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Day 152 Started Another Batch of Cider

Washed and sorted crab apples. Over 20 lbs. Gotta use 'em!

Washed and sorted crab apples. Over 20 lbs. Gotta use ’em!

Realizing that I have a bunch of foraged crab apples left to use and the clock is ticking, I started another batch of cider today. I started with the juice from about 5 lbs of crab apples and then added juice from 5 pears, 3 Ginger Crisp apples and 4 Pink Cripps apples and a little bottled lemon juice to keep the apple and pear juices from browning too much. Altogether, I got about 3/4 gallon of juices.

Blend of juices from crab apple, pear, Pink Cripps apples and Ginger Gold apples

Blend of juices from crab apple, pear, Pink Cripps apples and Ginger Gold apples

I put that juice into a 5 gallon bottling bucket with the pommace from the crab apples, tied in a cheesecloth bag. I didn’t have enough cheesecloth on hand to fit the apple/pear pommace in, but that’s okay.

Juice, water, sugar, cinnamon, yeast nutrient, campden tablets and pectic enzyme.

Juice, water, sugar, cinnamon, yeast nutrient, campden tablets and pectic enzyme.

I stirred in 5 lbs of sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons of yeast nutrient, 2 crushed campden tablets and a 1/2 teaspoon of pectic enzyme. Then I added a gallon plus 6 cups of water and stirred. It was so close to 3 gallons that I decided to top up…just a couple of extra cups. I checked the SG and it’s around 1.110-ish. I’ll get the official OG tomorrow, before I pitch yeast. Sometimes the sugar isn’t completely dissolved at this point and the reading could be off. I sealed the bucket and set it aside.

My next step was to begin a yeast starter from my harvested Edinburgh yeast.

making starter wort for yeast.

making starter wort for yeast.

I boiled a 1.040 wort for 10 minutes made from light DME and chilled it to about 77 F.

Chilling the starter.

Chilling the starter.

I then added about half of the contents of my 1/2 pint jar of yeast slurry to the starter. I’m out of yeast nutrient, so I hope the yeast is healthy enough without it! I’ll see where the progress on the yeast starter is tomorrow morning.

Ready to build that yeast!

Ready to build that yeast!

Update: 9/8/14   Cold crashed the yeast starter early this evening. About 9 pm, I drained off the excess liquid, opened the lid on the cider, removed and squeezed the cider out of the cheesecloth bag of pommace  and drew off a hydrometer sample. The OG is 1.096 at 72.9 F, so corrected =1.097. I pitched the Edinburgh Ale yeast, stirred and resealed the lid. I refrigerated the hydrometer sample to sip later. Very sweet, as expected. As of midnight, no visual on airlock activity. I will check it in the morning. Pretty sure it will be rockin’ soon. Starter was vigorous, as was the batch I harvested it from.

Update: 9/9/14   Airlock bubbles in latest cider batch at 10 a.m. Not very aggressive yet, but it’s going. By the way, tasting the hydrometer sample that I had chilled leads me to believe that this is going to be a nice clean, crisp cider after the sugar is converted.

Refrigerated cider blend OG sample. Clean and bright! 1.096

Refrigerated cider blend OG sample. Clean and bright! 1.097

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Day 144 Muscadine Wine

Crushing foraged wild grapes.

Crushing foraged wild grapes.

I foraged a little over four pounds of wild muscadine grapes yesterday. I have decided to try my hand at wine making this year, instead of jelly…at least with this first round. After a little research on the internet, I am combining a couple of different recipes to adapt to what I have to work with. I have put together 2 quarts of crushed muscadine grapes, skins and all.

Crushed grapes.

Crushed grapes.

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I am going to have to run to the home brew shop for some supplies…a mesh bag and yeast. I may need more sugar from the grocery store. The plan is to combine the fruit (in mesh bag) with 6 quarts of water in a 2 gallon fermentation bucket, add enough sugar syrup to boost the SG to at least 1.090 and then add 2 crushed campden tablets, 1/2 t. pectic enzyme (scant), and 2 t. yeast nutrient. That will be covered with cheesecloth and sit for 24 hours. I guess I’m not supposed to seal the bucket yet, as the campden tablets cause a sulfur gas to be released and it needs to be allowed to dissipate. Yeast is to be pitched tomorrow…instructions say to leave covered with cheesecloth again, for 5 to 7 days, stirring daily. After that, it is strained and sealed with an airlock in place and given around 6 weeks to ferment out. Then it gets racked, probably a few times, to clear. Then it gets bottled and ages for at least two years! I’ll probably bottle in beer bombers…I don’t anticipate making enough wine to justify buying a corker and wine bottles/corks. I haven’t seen anyone express concerns with beer bottles. I might want to use the special oxygen absorbing caps, to reduce the risk of oxidation.

So far, I have boiled 3 cups of sugar with enough water to dissolve it…boiled until clear and set aside to cool…we’ll see if that’s enough to get me to 1.090 or better. The first quart of grapes that I crushed have a natural SG of about 1.048, according to my spectrometer. I’ll discuss yeast at the brew shop. The most likely candidates are Champagne yeast or Montrachet, but I’m open to suggestions.

Okay, after a trip to the brew shop and the grocery store, I was ready to proceed. I got a mesh bag, a packet of Montrachet yeast and a 10 pound bag of sugar. I sanitized the bag and a string and added the grape skins/pulp/juice to the bucket and tied off the bag.

Crushed grapes in the bag.

Crushed grapes in the bag.

Next I added the sugar syrup that I had prepared and I was still way low on the SG. I also realized that I was running out of room in the 2 gallon bucket, so I prepared a 5 gallon bottling bucket and transferred the grape mixture into it. Then, I weighed out five pounds of sugar and added enough water for it to dissolve into and brought that to a boil, removed it from the heat.

Making sugar syrup

Making sugar syrup

I tried adding in a couple of steps and it wasn’t getting close to SG 1.090 very quickly…but the final addition bumped it up to OG 1.113…oops. Oh well. And my volume is up to almost three gallons…I probably should add more grapes, but I’m out.

Volume at almost 3 gallons. Need to find more grapes? We'll see if I get a chance to pick more.

Volume at almost 3 gallons. Need to find more grapes? We’ll see if I get a chance to pick more.

I’ll see what it looks like later…I could add more grapes and another campden tablet tomorrow. That would push back the yeast pitch a day, but in a minimum 2 year process, another day is nothing and could make a huge difference in the finished product. Anyway, I put the lid on and sealed it and popped on an airlock. The brew shop guy thought it would be fine to seal and airlock the bucket rather than do the covering with cheesecloth thing…just seemed more risky.

Ginger beer note: the SG dropped to 1.057, so it’s moving…slowly. I thought all the Champagne yeast that I added to it would start it really chugging. It’s popping the airlock about every 10 seconds, but it’s not very aggressive. I guess it’s just going to take more time and patience than I was anticipating for this little side project.

Update 8/22/14,  10:00 a.m.: I went and foraged another 1 pound and 9 ounces of wild muscadine grapes this morning. After crushing them, there was a little less than a full quart jar.

Added additional crushed grapes and Campden tablet.

Added additional crushed grapes and Campden tablet.

I crushed an additional campden tablet and threw it in with the grapes. I opened the fermentation bucket, untied the bag and poured in the grapes and crushed campden. I re-tied the bag and gave a good stir. Refractometer reading gives a 1.109 updated OG, with a volume now of just over 3 gallons.

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Day 92 Starting Pineapple Mango Mead (Melomel)

Pineapple Mango Melomel ingredients

Pineapple Mango Melomel ingredients

There were some big pineapples on sale at my local store and I already had a couple of mangos at home that were on sale, so…time for Pineapple Mango Mead! Or melomel, I guess. I think most fruit meads are called melomels. Some die-hards can get really technical, but I think that’s right. Anyway, I grabbed the pineapple and a 3 lb bottle of clover honey and checked out. The pineapple was $3 and the honey was $8.

So, this morning I juiced the fruit with my little countertop juice extractor and added the pulp back to the juice. I see no reason to waste the pulp, it was practically creamy. I did peel the fruit first, so it should all be good.

Pineapple juice and pulp.

Pineapple juice and pulp.

Prepping mango.

Prepping mango.

I had put together a tentative recipe and adjusted to reality as I went along. The pineapple and two mangoes yielded about 2 quarts. Then I added 1 campden tablet, crushed, 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient and 1 teaspoon of pectic enzyme. Next, I mixed the honey with equal parts hot water to dissolve and added that to the juice and came up to one gallon.

In the 2 gallon primary fermentation bucket, mixed well.

In the 2 gallon primary fermentation bucket, mixed well.

Equal parts clover honey and hot Culligan water.

Equal parts clover honey and hot Culligan water.

I decided to add another 48 oz hot water to allow for some of the loss in racking. Mixed well, snapped on lid and added airlock. This mixture will sit 24 hours .

About a gallon and a quarter in the bucket. Tomorrow: check the FG and pitch the yeast!

About a gallon and a quarter in the bucket. Tomorrow: check the FG and pitch the yeast!

Tomorrow, I will pitch the yeast. I bought a “smack pack” of  Wyeast’s Sweet Mead Yeast. I will check the FG just before I do the yeast. After that process is started, it will likely take several weeks in primary. Then another couple of months or longer to be in a secondary phase where there is as little headroom as possible…in a carboy, I guess. Finally, it will be bottled and I’ll likely hide it away another year to age. I’m thinking Fall of 2016 is a good target.

Update on the Pole Vault Pale Ale that I brewed for my first all-grain Brew in a Bag project: It started bubbling away on the next day sometime and continues at a good rapid heartbeat-like pace.

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Day 25 Pasteurizing Batch #3, Starting #4

Well, all the stuff I read said to let the cider go from 3 to 10 days after priming, checking carbonation until it’s “right”,  then pasteurize. It’s only been 2 days, and my test bottles gushed a bit when I opened them. May be a bit over-carbonated already. The taste is a little sharp. Hopefully, some time in the bottles will mellow them some. So, I’m into the pasteurizing process…going to 190 degrees, then removing from heat, cover and sit 10 minutes.

Using the pressure canner to pasteurize.

Using the pressure canner to pasteurize.

Right as I was reaching 190 degrees…BOOM! One of the bottles busted. I thought that gradually bringing the bottles up in temperature would be better for the glass, but maybe that builds too much pressure. Maybe I should have added the bottles when 190F was attained and pulled off the heat. It might have blown anyway. Could have been a defect in the glass, I don’t know. Anyway, ten minutes is up…have to go remove the bottles…CAREFULLY!!!

Bottle go BOOM!!! Cap stayed on, though.

Bottle go BOOM!!! Cap stayed on, though.

So far, so good. The bottles are on a kitchen towel, on the counter. Only that one bottle blew. Luckily, I was using my pressure canner that has a raised false bottom disk and I had the lid partially covering the pot. The bottle busted, but the cap stayed on! I ran my test 12 oz bottle through pasteurizing process and I put the soda bottle with the screw cap in the refrigerator. I think I’ll let these bottle condition for quite awhile…maybe until my birthday, March first. I’ll try the test bottle before then…maybe New Year’s Eve!

After they cooled to almost room temperature, I put the labels on the bottles. They look good, I think!

Watson's label.

Watson’s label.

Watson's Cyser. I know, no honey probably just makes it a sparkling cider. I'll fix the terminology before next labels are printed.

Watson’s Cyser. I know, no honey probably just makes it a sparkling cider. I’ll fix the terminology before next labels are printed.

Just have to remember to open them over a sink, in case they gush. (In the future, I’ll have to remember to go by taste and not by what is expected. The temperature has fluctuated in the house quite a bit over the last couple of days and at one point it got up to 75F…probably sped up the process. Had some of the test screw-cap soda bottle Watson’s this evening. Since it has been opened and had a slow gush, the carbonation level is way down. It isn’t entirely flat, though and I like the flavor and sweetness level.

10:30 pm     I picked some crabapples this afternoon…pretty sure this is the end of the crop. Have to pick through them carefully…some are rotting on the tree. Anyway, I picked about 5-1/2 lbs. Tonight, I cut off the stems and blossom ends and juiced them. I had 4 large Fuji apples on hand, so I juiced them as well. They probably weighed over 3 lbs. I thought I only had three and I had weighed them at over 2 lbs, before I spotted the fourth one. So, I got over 5 cups of juice (I usually have 4 cups.) I went ahead and put it all in primary with 6 quarts water, pectin enzyme, yeast nutrient, a capmden tablet (crushed), the apple pommace in a cheesecloth bag and   1 lb 9 oz  of white sugar. I would have done 1 lb 12 oz, but that’s all I had. I thought about adding some honey or brown sugar, but the OG is 1.050 @ 70F, so I think I’m ok. I can double check it tomorrow night and add some more sugar if I want to at that point.

Now, because I have a little over 2 gallons in one PFB, there is no way this isn’t going to foul the airlock. unless I divide it into 2 PFB’s before (or immediately after) I pitch the yeast. I’m afraid, by the way, that I may not have quite enough yeast. I only have about 2 grams of Safale s-04 yeast left. I think I’m going to run to the brew store tomorrow to get some supplies. In addition to yeast, I could use a no-rinse sanitizer to use in the bottle rack bottle sanitizer, maybe more beer brite, pectin enzyme and yeast nutrient. Maybe I’ll put together a kit for another batch of beer to save a trip after Thanksgiving. I know I won’t have time to brew it until then. ***YAAAAAAWN*** It’s getting late. I think I’ll go lie down and peruse some recipes. I was looking at stout recipes recently…hmmm. But my first taste of Guinness Stout from a bottle, many years ago, sucked. I like it draft, but not bottled. Maybe I’ll go another route. Who knows? Tomorrow is another day!

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