Sunday, 20 December 2015

Going to Rack

Today has been wine racking day! This means taking the fermented wine off the sediment which gradually falls out of it over time, and putting it back in the demijohns to clear a bit more. Racking is also the time you get to try the young wines to see if they might be going to turn out ok.
     Graham currently has four demijohn's of wine on the go: Ginger (which has some heat in it); Carrot Whiskey (not distilled, it gets its name simply from the flavour); Bramble (you can really taste the blackberries, but is currently a touch on the sharp side. It will need to mature, and may even need serving with lemonade - for me anyway) and finally Autumn Wine. Autumn wine contains everything from the hedgerows round about: apples, elderberries, brambles, rosehips, and frankly tastes the best of the lot to me. A rich deep red wine stuffed full of fruit.
     Graham used to make wine a lot some years ago, but we got too busy and it became one of those things we stopped doing, and so he got rid of all of his equipment. However this year he decided he fancied having another go so we have been on the look out particularly for demijohns.

     When we originally used to make wine you could find these in Boots the Chemist and most hardware shops for a pound a time. Graham was rather shocked to find that these days they are around £7 a pop, so he has been scouring bootsales this year and eventually found five. Which is why we have four lots of wine on the go, you need to have an empty demijohn to rack the clearing wine into.

     We used to make wine from all sorts of stuff, it is an interesting experiment, and we used to make special wines for our ritual celebrations. Potatoe wine is the base of Irish Potcheen, if you distill the finished product, but the wine itself is quite acceptable. One of our best ritual wines was Rowan, Oak and Barley which is very much a Green Man type of wine, robust and flavoursome.
     Don't try Onion Wine. No, really, don't do it! That is the foulest drink I have ever tasted (apart from Wormwood, which is a flavour you cannot cover) but Onion Wine stays with the memory - and I can even taste it now (shudder).
     Some fruit wines are quite awkward to make if you don't have a press to extract the juice with. And one year we had a LOT of apples, one way or another, so just had to have a go at apple wine. We made the apple into a puree, thinking this would make it easier to extract the juice, put the pulp into a jelly bag and left it suspended over a container through the night.
     The next morning an egg cup full of juice had dripped into the container and the jelly bag was still full of wet apple pulp.
     Then I had AN IDEA!
     In those days we had a free standing spinner to dry our washing, and I thought we could put the pulp in something and give it a spin in the spinner! that should extract the juice from the pulp in the same way as it extracted the wet from the washing!
    The pulp was quite heavy and we didn't want to overload the spinner, so we put some in a clean pillowcase and put it in the spinner and turned it on. It worked brilliantly, the juice poured out and we gave ourselves a pat on the back. This was going to be easy!
     When that lot had finished, feeling more confident we dumped the rest of the apple pulp in the pillow case, bunged it in the spinner and turned it on again.
     Now, the thing about these old fashioned spinners is that the load inside has to be balanced right, evenly all around or they do have a tendency to judder and shake. So the first lot of apple pulp must have been balanced evenly.
     The second lot was not.
     These spinners go from nought to 100miles an hour in about 4 seconds (or so it seems) and if they go to full speed with an unbalanced load the results can be quite dramatic.
    The next part can only have taken a few seconds, but it all seemed to happen in slow motion. The spinner started to make its juddery noise and both of us thought, it should even itself out, but if it doesn't we'll just switch it off and rebalance it. But before we had time to move, the spinner shot up to full speed and from standing still and juddering, the whole machine suddenly began to spin, but luckily as it span it also wrapped itself in its electrical lead, which swiftly ran out and it whipped its own plug out of the wall, but as it did so the lid of the spinner flew open and apple puree span through the air coating EVERYTHING in the kitchen from floor to ceiling in a layer of apple puree.
     I happened to be standing against the open kitchen door, and when I moved forward (coated from head to toe) and looked behind me, just like something out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon, there was a perfect apple puree silhouette of me outlined on the door.
     I started to laugh and then saw Graham's face - he did not think this was funny, which creased me up even more.
    We were finding apple puree for months afterward.


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