July 17, 2015

Wine Cure for Raspberry Fever

I'm currently looking at the last of the 2015 raspberries in the GardenFuss Garden. When the dog days of summer lift up a sultry hot foot to kick off what I call sweat, fatigue, and lethargy-gate. Partly due to my Myositis but equally rivaled by parenting, married life, and just being an adult. [So much to do in such a short time] Basically I go into a raspberry funk.

Seriously, as soon as I have picked, washed, and packed up the first couple gallons I begin to get overwhelmed from just walking past the small, ruby, garden jewels. This is probably because I'm waiting not so patiently for a much needed family vacay. It doesn't help to have acquired a bad case of NOT asking for extra help in the garden when I need it. **cough cough** ::blushing::. But Alas I am not going down that road right now. Aren't we all a work in progress? ��
Todays post is about not succumbing to the berry picking fatigue despite busy adult life. It's my own disorganized spring that lead me to crazily not prune or stake the raspberry beds in the first place. So, Moving on!
After several tedious trips into a jungle of overgrown canes I decided to not only make jams and jellies out of the not so hard won and abundant fruit; I decided to jump into the world of wine and cordial making. What else can a girl do when she has collected gallons of berries?


There are several tips and tricks to making your own fruity adult beverage. Honestly, everything you need to know can be found at your fingertips right online. I personally have and would suggest a search on YouTube.
PROCRASTINATORS BEWARE: Do not get so caught up watching videos about the process that you NEVER follow through with an actual attempt. (May have happened to me before ��.)
There are some overly detailed videos and some pretty confusing and lacking videos either of which can leave you scratching your head. However, don't let this stop you from finding a video or website that speaks to you. Each person's learning style is so varied that you just have to push stop sometimes and keep searching until you find what video personality appeals to you. Full disclosure, I'm a self proclaimed and family confirmed information junkie. I have researched this process for some time including taking a class or two. I even purchased some supplies and a couple books on making wine that have been collecting dust for how long now?...
Beginning only after a gallon of berries sat macerating in their own juices on the bottom shelf of my fridge [for a week]. Oops... Well, once you decide to start though, you'll find it's the simplest process EVER! You'll want to smack yourself in the forehead it's so easy. Not wanting to be wasteful with the quickly aging berries spurred me to action. I loaded a couple of those videos pulled up a few bookmarked sites, washed the berries, and gathered some basic tools which I've outlined below. 
The tools you need to get started are:
  • Glass container(s) - Jug, jars, or food grade plastic bin will do.
  • Sugar or Honey - Honey is used in the making of Mead
  • Fruit and/or herbs (thoroughly cleaned, I make my own fruit/veg wash)
  • Water
  • Yeast - I've read bakers yeast is ok but if you have access to brewery yeast then go for it. I use champagne yeast
  • Pectin [dried]
  • Airlock: Store bought or homemade *more on this later*
  • Bleach for sterilizing equipment. This includes spoons, jars, pot, containers, air locks, tubing, funnels, etc..
I combined a gallon of the clean berries with a proportional amount of sugar. Around 5 to 6 cups...
I added lemon rind, lemon juice, Vanilla bean, chopped ginger, and a teaspoon of pectin to my mash (my own recipe). I heated this mixture and brought it to a simmer to dissolve the sugar then turned off to cool. I then put two and a half gallons of water in a pot to boil out the chlorine and to have on hand to keep tools sterilized.

After sterilizing one of the demijohns which I purchased from Northern Brewer last year and a recycled apple cider jug from Whole Foods, I prepared a half pack of the yeast to add to the mash that I cooled. You basically want to keep your yeast alive and not kill it with scalding hot water or mash. Therefore you want to make sure that you can insert your finger or knuckle and test the temperature. The point is for the temperature of the water and mash to not be so hot as to scalled you while at the same time not having it cold or cool. Cool water will make the yeast less active. Once you reach this point the mash and the water are poured into the jugs through a funnel. The color this time turned out not to be as red as I would like so I added and additional pint of frozen berries and a cup more of sugar syrup to the beverage [really, you don't need a degree to do this]

The jugs were capped, their respective airlocks secured, and then placed in a dark corner of the kitchen where the temperature won't fluctuate so much, even with my baking. Today lots of bubbles are perculating within their airlocks. I can also see fruit dancing around jubilantly within the liquid.
From what I've researched, I'd say we are good to go!

Once everything settles down I will begin the racking process. Racking is a term that means liquid is extracted [general] from a larger vessel like my big jar(s) and put into smaller ones [wine bottles]. What's left is all of the mushy fruit and cloudy yeast. YUCK!!! No one wants to see or consume that, right?

What will hopefully be turn out to be an attractive rosy beverage that reminds us of our summers bounty come fall and winter is what I'm aiming at. Speaking of fall and winter I will be posting an update which will include pictures of the racking and the sampling. However, this was so easy I'm feeling compelled to use that last demijohn for making my own Mead or a Peach wine since they are now coming into season. We are also coming into our first harvest of Honeycrisp apples, and very much looking forward to it. Who knows, some may be eaten fresh and some may be  used to make hard cider.
Either way nothing fails but a try! I just hope I have encouraged someone to try making their own wine today.

Is there anything you've been meaning to try that you haven't because you felt the process was too complicated? Have you too been making your own wine/beer/spirits? If so, tell me good or bad, how it went. Do you have any tips or suggestions on what I should try my hand at next? I love garden and food related conversation so please send me a message or leave a response below.

Happy brewing every one.


July 11, 2015

Be Honey Bee Happy

Got Borage or Starflowers? If not get some quick! �� Bees love it and so do I.
Borage is one of few plants with naturally occurring true blue flowers. It is considered an herb and the leaves, blossoms, and stems are eaten in many places. My daughter and I have tried brewing it for tea but because of the high gelatinous mucilage in the leaves (think okra slime ewwww) we've decided to dry the leaves first before trying again.
Besides tea I have only researched but yet to try other recipes using borage. I'm excited to try one that calls for blending it with braised greens and cheese for ravioli filling. When this happens I will be sure to post pictures and talk about our results. An interesting fact about Borage is that it's supposed to cure melancholy or make you feel courageous. I can't say that this really works but I know I feel better watching the interesting critters flitting about and flirting amongst one plant to the next. I'm growing it as an annual in the vegetable garden because it attracts many pollinators; most especially a variety of bees (bumble/honey/carpenter) lightly detailed in my previous post.  If you plant borage you'll find that it is the most wonderful companion plant! If you are growing summer or winter squash and tomatoes you need to have this plant and its fuzzy buzzy buddies to aid you. I have the plants everywhere so I can say I have yet to experience the dreaded tomato hornworms which are supposed to be repelled by the presence of Borage. I wish it did the same for squash borer but that hasn't been my experience Sorry. �� As far as tomatoes go though, who wants those big green gluttonous creepy things around? I sure don't! I think the fuzzy spiny nature of borage keeps soft bodied insects at bay. Definitely for now I'll keep letting it sow itself in my garden as it is a healthy self seeding plant. It really more than pulls its weight in the garden with its flighty hairy counterparts.

Happy Planting,


Recent Posts

What Our Fussy Garden Grows 2015:

Greens: Heading Collards, Dino Kale, Sorrel, and Beet
Aliums: Walking Onions, Ramps, Large Yellow
Root Vegetables:
Tri-Colored Carrots, Carnival Carrots, Flamboyant Sabina Radish, Jersey Beets,
Fruit: Strawberries, Heritage Raspberries, Black Raspberries, and Ground Cherries
Tomatoes: Lemon Drop, Opalka, Pink Brandywine, Paul Robison, Amish Paste, and a Mystery-Mato
Herbs: Dill, Sage, Chives, Basil, Thyme, Chocolate Mint, Rosemary, Lemon Balm
Grasses: Native Sweet Grass
Flowers: Borage, Nasturtium, Sunflowers, Cone flowers, Hostas, Balloon Flowers, Malva Zebrina, Roses, Asiatic Lillie’s, Sedum, Dianthus, Lavender, Tulips, Daffodil, and more….
Other: Asparagus, Rhubarb, Eggplant
Beans/Peas: English Peas, Black Turtle Beans, Edamame, Pink Eye Purple Hull
Squash: Mystery, and Jarradale