Thursday, January 28, 2010

Currenty happening in the Nafiat "Winery"

It's snowed more than it oughta and it's been cold. Snowed in today, in fact and I would mind less if I weren't paid by the hour. Spring and gardening seem forever away and I am oh-so-antsy. Fussing with - or I should say obsessing about my various concoctions is the only thing keeping me from going nuts.

So because this is the only thing I want to think about whether or not anyone else cares, here's where things are:


The Skeeter Pee lemon wine has been bottled. 18 were labeled but my labels were smudging. Spraying with claybord fixatif helped but I didn't get them sprayed evenly. Opened a bottle last night as no aging is required. The stuff grows on you. I'm working out a recipe for a kiwi-lime-grapefruit version.


The 3+ gallon batch of blackberry melomel has had the fruit removed and is now in a 3 gallon carboy plus a one gallon jug. The jug was short quite a bit and rather than dilute, or use a half gallon and scramble for some other small container, I added every one of my glass craft marbles. They're more like pellets so they settle tighter than round marbles. There must be 2 and a half inches of them in there. The brix measured at about 11 this morning so the alcohol is already over 10%. Taste wasn't bad - kind of sweet-tart with lots of berry flavor. It might end up better than the first batch I have going because I am now thinking sweeter balances the acid of the blackberries better. But we'll see.


The hot chile wine seems to have stalled at about 8.25 brix. I decided to splash rack it to a 1 gallon jug, removing the chiles and the swollen raisins and leaving behind whatever lees did not easily flow out. My high-tech method involved pouring it from the 4 liter to the gallon through a funnel with a mesh strainer sitting in it. The handle of the strainer had to sit on the above-countertop shelves to keep it all from tipping sideways. Very elegant.

Because of the very swollen raisins, I had to top off with over a cup of water. Good thing I didn't use the pound of raisins the jalapeno recipe called for. There would have been no room for wine!

So I realized I ought to give it a taste now. I was expecting gaggy sweet with a little heat. What I got was barely sweet at all and a LOT of heat. I think the heat was cutting the sweetness and it was actually sweeter than it seemed. If it decides to ferment no further, I'm OK with that. It's pretty good!

More Lemons

The Limoncello has been strained, blended and sweetened and it bulk-mellowing in 2 jugs. I probably have about one and a quarter gallons of it. It came in at about 35% alcohol which seems pretty good. My biggest problem is that it tastes very good right now AND there is no worry about too much headspace in the jugs. That makes it awfully easy to take a little taste. And another. I may have to give away the bottles I plan to very soon just to keep me out of it!


The first batch has been bottle conditioning for about 16 days. I knew it wouldn't be ready yet because that part of the room is staying in the low 60's. I warned John but he wanted to try a bottle anyway. I have to agree it's useful to check so we popped it. There was a slight bit of carbonation, but not much. I've been worried about how much priming sugar we used since I had to do a bunch of conversions from UK gallons. It also tastes a bit thin and I wish I had followed my first inclination to make it to 5 gallons instead of 6. Or at least 5.5. We're getting an American kit next time!

Anyway, the rest of the bottles will keep. We'll maybe try another on the weekend.

Grapes, even

I think we've opened 3 of the Malbec kit so far. It keeps improving, though it'll never be great. It was dang cheap, though and an excellent learning experience. I think I'll mostly be sticking with midrange or better kits in the future.

My first WinExpert Limited Edition kit is in transit. It should arrive Friday just in time for the weekend (if it isn't delayed by this snow - Yikes!). That's the Lake County CA Trio Blanco. I'm very excited!

I finally claimed my "buy one get one free" voucher that I won in WinExpert's Limited Edition contest. Midwest Supplies said they'd take the voucher so long as I mailed it to them so I sent it with an order. I'm getting the highly touted Viognier. I was going to get the Italian Amarone but I decided to go for the Luna Rossa because it was $20 cheaper and would not need as much aging before it was drinkable. I'll still get the Amarone later, though. If I didn't have such a young "cellar", I would have gotten it now.

I'd like to have all three started bam-bam-bam but I want to do Tim Vandergrift's extended plan for kits meaning that carboys will be tied up for a few months for each one. And how many empty 6 gallon carboys do I have? One! Yup. Pretty poor planning on my part.

I have to order at least one as this will not stand, man, but I think I'll also bottle the Prickly Pear wine and free up that one. It's been bulk aging for 5 months. I just don't have the space to leave it for a year. Yet.

The other meads

Blackberry, Joe's Ancient Orange and the chai tead are all still fermenting but starting to clear. Well, the tead is pretty murky but I'm saving that one for next solstice anyway. I can wait. I am pondering oaking the 3 gallon batch of mesquite/wildflower mead. I have chips. Not the best, I understand but it'll do if I'm cautious. I think I can make an infuser out of the plastic tube from a hydrometer. I can pull it out when it tastes right without racking - being that I just used my last 3 gallon carboy for the blackberry melomel. Geez. More carboy woes.

And I have yet to figure out what I'm going to do with all the full bottles. I'd like a nice rack. I'd even build one if I could figure out where to put it but my best space is full of gardening and home-improvement stuff so where do I put that? Oh, such problems to have!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Made up recipe Approx. 724 - Creamy Garlic Shrimp & Mushrooms

My favorite way to cook is to have a lot of random raw materials and then, 30 to 60 minutes before I want to eat, I look through the pantry, the fridge and the freezer and put something together. Occasionally they are flops but most of the time it’s good to fantastic. This one was on the high end of good for flavor and texture though a little low visually (very important!) so just as well I didn’t take a photo. I have to give some thought to the presentation next time, if there is one. Sun-dried tomatoes, maybe.

John was on the phone to his boy so I gave him a five-minute warning and told him I would be in the mood for a movie, if he had anything worth seeing. John’s movie addiction and his near cold-turkey quitting is another subject. Suffice it to say, it was a big deal to ask him to put in a movie.

Curiously, he happened to pick Julie/Julia. That's a movie that'll make you want to a) cook and b) blog! At some point, he asked if I could cook like that. I said “Sure!” but smartly negotiated an exchange of French cooking for a Le Creuset pot – pumpkin-shaped maybe. If I have to get one myself, at least I know he won’t object if filled with Boeuf Bourguignon!

Here’s what I made:

1 container fresh, whole mushrooms, washed and sliced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons butter
2 very large garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon of my home-roasted Spanish garlic
Fresh ground pepper and salt (unmeasured, of course)
Splash of very hot chile wine made by a friend (and later another splash – not quite ¼ cup)

All this was sautéed until the mushroom and garlic slices were soft. (Just found out last night I have been crowding my mushrooms! Never again!)

Meanwhile, a fistful of whole wheat angel hair pasta was put in a kettle of boiling salted water to cook until al dente.

12 ounces of cooked frozen shrimp (on sale!) were thawed and their tails pulled off. The shrimp were dumped into the mushroom mixture with 2 hefty dollops of Greek yogurt (more like sour cream), adding a fair amount of moisture. I lowered the heat a bit and cooked it down but it still looked soupy and smelled too much of my childhood beef stroganoff. More hot chile wine!
Plus a fistful of fresh parsley, chopped up and ¼ cup or better of grated parmesan.

Stirred it up a bit and dished it out over the pasta with a garnish of more parmesan. Yum!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hot Chile Wine Experiment

Chile wine didn't sound good to me until someone on the WinePress forum mentioned using it to marinate mushrooms. Then another WinePress friend, Wade, surprised me with a couple little bottles of his chile wines. His Hot Spot was a little hard to drink straight up but a splash in the cheap jug wine was fantastic. Plus, it did lovely things to pork and mushrooms.

I was going to wait until I could get fresh, ripe chiles this summer but Wade suggested making some with dried chiles. I didn't locate a recipe for dried chiles but a couple recipes for fresh jalapeno provided the start.

I suspect my small, plastic primary once used for hot pepper wine would have to be forever used for hot pepper wine so good thing I drink those jug wines and save the jugs! Later I  might need a dedicated primary but 4 liters is enough for now.

So, here's what I did:

5 good sized, dark red HOT Hatch chiles - seeded and broken up to fit through the neck of the 4 liter jug. John would like to actually drink the stuff so I didn't want to go too hot.
2 lbs (5 cups) white sugar
5 ounces whole dark raisins - an arbitrary amount. I elected to not chop them this time. Also arbitrary.
1 teaspoon of ground coriander - just seemed like a good idea.
1 1/2 teaspoons acid blend.
1/4 teaspoon tannin.
3/4 teaspoon yeast nutrient.
No K-meta yet but I'll probably add some later.

I got all that in the jug and poured in a quart of hot water, screwed the cap on and shook it until the sugar was dissolved. Then I added cold tap water until it was about 3 inches from the neck. I am leaving some room for foaming but I'll top it off with water later.

I pitched in a dry packet of Pasteur Champagne yeast, swirled it in slightly and then remembered I hadn't checked specific gravity. Well, even though I snagged some with a turkey baster right away, avoiding solids, I suspect (hope) my reading wasn't accurate. It came in at 1.120. That 15.8% potential alcohol, according to a chart I have . I'm not sure that's really possible with only 2 pounds of sugar in just under a gallon of water. If it is right,  that's going to be one strong brew! Wonder if it's too late to use my schmancy refractometer? Nope. It says 33 brix. That's even worse! Oh well. We'll see what happens.

Anyway, the chiles are already tinting it a nice reddish color and I can smell the coriander. Whatever it ends up being, it's already fun.