Wine

It is grape season! Vineyards are having events along with the U of M to celebrate wine grapes.

I know very little about wine. I like light, sweet and bubbly wine. I don’t like dry wines.  I like the wine that is made by the Italian dude that comes in a gallon glass bottle- Carlo Rossi. My wife likes dry wine. When I go get wine I don’t like to buy too much, but we don’t always agree on what to buy. I learned a trick in bartending school- pour soda in your wine. So I buy a dry wine and fill my glass with half wine and the rest with 7 UP. That is my basic knowledge of wines. From listening to The Splendid Table, I think you have had to have a few bottles of wine to start to appreciate the different tastes… and it will cost some money.

I have seven grapevines in my yard. We have have fresh eating grapes and wine grapes. We have: Niagara, Catawba, St. Croix (2), Edelweiss, Frontenac and Marquette grapes. We harvest all of our grapes and throw them in a large bucket and make something out of all of them. Last year it was good jelly. This year it’s wine.

I bought this book last year called, “Wild Fermentation,”  by Sandor Ellix Kraut. I have said this before on this blog and I will say it again: Dude is good! He has a recipe for Ethiopian wine, made from honey and water. It’s straight honey and water. I made a batch last year. I made the quick version and did not let it age. I should have let it age; I did not “appreciate” the taste. The wine I am making now I am gonna make off that recipe, bottle it and let it age.

I just harvested our grapes. We are in the process of selling the land our “vineyard” is on and we want to take the “vineyard” with us. While harvesting our grapes I pruned all the vines way down to transport them. They grew awesome this year. I am not sure where we are going to put them yet. I know I won’t plant them all in the yard we have with the rental house. I am thinking guerrilla gardening stuff. If you have any ideas or may want one let me know.

I took the grapes off the clusters and washed them. I ran the grapes through a food mill getting out over three quarts of juice. I poured the juice in a large stock pot and cover it with a clean t-shirt. I let that sit on the shelf for a few days gathering wild yeast. I mixed in just over 3 cups of raw honey and let it continue to sit on the shelf a few days until it got nice and bubbly. The very top of the wine is very frothy and you should mix that in twice a day. The smell of this stuff was wonderful! It was like wine. It smelled like grape juice, honey, and alcohol. I put my head in that pot several times a day to get a good whiff. After it gathered the yeast I poured it into a Carlo Rossi wine bottle. It’s a 4 liter, which is just over a gallon, glass jug. I got it with wine for $12. Then I put an airlock on the top and put it in the pantry. It has been consistently letting gas go every 1-2 seconds, 24/7 since I capped it with the airlock It’s pretty cool to pop my head in the pantry and see it doing its thing. I will leave it like that for a month or so then siphon it into bottles. After the siphoning I will age it for 18 months or so.

I want to mention why I use wild yeast. There are a couple of reasons: The first is that it’s free. It comes from where I live, this drink will taste like my land. The second is I want to do things myself. If I can get a “excellent” wine yeast from Italy, or where ever good wine yeast comes from and keep it alive or allow it to multiply- I will think about it. I don’t want to be dependent on living near a home-brew shop and I don’t want to be told which yeast will give me the best wine. I am doing this to be free from marketing and trends. I just want to make a descent tasting alcoholic beverage.

I invite you to make your own homemade wine and let it age. We can get drunk together in the summer of 2013. We can bring our mystery-tasting wines together and have a unveiling. If you say you have no grape vines in your yard- I say there are a lot of wild grapes in Minnesota. I have seen some in parks in Saint Paul, a State Park in Saint Paul and I was up near the river in Anoka foraging for sumac and I stumbled across some as-well. Or you could buy some wine grapes from vineyards or some grocery stores.

Laundry Soap

Kristina found this recipe, in 07′, on a blog and printed it out. It is a fairly well know recipe I have found on several ‘do it yourself’ blogs. We have (mainly) been using this for washing detergent since. When you get the hang of making it you can make a batch without the recipe in a few minutes.

The Recipe

You will need:
A bar of Fels Naptha- grated.
1.5 Cups of Arm and Hammer’s Super Washing Soda
1.5 cups of Borax
5 gallon bucket
water

Get a stock pot, fill it 1/3- 1/2 full of water then add the grated Fels Naptha. Put the stock pot over LOW heat. As it warms up the soap will dissolve. Then add the Borax and Washing Soda. At this point it does thicken up. Mix it all up and pour it into the 5 gallon bucket. Then add water to the bucket until it is as full as you want to carry, at least 4.5 gallons of laundry soap. Bring it down by by washing machine with a cup and add 3/4 cup to each load. It will ‘set’ with-in 24 hours and may need stirring. I use a paint mixing stick to stir mine.

It cleans the clothes great and it smells like Fels Naptha.

One of the reasons we started to make this was cost. The price I paid at Cub Foods was: Super Washing Soda- $2.99, Borax- $4.26, Fels Naptha- $0.99. You need the whole bar of soap to make 5 gallons and you can make several batches with one box of Borax and one box of Washing Soda.

The other reason I like this is I like making things from scratch. Is this from scratch? No. I am dependent on companies to make things for me. I am mixing three products together in warm water to make a liquid/gel laundry detergent. But it is as close as I will get right now.

KOMBUCHA

I learned about this cultured tea in 2009 from Kristina’s best friend. She introduced it to me by calling it “medicine.” She said it help with “gut heath.” The Kombucha was made by GT which is one of the most popular commercial brands. GT has several different flavors. I had a sip of the Trilogy- raspberry, lemon and ginger and I didn’t not much care for the taste of it. When I found out it was $3.50- $4.00 a bottle, I thought her hippie drink and unprocessed-whole food diet was: trendy, over priced and unsustainable for a working class guy like myself.

Kristina’s best friend came in from her out of state home 8 months later and was still drinking GT’s Kombucha. She could see I was sick of the standard American diet and told me I could replace pop by drinking a Kombucha a day; Kombucha has a slight carbonated feel. Again, I thought there was NO way I would pay $4.00 for a 16oz bottle of this stuff a day. It made far much more sense to drink Mountain Dew.

At about this same time, in February 2010, I was very interested in an unprocessed- whole foods diet. I started to buy books on fruits and vegetables, learn about organic foods and took my first steps into Whole Foods. I generally go on a serious diet every 9-12 months for a few months. This was the start of a diet.

I slowly started to drink GT’s Kombucha, trying different flavors. By spring I drank a $3.59 Kombucha everyday for months. I was addicted to the stuff. For me it helped with digestion, but it is a great appetite controller. I honestly have less of a desire to eat while I am drinking Kombucha.

In the summer of 2010 there were some “labeling” issues with GT’s Kombucha and they took it off the shelves for several weeks. Due to the fermentation process there are small amounts of alcohol in it. Thankfully I was doing a Daniel Fast, which is: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, good oils, herbs and water. So I was not drinking Kombucha at the time. I can remember being in Whole Foods asking what happened to the Kombucha and thinking- I would have punched somebody if I went in there wanting one and they took it off the shelves. After the Daniel Fast I started to buy other Kombucha’s. There are different makers of the stuff, including a company in Saint Paul.

I then wanted to make Kombucha myself. It didn’t sound as hard as I thought it would be. Most of it was time waiting for the Kombucha mother to grow. The “mother” is a colony of yeast and good bacteria that looks similar to a jelly fish or a pancake. It’s sort of nasty. I found a few ads on craigslist for a Kombucha mother and I went and bought a small one with some starter Kombucha for $5. You need a living mother to make the tea and the mother continues to grow as it ages. It goes from being a very thin pancake to having several layers and being very thick.

My Kombucha mother came in a Ball wide-mouth pint jar. It needs a large surface area to do well. I went out and bought two- one gallon glass pitchers from Target for $20 apiece. The pitchers are very wide and are perfect for Kombucha brewing. My mothers grew and I was getting up-to two gallons of Kombucha a week.

The recipe I used was very basic: make one gallon of sweet-tea, add the mother and wait. Kombucha is normally made in a tea. It typically is black tea or green tea. I would brew the tea, add turbinado sugar, let it cool, put it in the pitcher, and then add the Kombucha starter and the mother. You then need to wait for the tea to age, or ferment, or for the yeast and bacteria to grow- making the tea taste slightly like vinegar. I read GT’s Kombucha is made in 30 days, so I tried to let mine age for that long. I thought that was too long, I normally did 1-2 weeks and then bottled the drink and started over.

Bottling it was difficult. I wasn’t sure what to put it in. I put it in Ball wide mouth jars because that’s what was available, but it didn’t seem to appealing. I went out and bought some beer with swing top bottle and put it in that. That got expensive and I didn’t want cops to think I was drinking and driving. I did use GT’s glass bottles, but I wanted my own.

After a couple months of making the stuff I let it go. Kristina hated the pitchers sitting on our kitchen counter. It takes work to brew tea, let the tea cool, add the mother, clean everything, let it age until it taste good, bottle it and drink it. I do like GT’s Kombucha over mine. For two reasons: I like a consistent taste, mine was not always consistent. Also dealing with that mother- is weird; it’s big and strange looking.

All the reasons you question drinking Kombucha are multiplied when you brew it yourself. You see the mother and you know that tea has sat on your counter a week with that mother. It’s hard to take that first drink of homemade Kombucha. It’s easier buying it in a nice store, in a clean bottle. You also have to be clean while making the Kombucha. The pitcher needs to be clean, your hands and arms need to be clean and you have to protect the tea while it ages from flying insects (you can do that with a piece of cloth over the pitcher.) You worry about the tea “going bad” somehow.

I let my Kombucha sit from last winter to this summer when we moved. Two- one gallon pitchers half full of tea with a very thick mother sitting in them. It was pretty hard-core when I cleaned those things out. The mother was thick and hard. The mother always floats on top, so it covers any smell, when I took the mother out the smell cover the whole house. My anti-Kombucha loving wife said the house was not fit to be in for a good day after I clean out those pitches. I ended up composting my two large mothers.    

I got back to drinking Kombucha. Again I started to question if paying over $3.50 for 16oz drink was ethical. I want a DIY attitude and I had the equipment to make the stuff, so I brewed a gallon. Legit-Good-Stuff! I used a basic recipe for tea and expanded on it. Instead of all black tea I wanted to use some medicinal herbs. I have some echinacea growing in the yard and I some hollyhock roots. I used a half gallon of spring water, brought it to a boil and added the hollyhock and echinacea roots. I let it boil for a few hours. I then added six black tea packets. I pulled the black tea packets out after ten minutes and left the roots in the pot until the tea completely cooled. After it cooled I pulled the roots out I added one cup of local raw honey and mixed that in. I added that to a one gallon pitcher.

This is my second batch

I let a mother age from two bottles of GT’s Kombucha. I bought the Kombucha a month before I made the tea and let them sit in one of the pictures all that time. You don’t need a visible mother in order to make Kombucha, but you need to allow the store bought stuff time to grow.

After combining the tea and the mother in the pitcher I let it sit on the shelf for a week. I bottled it in Ball wide mouth pint jars. I got a full gallon with enough left over for a starter; the starter should be 1 cup of Kombucha per gallon.

This is the finished first batch- Echinacea, Hollyhock and Raw Honey

The taste of the tea is AWESOME! It is by far the best stuff I have made. I didn’t let it age too long; maybe a week at tops. You can taste the honey and the roots. It tastes very similar to apple juice. Since I didn’t let it age that long it is not too vinegary. The tea is a black tea color with strands of the culture in it. It is raw and awesome! It cost about $1 per 16oz and it does help with appetite control. 

I have always been cautious about drinking my Kombucha. I drank 8oz of warm Kombucha while I was putting the rest of it in jars. Then I chilled the rest of it and drank another 8oz the next day. I waited to see if it was going to throw up or shit all over the place…and I didn’t. That means it’s safe to drink. Right?

I canned the tea, set aside the mother and clean out the sediment and crap from the gallon jar. Then I looked around my kitchen for some more tea I could turn into Kombucha and started on my second batch.

820 Words of Randomness

820 Words of Randomness: That’s right, I write crap and warn you about it before you read it!

The last 18 months I have really been paying attention to my relationship with our food system. With the good food and the junk food I eat, I question: what it is, how is it made, why I am eating it and what does it do for me.

With most foods I ask myself if could I make it “from scratch.” I then get frustrated asking, what is “from scratch?”

  • Do I have some processed foods and make it “from scratch?” Like homemade cookies; The chocolate, butter, vanilla extract and sugar are processed.
  • Do I make a dish from all single ingredients? Like a homemade pizza; flour, water, yeast, cheese (the flour, cheese and the yeast are gimmes), tomatoes and basil.
  • Finally is “from scratch” something I grow or forage for and prepare? Like a salad from the garden.

I always am looking for a way to do most of the work myself. I don’t think there is a definite answer to what “from scratch” cooking is. I feel it is in the middle of my three choices. But we should be challenging ourselves to be more responsible for gathering and making our food- to have a more DIY attitude.

From food I start to think: what else do I use in my day to day life that I could make? Stuff like: medicine, teas, toothpaste, soaps, lotion, shampoo, shoes, clothes, gardening equipment, etc…

It’s funny, I have standards and I am not able to live up to them. I have been watching videos and listening to interviews with Daniel Vitalis. He has been inspiring. I don’t believe everything he talks about, but some stuff he says makes sense. He talks about “living water,” water that is from a spring, right from the earth. He has several websites, one of them is findaspring.com, which tells you where springs are in your area. For the past week I have been going to the Schmidt Brewery Well. The well is not 100% spring water, but it’s a step up from unfiltered tap water. He also is not a fan of plastics. So I am thinking how I can get spring water and get rid of all the plastic in my house; WHILE drinking pop from a plastic jug.

My diet has been absolute CRAP since we started to move. It’s nuts how change in your routine can mess with exercise and diet. I have gained at least 10 pounds, maybe 15; I don’t care to step on the scale. I am at or close to the heaviest I’ve been.

I have all this awesome knowledge in my head and I have a better idea of what I want my lifestyle and diet to be, but I really am not practicing it. I know it’s gonna come where I am closer to practicing my ideal diet, I am just not there yet.

Most of it is: I have been eating crap food. I have been saving seeds, making an AWESOME echinacea, hollyhock and raw honey- kombucha (post to come,) making wine (post to come,) learning about foraging, traditional medicines and more about local farmers. My diet is just down the toilet.

There are a lot of reasons for my diet being crap and I need to have a better understanding of them to move on. There are some minor emotional reasons. The reasons I am thinking of are: my three kids, a wife, work, laziness, lack of knowledge and convenience. You know, life! Over time you gain knowledge and it is easier to practice what you know. I feel like my body will catch up with my head.

There is a sensitivity your body has to your diet and your environment. While I am eating crap food I am not as sensitive to my body. I want to be more in-touch with how I am feeling and how I could feel better and live a healthier life.

I have done some thinking on the topics of this blog. I started to think they are too broad and I need to narrow things down a bit. When I first started to write my thought was: I want to write about my struggles, my ideas of eating and living a healthier lifestyle. The past month or so I started to questing if my topics were too broad; Like I am a Food Network TV personality and I have to fit in a nice organized box. I was then told- this is my blog and I can do what I want. The food system is complex, food history is complex, cultures are complex and yes, I am complex. (Insert laugh here.) So that’s where the randomness of these posts come from… or not so random. And I have no desire to be Guy Fieri.