Oh, the Alcohol!

In retrospect, I wish we had started making wine sooner.

Creating/crafting alcoholic beverages is addicting. To date, we’ve bottled 5 gallons of Hell Hath No Fury Red, with another five gallons to be bottled in a month or so. This is good, because out of the original 30 bottles? there are 3.5 left, LOL…No, I didn’t drink it all; we gave the bulk of it away for Christmas. 🙂 I am in the process of prepping my 2 gallons of dry mead for back sweetening, and we bottled our first beer yesterday.

Yes, you read right. We did beer!

Meet Mr. Beer. :)

Meet Mr. Beer. 🙂

My dad recommended the “Mr. Beer” kit, and we just so happened to have found an LBK kit at Dunham’s Sports a couple weeks ago and decided to give it a try, since it was marked waaaaay down. I figured if it was good enough for Dad, it’d be good enough for Johnny, so I picked this up as an early birthday gift for him (his birthday is next week).

Unlike wine, beer with Mr. Beer is good for almost instant beverage satisfaction in that it will be ready to drink in 4-5 weeks, as opposed to months and months.

This was a fun introduction into home beer brewing. It was all fairly simple. We boiled four cups of water and then removed from heat. We then added the can of Hopped Malt Extract to the water and stirred until well mixed, creating an easy-peasy wort. We filled the cute keg fermenter with cold spring water to the 4-liter mark, then poured the wort into the keg, and topped off to the 8.5 liter mark with more cold water. We gave it a good stir, sprinkled yeast onto the surface of the wort, screwed on the lid and walked away for 12 days.

Our Diablo IPA.

Our Diablo IPA.

Yesterday we bottled eleven 740-mL bottles of Diablo IPA, which, according to the package, “is a fiendishly hopped American IPA. Fiery amber in color with intense mouthfeel, displaying a blend of floral spice and stone fruit aromas and ending with a firm and lingering bitter finish.” (For those not afraid of hops, lol…)

Because I needed to get to the wine store for a couple chemicals I didn’t have for back sweetening my mead, we went ahead and picked up a few things while we were there so that I could start a one gallon batch of sweet mead.

We needed some extra air locks, and while there, Johnny jumped headlong into “real” beer making, as it were. The wonderful guy over there at American Brewmasters put a box of goodies together for a five gallon batch of Irish Red Ale. I’ll be posting about that in the coming days, as I suspect we will be starting that within the week.

Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

I’ll be starting the must for the sweet mead tonight, and am really excited to play with a small batch.

I am SO looking forward to spring/early summer, as I can’t wait to get my hands on four or five pounds of fresh blackberries!! I have been really looking forward to making a gallon of wine from berries, which should be perfectly timed so that when it is bottled, all of our carboys will be empty by grape harvest in the fall. 🙂 (There will be many gallons of grape wine going by October!)

I suspect there are much worse habits/hobbies to have, and homemade wine makes our friends and family very happy. It also allows me to become a bit of a mad scientist, as well. More sugar? Less sugar? Add oak? Add spices and other fruits? The possibilities are endless!

What hobbies do you have that you can’t seem to get enough of because you enjoy them THAT much?

Until Next Time…

Getting My Crafty On

I look forward to my weekends. They give me two days in a row to get in touch with my inner kitchen witch, as it were.

As much as I really hate that I broke my ankle last November, it has forced me to slow down and FIND things to do. I get bored really easily, and being winter, I have to fill the shorter, colder days with something.

So far, you’ve seen my crochet projects, the progression of our first batch of homemade wine, and the natural skin care items I whipped up for Christmas.

Only 356 more to go...

Only 356 more to go…

On the first of the month I started an afghan project that has me making one granny square per day; the colors are based on my mood that day. I’ve been consistent thus far, though it IS only the 10th of the month. I’ve been trying to do the mental math on how I am going to lay out the 365 squares so that they are not 5 across. (Each square is about 5 inches square, so at 5 across, it’d only be 25″ wide, which is way too narrow for an afghan, in my opinion.) None of the numbers that go into 365 will make for even rows, so I’m figuring I will do some plain white squares to make up the missing squares. I have eleven and a half months to come up with a solution, so I’m not trying to overtax my brain at this point. 😉

Racked and bubbling! :)

Racked and bubbling! 🙂

This morning I racked our mead, taste-tested and added sugar to our second batch of Hell Hath No Fury red, and washed and sanitized all the associated equipment (auto-siphon, tubing, wine thief, buckets, spoons, etc.) I also updated both pages under the “Wine Making” menu.

Oh, yeah! I added two new pages to my menu last week. One is obviously for wine making (it’s a good thing to have a record of the steps one goes through to create a successful batch of wine and to have them all in one place, easily found again), and the other is a place to put crochet patterns and body care recipes for easy reference. This year it’s all about being organized, although you wouldn’t know it if you saw either of my desks. 😉

I still have two little projects on the agenda for this afternoon. One is another batch of body butter for my mother-in-law (I accidentally gave my step-daughter both jars at Christmas), and my friend Kara, who turned me on to my second project of the afternoon; lotion bar sticks. 😀

Have any of you ever tried a lotion bar? Kara sent me one and I tried it and I’m hooked. It comes in a twist up container (think deodorant) and glides on and moisturizes beautifully. I am noodling with a recipe that calls for equal parts of beeswax, coconut oil and shea butter. I picked the recipe up from Wellness Mama and am going to start this as soon as I’m done whipping the body butter.

Lemon body butter in jars.

Lemon body butter in jars.

In fact, I’m typing this while I have my body butter back in the fridge so I can beat it a little more, then add essential oil. I’ll probably post the modified recipe under the “Crochet & Crafts” menu before the day is out…

Fast Forward About 30 Minutes…

Now that the body butter is in the jars, I can start on my lotion bar sticks. I am really excited, because a new project is like a little kitchen adventure. For this batch I am using 2 ounces each of the ingredients and adding lavender essential oil before I put the mix into the deodorant tubes.

Fast Forward Another 30 Minutes…

The lotion sticks came out better than I thought that they would! I used a Corel serving bowl over a pot with 1 inch of water in the bottom as my double boiler. It took almost ten minutes for everything to melt down, and then I stirred in my lavender essential oil into the concoction, let it cool just a bit and used my gravy ladle to spoon it through a funnel into the deodorant containers. The process looks like the following photos:

So there you have it…A cold Saturday in the life of the girl that really can’t sit still and LOVES to make “stuff.”

What do you do when the creative bug bites you? What do you make? Will you share the recipe/pattern?

Until next time…

Adventures in Mead (aka Honey Wine)

The honey pot, if you will...

The honey pot, if you will…

Once we got our second (and final) batch of 2014 Hell Hath No Fury Red racked, I decided to go ahead and start a batch of Mead.

We’d gone to our favorite supply place (Raleigh’s American Brewmaster) to pick up a three gallon carboy, some malic and tartaric acids, some Fermax yeast nutrient, yeast, tannin and another airlock on Saturday. Imagine our surprise when we saw they had honey, so we picked up six pounds of mixed wildflower. Yum!

Once we got our second batch of HHNFR into the big carboy, we noticed that there was a LOT more head space in that carboy than there was in the first batch. Derp…we didn’t add any water, so I added two bottles of Deer Park spring water to bring the liquid level up. For the life of me, everyone remembers us adding water after racking except me. (Note to self: Do not DRINK wine while you MAKE wine. SMDH…)

At any rate…Mead…that’s why I’m here, tonight.

There are as many “correct” ways to make Mead as there are Mead-makers, so there is no one “RIGHT way” to do it. Some recipes will have you boiling your honey. Other recipes will tell you NOT to boil your honey, as you are doing a serious disservice to the bees. Me? mead 1I have a killer book of wine recipes and chose to follow the dry Mead recipe therein:

  • Six lbs honey
  • 1 gallon plus 4 cups hot water
  • 2 Tbs Malic Acid
  • 1 Tbs Tartaric Acid
  • ½ tsp Tannin
  • 1 ½ tsp Energizer
  • 2 Campden tablets, crushed
  • 1 pkg Red Star Champagne yeast (this packet says it will do up to five gallons, and I am only working two, so I used one package.)

I stirred hot water into the honey to dissolve honey. (I poured the water into sterilized pots and brought them to just shy of boiling.) This can be done in the primary fermentation bucket. Added remaining ingredients EXCEPT yeast. Stirred. Left 24 hours. (Starting SG was 1.120)

Nothing happened. Seriously. NOTHING.

Nothing happened. Seriously. NOTHING.

After 24 hours I pitched my yeast by mixing the Red Star Champagne yeast per the package directions with warm water to activate. Let sit no more than 30 minutes, then added equal amount of mead must. Let stand till about doubled, then pour, evenly, over top of must. Cover. (Except that the mixture didn’t increase in volume like it did when I made starter for the HHNF Red. But, ok…pressed on…)

The day after pitching my yeast, I stirred and checked specific gravity. In my case, NOTHING happened. SG didn’t change. At ALL. It remained 1.120. Dammit.

I dissolved a packet of Lalvin RC212 in four ounces of water (temp about 108 degrees F), let sit for about 25 minutes and then added four ounces of must to make a starter. Again, unlike grape must yeast starter, this did not double (let alone triple) in the measuring cup. I pitched the yeast starter again. I covered the primary and walked away.

We stirred today and it is bubbling, like a soda bubbles after you open the top. Sort of. Checked specific gravity. YES! It moved a little. It is now at 1.110. I read where you can add a handful of raisins (I’m going to use golden raisins so that the color isn’t altered) to increase the sugar to get that yeast working well, because sometimes honey is hard to get along with if you are yeast. Apparently there are properties in honey that can be a bit resistant to yeast, and I’m okay with that…It’s a learning experience. And am I ever learning. Puts shame to my fourth generation status, however. 😉

So here what happens to a barely bubbly mead must when you throw in a handful of golden raisins, y’all:

I have also decided to spice this virgin batch of mead with orange peel, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. Because spice in anything? It’s a good thing.

I will keep you posted.