Caribou Country Chamomile Wine

Making your own wine at home can be either intimidating or lots of fun. I like to make wine and I like to have fun. Most of the recipes and instructions on the internet are intimidating AND confusing.  And they try to convince you everything has to be perfect, and you have to use that floating thermometer thingydoodle to get your alcohol level just right.  Here’s a secret. I can’t get my floating thermometer thingydoodle to even float, not even a little, it just drops like an ironclad and doesn’t tell me anything useful. *whispers* So I stopped using it completely.

What follows is how I make wine. I break lots of rules, but if you don’t try to bottle it up too soon, just let everything age nice and slow, you won’t have an incident in the middle of the night where multiple corks explode out of bottles and wine flows across your nice kitchen floor in fanciful effervescent waterfalls.

Not that I know anything about that. Er, it happened to a friend once. Yeah, that’s what happened. Anyway. NO CORKING TILL IT’S DONE BOUNCING AROUND, YOU GOT THAT?  It’s no fun mopping up a foamy boozy mess, plus you have the sadness of less wine to drink later.  Again – happened to a friend, I’m just remembering the story. As far as you know.

For the brave and foolish fun lovers out there, here’s my favorite wine recipe. I grow and dry my own German chamomile flowers, and always have heaps more than I need for tea. The German variety of the flower is very sweet and fragrant and makes a yummy wine!

Have fun, and remember what I said about corks and explosions. Patience, grasshopper.

Caribou Country Chamomile Wine

18 cups water
4 cups white granulated sugar

1/4 cup dried chamomile flowers

3 tsp acid blend
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1/8 tsp tannin
1 crushed Campden tablet

1 packet Montrachet wine yeast

Mix sugar and water in a really big pot (I use my small hot water bath canner) and bring to boil, stirring frequently to dissolve. Put chamomile flowers in a doubled square of cheesecloth and tie closed. Put the bag of flowers into the primary (the ‘primary’ is wine-speak for a large, very clean rigid plastic bucket with a fitted lid, designed specifically for winemaking).

When the sugar is dissolved and the water comes to boil, pour the sugar water into the primary, over the bag of chamomile flowers. Drip drain the flower bag several times to allow the flavor to seep into the water. Taste. If flavor is not strong enough, make another bag of flowers and toss it in. Cover the primary with its vented lid and let the mixture cool down to room temperature.

While you wait, you can measure out the acid blend, yeast nutrient, tannin and crush up a Campden tablet, blending it all together in a small dish. When the mixture in the primary has cooled to room temperature, dump all the science-y stuff in the small dish into the mixture, then stir till all is dissolved.

Every few hours gently squeeze the flower bag(s) to continue extracting their flavor. After 24 hours, remove the flower bags and discard them, then add the packet of Montrachet wine yeast. Cover the primary, and stir the mixture daily for a week.

wiggle-cork-of-science
Behold the Wiggle Airlock Of Science, set atop a 5-gallon glass jug filled with new, still yeast-laden chamomile wine. It will slowly clear and the yeast will fall to the bottom, yay!

In about a week, or up to two weeks if you forget all about your gurgling bucket of fragrant boozy yeasty fun, as I often do, pour the wine slowly through a coffee filter set in a strainer set in a plastic pitcher.  Stick a funnel into a 5-gallon glass jug and pour the strained wine into it. You’ll have too much for one jug.  I usually use two and fill each one halfway. Use airlocks to vent the jugs. Ferment for a month. Your wine will probably look really nice and clear and sparkly, with a thick layer of dead yeasty sludge settled on the bottom of the jug.  Yuck. Once more, pour the wine slowly through a coffee filter set in a strainer set in a plastic pitcher and attempt not to rile that yeasty-yuck layer. Leave it behind! Funnel the strained wine into fresh, clean 5-gallon jugs. Filter-strain the wine every 2 months for 6 months (that’s three times for the math impaired like me). Let the wine rest for two weeks after the final straining, then funnel it into bottles and cork (you’ll need a corking machine, which are really fun to use. If you don’t have one, see if you can borrow one for the afternoon.) Lay the corked bottles on their sides and allow them to age in a dark place 6 months before tasting. Will improve with aging for about two years.

Cheers!

The Life Cycle of a Loaf of Bread

 

Bread Basket
Yummy Fresh Bread

Life Stage One: Fresh bread!
It doesn’t matter what type of bread it is, as long as it’s a loaf you love. Around this house, we always have a loaf of classic soft white bread, perfect for peanut butter and jelly sammiches. But I’m also madly in love with dark, hearty, cracked-grain breads, especially when toasted, buttered and heaped with smooshed avocado. That’s my notion of perfection, but I digress. I also enjoy baking sourdough bread. My method is very similar to this: Sourdough Bread from Potato Flake Starter.

Continue reading The Life Cycle of a Loaf of Bread

Misrembered Quasi Italian Peruvian Salsa

Misremembered SalsaA million years ago, I enjoyed a ‘Peruvian Salsa’ as made by an Italian. Long story. I loved the stuff! I’ve held it in my memory for many years, and never wrote it down till right now.  I’m sure it’s warped a lot being stored in my brain so long. My brain does that to things.

 

(Measurements do not need to be exact. Adjust to your liking.)

1 Cup finely chopped red onion
3 Cloves finely chopped garlic
2 Tbsp oregano (chopped fresh leaves if possible)
1/2 Cup olive oil
1/2 Cup red wine vinegar
1 Lime – juiced
Approx. 1 Tbsp Ground fresh pepper

Combine everything in a container with a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate a few days. Let it warm to room temperature so the olive oil smooths out, and enjoy!

UPDATE! After hearing from the daughter of the one who taught me this recipe, I am corrected. GET THESE PEPPERS.  She says, “Its only red onion, small amount of garlic, toreador chili peppers, a splash of the pepper juice, wine vinegar, and oil but only a little oil. Love this stuff.”

 

 

Sweet and Spicy Pickled Beets

beets
Yum. Beets.

If you’ve known me for over fifteen minutes, you know I have earthmomma tendencies and like to grow or forage as much of my own food as possible, and love crazy bouts of Kitchen Therapy. At this time of year, I’m totally into my baby beets!  I have no disdain for biggie beets, but I do like growing the smaller ones.  I love them boiled and served with butter, salt and pepper, but I know most people are more familiar with beets as a pickled product. I love them pickled too, and here’s my favorite recipe. It is not for wimps. This recipe brings beets to a stage of singing and dancing Rockette-style across your kitchen counter, so brace for a dose of vegetable attitude.

Ingredients
8 medium or 10 petite fresh beets, scrubbed till the skin is nearly gone (trust me. They are often impossible to peel when they are petite, and you are NOT going to die from eating a bit of skin. So clean it up and get on with your life.) Leave the roots and tops on so the bleedy insides don’t, well, bleed too much. SAVE THE BEET GREENS. Simmer them in a saucepan with a half cup of water, then eat with butter and salt and pepper. Beet greens are so GOOD for you.  PS: Do the same with your radish greens. While you are at it, if you find purslane growing in your garden, acknowledge that it’s a weed but ALSO acknowledge that its totally edible and full of Omega 3 fatty acids, which are astoundingly good for you.  EAT ALL THE PURSLANE.

Wait… I’ve digressed.  But I hope you paid attention. Now… the beet goes on.

Here’s the rest of the ingredients for Sweet and Spicy Pickled Beets.

2 cups sugar
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon dill seeds
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

Put your beets in a large pot and add enough cold water to really submerge them. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to maintain a slow boil. Cook until beets are tender when pierced with a fork, about 40 minutes. Pour water off and let beets cool. If the skins wanna come off, let them. If they are fighting the process, cut away any thick, gnarly skin and leave the rest in peace. Just like potatoes, the skins do contain a lot of the good healthy vitamins. After pondering the skin and dealing or not dealing with it, slice the beets sorta thinly, to a thickness you would enjoy eating. THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE PEOPLE.  Make them whatever is personally yummy for you. The Beet Abides.

Place the sugar, cider vinegar, water, salt, and spices in a smaller saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour this pickling liquid into a large glass jar (1.5 liter or 1/2 gallon), add the sliced beets, cover with a lid and refrigerate. Let the beets sit at least a week before tasting.

Yield =  approximately 3 quarts

If you like pickled hard-boiled eggs, add them into the liquid, but use them quickly;  within 2 or 3 days or you will be eating rubber eggs. Food should never be bouncy unless it is Jell-O.

The pickling juice will keep a while. You can keep adding and enjoying beets and eggs to it for up to six months, if it’s kept refrigerated. But I’m betting you’ll use up the juice well before that if you keep it active.

Feel free to comment and tell me that you will be eating purslane from now on. 🙂 Oh, and pickled beets too, of course!

 

Celery Bean Salad (Which Needs A Better Name)

There’s a million recipes for celery salad on the internet and I don’t like the looks of any of them!  As often happens, I had a bunch of celery languishing in the fridge. I wasn’t in the mood to make chicken soup, and I don’t really like celery sticks with peanut butter. I wanted a salad. So, I googled. And after reading all the ingredients from all the recipes, I took the bits and pieces I liked from each and made my own.

It’s really good, too.

The stars of the recipe are black eyed peas (why are they called peas? They are beans!) and celery. And the trick is to cut the celery stalks in half the long way, then slice thin. Also, dice all the other crunchy ingredients finely. You’re trying to make a balance between the creamy bean and the crunchy veggies, so one doesn’t overpower the other.

Celery Bean Salad 01

 

  • Black Eye Beans (Peas!): one well-drained and rinsed 16 oz can, or if you like, your own fresh soaked/cooked equivalent
  • 2 big ribs of celery
  • 3 radishes
  • one smallish carrot
  • parsley or carrot tops. Yes, I use carrot tops as a parsley substitute. Yummy!
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ranch dressing – just barely enough to lightly coat everything.

That’s it!  And now you can be picky like me and say “I don’t like this recipe, I’m going to change it!”  You could add frozen peas (better than mushy canned ones), or diced olives, or Parmesan cheese… or whatever you like.  Make it your own!

Yum.