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.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Soap and marmalade wine

A couple of updates here, as I left these two projects hanging, blogwise.

When we moved into this house in October, the previous owners had kindly left a bar of Imperial Leather on the bathroom basin. I did intend to use up this bar of soap before starting on my homemade stuff, but I got impatient...

Towards the end of January I gave in and started using my very first homemade soap. Here it is, next to the remains of the Imperial Leather. Don't you just love our beautiful basin? Our loo and shower tray are the same colour.

Half-used soap, next to remains of still-unfinished Imperial Leather

The reason the Imperial Leather is still there is that the new soap is actually much nicer, which is hugely pleasing. It does tend to go a bit squishy if it gets too wet, so I was worried to start with that it might just dissolve in a couple of washes, but as you can see, this hasn't happened. Although I gave away six bars as Christmas presents...

Fresh cut soap, left, and packed up as a Christmas present, right

... I still have six bars for myself, which could well last until next Christmas.

The marmalade wine was ready at about the same time as the soap, i.e. end of January. At least, some of it was ready. I had it fermenting in various different sized bottles, and the smallest one finished first. I tried some, and it was OK... I tested it on visiting in-laws, and they liked it too - enough to accept refils, so I'm fairly sure they weren't just being polite (though they are, of course, very polite people). Really - I was expecting it to taste 'interesting', which it certainly does - but it is surprisingly drinkable. There's definitely a bitter edge to it, from the bitter oranges, so it's not like other wines. Apart from that, it's not particularly orangey... I don't think I'd make a very good wine columnist, but you get the general idea. I like it. I gave away a couple of bottles as birthday presents (to people who like trying new and unusual drinks) - I hope they liked it too.

Since then, I've been drinking the bottles as they've finished fermenting, or in some cases before they've finished when I got impatient. The last bottle was bigger and took ages to finish. When it finally got there, I siphoned it off into bottles:

Pebble supervising the siphoning of the last bottle of marmalade wine

This batch is a fair bit stronger than the earlier bottles. Judging by its headache-inducing effects, there may be some methanol in there, too. I can't have more than a glass in an evening, and even then I feel the effects the next day.

That's really not good, is it?

Hmm, better do something about that.

OK, methanol has a lower boiling point than ethanol, so it should be possible to drive it off by heating...

Putting the old sugar thermometer to good use.

I looked up the boiling point of methanol, in Farenheit because my thermometer is very old (149°F, in case you're interested), heated the rest of the wine to somewhere near that temperature, and kept it there for half an hour or so. I meant to leave it for about 15 min, but got distracted and left it rather longer. I probably lost some of the ethonal too, but I think there was some to spare. I'm drinking a glass or two this evening, so I can let you know tomorrow whether the heating was effective. Either way, it still tastes pretty good.

Friday update: Yay! No headache this morning! I wonder if that's why I've been feeling a bit rubbish this week? I've been poisoning myself. Oops.

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