Making #wine – fermentation

I did all of my research, gathered the fruit, prepared everything and dropped in the yeast.  Now it’s time to sit back and wait, almost.

There are two stages of fermentation according to the recipe I am following.  The first stage has all of the fruit in the must and the second stage is just the wine.  So I have a large plastic bucket of fermenting wine with a big bag of fruit, stems and seeds in it and in a few days I need to transfer just the wine into a five gallon container with an airlock.  Easy, right?

Well, the instructions indicated that it would ferment vigorously and heat up in the process and peaking at about 80 degrees.  The day after I started the fermentation, I checked on it and I got a little worried.  When my beer ferments vigorously I have to use a large hose going into a bucket of water for an airlock because the fermentation blows all of the water out of a regular airlock.  The wine however, was very still and had just a trace of foam around the edge of the bucket and the temperature was 64 degrees, the air temperature of the basement where it is fermenting.

Is something wrong?  Did the yeast die?  When I prepared the yeast I followed the instructions that said I should start the yeast in a small container of warm  (100º F) water and let it sit for several minutes before adding it to the juice.  But it also said that if the temperature of the juice was less than 60° to let the yeast sit on the top of the juice to adapt to the cooler temperature.  My juice was about 65° so I poured in the yeast and stirred it in.  Or maybe I didn’t wait long enough after adding the potassium metabisulfite and I killed all of my good yeast.  Or maybe everything is fine.  I would just have to wait to find out.  So I stirred the must covered it and left it until evening.

That evening I went down to stir the must again and I saw that the bag of fruit had inflated like a balloon and was up above the top of the bucket.   It looks like there is some fermentation happening.  However, the must was still just room temperature.  I squeezed the air out of the bag, stirred the must and left it until tomorrow.

For the next three days I stirred the must twice a day and every time the bag was full of air.  It looks like it’s fine but with the extreme amount of sugar in the mix it seemed that the yeast would never convert it all.  I guess I won’t know for sure until it’s finished.  Oh Lord give me patience.  And do it now!

 

Tomorrow – transfer the wine

 

 

 

 

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Making #wine – starting the process

On my last post I described the convoluted process I went through to get enough fruit.  It had to be all wild fruit, nothing from the store, I know it’s silly but I am doing this for fun as much as for the end product.

So, now I have my fruit.  I had frozen the elderberries as I picked them and the grapes I was using fresh from the picking.  I found a tip that if you covered the fresh grapes in water and heated it up to boiling. the grape skins would split and crushing them would be easy.  It worked!  I just hope that heating the grapes up won’t affect the quality of the wine.

I bought a big filter bag, large enough to hold all of the fruit and put it into a six gallon bucket that I use for making beer (yeah, I make beer too).  Then I put the frozen berries into the bag and poured the hot grapes, stems and water on top of the frozen berries.  I tied up the top of the bag and added water to nearly 6 gallons assuming that taking the stems and seeds in the bag out of the wine would bring it back down to about 5 gallons.

I then followed my recipe carefully and added the pectic enzyme to the juice, stirred it in and covered it up.  According to what I had read, this was necessary to ensure that my lovely juice didn’t turn into jelly before it fermented.  Later I added the potassium metabisulfate and stirred it in.  Again the recipe said that this was necessary to kill any wild yeast that might be on the fruit before it ruined my wine. Now I had to leave it sit undisturbed until tomorrow.

Early the next day, I went back to the winemaking.  Using a hydrometer, I tested the juice for sugar content.  I used the calculation I had found for determining how much sugar I needed to make the perfect wine.  The juice measured 8 on the scale and I needed to get it to 24.  Using the calculation it indicated that I needed eight more pounds of sugar!

Wow!  Eight pounds of sugar added to fruit that naturally had sugar in it seemed impossible.  So I put in just four pounds, stirred it in and let it sit for a while.  I measured it again and the reading was up to 14.  It looks like I need even more than another four pounds to get to 24.  I added four more pounds and tested again.  Now it was 22.  I read that the measurement can change if it sits overnight so I covered it up and left.

The next morning I checked it again and the reading was now 23 so I added just half a pound of sugar and stirred it in.  Then I couldn’t resist any longer,  The juice looked exactly like a beautiful clear red rioja wine so I took a sample and tasted it.  Yikes!  It was sweeter than Kool Aid.  It was so sweet that the sugary sweetness completely overpowered the taste of the fruit.

I find it hard to believe that the yeast will be able to convert all of that sugar to alcohol and make a nice wine from sugary sweetness.  But I can only wait until the yeast has finished it’s job to see if it worked.  With a resigned sigh, I added the yeast, covered the must (It’s called must after the yeast has been added to the juice) and left.

 

Next – fermentation

 

 

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Making #wine – the Berry Hunt

In my last post, I described how I got started with this wine making craziness.  Now, after all of my careful preparation, I discovered that I would not have nearly enough elderberries for a five gallon batch of wine.  Instead of 30 pounds from my bushes, I will only get 5 or 6 pounds and it will require 3 1/2 to 5 pounds of berries per gallon.  I need to find a LOT of elderberries.  For those who are not familiar with elderberries, they are about the size of a BB.  I need millions and billions of them, well, thousands at least.

So, I set out on a search for elderberry bushes.  These bushes grow wild in open areas along the edges of woods and along fence lines.  They are everywhere; I should have no problem finding another 15 pounds, right?  Wrong!  After searching a large wild area near my home I found a couple of bushes but the clusters of berries were even sparser than mine.  Some clusters had only five or six berries left.  Time to go back to Google to see why there are so few berries.

It turns out that elderberries primarily spread through their roots, the seeds in the berries count for just a small portion of new growth.  The bushes don’t need to produce the massive number of berries they would get if all of the blossoms developed into berries.  So, if the fertility of the soil is a little low or the sunlight is a little less than ideal, they compensate by dropping the berries to a number they can maintain.  They also have shallow root systems and they don’t compete well with weeds.  Most wild bushes, it seems, produce big showy blossom clusters but just a few berries.

So now I focused my search on open areas where the bushes would get a lot of sun.  However, we were well into the ripening season and lots of birds just love elderberries.  So, the bushes were big and healthy but the berry clusters were heavily picked over with some clusters completely bare.  But the birds took the easy pickings and left the hidden clusters alone.  With some searching and some fighting with nettles, I filled my collecting bag and headed home smiling with satisfaction.

I guessed that I had about 6 pounds of berries from my bushes already and I thought my bag full of beautiful dark berries would finish it off.  There had to be at least 15 pounds of berries there.  Unfortunately, I developed my weight guessing skills as a fisherman.  After removing all of the stems I weighed my treasured berries and found I had collected only about five pounds on that trip and the berries from my bushes came to just 2 pounds.  I made another trip to the best area with my daughter.  That made it a good day even if we didn’t find any berries.  But we did find another 2 pounds.  But even with that,  I had only half the berries that I needed!

Back to Google!  I didn’t want to expand my search for elderberry bushes so I started searching for alternatives.  It seems that the wild grape that grows everywhere in the north country can make a pretty good wine when mixed with elderberries.  I already had 9 pounds of elderberries so I could pick 10 or 12 pounds of grapes and make elderberry/grape wine.  I had wild grape vines growing at home so I thought I could just pick them and start my wine.

I never really looked closely at the wild grapes before but now I saw that the clusters are small – about 10 to 20 grapes in a cluster and the grapes are small.  I picked every grape I could find and they weighed in at just over six pounds including the stems and I am guessing the stems are a third of the weight.  I am still short by at least another 7 or 8  pounds.  But the grapes were easy to find in the wooded areas and I quickly picked another 8 1/2 pounds.

I now have enough fruit to start making wine.  I can see it now, sitting on my deck with some cheese and crackers and a nice glass of elderberry/grape wine, mmmmm.

Tomorrow – start the winemaking

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Making #wine

A long time ago – before the web and Google had answers for everything, I tried to make wine.  With no direction, my experiment came out even worse than you might expect.

I made that wine entirely by guess and by gosh.  Someone gave me a big pile of rhubarb and, not knowing what else to do with it, I decided to make wine.  I cleaned up the rhubarb, cut it up into small pieces and put it into a five gallon jug.  I would guess there was probably five pounds of rhubarb in there.  That seemed like plenty.  Then, knowing that rhubarb was really sour and sugar is needed for fermentation, I put in a couple of cups of sugar.  Then I thought it over a bit and added a couple more because it was really sour.  I then got a packet of baking yeast from the grocery store and poured it into the mixture and stretched a balloon over the neck of the jug as an airlock.

Then I sat back and waited for the delicious wine to appear.

Now, for those of you who know nothing about making wine, there were a couple of little tiny  mistakes in my recipe.  First, to make 5 gallons of wine I needed between 15 and 20 pounds of rhubarb so there I was with one third or one fourth of what I needed and thinking I had plenty.

Second, nearly every rhubarb wine recipe includes adding grape juice or grapes or some substitute for grapes.  The only thing I added was my imagination.

Next, I got all carried away and put in possibly a whole pound of sugar.  For five gallons of rhubarb wine I needed at least ten pounds of sugar.  That wine was so dry, the glass jug started to pucker up.

And then, the yeast used to make bread is not the same as the yeast used to make wine.  However, with all of the other problems, I don’t think it made a bit of difference.  It actually did ferment and the balloon inflated a bit so the tiny trace of sugar that was there was now alcohol.

After recovering from the shock of my taste from the first bottle, I promptly poured all of it down the drain and threw the bottles away.  They were forever corrupted.  I never tried to make wine again for more than thirty years.

But this spring I noticed that I had several elderberry bushes growing around the yard that were covered with big bunches of blossoms.  There should be many pounds of berries in the fall and I could make some great wine with them.

To get ready for my winemaking, I googled “How to make elderberry wine” rather than winging it again.  Google brought me about 133,000 results to search through to find the perfect recipe.  This time the wine will be great, I just know it will, maybe, I hope.  With the whole summer to prepare, I read many recipes and compared the ingredients and processes.  I gathered all the helpful tips I could find and prepared for every possible problem.  I was going to do it right this time.

I eagerly watched as the blossoms began to fall and the tiny new berries began to grow.  Then I began to notice that there were fewer berries in each cluster.  As the weeks went by, the numbers continued to drop.  By the time they ripened the big, thick clusters had turned into sparse samplings of berries with perhaps a fourth of the original number in each cluster.  Instead of having twenty or thirty pounds of berries I would only have five or six.  This will never do; I had to find more berries quickly.

Tomorrow – The elderberry hunt.

 

 

 

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A #Joyful day

This was an amazing day!  After days of rain, the sun came out.  I went outside and spent the entire day there. With all the rain we had, everything was brilliantly colored. The greens were almost glowing. The lilacs smelled better than the finest perfumes. The irises were bursting with color and the sky was the most beautiful clear blue.

While I weeded the garden and mulched the tomatoes I was listening to my favorite music. While Vivaldi’s Gloria was playing something suddenly changed. A feeling of overwhelming joy came over me. The joy was so intense that I had tears streaming down my cheeks. The sun was warmer, the colors brighter, the scents more intense. I felt like God had taken some of the joy from heaven and poured it over me.

I, and many people, have enjoyed a beautiful spring day and have been inspired by beautiful music and have been awed by God’s great creation. But this time it was different. There was far more than the joy of a nice day. The joy from heaven is so intense that it can’t be simply called joy. Ecstasy does not do it justice. All of the superlatives that our language provides are insufficient.   After the intense joy subsided, a wonderful warm glow followed and continued for the rest of the day.

I wish that I could somehow bring a moment like that to every person on earth.   If they knew the unbounded joy that comes with the immediate presence and awareness of God, there would be no fighting, no wars, no crime, no sorrow.  Perhaps I can help one other person encounter God so closely.  I can’t change the world but maybe, just maybe, I can help one or two people experience God.

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More from your caring government?

Yesterday’s post described the problems my Nephew was facing and the lack of progress he had experienced working with the Social Security Administration (SSA).  I have now had a full day of trying to improve the situation and I am convinced we should scrap the entire SSA and start over.

It seems that the SSA has a policy that if a person is working and making over $1090 per month, they are not disabled regardless of any medical conditions that they suffer from.  My nephew is still working, barely, but he continues to try to support himself and his wife until he can get help.  However, the only way he can get the SSA to accept his application is to quit work first.

Of course, if he quits work he will need to live on whatever savings he may have. With the combination of no advanced education and suffering from a serious disease for the last twenty years, he has never had a job where he made enough to accumulate any significant savings.  Within at most three months he will have nothing and the notices will begin arriving in the mail.

“Your electricity will be shut off in thirty days unless we receive payment of…”.  “Your rent has been unpaid for thirty days.  Eviction proceeding will begin if we do not receive payment in ten days.”  Notices like these will greet him every day when he hobbles to the mailbox.

The solution, it seems, is to quit work and immediately begin applying for every kind of state and county aid that is available and hope that you can make through the eighteen or more months that it will take for a lawyer to get the disability application completed and the six additional months before the first payment arrives.

It is interesting to note that the lawyers who handle these cases make it a point to say “Our service will cost you nothing!  We only get paid when you get paid.”  The policy of the SSA is to pay back payments to the date of the initial filing of the claim.  The pricing for these law firms is to take one third of whatever the back payments total.  So, if your benefit payment is $1500 per month and it takes eighteen months to get approval, then the lawyer gets $9000 (18 months times $1500 is $27,000, lawyer gets one third of that) for handling the claim.  If it takes twenty four months then the fee will be $12,000.  The SSA is motivating the law firms to take more time rather than to complete the process as quickly as possible.

Being a bit naïve in these matters, I may be wrong but it seems to me that the SSA policy is designed to accomplish two objectives.  First, have as many applicants as possible die before they get any benefit payment and second, provide a government financed gravy train for lawyers who handle these cases.  I can find nothing that indicates that the policy is concerned with helping the citizen who has worked and paid into the system for years.

 

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Your Caring Government?

The phrase “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” generally makes people quake in fear or laugh like a lunatic.  But in spite of that common reputation, I am encountering a situation that is so bizarre that even the most cynical person would be surprised.

My nephew has cancer again.  At the age of fifty-two he if fighting his third battle with the disease.  In his first bout, twenty years ago, he received radiation treatment.  The treatment at that time was not as well controlled as it is now and as a result he began to suffer from degeneration of the bones of his lower spine and legs.  Of course, this makes walking painful and difficult.

When the degeneration reached a level where he was in constant pain, he applied for disability from the Social Security administration.  As is their usual procedure, they denied the claim.  It seems this is nearly always the process regardless of the severity of the disability.

He applied again later and was denied again.  Unfortunately, he was not aware that there is no chance of getting approved unless the claim is submitted and handled by a law firm.  Finally someone told him about getting a law firm to submit it and he tried again using a lawyer.

The lawyer was aware of the procedures that the SSA forced on claimants and advised my nephew that the process would take time.  As expected the SSA denied the claim but the lawyer knew this would happen and immediately submitted a request for an appeal.

It took about three months for the initial denial when he submitted his own claim and also when the lawyer submitted it.  Then the expected time before the appeal be heard was at least eighteen months!  According to both the law firm and the SSA office, this is normal and expected.  It takes three months for a clerk somewhere to say no.  Then another year and a half to get the case in front of someone.

Eventually that application was also denied.  At this point, my cousin had already moved from his townhouse because he could no longer go up and down stairs and rented a first floor apartment.

The law firm resubmitted the claim again and it was denied again and went to appeal again.  After another year and a half the appeal was denied and the law firm notified my cousin that they were dropping his case.

Not being a quitter, my cousin contacted his senators advising them of the situation and asking if they could help.  Al Franken never bothered to answer him.  Amy Klobuchar did respond and promised to help in any way she could.

This is where I got involved.  My wife and I saw him often and she frequently chatted with him on the phone so we knew of his medical issues.  However, he is not a complainer and we did not know about the severity of the problems until they were truly disabling.  We were also unaware of the SSA claims he had filed.

With the last denial and the law firm dropping his case, he asked if we could help him.  I am now working with Amy Klobuchar’s office to see if we can get through the incredible convoluted process of getting help for someone who really needs it.

This is an ongoing process and I will be posting more as things develop.

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#Hate

I made the mistake of reading some of the comments on Yahoo news stories.  It amazed and saddened me that there are so many people who are so full of hate.  It didn’t matter what the subject of the story was, the majority of the comments were full of obscenities (masked with many *** embedded in them) all of them hating whatever the story was about.  If it was a political story then the Democrats hated the Republicans and vice versa.  The nonvoters were the worst; they just hated everybody.  If it was a story about a religious figure there were hundreds of comments condemning them regardless of the religion they were with or the subject of the story.  If it was about anything Islamic the comments were frighteningly vitriolic.

If there is a story about a faithful dog or a rescued pet, the comments are sweet to the extent of being syrupy.  But a story about anything human engenders the hate comments.  It is so sad that humans have found reasons to hate other humans for as long as we have any historical records.

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A Dream

My memories of a dream January 27, 2015

I had a dream, or I think I had a dream. Just as I was waking in the morning the dream began. I have had many dreams before that began near the time I woke but they always faded out of my memory very quickly. This one is as clear now as the moment I awoke from it.

It was dim, not dark like night. There was a hill and at the top was a cross with Jesus on it. Mary the mother of Jesus and John the apostle were near it (I don’t know how I knew it was Mary and John but I had no doubt) and a few unknown others were nearby. There was sorrow, terrible sorrow, sorrow so profound that it had body. As I approached the cross the overwhelming sorrow grew even more intense. I could feel it brushing against me like rain but it wasn’t wet. It permeated everything.

Silence abounded. There was no talking, no whispering, no crying, nothing.   No bird sang and no animal moved. No breeze rustled a leaf. Even Jesus made no sound. It could have been an incredible sculpture but it was real. The people were real and alive.

As I moved closer to the cross the sorrow became so intense I began to fear for my life.

I was next to it now and with my eyes downcast, I reached out and touched it.

The sorrow lightened ever so slightly. The dim light grew a bit brighter. I looked up and saw some spots of light approaching. As they drew nearer I could see that they were the faces of people and the sorrow waned more and the light grew brighter yet. More people came and still more. They crowded around the cross. Then more came. Soon there were people as far as I could see in every direction and all sense of sorrow had been displaced by joy.

Then I was awake, fully awake as if I had been up for an hour.

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Arrogance

While I am not a Muslim, I know that they believe there is one god and that god created everything and everyone. Yet there are tens of thousands of “Muslims” who, through their actions, are stating that they believe they are wiser than Allah. They have appointed themselves to destroy all of the people that Allah created but who they deem are not good enough to exist.   So here are these people bowing down to the ground multiple times every day in humble prayer to a god that they consider so stupid that the people he created must fix his millions of errors.

Their arrogance is as astonishing as their violence!

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The Best Christmas Present

Every Christmas many people scramble to pick out the perfect gift for their loved ones and others (or not) and, in spite of all their efforts, many presents end up in the trash soon after Christmas.  I am an especially hard person to buy for because I have pretty much everything I want.  I am not wealthy but I do have enough retirement income that I can live a comfortable life and I am a firm believer in simple living so picking out a useful present for me can be very hard.

This Christmas though, my granddaughter Jenny bought a pile of basic living supplies (warm socks, soap, shampoo, etc.) and put them in plastic bags with a paper saying:

“Here’s a Blessing Bag For You”

“You may be down on your luck right now, but let this little bag remind you that you are worth so much.  That there are people who care about you.  That there is always hope.  That you are beautiful. And that Jesus can always sustain you.  I will be praying for you!  Have a lovely day.”

So I received a gift of a wonderful, blessed granddaughter and a gift of joy that I get when I give the bag to someone who needs it.  It couldn’t be better!

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A Winter Muse

Thank You Lord for the birds at my bird feeder this morning. Thank You for the bright flashes of red as the cardinals dash in and out. Thank You for the pecking and scratching of the juncos feeding like tiny gray chickens. Thank You for the crazy sideways and upside down woodpeckers attacking the suet. Thank you for the chickadees and the nuthatches, the gold finches and blue jays. Thank you Lord for giving us such abundance of life.

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