugar. If wine is a little lifeless or flat, add acid blend
gradually until the wine tastes crisp.
November 9th, 2014
Again, my apologies for the long hiatus since my last
entry. Very pressing personal affairs prevented me from attending to any
writing here or elsewhere other than emails and certain Facebook postings.
Several real life dramas (the latest, as I write this, my internet service
connection is down) continue to plague me, but I do what I can….
I received several emails about the Michael Nesmith piece in my last entry's
introductory rambles. Of them, I most appreciated the following by George:
Just wanted to say I enjoyed your piece on Michael Nesmith. I've been a fan of his
music and sense of humor since the Monkees. I just wanted to add to everything
you said that he is also an awesome live performer, with a superb band. We
traveled from west Michigan to Cleveland, OH last year to finally catch him.
He's philosophical, witty, writes GREAT songs, and performs them well. If you
ever get a chance to see him live, it's worth the effort. He won't be
performing Monkees hits but his renditions of Propinquity and Rio are worth the
price of admission.
~~ George N., in Michigan
Thank you, George. Your comments are backed up by this one from Karen, who
has written to me a number of times about many subjects—some
of them were even about winemaking:
Your Michael Nesmith factoids were enlightening. I happened to see him in concert
several years ago. He is a phenomenal personality and performer, and I love the
variety of his songs and connection he has with his audience. His writing
(songs and books) are magical poetry and prose. Thanks for the additional
insights, and for highlighting 'Joanne.'
~~ Karen E., Austin, Texas
In truth, the factoids I chose to reveal are but a fraction of his
accomplishments. If you have time, read more about him. If you start with the
links I provided in my last entry and dig from there, you'll begin to see what
I mean. George and Karen's descriptors are fitting—awesome
I am pleased with the response to my TidBitts stream subscriptions and free
trials. It is less than I hoped for, but enough that I am pleased. I very much
appreciate all who are subscribing or just looking.
If you follow my personal or website/blog
Facebook pages, you've seen a steady series of "encouragements"
(okay, they are my own promotions) for my TidBitts and you are probably as
tired of them as you are of political commercials, ads and candidate lawn
signs. I promise this will decrease as I approach the number I'm hoping for.
It is painless to get a first month free trial. Just click on the link in
the graphic below and it is done. No credit card pre-registration, no
"service agreement," no nothing. Just click, save the URL to your
favorites and it's done.
You'll see my last tidbitt (delivered Thursday), "Perception in Wine Competitions,
Part 2." You can click "Next" at the top ("Previous"
takes you to the last one you viewed, not the one prior to where you are) which
will allow you to see Part 1 (delivered last Monday) and other published
I don't know how far back you can scroll. I do know this month's line-up is
good, containing eight TidBitts covering a broad spectrum of home winemaking.
TidBitts reference page was taken down March 31. Prior to that there was a
visual pointer to it here.
By the way, tomorrow's (Monday's) tidbitt will be "Labels in
Competitions and Where Did My Wine Go?."
As a reminder, the content in my TidBitts stream is exclusive to subscribers
and will not appear in this WineBlog or my Winemaking Home Page
for a long time, if ever. It is ad-free, delivered twice a week, and is
deliverable to any connected device you might own—PC,
laptop, tablet, e-reader, phone. Enough said.
The Food Substitution Bible
Long-time readers know that I love cooking and cookbooks. I only mention
ones here I am really jazzed up about. This one, by David Joachim, is not
really a cookbook, but a Godsend to any who like to try new recipes and
discover they don't have an ingredient or two. The Food Substitution Bible
(2nd edition) is 695 pages of recipe-saving bliss, containing over 6,500
substitutions for ingredients, equipment and techniques. I dug into it the
moment it arrived and have used it in six recipes thus far#8212;recipes I would not have tried had I not had it to consult.
The 1st edition of this book won the prestigious International Association
of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award, a testament this reviewer considers the
ultimate endorsement. And 10 minutes of reading entries will tell you why. The
2nd edition expanded the 1st by 25%, so this is the baby to go after#8212;for yourself or a Christmas present for the cook who has
everything but doesn't have this book.
The typical entry will have at least three things#8212;(1) the name of the
item in alphabetical order for quick lookup; (2) a brief description, useful
tip or interesting fact about the item (if the item is known by several names,
they appear here and each alternate name sends you to this entry if it is the
item you're looking up); (3) substitutions for the ingredient (measure for
measure), substitutions to vary the flavor, substitutions to save time,
substitutions for better health, varieties of the item (for example, prepared
mustard varieties#8212;there are five). In some entries there are even brief
recipes for how to make the ingredient.
There are four other things an entry might have, either all or in
part#8212;(4) a bordered reference to useful measurement equivalents; (5)
proportions for the actual to substituted item when not 1 for 1; (6)
cross-references to other names the ingredient is known by or related
information (usually another form of the ingredient, such as dried, seed, oil,
liqueur, or extract). There are also 40 pages of reference charts at the back
of the book that are invaluable in themselvs and often referenced in the A to Z
main potion of the book.
As an illustration, let's take Mace. Mace is "a spunkier version of
nutmeg, being the dried, ground, reddish skin that covers the nutmeg seed. One
ounce (5 mL) of ground mace cane be substituted with 1 tsp (5 mL) ground nutmeg
(milder aroma), or 1 tsp (5 mL) ground allspice, or 1 tsp (5 mL) apple pie
spice (cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice).
I cannot say enough about this book. If you are interested in it, you can ORDER IT HERE.. You'll be more than glad you did.
Dragon Blood Wine
I don't do this often. In all the years I've published this WineBlog,
I think I've only done it twice before. I'm talking about re-publishing someone
else's recipe verbatim#8212;not because it is eloquent
or can't be improved upon, but because, like "Skeeter Pee," it is a
recipe I think will be much used and David C. Land deserves all the credit. It
also is worth reading straight from the horse's mouth.
Danger Dave's Dragon Blood Wine<
My name is David C. Land (dangerdave). I am a firefighter from southern Ohio
who started making wine in August 2011. Like most of you, I began slowly, but
was soon bitten by the wine bug and started making many kits in my spare time.
After gaining this valuable experience and understanding of the wine making
process, I ventured out on my own. My very first homemade recipe was Lon
DePoppe's original Skeeter Pee. I was amazed that anyone could make a good
cheap wine so quickly. After varying degrees of success, I went about modifying
Lon's recipe into a process that reflected both my own desires for my wines,
and the processes I had come to understand. Here, I will impart the recipe I
developed that has become popular among a diverse group of wine makers. It is
specifically designed to make good wine cheaply and quickly while waiting for
your kits to age. There are no secrets in wine making. You, my fellow wine
makers, are more than welcome to use or modify this recipes or process for your
own wine making pleasure. Enjoy!
The recipe is formatted for a six (6) gallon batch. To make a larger
or smaller batch, simply do the math. Doubling the batch to twelve gallons
would require twice the listed ingredients, while making a three gallon batch
would only take half.
READ THROUGH THESE STEPS COMPLETELY BEFORE BEGINNING, TO MAKE SURE YOU
HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO FINISH YOUR WINE.
Always make sure anything that touches your wine is both cleaned and
sanitized, and record everything you do!
This is a sweet-tart fruity 'blush' wine made from raspberries,
blackberries, and blueberries with a lemon twist (if desired). It ferments
quickly and clears fast. Batches of this wine have been cleared and bottled in
less than two weeks (your experience may vary).
* Special notes, including cautions and variations appear in italics.
Step 1: To a cleaned and sanitized seven gallon (or larger)
primary, add—in this order:
- 1 bottle (48 oz each) 100% Lemon Juice (ReaLemon in the
green bottle): More or less lemon juice can be added to your taste,
(i.e., if you want to reduce the acid level use less lemon juice). The
acid added here will help balance the final wine. Substitutes include any
other kind of citrus juice (orange, lime, etc.), or use no citrus at all
for a very soft, supple blush.
- Water to about four gallons
20 cups of white granulated sugar (you will be looking for a
SG of around 1.075 after filling to 6 gallons below. This will give you a
finished alcohol by volume of about 10%-11%): Add more/less sugar for
high/lower desired final ABV. Stir sugar until completely dissolved.
- 1 tsp. tannin (stir)
- 3 tsp. yeast nutrient (stir)
- 1 tsp. yeast energizer (stir)
- 3 tsp. pectic enzyme (stir)
- Top water to six (6) gallons* and stir well
- Test SG with hydrometer (remember, you are looking for
a SG around 1.075) Note: The natural sugars from the fruit (below) will
slightly increase the final ABV, so be careful how high you drive up the
SG at this point!
- 6 lbs. of Triple Berry Blend (raspberry/blackberry/blueberry--available
in most grocery store freezer sections), frozen then thawed, in a fine
mesh nylon bag (tied shut), placed in primary (add any extra juice from
the fruit as well): Give the bag a couple of squeezes to work in pectic
enzyme. You may also toss the fruit directly into primary, but this makes
for a "messier" fermentation and subsequently will require more
clearing time and further racking. Dozens of variations on this recipe
have been created by simply substituting different or combinations of
- Cover primary Do not snap down the lid or add an
airlock. Cover the lid with a cloth or towel.
- Place brew belt (if desired): Keep temp in 68F-80F range. A higher temp will result in a
faster fermentation, and a sharper tasting, more
colorful wine. A lower temp will produce a paler blush with more
fruity aroma and a smoother taste.
- Let sit undisturbed for 12-24 hours...
Step 2: To the primary fermenter, add:
- 1 packet of EC-1118 Yeast (follow yeast
manufacturer's directions): Sprinkle yeast into one cup of warm water
(100F), let sit for 15 minutes (no longer), stir and add to primary. Other
yeast strains also work well. Experiment!
- Stir Primary Vigorously!
Step 3: Each day, do the following, in this order:
- Uncover primary
- Check and record temperature
- Check and record specific gravity
- Squeeze juices from fruit pack into fermenter and
remove fruit pack (The Presser Method): Temporarily
place in sanitized bucket or bowl.
- Stir primary vigorously: To
introduce oxygen into must, suspend the yeast, and drive off CO2.
- Replace fruit pack in primary
- Cover primary
Step 4: When the SG drops to <1.000, do the following:>
- Squeeze juices from fruit pack into fermenter—remove fruit pack: Discard fruit. Note: When the
specific gravity (SG) has fallen below 1.000, and the fruit bag has been
removed, discontinue stirring daily but check the SG and temp daily as
before. Proceed from here only when the wine's SG has stabilized below
1.000. A stable SG means that the SG for three consecutive days reveals no
change in the SG.
- Uncover primary
- Rack (siphon or drain) the wine into a cleaned and
sanitized six gallon carboy, leaving the gross lees (the stuff in the
bottom of the primary) undisturbed.
- Add ¼ tsp. Potassium Metabisulfite (dissolved in half
cup cool water) and stir
- Add 3 tsp. Potassium Sorbate (dissolved in half cup
cool water) and stir
- Degas wine very thoroughly: I cannot emphasize this
enough! Gas in the wine will prevent it from clearing quickly.
- Add Sparkolloid* (or other clearing agent) per package
directions (stir for 2 minutes): *1 tbs in one cup of water simmered
(boiled) for about 5-10 minutes. Add hot mixture directly to carboy and
- If the carboy is not full, add enough cool water to
bring the level within two inches of the top opening: Adding a like wine rather than water is preferred. A cheap
white zinfandel will work well.
- Add a bung and airlock (filled half way with sulfite
- Allow to clear undisturbed for no less than 1 week.
Step 5: When wine is clear:
- Carefully rack off one gallon of wine into a cleaned
and sanitized container, and set aside.
- Carefully rack the remainder of the wine off of the
lees into a cleaned & sanitized six gallon carboy.
- Add 2-6 cups of white granulated sugar (stir until
sugar is completely dissolved): This is where your personal taste comes
in. Different people like different levels of sweetness in their wine. My
DB is made with ¼ of a cup of sugar per gallon. Remember! The sugars will
blend with the lemon and berry flavors over time, and the sweetness will
come forward. Do not over-sweeten!
- If carboy is not full, top up within two inches of top
of carboy opening with some of the spare gallon of wine
- Replace bung and airlock
- Allow wine to sit quietly for another week.
Step 6: If the wine is completely clear:
- Filter if desired
- Bottle in clear bottles (because it's beautiful)
- Note: Never bottle cloudy wine! NEVER!
- Enjoy! This wine is great right from the start! It
will, however, improve over time in the bottle. The first few weeks brings
a noticeable improvement as the flavors blend and meld, while months will
make it smooth and delightful. Be warned, though, it will go quickly. So,
get some more going, fast!
SO MANY VARIATIONS!
Any kind of fruit you can imagine may be substituted for the triple
berries in the above recipe. Use the exact same procedure,
just use different fruit in the bag. I personally have made blueberry, blackberry,
strawberry, raspberry, and a delightful tropical blend using
pineapple/mango/peach/strawberry. Other wine makers have had success with a
quad-berry blend (blueberry/blackberry/raspberry/strawberry), a tropical blend
using pineapple juice instead of lemon, and even cherry-lime (with lime juice).
Fruit purees and fruit wine bases abound on the market. Try oak and/or raisins
in the primary or secondary. The list of possibilities is endless. Use your
imagination. Pick your favorite fruit, and make a Dragon Blood version of your
own. Try raisins, spices, oak, or extracts. Give it a catchy name, and make
this recipe yours!
A NOTE ON THE PRESSER METHOD
I developed this method of wine making simply out of necessity. My desire
was to make country fruit wine, but I lacked good available juice, and I do not
own a press. The solution was to add the fruit to the primary in a bag of some
sort. I use fine mesh nylon bags sold by most wine supply vendors. A cheaper disposable substitute is knee-high lady's nylon
stockings. While the fruit is in the primary—in
the bag—simply squeeze the bag each day and stir the juices into the must,
replacing the bag afterwards. Needless to say, make sure your hands are clean
when doing this. When the wine is dry, remove the bag and discard the fruit.
This method slowly introduces the juice into the must during fermentation
rather than all at the beginning. This also gives the skins of the fruit
extended contact with the fruit pectin and yeast, elevating the flavors to a
remarkable level in a very short time.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
This knowledge is nothing new. I have built my methods and recipes from
the stones quarried by others. The wine making community is a wealth of
information and a multitude of wonderful people. They are your greatest
resource. I am more than willing to help anyone who asks. If I don't know
something, I will point you in the right direction. You may seek me out in the
winemakingtalk.com forums (dangerdave), or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org,
and we'll talk about making some good wine!
David C Land
This is indeed a beautiful wine, easy to drink and loaded with flavor. I
recommend the original triple berry recipe, because the balance of flavors is
hard to beat. I have not tried any variations yet, but I have some frozen
elderberries that might find their way into the next batch, in moderation of
course or they will overtake the other flavors in spades.
Thank you David...!
Wine Cooler Direct if you see a wine cooler in your future)
has not been inspiring but I have high hopes for my TidBitts subscriptions to Winemaking With Jack Keller. In
any event, at around 11:30 that same night, I brought FreePCServices
back online because some of you probably really need it whether you realize it
If you were inconvenienced by yesterday's developments I offer you my
apologies, but every action taken was to protect your computer. If you visited
the home page or this blog, have anti-malware software and got through in the
seconds it took to take these two pages off-line, you are almost certainly
safe. If you don't have anti-malware software, I invite you to visit my
and get a free program to protect your computer or device(s). Anti-malware
programs are incorporated in the free anti-virus section. Not all anti-virus
programs have anti-malware capabilities so you have to read.
Again, my apologies if you were inconvenienced in any way. I know I
My friend Bob Wehner sent me an email about stroke indicators. I had seen
it before and tagged it to discuss here, but somehow it slipped through the
cracks. I decided it's too important to let slip through the cracks again. My
mother has suffered two minor strokes#8212;one while
on a cruise and one at home.
According to the U. S. Center for Disease Control, 800,000 Americans have
a stroke each year; 130,000 of those die. Yet a neurologist says that if he can
get to a stroke victim within 3 hours he can totally reverse the effects of a
stroke. He said the trick was getting a stroke recognized, diagnosed, and then
getting the patient medically cared for within 3 hours, which is tough.
Stroke symptoms include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg—especially on one side of the body.
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
I have seen two mnemonics to help a layman diagnose a stroke if any of the
above symptoms appear. One is FAST:
- Face: ask the person to smile. Does one side of the
- Arms: ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm
- Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is
their speech slurred or strange?
- Time: if you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1
The email Bob sent me offered a different mnemonic with a fourth symptom.
It uses STRT, which I have changed to STAT (the email uses the R to mean Raise
the arms, but I have changed it to Arms because STAT is easier to remember than
- Smile: ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?
- Talk: ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is
their speech slurred and lacks fluency?
- Arms: ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm
- Tongue: ask the person to stick out their tongue. Is
the tongue crooked or goes to one side or the other?
Obviously, if any of the diagnostic signs appear, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Michael Nesmith as a Monkee
, probably 1968
Many of my older readers (and I hope younger ones as well) will recognize
the name Michael Nesmith as one of the four musicians in the television series The
Monkees. They may not recognize him as a poet, singer, song-writer, actor,
television host, record and movie producer, author, as well as musical
innovator in many ways—for example, as a pioneer in country rock, producer
of musical videos and movies, and creator of 3D virtual concerts.
The Monkees aired from 1966-1968 but their albums continue to sell
today. Nesmith wrote many hit songs for the group and many performers
("Mary, Mary" byThe Monkees and Paul Butterfield Blues Band,
"Different Drum" and "Some of Shelly's Blues" by Linda
Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys, "Pretty Little Princess" by
Frankie Laine, "Some of Shelly's Blues" and "Propinquity (I've
Just Begun to Care)" by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, etc.). Whether you
knew any of the above or not, my point is that Michael Nesmith is no
lightweight in the musical world.
In 1970 Nesmith wrote and recorded one of the most beautiful and mature
songs ever about a love of a younger past. His dreamily countryish song
"Joanne" only made it to number 21 on Billboard and number 17
on Cashbox, but over the years it has become an iconic expression of
young and lost love and embodies the best of Michael Nesmith. I had the
origiunal studio recording posted below with beautiful graphics and imprinted
lyrics, but it was taken down so now I've linked to a concert recording. Not as
polished as the studio version, but still very good. I just can't tell you when
or where it was recorded.
Michael Nesmith's "Joanne"
Footnotes about Michael Nesmith:
His mother and father divorced when he was four and he was raised by his
mother in Dallas, Texas. She took temporary jobs ranging from clerical to
secretarial to graphics design and when he was 13 she invented a liquid
correction fluid for typewriters call "Liquid Paper." She founded,
ran and built the Liquid Paper Corporation into a multimillion dollar entity
and in 1979 sold it for $48 million. She passed away a few months later.
Nesmith, in 1965 an accomplished but still unknown musician/songwriter,
went to the audition for The Monkees wearing a wool cap, carrying a bag
of dirty laundry to wash on the way home, and basically acting like he could
care less. They liked him#8212;and the wool cap.
Nesmith paid $450,000 to buy his way out of his Monkees contract
in 1970 and was financially strapped until his mother passed away a decade
later and he inherited a fortune.
In 1974 Nesmith incorporated Pacific Arts Productions which was a
multimedia company. It morphed into Pacific Arts Corporation which was the
parent of several production companies focused on different media. Among many,
many projects, in 1979 Nesmith created a television program for Nickelodeon
Network called PopClips which aired in 1980 and 1981 and included such
performers as Split Enz, Pretenders, Kim Carnes, Huey Lewis
and the News, The Police, The Rolling Stones, Carly Simon,
and many more. In 1981 the program was sold to Time Warner/AMEX, after which
(according to PopClips director William Dear), "...they just
watered down the idea and came up with MTV."
In 1982 Nesmith won the first ever Grammy Award for a musical video (Long
Form) for his hour-long Elephant Parts.
In 1985 NBC hosted the series, "Michael Nesmith in Television
Parts," in which he introduced America to comedians Jay Leno, Jerry
Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Whoopi Goldberg, and Arsenio Hall. Five home runs.
From 1974 and throughout the 1980s Pacific Arts created or acquired (at
the time) the largest catalog of non-theatrical video titles in the world and
set up its own independent distribution system. In 1990 Pacific Arts and
Nesmith entered into a contract with PBS to distribute the Pacific Arts video
catalog under the PBS logo. Serious disagreements soon arose and were followed
by lawsuits and counter-lawsuits. In 1999 a jury in the Los Angeles federal
court unanimously awarded Nesmith and Pacific Arts almost $49 million in
compensatory and punitive damages.
In 1995 Pacific Arts opened Videoranch, which hosted (and cataloged)
several multimedia projects. In 1998 it launched Videoranch 3D (VR3D), a test
bed for 3-D virtual technologies which could deliver live
content into virtual environments. The latter remained largely a research and
development operation until 2004, when Nesmith developed a process for
seamlessly embedding live video into virtual worlds and a companion production
technique that allowed live performers to interact in real time with a virtual
audience. Nesmith has two patents pending for these processes.
Pretty amazing guy, isn't he? And I probably would have thought that if
all he ever did was write and record "Joanne."
"Cork Taint" Isn't What You Think It Is
TCA—cork taint—is instantly perceived
when sniffing the wine before drinking it. But recent research in Japan has
shown that TCA doesn't really make wine smell bad.
Believe it or not, it's probably all in your head.
A wine that has been tainted with TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) gives a
musty odor, most often described as resembling a "wet dog,"
"damp dishcloth" or "moldy newspapers," and is the main
reason many wines—especially those from Australia—now have synthetic
cork or screw cap closures.
If you dig deep enough you'll learn that TCA has a close cousin, TCB (2,4,6-tribromoanisole), that smells so close to TCA that few
can distinguish between the two. While TCA and TCB are responsible for the vast
majority of cork taint, other compounds cause different but objectionable odors
often confused with cork taint by those not familiar with them and their
specific odors—guaiacol, geosin, 2-methylisoborneol (MIB), octen-3-ol and
octen-3-one. While all of these are problems if present in wine, it is TCA that
is most common and therefore is the poster child of tainted wines with cork
closures and our focus here.
Misconceptions and Facts
The common misconception is that TCA is formed in the wine after bottling
due to various fungi and molds colonizing the natural cork closure. This seems
logical because if it was in the wine itself it would have been detected before
bottling. Another misconception is that the use of synthetic corks and
screw-cap closures eliminate TCA incidences. The latter is not quite true, as
TCA can and has been detected in wines with such closures, and if this is the
case then both misconceptions must be false.
Truth is often a strange bedfellow. The fungi and molds responsible for
TCA are airborne and therefore can exist anywhere they are carried, such as the
bark of the cork tree, wine barrel staves, grapes, winery equipment, and even
winery walls, floors and ceilings.. And they are
incredibly small. By themselves they are harmless, but when they are mated with
chlorophenol compounds they produce chlorinated anisole derivatives—one of
which is 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA). The chlorophenol compounds can originate
in pesticides, wood preservatives, chlorinated cleaners, or chlorine, once used
to sterilize corks until banned.
If chlorophenols find their way into the winemaking process they can
contaminate the equipment, the hoses used to transfer the wine, barrels and
vats used to ferment or age the wine, or simply flow with the wine into the
bottle. Every step along the way chlorophenols are
harmless, but if they come into contact with those specific fungi or molds a
metabolic process begins. It is not immediate, but it does not stop until after
it has produced TCA.
That endpoint most likely occurs in the bottle, but the precursors may
well have combined before bottling and therefore TCA can occur when screw caps
and synthetic corks are used. In the case of the compounds, they need only
exist in nanograms per liter, an incredibly small amount. TCA itself can be
detected by sensitive noses at concentrations as low as 2 parts per trillion.
That's "trillion" with a "t."
Scientists and laymen alike always assumed TCA was like any other
foul-smelling compound, detected by the scent receptors in the nose and sent by
electrical signals to the brain. It ain't so.
A 2013 study by a Japanese research
team, published in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
found that TCA does not, as expected, excite olfactory receptor cells (ORCs)
and recognize the smells associated with TCA. Rather, its presence, even at a
very low threshold, suppresses the cells' ability to convert chemical smell
signals into electrical signals recognizable by the brain. In other words, it
suppresses and numbs the ORCs' ability to react to or categorize an actual
We examined the effects of TCA on ORCs in whole-cell electrophysiological
recordings. Considering its low effective concentration for producing
off-flavors, we expected TCA to elicit excitatory responses in ORCs at low
concentrations or in a majority of cells. However, we did not detect any ORC
responses to TCA application. Instead, we were surprised to find that TCA
actually suppressed ORC transduction currents.
~ Hiroko Takeuchi, Hiroyuki Kato, Takashi Kurahashi, PNAS, vol 110 no. 40,
To translate, when those ORCs stop sending electrical signals to the
brain, the brain apparently interprets the lack of input as a musty smell. Thus
the perceived odor of wet dog, damp dishcloth or moldy newspaper apparently
originates in your head as a sensory numbness. We cannot say for sure what the
actual smell of TCA is.
In a follow-up study, the same researchers demonstrated that the original
aroma of a TCA-tainted wine (or food) is always muted. This gives further
credence to their finding that TCA numbs and suppresses actual scents. So the
next time you think you are smelling cork taint, think
again. You're smelling sensory numbness.
- Stroke illustration taken from email, not further
- Michael Nesmith, Wikipedia article
- Pacific Arts Corporation, Wikipedia
article—covers the PBS settlement fairly well
- PopClits, Wikipedia article
- 2,4,6-richloroanisole is a potent suppressor of
olfaccctory signal transduction, the PNAS article cited above,
also the source of the last image (cropped), used for educational purposes
under Fair Use Act
- Cork Taint, Wikipedia article
- Winemaking With Jack Keller, my TidBitts entry page
(click on the Example)
- Free PC Services, secure your computer, my site
- Help Keep the Winemaking Home Page a Free Website, a
self-serving plea for support
October 5th, 2014
Do NOT place a step-ladder on soggy, rain soaked grass and then climbe
the ladder and lean over to cut a branch. The ladder will sink into the ground
on the leaning side and you will fall. That's my safety tip for today based on
I still have a large branch, still connected to the tree, fallen across
my driveway. I've cut a tunnel under it I can drive through, but doing more
will have to wait until my knee is better. Right now I can hardly walk, even
with a knee brace and pain pills.
Nymph patterns, clockwise
L to R,
Wired Stone Fly,
Midge, Anatomical Baetis/PMD,
Troth Pheasant Tail (photo
Act for illustrative purposes
My recent flyfishing trip to the Black Hills was a learning experience. I
love dry flies and never fail to coax the fish into striking...until this trip.
They just weren't taking surface flies. After a full day of no strikes, I hung
a dropper line with an emerger fly from the dry fly, using the latter as a
strike indicator. Emergers weren't working either (at least MY emergers
weren't), but my friends were catching trout using nymphs on the drop lines.
You don't need a dry fly as a strike indicator if you use bead head
nymphs with a strike indicator on the line. You can use non-bead head nymphs
with a lead split-shot weigh a few inches above the fly and a strike indicator.
I didn't have any strike indicators so had to use the dry fly-drop line.
I don't really like to fish nymphs and had very few in my collection and
very little experience fishing them. My friends had visited a fly shop in Rapid
City before my late arrival and, having been told nymphs were the only thing
working, stocked up. Since I missed that shopping trip, I had to use what I
Nymphs are basically bottom bait carried by the currents when washed out
of their habitat. Our streams were fairly fast, so the trick was to cast high
enough above the suspected fish to allow the nymph to fall to the bottom or a
few inches above it and present itself as helpless food. When we hiked into the
meadows, we found frequent beaver dams which slowed the current and created
many structures for the fish, nymphing was a whole differed game. The drop
lines were shorter and you could "work" the nymph with subtle line
movement to simulate live, struggling bait.
For the most part these waters were crystal clear. If you could see the
fish, they could see you. If you cast appropriately, the fish might not make
a connection between you and the fly, but wading and shadows gave the fish many
clues for caution.
The beaver ponds were the most challenging as here were a lot of in- and
above-water logs, branches and exposed roots to snag on, and snag I did.
In free-flowing streams the challenges were just as great. There was
plenty of organic material in the water to snag on, plus rock crevices, but
misjudging the backcast area was lethal to the flies and tippets. And
cross-bank overgrowth was equally dangerous. I pride myself on being able to
drop a dry fly within inches of the far bank overgrowth. With a dropper line
tied to the dry fly, this wasn't easy at all and on the next-to-last day I lost
my last nymph while still trying to master the correct cross-bank technique.
Luckily, my friend John Ewen gave me some of his, three of which I lost on the
Nymphing is not what I'm used to, but I'm learning. I have a year to
practice before our next trip to restock my fly collection and gear, and I will
get it down just in case we face a similar challenge. You can bet on it. And
I'm not finished with the Black Hills, either (God willing).
I received 5 emails and Tweets regarding John Denver's rendition of
"The Weight." All were favorable, but all agreed The Band's
version with the late Levon Helm singing at the drums is tough to beat. But
three offered another version, known simply as "The Weight (encore)"
at the Love for Levon Concert.
On October 3, 2012 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey a
wide variety of musicians who had worked with Helm as well as musicians who
were influenced by him put on an incredible concert. The purpose was both a
tribute to Levon as well as a fund raiser to keep Helm's Woodstock barn in his
family's control and to continue his Midnight Ramble concert series in the
structure. The encore performance of "The Weight" by all of the concert performers was a genuine show of love to
a man they all admired and missed.
I could list the performers but it would take so long to do it that I
won't. Just watch the clip below and I'm sure you'll recognize a few, or see
the article linked at the end of the entry. But do watch the clip....
"The Weight" (encore) Love for Levon Concert,
October 3, 2012
East Rutherford, New Jersey
That was amazing! The complete performance of the concert (2 DVDs + 2
available here. It is worth the price if only to see/hear Gregg Allman and
Warren Haynes perform "Long Back Veil", Bruce Hornsby do "Anna
Lee". Grace Potter and Matt Burr perform "I Shall Be Released",
Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph do "Up On Cripple Creek", Roger Waters,
G.E. Smith and My Morning Jacket perform "The Night They Drove Old Dixie
Down", and of course the encore of "The Weight" by everyone.
It's a fabulous treasure to add to any music/video collection.
Big Day Tomorrow...
Winemaking With Jack
6th by subscription
Tomorrow I launch my TidBitts stream, Winemaking
With Jack Keller. This is a big event for me,
almost like a second blog, only this one will contain exclusive content not
publish in this WineBlog. The difference between the two will be
dramatic. No rambling introductions, no winemaking or food recipes, no book
reviews or musical memories—just focused winemaking tips, tricks and insights
to help you become a better winemaker. You won't get it anywhere else but will
get it every Monday and Thursday, delivered ad-free to any connected device, if
you subscribe, for just 99¢ a month.
Tomorrow's TidBitt will be "How Can You Know When A Wine Is Ready To
Drink?" and will save you at least one—maybe more—750mL bottles of wine
finding out. Thursday will present "Be The Best
Wiinemaker", followed by "Be A Pioneer", "Those Darn
Campden Tablets (and Potassium Sorbate, too)", "Cyanide in Our
Wine?", "Clarifying a Stubborn, Cloudy Wine", Perceptions in
Wine Competitions", and much more. The first month is free when you
subscribe and you can cancel at any time.
now and don't miss an entry—once the next one is published the last one is
gone. Your 99¢ will buy me a few hours of server and connection time. I thank
you for your donations but I'll need both to survive.
It's October. The year is winding down. If you make your wines from seasonal
ingredients, as I usually do, the choices are slimming down. You can still find
a few grapes and raspberries are finishing up their season so get some if you
can. There are many winter vegetables suitable for wine and imported fruit will
be available but nowhere near the quality of locally grown. However, two
biggies remain and both make excellent wine. These are pumpkins and
The trick to making a good pumpkin wine is to use small pie pumpkins.
Avoid the large, carving pumpkins and you will be delighted.
Pumpkin Pie Wine
- 5 lbs peeled and cleaned pie pumpkins, grated
- 2 lbs Demerara (or Turbinado) sugar
- 11-oz can Welch's 100% White Grape Juice frozen
- 1 tsp finely diced fresh ginger
- zest and juice of 3 Valencia oranges (or 15 oz Valencia
orange juice and zest of any 3 oranges)
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 3 3-inch cinnamon sticks
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 tsp pectic enzyme
- 1/8 tsp grape tannin
- Water to one gallon (about 3 quarts and 1 cup)
- 1 1/4 tsp yeast nutrient
- Champagne wine yeast
Put water on to boil. Meanwhile, peel pumpkins, remove seeds and grate
with food processor. Put pumpkin, sugar and juice of citrus fruit in primary.
Combine zests and spices in jelly bag, tie closed, and place in primary. Pour
boiling water over ingredients in primary. Stir until sugar is completely
dissolved. Cover primary and allow to cool to room
temperature. Meanwhile, thaw grape concentrate. When must is cool add grape
concentrate, pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient and then stir briefly and re-cover
must. Wait 8-10 hours and add activated yeast in starter solution and re-cover
the primary. When fermentation is vigorous, ferment three
days, stirring daily. Remove spices and strain liquid into secondary,
fit airlock and ferment 30 days or until still for 3 days. Rack, top up and
refit airlock. After 60 days or when wine clears, rack again and stabilize with
1/2 tsp potassium sorbate and one finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet,
top up, and refit airlock. After additional 60 days, sweeten to taste if
desired and rack into bottles. Allow to age one year; two is better. [Jack
Keller's own recipe]
This was a marvelous golden-white wine that aged wonderfully. If you
cannot get the smaller, more tender pie pumpkins get
the smallest you can. Get the pie pumpkins as soon as you see them, One or two
are required for a gallon of wine (above recipe).
Raspberries are at the end of their season, so if your supermarket doesn't
carry them frozen then buy fresh ones now and freeze them in freezer bags until
needed. Cranberries are usually not available until fresh raspberries are no
longer available so plan ahead.
- 3 lbs ripe cranberries
- 1 lb thawed raspberries
- 11-oz can Welch's 100% White Grape Juice frozen
- 2 lbs finely granulated sugar
- 3 qts water
- 1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1 packet Champagne yeast
Put the water on to boil. Meanwhile, wash the cranberries and cull out
any that are unsound or unripe. Coarsely chop the cranberries and put in nylon
straining bag with raspberries, tied closed, in primary. Pour sugar over fruit
and boiling water over all and stir o dissolve sugar. When cooled to room
temperature, add pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient. Stir, cover with sterile
cloth and set aside for 12 hours. Add yeast, re-cover and stir daily. When
vigorous fermentation subsides, squeeze to extract all juices, transfer to
secondary, and fit airlock. Rack after 30 days, top up, refit airlock, and ferment
to dryness. When cclear, rack again and wait 30 days. Carefully rack into
bottles and age at least 9 months before sampling. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
This is an excellent dry wine. I've received one complaint and that was
from someone who sweetened the finished wine and then found it too sweet. As
Forrest Gump's mother used to say, "Stupid is as stupid does."
September 30th, 2014
As announced in my last entry, my TidBitts stream, Winemaking
with Jack Keller, will be launching October 6th. This will be an ad-free,
twice a week, stream of winemaking tips, tricks, tales, and insights written
exclusively for subscribers. Subscription is 99¢ per month, the first month is
free, and you can cancel at any time. None of the material in my TidBitts
will be published here in the WineBlog or anywhere else. I'm confident
your subscription will make you a better winemaker.
Every Monday and Thursday the stream will be delivered to all of your
connected devices—your PC, laptop, tablet, or smart phone. I'm going to great
lengths to provide it, but all you have to do to receive it is subscribe
here. Let's have some fun together.
Photo of me on Spearfish
Creek, South Dakota
I took a vacation with my wife last month to Florida, but that was
for us. I just returned from a week of flyfishing with three friends in the
Black Hills of South Dakota. This was an annual "guys only" getaway
for me. My wife has her own "girls only" getaway week.
We cabined at Cheyenne Crossing and thoroughly explored Spearfish Creek
and its tributaries and then drove over to Rapid Creek, which was lots of fun. In both locations the fish were picky. They
refused dry flies, preferring midges, nymphs and emergers. Nymphs were the best
enticers, but when your flies are tumbling along the bottom you snag a lot of
roots, submerged branches and rocky crevices and as a result lose a lot of
flies. Using a dry fly as an indicator and a drop line with the nymph worked
reasonably well, but water levels were so varied that it was difficult to judge
the correct drop length. But these variables are what makes
flyfishing so challenging and fun.
And in the end it isn't about the right flies or the fishing itself, but
about being out there in God's country and attempting to become one with the
ebbs and flows of the streams. It's about communing with nature in a existential way. We caught browns, brookies and rainbow
trout, but released them all to hopefully grow bigger
and smarter. It was pure fun—almost.
Yes, I stepped on a rock that rolled and sent me into the creek. I forgot
to put my cell phone and wallet in waterproof baggies and that was a costly
mistake. The wallet and its contents dried out in the cabin but the cell was
toast. We live and learn, although I had learned this lesson before so it was
simple negligence on my part. I'd do it again tomorrow, with or without the
baggies. The lure of the streams is powerful.
Wild Bill Hickok, Texas Jack
Omohundro and Buffalo Bill
Since most folks have no idea where Cheyenne Crossing, South Dakota is,
it is located near the central western border of South Dakota. It is a short
drive from Lead (pronounced Leed) and Deadwood, where James Butler (aka
"Wild Bill") Hickok was shot in the back of the head on August 2,
1876 by Jack McCall while playing poker in Nuttal and Mann's Saloon, now
commonly referred to as Saloon Number 10. The original saloon burned, along
with 300 other buildings, in the fire of September 26, 1879. The rebuilt saloon
burned again in the fire of 1899. The current building, possibly built on the
wrong site, is made of brick.
Hickok was an original in every way. At age 18 he rode with General Jim
Lane's "Jayhawkers" in the Kansas Territory, where he first met and
befriended William F. (later known as "Buffalo Bill") Cody, who was then
only 12 years old but an able horseman and marksman. In 1860, at age 23, he was
mauled by a bear which he injured twice with his handgun and finally killed
with his knife, but suffered multiple lacerations, a crushed chest, shoulder
and arm. He was a Union soldier during the Civil War and later a scout for the
7th and 10th U.S. Calvary Regiments. He was a lawman in several towns in the
Kansas and Nebraska Territories and personally knew (and liked) John Wesley
Hardin, although at the time Hardin was using an alias and Hickok didn't know
his true identity. Hickok was also a long-time friend of Buffalo Bill Cody and
friend of Martha Jane (aka "Calamity Jane") Cannary (who claimed she
had once been married to Hickok).
Hickok was known as "the first pisolero," what we would
now call a gunfighter. It is well documented that he was the first man to face
an opponent in a town square—Davis Tutt, in Springfield, Missouri in 1865—and
kill him in a quick draw duel. Hickok had already killed David McCantles in a
gunfight in Nebraska in 1861, but it was the mano y mano showdown in
Springfield that solidified his reputation as the pistolero and caused
dozens of dime novels to be written about him—almost none of them true. Wild
Bill would kill 36 men during his 39 years of life.
Perfect beer on a trout fishing trip
This detour in history now complete, our cabin was also a leisurely drive
to Mount Rushmore, a sculpture well worth seeing. We also drove an additional
17 miles to see the far from completed Crazy Horse Memorial on Thunderhead
Mountain—what will be the largest sculpture in the world if ever completed.
It was begun in 1948 to memorialize the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse
and only a small fraction of it (notably, the head) is completed. A lady in the
cabin next to ours suggested we not pay to "go in" to the monument as
you can see everything you need to see from the highway. We ignored her advice
and paid $7 each to go in anyway. I personally regretted the decision. The Visitors
Center is a large building housing historic Oglala Lakota artifacts, clothing,
weapons and art, but the majority of the space is occupied by vendors selling
souvenirs, jewelry and crafts. With over a million visitors each year, one has
to wonder why so little work has been done on the giant sculpture (If completed
to design, it will be 641 feet long and 563 feet high). As one of my friends
said, "They could take the entry fees, hire a brigade of Chinese, and the
thing would be done in a few years."
Despite my disappointment of the Crazy Horse Memorial and losing my cell
phone to North Spearfish Creek, it was a very enjoyable getaway. The fishing
was both relaxing and challenging, as the brown, brook and rainbow
trout—evident everywhere—were feeding on nymphs, not my favorite fly to fish.
All fish caught were gently released.
One evening in the cabin we were talking about music and I mentioned my
love for the hauntingly enigmatic song by The Band, "The
Weight." Fellow fisherman Charles Gallagher then introduced us to the
purity of voice version by the late John Denver. While I personally
prefer Levon Helm's' sometimes raspy delivery of the lyrics (especially their
Woodstock performance), I do appreciate Denver's clean and sometimes
John Denver, "The Weight" with
The TA vs. pH Debate
My early winemaking books, most by British authors, discussed acidity in
wine mostly in terms of TA. If pH was mentioned, it was sort of "another
measure" you could make but I don't recall any serious emphasis on it.
They used litmus paper to measure it and that was considered "too
unreliable for meaningful results." Thus, I grew up making wine using TA
as my acidity index.
It really wasn't until I moved to San Francisco and began taking day
trips to the wine country and talking to the winemakers that I was seriously
confronted with pH. None of these guys ever mentioned TA unless I brought it
up. Their index was pH.
Let me preface here that the winemakers at the various wineries were very
accessible to home winemakers if they were not in the middle of a process that
required their full attention. Tastings were free, winery tours were sort of ad
hoc, and if you wandered away from the tasting room and roamed around no one
got in your face about it. It was a great period in the California wine
industry's evolution—a laid back period when lots of new wineries were
developing their niche and the big money had not yet started buying up labels
and guarding their "secrets".
There were three winemakers in particular I liked to visit with. All
three gave me generous samples of yeasts I had never heard of and explained why
they used them. I tried to relate their varietal-specific examples to fruit and
berries and they were very open to discussing this. But when they discussed
acid, I was always lost because pH was largely a mystery to me. It took me a
long time to actually appreciate where they were coming from and why.
TA stands for titratable acidity but is more easily understood by the
more common misnomer "total acidity". In short, it is the sum of all
acids in the must or wine as a volume ratio—a percentage of the total volume.
Thus, a wine with 7.5 grams per liter of TA has 0.75% of its volume in the form
of several combined acids. It makes no difference in the equation whether the
acids are strong fairly stable and influential, such as tartaric or malic, or
are weak and relatively unstable acids such as citric, succinic or acetic. In
total, the average wine contains dozens of acids, but the vast majority are in such trace amounts that they have little or
no effect on taste but do influence bouquet later on.
The above paragraph, beginning with "TA
stands for...", has been corrected. Previously it
said in part, "Thus, a wine with 7.5 grams per liter of TA has 7.5% of its
volume in the form of several combined acids." A misplace decimal point
made the percentage off by a factor of 10. It now correctly reads
"0.75%". To say I am embarrassed is an undersatement. Thanks to my
Facebook friends for pointing this out.
pH is much more complicated to explain and I'll only explain the basic concept
here. Just remember that pH is a German abbreviation for the potenz (power,
or potential) of a solution to yield hydrogen (H) ions (H+). There are French and
Latin terms using the same abbreviations and meaning the same thing but really,
who cares? The result is the same.
If the solution is acidic, it yields hydrogen ions. If it is basic
(alkaline) it yields more hydroxyl ions than hydrogen ions. The scientific
explanation of pH measurement is a negative logarithm scale of the hydrogen ion
concentration—negative because the more hydrogen ions, the lower the pH and
logarithmic because each whole number is an order of magnitude (+ or - 10) greater
or lower than the next whole number. Distilled water has a pH value of 7 and is
neutral. A solution with a pH value of 6 is 10 times more acidic than distilled
water, while a solution with a pH value of 8 is 10 times more alkaline than
Wine is normally between a pH of 3 and 4, with 4 considered biologically
and chemically unstable as it will allow living organisms that place the wine
at risk of spoilage. While pH 3.4 is considered safe, pH 3.6 is considered
risky. Logically, there should be number between these two that is the
threshold number, but what it is is open to debate. For years I have believed
that 3.55 was that threshold, but during the past decade I have come to believe
that pH 3.5 is a safer number. Personally, I am more comfortable with my wines
being at or below pH 3.4.
There are other reasons pH is important. A lower pH requires less sulfite
to reach and maintain an aseptic level to ensure biological stability and less
bentonite to approach protein stability. Lower pH slows the rate of oxidation,
allows the extraction of more and brighter colors, and makes malolactic
fermentation much easier to control.
Finally, higher pH can lead to the development of acetic acid which, when
coupled with higher alcohol, can lead to the formation of ethyl acetate—an all
too common problem these days with so many wine yeasts reaching 14.5-16%
alcohol. More is not always better If fact, higher
alcohol creates balance problems many winemakers don't bother to correct or
attempt to correct incorrectly. You can't just dump sugar in the wine to
ameliorate the alcohol and expect balance. Time-consuming but necessary bench
trials are required to do it right. A better solution is to use Montrachet
yeast, which won't produce these high-alcohol wines in the first place.
In my opinion, pH is far more important than TA, and yet I measure
neither in about half my wines. A simple taste test will usually tell me what I
need to know but sometimes not. Then the pH meter comes out and all too often I
discover my calibrating solutions are out of date (and the nearest supplier is
a 76-mile round trip away). I have to get back into inventory control....
- TidBitts: Winemaking with Jack Keller, a subscription
stream of twice-weekly nuggets of winemaking tips, insights and tales that
will be found nowhere else—for a within-budget 99¢ a month
- Wild Bill Hickok, source of photo above, Wikipedia
entry covers the essentials of his life and is a good read
Horse Memorial, Wikipedia entry; see the
"Controversies" near the end
Scale, source of image above, borrowed from Environment Canada
for illustrative purposes, Fair Use
- Free PC Services, secure your computer, my site
- Help Keep the Winemaking Home Page a Free Website, a
self-serving plea for support
September 15th, 2014
As I reported in my last WineBlog entry I was scheduled to migrate
my web activities to a UNIX server 8 days ago. This
required converting hundreds of ASP pages to HTML. It isn't easy and, while I
know HTML, I don't know UNIX and its strict rules. In the end I was in over my
head with two other completely unrelated developments to contend with. After 5
days of pulling my hair out, I threw in the towel. I'll probably try again at
some later day, but life is too crowded right now to tackle a new programming
language. To those who sent me words of encouragement on my Facebook
page, thank you very much for all the encouragement.
On September 22 one of those other two developments will kick off.
Details follow below.
Winemaking with Jack Keller
On September 22 a new content delivery service will be launching called TidBitts.
This is a subscription service covering a huge spectrum of unique content from
your selected favorite participating authors for 99¢ a month. Once subscribed,
the content will automatically be delivered in bite-sized "tidbitts"
designed to be read in a minute or two. The content is unique, written
exclusively for the TidBitts stream and not published elsewhere. You can unsubscribe
at any time if you don't think it is
worth it. My "stream" will be published every Monday and Thursday at
10 a.m. Mountain Time beginning October 6th.
For years I have been asked by various publishers to package my WineBlog
in a subscription format. I have turned down these offers because the blog is
my portal to you as life happens. I like it like that. I can grab a topic and
explore it as much as I want or as time permits. But, at the same time, I've
noticed many, many times, in email or conversations with other winemakers,
little snippets of insight or tips that pop up. At the time I recognize them as
worthy (in my mind) of sharing but they are often too short to flesh out as
blog entries. But when TidBitts came along, I recognized it as the
perfect venue for capturing those snippets that formerly got lost on the
cutting room floor.
I have been working hard at creating a stream of twice-weekly
"TidBitts" for your benefit. While I was prepared to launch my
subscriptions on September 22nd, the failed UNIX migration and upcoming travel
have caused me to delay my launch until October 6th. But even with the delay, I
think you will be happy with them.
My "TidBitts" will be unique in the sense that I haven't
published them before or in the context of the current example. For example I
recently discovered that one small, obscure sentence in my "Wine
Problems" page applied to a cloudy banana wine a reader made. He knew that
my solution worked but wanted to know why. The whole thing was too short for a WineBlog
entry but perfect for a TidBitts entry. And the content is exclusive.
The only other person who has seen it is the person whose email I answered.
If you want to see what TidBitts is, go to TidBitts and take a
1-minute peek by clicking on the "What is TidBitts?" video. If you
think you might like to try my stream (the first month is free after you
subscribe), you will have to wait until September 22nd and go to Explore TidBitts and
scroll down until you see my stream, Winemaking with Jack Keller. Again,
this will not work until then. My stream will launch on October 6th, twice a
week every week. I'm hoping that 99¢ isn't a budget-buster and you're curious
enough to see what I have to say that you'll try it. If not, my WineBlog
will still be here....
Preventing Watermelon Wine Spoilage
A reader wrote that his watermelon must spoiled
3 days into primary fermentation using a recipe found here.
The recipes call for adding Campden, covering the primary, waiting 24 hours,
and then pitching the yeast. He wondered if the 24-hour Campden treatment might
be adding to the problem, as these are crucial hours when no alcohol is being
produced and it is the alcohol content that protects the wine from spoilage.
I had to agree with him. In fact, I do it differently myself, adding the
Campden at first racking rather than up front at the beginning, It is crucial
that the wine reach 10% alcohol (12% is better) to preserve the wine from
spoilage bacteria that sours the wine.
But, I also have a dedicated refrigerator with an external, programmable
thermostat that I set to 59 degrees and place both the yeast starter solution
and later the juice into and toss the yeast starter.
The published low tolerance of Montrachet yeast, the only yeast I use for
watermelon wine, is 59 degrees, so it never fails to start. I build the yeast
starter solution for at least 24 hours but also chill the watermelon(s) I'm
going to extract the juice from and once extracted toss the solution directly
into the juice and ferment in the refrigerator.
The cold must slows down the fermentation somewhat, but also helps
prevent juice spoilage. The combination of a cold must and fast yeast (even
chilled, Montrachet is among the fastest) works for me, but not everyone has
the luxury of a second refrigerator. I acquired mine when my wife wanted a new
one and I claimed the old.
Since watermelons are nearing the end of their season, I really need to
rewrite the watermelon wine recipes to reflect this better procedure. A
re-written recipe, using the discussion above as prelude, would look something
Improved Watermelon Wine Recipe
- 6-8 lb watermelon
- 12 oz white grape juice frozen concentrate
- 2 1/2 cups finely granulated sugar
- juice and zest of 2 lemons
- water to make up 1 gallon (if required)
- 1 finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet
- 1/2 tsp crushed potassium sorbate
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- packet Montrachet yeast
Prepare yeast starter solution and chill to 59 degrees F. or as close
to it as you can get. Place watermelon beside it to attain the same
temperature. Build starter solution for 24 hours.
Cut the rind off of melon, cut melon into one-inch cubes, and put melon
and any free juice in nylon straining bag in primary. Tie bag closed and smash
melon to release juice. Thinly grate the yellow off two lemons, juice the
lemons, and add the juice and zest (gratings) to primary. Add grape concentrate
and water (if required) to make up 3-3/4 quarts total liquid. Add sugar and
yeast nutrient and stir well to dissolve. Add yeast starter solution and cover
primary with cloth. Ferment 5-7 days, stirring daily. Remove nylon straining
bag and squeeze to extract liquid. Dispose of bag contents, wait one day,
transfer liquid into secondary, fit airlock and ferment to dryness (about 30
days). Rack, stir in finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet and potassium
sorbate, top up, and refit airlock. When clear rack again, sweeten to taste if
desired, and wait 30 days. If no refermentation, bottle wine.
Allow to age in bottles 3 months. Consume within 1 to 1 1/2 years. [Jack
Keller's own recipe]
I get many emails throughout the year asking about what wines to make at
that time. As September reaches its halfway mark, this question has arisen in
two emails. I usually reply with, "Google 'ripens in September'" or
whatever month it is. Such a search will return several million hits and can be
quite bewildering. Here's how to manage the results.
Google does something weird. It keeps track of your searches and attempts
to tailor the results to your search history. I mention this because your
search results might be different than mine. My results for "ripens in
September" returned 5,600,000 results. I am only interested in what
appears on the firt page or two of the results.
The first hit, for me, was Redwood Barn
Nursery in Davis, California. A nice table was presented that lists the
plants they sell that ripen in September. Among these are Fuji apples, several
varieties of grapes, peaches and plums, and Asian pears and quinces. Since all
of these can be made into wine, this is a good page to bookmark into your
favorites -- especially since it also contains links to fruit that ripen in
May, June, July, August, October, and November. Naturally, the list would be
different for nurseries in Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, etc., but perhaps you
can find more localized lists be searching "ripens in September in
Florida" or whatever state you reside in.
This hit was confined to fruit. Thursday Bram (that's her name on the
website) compiled a generalized list, by month, for the U.S. at WiseBread: Living Large on a Small Budget. This is another
page worth bookmarking. Using her list, one could add eggplants, pumpkins,
tomatoes, and pomegranates to the list -- all of which can be made into wine.
A third page I have bookmarked is one by the Tropical Fruit Growers of
South Florida and, as you might image, will add fruit that you might not
easily find. Their Ripe
for the Pickin'! page is not confined to a single
month but rather lists the months certain fruit ripen. By scrolling down the page
we can see that annonas, bananas, dragon fruit, guavas, jackfruit, mangos,
mameys, papaya, and starfruit are all available now.
In addition to what I have listed above, I also have several foraging
sites bookmarked that tell me what I can go out and find in the wild in Texas
but one can find sites suited to their locale.
Having said all of this, except for foraging sites most folks don't
really need websites to tell them what's available. They simply go to the
market and look at what is there. But the searches have value if you live in
the suburbs or rural areas where people have planted fruit trees. Freshly
picked fruit taste much, much better than fruit in the supermarket that was
picked a week or more ago.
Within a half-mile of my house are over a dozen homes with pear trees
planted in plain sight of the street. I see them every day and yet seldom think
about them until I see a reminder that the local pears are ripe right now. A
mature pear tree produces far more fruit than the average household will consume
fresh. Many folks preserve pears, but not every year -- not when their pantries
still have jars of pears from previous years. The short of it is that almost
any of the dozen homes in my neighborhood with pear trees will let me pick as
many as I want if I just stop and ask. The lists of what is ripening remind me
to stop and ask.
My wife and I just returned from a much needed vacation in Florida,
spending one week based in Fort Lauderdale and the remainder in Naples. We did
not go online except to obtain boarding passes for our flights home. No email,
no cell phone except when we made phone calls, very, very limited texting to
family members. It was a great getaway.
Our greatest adventure was driving US Highway 1 to mile 0 on Key West. We
spent too much time sightseeing and did not get back to our condo until 11:35
p.m., but it was worth it. This is what a vacation ought to be.
And, of course, the moment we saw the sign saying we were on Key Largo,
Bertie Higgins classic song by that name started playing in my head, I wished I
had brought a CD with the song on it so I could play it, but I didn't. But I
can play it for you. I know most of my younger readers will not have seen the
movie the song references -- it actually takes lines from Key Largo and Casablanca,
both movies from the 1940s, the latter made before I was born but rereleased
during the '50s -- but the message of the song is self explanatory. Please take
3 minutes and enjoy it.
Bertie Higgins, Key Largo with lyrics
The 1981 song was Higgins' only certified gold recording, reaching #1 on Billboards
Canadian and US Adult Contemporary Tracks. I do regret not bringing the
CD with me....