Monday, 15 August 2011

Updates, and courgettes and marrows for times of glut

I've been rather quiet lately, mainly due to work - actually having a job this summer is a bit of a shock, though I'm very glad to have it. Plus various other things - I might actually have got a book accepted for publication, for instance...

Plus I haven't been entirely happy with some of the brews I've made lately: I had a batch go off, which has never happened to me before. I think I know what the problem was - a bit of the mash did not get properly strained out, and so went off and contaminated the demijohn. It's called 'putrefaction' and justly is it so named.

On the bright side, there's a batch of redcurrant rose perking away. It was excellent last year, so I hope I've got it right this year. Last week we picked the first blackberries and elderberries - I was thinking of doing a combined wine, but I've now got enough in the freezer to do one of each - the first of many. Elderberry is one of the best wines I've made, so I hope to do a lot of it. Blackberry has not been so good - rather watery and thin - but last year I used a new recipe with added red grape juice, so the next batch may have a bit more body (I won't know for another year, as the 2010 lot is still in storage: supposed to be a year in bulk and another in the bottle). We shall see.

Found lots of damsons yesterday, not quite ready though, so damson wine next? It's not on our usual routes - in fact, I don't associate damsons with Norfolk at all - so it would mean a special foray... but it it a very fine wine if you get it right. Hmmm.

In the meantime, let me sing the praises of the wonderful Norwich Farm Share. What it is, is a group of people who stumped up a deposit to rent some acres in Postwick, and a standing order of a few quid a week. This pays for an organic grower to... er ... grow stuff organically. The stuff then comes to a distribution point, and everyone gets a share. It's wonderful, and not just because the distribution point is practically in the next street to ours... very handy.

The veg is delicious, fresh, local, varied, and grown by people we are getting to know and like. (I was eating some farmshare carrots the other day and it made me wonder just what is done to ordinary carrots that prevents them tasting like carrots? I can't imagine.) Next weekend there is a communal weed-in which is fun (we haven't been able to visit so far... looking forward to it and also the chance to scope out some potential forage around the site, maybe for spring...)

Anyway, there are gluts. Currently there are loads of courgettes (fabulously delicious... I like them a la greca - sliced thinly lengthways and grilled with a little olive oil and crushed or sliced garlic, with a dab of lemon juice before serving). But I mean LOADS of courgettes. Some of them becoming marrows as we speak.

So... courgette or marrow wine, for dealing with gluts... 


2.5 k ripe courgettes or marrows

2 large unwaxed lemons

1 juicy orange

200g sultanas or raisins (golden sultanas give a good colour)

1 mug of strong black leaf tea

Piece of ginger root about 3 cms long

1 kg of sugar (in two servings of 500 grams each)

4 litres water

1 campden tablet

2 teaspoons pectolase

1 teaspoon Yeast Nutrient

Sauternes or general purpose wine yeast

If using courgettes:

Rinse the courgettes and top and tail them. If any courgettes are borderline turning into marrows, split them down the middle and scrape out the seeds – these become bitter if cut or broken and can spoil the taste of the wine.

Grate the courgettes, skin, vestigal seeds and all.

If using marrow:

Wipe the marrows, split them, remove and discard seeds. Chop the marrow into small pieces.

Some recipes recommend freezing the pulp for 24 hours at this point to help extract juice and flavour.

Sprinkle the veg pulp with 500 grams of the sugar and the pectolase. Leave for 24 hours.
Peel the ginger root, chop and crush into pieces, add to the pulp.

Rinse and chop the sultanas and add.

Scrub the lemons and orange. Peel them finely, avoiding the white pith. Chop the peel and add.

Boil the water and pour over the mash. Stir in the yeast nutrient and black tea.

Squeeze the orange and lemons, discarding the pips, and add to the mix.

When the mix cools to blood temperature, stir in the yeast.

Cover and leave to ferment for five days. Stir twice daily, making sure the veg pulp is submerged.

Strain through a fine sieve or a clean muslin cloth. Squeeze the pulp to get as much liquid out as possible. (The squeezed pulp can then go to your chickens or pigs if you have any. If not, fold it into your compost with some brown material such as twigs, leaves, torn-up paper, etc).

Put a couple of mugfuls of the juice into a saucepan and warm over a low heat, taking care not to let it boil. Stir in the remaining 500 grams of sugar until it dissolves. Then return it to the main bulk of the liquid.

Decant into a sterilised demijohn.

Top up to the neck with cool boiled water, fit an airlock and leave to ferment out.

When fermentation has stopped, rack into a clean demijohn, add 1 crushed campden tablet, top up with cool boiled water if necessary, bung tight and store for 6 months.

Rack again. If the wine is still hazy at this stage, you can fine it using fresh milk (most finings are not vegetarian).

To fine:

Rack into a clean clear glass demijohn and add two tablespoonfuls of fresh milk. Bung tight and roll or rock the demijohn to swish the milk all around it. Leave in a cool place for two weeks. The wine should be brighter and a white must will have formed at the bottom. Rack the wine again to remove this, topping up with water.

Bottle and store for 6 months before drinking.

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