About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Festive home-brew

Sometime in early November I started to wonder whether there was time to brew some wine for Christmas. There really isn't much available at this time of year, but I had a look at some recipes and found rosehip and nettle, both in John Seymour's book. I'd picked some rosehips and failed to make fruit leather out of them, so they might do, but the recipe said it would take up to three months to ferment, so that was no good for Christmas. On the other hand, the nettle wine would be drinkable after just a week, so that was a much better bet.

The recipe looked remarkably similar to the elderflower wine I'd made in the summer: Sugar - check. Lemons - check. Bits of plant - check. I wasn't sure about the quantities of bits of plant, though. For two gallons of wine, JS asked for 4 lb of nettle tips. Four pounds - that's ridiculous! I collected a bucketful, squashed down a bit. I have no idea what it weighed, but it definitely wasn't four pounds. When it came to boiling it down I had to fill the pan four times, though, so it really was quite a lot of nettles.

After the exploding elderflower wine incident, I'd promised myself I'd get demijohns before the next attempt. However, in the meantime I came across advice for budget airlocks, and really, it was the airlock I needed, not the container. The trick is to put a balloon over the neck of the bottle with a pinhole in it. As the gas builds up the balloon expands until there's enough pressure to open the little hole, then the gas escapes. On the other hand, there's no way any air's going to get in, because there's no pressure in that direction. Brilliantly simple - whoever thought of that was a genius!

Nettle wine with comedy balloon airlocks

Being the cheapskate that I am, I went round to the local shop and bought two packets of balloons ("I'm not sure if we've got any - what kind do you want?") for the princely sum of 55p a packet. Balloon airlocks are quite comical, especially the long, thin ones (if you have a juvenile sense of humour).

I left it in the bottles until the balloons started to go limp, then put them in a cool place for a bit (the conservatory - it's a massive spare fridge at the moment) because I'd heard that helps the yeast settle out. Then I decanted it all into fresh bottles and put lids on. I was rather hoping for 'secondary fermentation', giving me a fizzy wine, but that didn't happen.

I rather nervously tested it after a couple of weeks or so. I know you can make nettle beer, too, so I wasn't at all sure what to expect. Once I'd got the idea that it tasted more like cider than anything else, it was really quite nice. Good enough to give as Christmas presents, I thought. I hope the recipients agree!

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