A bright morning, the fire lit at dawn, a walk and breakfasted, bread in the oven… ode to the joys of country living! Those, the contented glug of the Apple Wine fermenting in the background.
To celebrate today, a post on the various brews in the cottage… A morn’ dram of Elderflower Champagne, of same Wine and a rather more adult Gin.
First though, the Apple Wine recipe, spawned by my unwillingness to press any more Apples – the recipe is made by chopping and cooking, rather than juicing the fruit. This recipe is adapted from CJJ Berry’s First Steps in Winemaking, shared and dejargoned by DIY sommelier extraordinaire Carl Legge. The process I have used is the following, it is surely amateur and rudimentary… I shall write more thoughts on bottling and tasting.
I chose to use Russets, and a few Pears. The Egremont Russet has a creamy sweet and nutty flavour, and I envisage it a delicate and deep wine.
Cooking the fruit
Wash and cut up 2.75 kilos of Apples, skin and all. (Windfalls are fine) Simmer 20 mins in 5 litres water. Strain onto 1 kilo of Sugar in Fermenting Bucket. When lukewarm add rind and juice of 2 Lemons, 1 tsp Marmite, ½ Mug of strong cold Tea, 200g Sultanas, ½ Sachet of winemakers Yeast.
Fermenting in Bucket
Cover bucket with Muslin. Leave to ferment as such, at room temperature, for two-four days until fermentation is less vigorous. Strain and bottle in airlocked Demijohns. After about a month rack off into clean jars. Mature for six months before bottling.
This year’s batch of Elderflower Champagne has proved a joyful brew, brimming with that floral giddiness that is the drink’s renown. Light, sweet, sparkling, I find it best drunk young, cold on a Summer’s day. For a winter variation, add a drop of Hedgerow Syrup giving a stunning aperitif à la Kir Royale.
The inevitable difficulty with home made Champagne is the gaseousness. This Summer, once-again-rearranging-the-shed, a loud and near terrifying bang proved to be a bottle exploding and in the process smashing two more bottles. Each has their own remedy to prevent the explosion. Some say use magnums, others to tie the tops with string or wire, a third, and this is the way I have since managed it, is by occasionally releasing the pressure by part unscrewing the lids.
Bottling the Wine with Syphon
You might remember I also put some of my Champagne in a Demijohn under airlock to make a Wine. This I racked off and bottled about a month ago. It has produced a lovely, if slightly sharp, dry, pale coloured Wine. I did worry it had perhaps gone off, a thin white layer had formed on the top of the liquid, but a process of tasting and troubleshooting with Carl Legge, showed me it was indeed the hoped for Wine… and tasting it today I am indeed charmed… it is the stuff of late Summer nights, of Bacchanalia, for what inebriation more profound than that of wine brewed of flowers plucked from one’s own lands.
Gooseberry and Whitecurrant Gin
Lastly, I bottled the Gooseberry and Whitecurrant Gin, ever redolent with the summer flavours of the fruits it is in comparison a very sweet concoction… on ice a Summer’s eve, or, for my palate, best with a bitter tonic to balance out the sweetness. The tendency in alcoholic infusions is to add a tonne of sugar – with Sloe Gin and the like this produces a warming wintry brew, not unlike Port. However with the lighter, more floral variations I would be tempted on another occasion to use less sugar to produce a drink that is somewhat drier. I believe the sugar is unnecessary in the process of preserving and simply serves to make the drink palatable.
When bottling fruit alcohols the tipsy fruits can be collected for desserts, cakes, jams. These I used as an addition to this Apple and Olive Oil Cake, shared by the artiste of Apple Cakes Carla Tomasi.
Carla's Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Tipsy Fruits
Off this afternoon to gather the ingredients for a spiced Quince Brandy. Set to infuse now it should be ready to drink on Christmas day…