Archive for the ‘Booze’ Category
Fancied a go at something I know, so I bought a can of Cabernet Sauvignon concentrate at Wilkinson’s (these ready-kits already have grape tannin mixed in which saved me a trip to a brewing shop this time). The instruction packet seemed a bit cavalier with cleanliness, telling me to pour up the grape juice with 1.8 liters of cold water and 450 g brewing sugars then pitching the yeast and nutrient packets. I opted to drop in a couple of Campden tabs and waiting 24 hours before inoculation. Starting specific gravity was 1.142 in 3.8 liters (I added a little more sugar to call it 1.120 in the topped up 4.5 liter final volume). Pitched at 19:00 on 30 January, topped up with club soda (clean, acidic) on 1 February.
As with the mead over the course of December and January, I had little control over the temperature but the growth/conversion was nearly as advertised this time and finished after 8 days instead of the 7 the package suggested. The ‘stop’ packet contains metabisulfite (a crushed Campden tablet, essentially) so I added ½ tsp of potassium sorbate to inhibit any rogue yeasts that escape exposure to the toxic gases released. I then deferred to the packaging and used the Wilko chitosan finings in lieu of my trusted gelatin/kieselsol regimen. Clear as a bell in 10 days with a SG of 0.982 (suggests 18.1% ABV) and bottled on 18 February (20 days from start to finish).
The claim is it is ready to drink immediately and we sacrificed a glass to this theory — more MD 20/20 than Chateau Lafite Rothschild but definitely wine. We’ll open another at monthly or so intervals until we are down to the last bottle which will get a full 2 years rest.
We’re rolling into spring, now, and soon we can do a bit of foraging for ingredients. Nice to know that this simple method works like it says on the tin, though.
Toast to the Haggis:
Ach! Ye fat bastard, ye.
Ye mid-winter harbinger of constipation.
We thank ye fer showin’ us
That gout isn’t just for rich men.
To the Haggis!
Wetherspoon’s Burns’ Week came around again this year. I’m a fan of offal but Jackie only tolerates pâté so, except for my Burns’ Night indulgence (she likes the whisky part of it, mind) I tend to fill up during this week (and on occasional trips to Florence).
Friday 20 January: Highland Burger with a pint of Welsh Pride (no Scots beer available on the day), Four Candles, Oxford
Saturday 21 Jan: Haggis Tacos, Slug and Whippet, Ruislip
Method: heat some haggis with chilli sauce, cumin, and paprika; put in flour taco shells, add lettuce, cilantro, tomato, and cheese. Yum.
Sunday 22 Jan: Haggis Stuffed Roast Chicken, Slug and Whippet, Ruislip
Recipe: like it says on the tin…Stuff a 2-3 kg bird loosely with haggis (it takes about ½ a tube of industrial haggis from MacSween’s), yesterday, and bake for 20 min per 500g plus 20 min at 200°C. Let rest for 20 minutes before hacking it to wee bits to serve with turnips and taters.
The result was a very moist bird with the savoury scent of the haggis infused therein — but not overwhelmingly so. The haggis itself was enhanced with some of the chicken drippings and even Jackie had a small amount of the filling.
Monday 23 Jan: Scots Omelet, Slug and Whippet, Ruislip
Method: Fry up some haggis and keep warm; pour a shitload of beaten eggs into the pan and lift to allow layers to develop. Usually topped with a bit of grated cheddar and the warmed haggis, this time it is haggis neat, folded and devoured with some black coffee and a shot of whisky.
Tuesday 24 Jan: Another Highland Burger, this time at the Swan & Castle, Oxford
Wednesday 25 Jan: Burns’ Lunch, The Chequers, Oxford plus a flight of three whiskies and smoked salmon to start…obscenely good, but I can sense the gout taking hold if I keep this up.
Thursday 26 Jan: Another Burns’ Lunch, this time at the Four Candles, Oxford with some of the folks from work (to remind myself that they’re not all bad … or sober). They ran out of swede (the turnips bit of the neeps and tatties) with the second order but told me they had run out of the lot so I ordered a double Jura with the intent of sitting with the fellows then walking over to the other Wetherspoons for my own lunch; a prof from biochemistry talked them around to substituting peas (“ach! woman, there’s summinck GREEN on me plate!”) so I got that. But, they charged the “with beer” price and didn’t give me beer (and I already paid for the whisky). Fer fucks sake. EVENTUALLY they made this right.
Friday 27 Jan: Haggis Stuffed Mushrooms, Slug and Whippet, Ruislip
Method: Fill the caps of baby bella mushrooms with haggis (and some others with sausage, others with a little pesto…y’know: hors d’oeuvres) and bake at 200°C until everything is sizzly or until the cheese, if you top with it, melts.
Oddly, I now crave a big plate of liver fried with onions.
The day after I bottled the Winter Solstice 2016 Mead, I had scheduled a day after Burns’ Night lunch with some fellow offalteers from around the labs. Two of them had just returned from a group retreat in Devon where they, when not brainstorming how to push back the frontiers of science, went on a winery tour. From this, they brought me back this bottle of professionally made mead (unaware that I was making mead at all). Hooray. So, now I have the baseline of our immature mead tasted at bottling AND this bottle to tell us how it actually should mature. Exciting.
And, intimidating. This one is very crisp and clean and slightly sweet with a hint of fresh mint. It would be great with a splash of club soda and, while I expect our run to mature to something like this, ours is much drier and may benefit from a shot of simple syrup along with that fizzy water spritz. We’ll see.
For the next couple of days, though, this is our dessert beverage. Yum.
21 December 2016: The First Day of Winter and last day the lab is open until 3 January. Boiled 3 pounds of honey in enough water to bring the total to 4.3 litres and added nutrients (ammonium sulfate, mostly) and glucose to bring the specific gravity to 1.092. Once cooled to slightly warmer than my hands, pitched the yeast (5 grams of a generic but highly alcohol tolerant strain) and gave it a good shake.
2 January 2017: Twelve days in and the fermentation is slow but the house cools to 16°C overnight and rarely reaches 22°C during waking hours so no big surprise there. Thinking of buying a heating jacket for this bottle (we used to have one but it wouldn’t work with UK electrics — 110 V and 60 Hz back in the States), but this is the first British batch and I’m kind of interested in how it goes in ambient conditions.
8 January: Racked the wort off the lees to try to unstick the fermentation but, on weighing 42.5 mL of the juice at 41 grams (for a SG = 0.965…and at a cooler temperature than the initial measurement), decided it wasn’t so much “stuck” as “finished.” This suggests 16.7% abv, which is about the tolerance of my yeast, as well; with that specific gravity, this will be a very dry batch. I transferred it to a clean jug with an air lock and will check on things every week or so.
22 January: Two weeks since racking off the lees the fermentation has slowed to a halt (the sides of the air lock stay roughly level). Added potassium sorbate and a Campden tablet and will swirl this for a couple of days before fining.
25 January 2017: Fining was done with gelatin followed by kieselsol, then it was siphoned into the most recent four bottles we’ve emptied. We also were able to get a couple of glasses out of this batch before the lees started to invade the siphon. The bottles will rest until this year’s winter solstice when we crack one open for judgement (two if we deem it ready); the others will get a longer rest (the idea being that we try another bottle each year until it’s gone).
The immature mead in the glasses was decidedly harsh but we wanted to get a baseline tasting. A little beer-y and VERY dry, I have high hopes for the aged product. The beer flavour might have been partly flocculated yeasts and mostly the honey but we are definitely looking at otherwise character-free beverage. In the best case, developing, over the course of the next year or two we’ll find a bit of the enolic and floral aspect that is just hinted at in the raw mead, tonight. For a start, it’s not bad but definitely not really good, yet.
At the end of a logistical note from a former visitor to the lab who was returning after a few years to gather some data to answer reviewers’ concerns, she asked a dangerous question: “Do you need anything from the States?” At the end of my reply, I took a punt with, “No, nothing from the States, thanks. I like decent bourbon, but I can get that here.” Then, I hoped for the best.
And, very nearly the best came out of it: a bottle of Colonel EH Taylor Small Batch. No complaints, mind, as a bottle of Evan Williams (even the green label) would have made me quite happy … I can GET decent bourbon here, but it costs a fortune (factoring in the exchange rate, I could buy more than 3 bottles of this in the States for what only 1 would cost here).
And, it IS remarkable booze. Bottled in bond, 100 proof, and evokes wisteria, magnolias, kudzu, and the heat…the glorious, Southern heat. I try not to review things that deserve a proper review. Here is a lovely one if you really want to know what an expert thinks.
I, on the other hand, love to have something like this around for when a doubting visitor asks what I mean by ‘good’ bourbon. I can then hand them a glass, neat, and stammer over the words, “well, this one is all right…see what YOU think.”
“I’m going to build a great buzz and Mexico is going to pay for it,” Jackie declared unconvincingly last night. She works what are termed, here, “unsocial hours” so her lunchtime is 4 pm and today that is 1 hour before the officer that carries the Football discretely shifts across the Inaugural Stage from the side of President Obama to that orange guy. For lunch, she is having tequila today. I hope the bar doesn’t have a tele.
I, on the other hand, am just now boarding a bus bound from Oxford to Baker Street then walking the few blocks down to Grosvenor Square to join an Inauguration themed rally in front of the US Embassy. Should be fun. Do join us, there will probably be a chance to watch the riot squads of the Metropolitan Police in action. The old joke about the bear applies to my hope for large numbers turning out:
When the Met comes at you is it better to run or to offer Passive Resistance?
Oh, mate, we should run.
Do you really think you can outrun them?
No, I only have to outrun you lot.
When I think Trump and Tequila, this is the picture that comes to mind:
I don’t often go to the M&S Food stores (or the food sections in their traditional shops) although the ready meals are pretty good and the veg, charcuterie and butchery products are great. But, in 8 years I have never failed to reach for a well-priced bottle only to find it is actually a more expensive bottle placed behind another — usually out of stock — bottle’s tempting price tag.
After a lecture from a snotty till attendant in the Cambridge central M&S when I complained that the 5 quid plonk I had queued 5 minutes to pay for shouldn’t have rung up at £18, I made it a point to only go there at the busiest times and intentionally bring a misshelved bottle to her register with a shitload of other items I didn’t actually want. Then, when the bottle, withheld until the other stuff was piled up, showed an exhorbitant price I said that it must be the poorly arranged shelves and excused myself to leisurely scan the stock for the “right” bottle (bringing her queue to a screeching halt). Unable to find what I really wasn’t looking for, I said that I would just pick something up at Odd Bins around the corner and left her to sort the weird pile of shopping.
I was barred from that store the third time I did this, but it was satisfying while it lasted.