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Who is Jack Keller?
Jack Keller lives with his wife Donna in Pleasanton, Texas, just south of San Antone. Winemaking is his passion and for years he has been making wine from just about anything both fermentable and nontoxic.
Jack has developed scores of recipes and tends to gravitate to the exotic or unusual, having once won first place with jalapeno wine, second place with sandburr wine, and third with Bermuda grass clippings wine.
Jack has six times been elected the President of the San Antonio Regional Wine Guild, is a certified home wine judge, frequent contributor to WineMaker Magazine, creator and author of The Winemaking Home Page and of Jack Keller's WineBlog, the first wine blog on the internet, ever. He grows a few grapes, now works at being retired, and is slowly writing a book on -- what else? -- winemaking.
Some Other Wine Blogs
There are hundreds of wine blogs. According to Alder Yarrow (see below), none have been around as long as Jack Keller's WineBlog, but 99% of these newcomers are for wine consumers, not winemakers. They have anointed themselves the official "wine blogosphere." You can count on both hands those of us bloggers dedicated to actually making the stuff they write about, and yet our blogs are largely ignored by this elite. Still, they exist and are important. There are some who write for the buyer / consumer but still occasionally talk about the making of wine, even if they usually are talking about making it in 125,000-liter stainless steel tanks. Or they might talk about grape varieties, harvests in general, the cork-screwcap debate, stemware, or other subjects I think you might find interesting. They're worth reading even if you aren't interested in their tasting notes. Then again, that just might be your cup of tea. Here are a few of them I like, listed in a loose alphabetical order (by blogger):
If it is, please click on the link to the left. When the "thank you" page appears, type "WineBlog" in the smaller search box, press [Enter] and rate the site. Numerical ratings are in a drop box; 10 is high. I will be most grateful.
This will be my last blog entry for couple of weeks and a bit short. I'm off to Southern California to attend my 50th high school reunion and spend some time with my mother, sister, wife...well, family. I also need to handle some legal matters for my father's estate as its Executor. This is a much larger responsibility than I originally thought.
As for the length of this entry, I have simply run out of time. It happens.
Hat's off to Burt Prelutsky, webcaster of The Burt Prelutsky Show, for the following bit of analysis:
One of the things included in the immigration reform bill proposed by the Gang of Eight that caught my attention was the part where it mentioned that proof of the border being secure would be when Homeland Security managed to stop 90% of those people attempting to sneak in.
One, I know how to count those we manage to round up, but how on earth do you count those who elude capture? And, two, if you manage to do everything necessary to prevent illegal aliens from sneaking in, how and why would those ten-percenters continue to get through? How much lower can expectations go?
Wouldn't it be like the warden of Sing Sing addressing a convention of his fellow wardens, and saying, "Fellas, we're all doing a hell of a job. Only one out of every 10 prisoners is breaking out of jail! Drinks for everyone!"
-- excerpted from A few Glad Tidings
I love people who bothered to take Logic 101 in college. I just wish there were more of them.
After that, we need a lighter note. This video was sent to me by several people within a period of 8 days, so it is making the rounds and you might have already seen it. But it's funny no matter how many times you've seen it.
If you are Catholic, you will laugh out loud. If you are not Catholic, you'll probably laugh even louder. Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) explains the afterlife on a 1980 Saturday Night Live oldie but goodie:
If you don't know much about Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci), you should look him up on Wikipedia. He is quite a fascinating character
A Practical Ampelography: Grapevine Identification
This is the third "must have" book if you are keenly interested in native American Grapes. Pierre Galet, of the École Nationale Supérieure Agronomique de Montpellier, has made a systematic study of the vines and shared his findings here. His ground-breaking A Practical Ampelography: Grapevine Identification gave all of us the tools to identify wild grapes with relative certainty.
Originally published in French in 1952 as Ampélographie Pratique, it was translated into English in 1979 by Lucie Morton. A Practical Ampelography: Grapevine Identification, was updated in 2000. The copy I have is the earlier 248-page edition.
Galet's system was based on the shape and contours of the leaves, the characteristics of growing shoots, shoot tips, petioles, the sex of the flowers, the shape of the grape clusters and their color, size and pips of the grapes themselves. Many other minor characteristics also come into play and are often the difference between one species or another, or even a subspecies.
While DNA fingerprinting has risen to the forefront as the more accurate method of identification, it's expense and specialized laboratory requirements place it outside of all but well-funded researchers, leaving the works of Galet, Munson, and to a lesser extent Hedrick as the common man's toolkit.
There are two drawbacks to Galet's work. The first is that book itself is rare and quite expensive when available on the used book market -- in the neighborhood of $400-$500. The second is that Galet's major research was in France, not North America where the greatest ranges of wild grapes in the world are located. His classification system differs from Munson's and the great revision in taxonomic acceptance of grape nomenclature had not yet been implemented. Thus, one finds several of his species' names have been replaced and some are missing completely. But one can rectify the last shortcoming by using the North American Native Grape List at the Native North American Grapes and Wines page on my site. These drawbacks aside, A Practical Ampelography is a milestone publication.
If one can obtain the book on inter-library loan, it can be Xeroxed for under $30, an investment well worth making. If one wants the original hardbound copy, the cheapest I have found are available here, through Amazon, starting at $389.97.
Good wine, good prices and good luck beat the alternatives. When we are fortunate enough to find a good wine at a good price we are blessed. I happened down the wine isle at my local market -- not looking for a wine but heading for the front of the store from the back -- when I spotted a wine I had tasted and mentally noted. It was Ménage a Trois Red, 2011, and priced at under $7. I have more wine than I can drink but I remembered this wine, a blend of aged Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. I grabbed a bottle and turned around to buy a ribeye (not in my diet, but hey -- in moderation). Both were good moves. The wine was terrific and both the wine and the steak lasted two meals.
Is it just me or does anyone else hate salad recipes that start off with massive amounts of arugala? It seems to me that every recent cookbook I've seen in the past few years is loaded with salads requiring the stuff, and my problem with these salads is that I've only seen it a handful of times at my three local supermarkets, and those times it was about the most expensive thing in the produce department.
I'll be honest with you. I've only bought it once. Just once. I threw a bunch of it in a couple of salads and it was gone. And to be honest with you once again, I don't even remember what it tastes like. The recipe I followed called for dowsing it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and putting it in the refrigerator overnight, but I was making a salad to go with our meal right then, so we ate it. I do remember thinking, "Good balsamic vinegar."
I asked Fred, the produce manager at the supermarket I frequent 2-3 times weekly, why they don't carry arugala regularly and he gave me a funny look -- from my boots to my hat. Then he said they carried it a few times and nobody bought it, then added that I'm only about the 10th or 12th person who has ever asked for it and he has been working there 18 years. Maybe it's a Texas thing. Maybe real Texans don't eat arugala. Well, they certainly won't if they don't sell it and when they do it costs more than 3 hearts of Romaine.
App for Wine and Food Pairing
Wine Sommelier screen shots: selecting a food group, wine recommendations for a specific food, and characteristics of a recommended wine
I found this app, Mobile Sommelier, in an article, "Take the Whine Out of Wine Drinking With These 5 Apps" at Tech Page One (see link at end of today's entry), alone with four other apps. I found this one very interesting -- almost compelling. But I need to say right up front that I do not own a smart phone and cannot test this app. However, this might be a good reason to buy one.
Mobile Sommelier, by VinoMatch, was made for Windows Phone 7.0, 7.5, and 8.0. Why it has not been ported to iPhone or Android platforms is a mystery. It seems to me a made-to-order candidate but, not owning either, I am not an authority on this subject.
There are any number of scenarios where this app could be more than merely useful., like ordering a wine to pair with a meal at a restaurant, shopping for a wine to bring to a dinner party or special occasion celebration, shoppng for a wine to pair with your grocery purchases, taking notes and photos at a wine tasting, or just learning about food and wine pairing.
The app opens with a choice of food and wine pairing, create a new wine note, or your existing wine tasting notes. Touching pairing brings up a menu of food groups to choose from -- meats, poultry, seafood, pasta / rice, etc. After selecting the group you zero in on the specific of interest -- raw oysters, for example. This presents a number of suitable wine pairings. Select one and it presents the characteristics of the recommended wine, allowing you to zero in on the characteristics you or your dinner party prefer. Or, you might just decide to impress those with you by asking for a good Loire Valley Muscadet.
Another touch of the screen and you can sniff the wine and announce that you recognize notes of lemon, apple and hay straw. After a reflective sip you can opine that it has a sharp crispness, subtle oak character, medium body, and is dry and a bit puckery. Imagine the brows that might be raised -- or not.
The program's developer claims you get instant answers to perfect pairings with minimum thinking required. You'll save time while ordering the perfect wine for any dish like an expert, and the program is both educational and fun to use. For knowledgeable connoisseurs, you can create highly personalized wine notes, rate the wines you've tasted and keep track of favorites, and you can take pictures of wine labels for future reference.
Boasting an intuitive interface, the program has a comprehensive taste and aroma library, makes it easy to pick varieties, countries and aromas, has a huge food library including ethnic foods, cheeses and desserts, and an extensive wine library with varietals from around the world. It allows automatic backup on vinomatch.com.
Not bad for $2.99, and yes, I got all of this info off VinoMatch's website
For an iPhone alternative, there is the more pricey ($4.99) Pait It! -- Food and Wine Guide, which seems to me a less intuitive and less endowed, but what do I know?
Jill Misterka presenting Jack Keller the Rochester Area Home Winemakers' Appreciation Award
It's always an honor to receive an award. It's also fun. I've already said how much fun I had in Rochester, but I think this photo captured an introspective moment. At the moment this photo was taken I was flashing back on countless moments of crushing, racking and bottling, of taking notes and devising recipes, and thousands of hours at my computer while my wife did other things. I did it because I wanted to, but at this moment I was wishing my wife could be there to share the moment. All those hours were lonely for her. I cannot give them back. So in my heart I was accepting the award for her, too.
If I left out anything in my previous post, it was a couple of personal "thank yous." I was picked up at the airport by RAHW President Bruce Dunn. This was unexpected because I had already made arrangements to take the hotel's shuttle. It was all the more rewarding when he shared with me some of Rochester's history while relaxing in the hotel's spacious, open lounge. I thank him for that.
I also want to thank Dale Ims and Keith Burfield for being my hosts on the morning I departed. They took me to breakfast, then out to Irondequoit to collect some grape cuttings (their buds broke a couple of days ago), and then to the airport. Dale presented me with a personal, handcrafted gift I greatly appreciated. Good ambassadors, one and all.
Finally, I want to thank the RAHW members who shared their time, their winemaking knowledge and their photographs with me. My camera died on me -- probably only a dead battery -- but the inability to take photographs when you want to is a serious detractor. My thanks, again, to all who shared theirs.
Once again, thank you Rochester.
Foundations of American Grape Culture
In my last entry I said that for who are serious about American native grapes, there are three books that are "must-haves" and one webpage. The first "must have" book I reviewed was U. P. Hedrick's The Grapes of New York. Today I'm reviewing the second of the three books, and it, too, is an "oldie but goodie" -- the1909 seminal work, Foundations of American Grape Culture by the legendary grape breeder T. V. Munson.
Published in the Fall of 1909, Thomas Volney Munson's Foundations of American Grape Culture was immediately recognized as the authoritative text on North American Vitis and utilization of native North American species in breeding new hybrid grapes. In it, Munson carefully described a lifetime of observations and experience with grapes. Including a history of his interest in grapes, his taxonomy of North American Vitis, thorough descriptions of the native species, discussion of how grape breeding is accomplished, and complete examination of his breeding results, Munson left behind the foundational work upon which viticulture could be adapted to every habitat that supports wild vines on the continent. -- from Foundations Centennial Meeting announcement
My personal copy is cherished as 266 pages of sheer brilliance. Munson's book differs from Hedrick's in several ways. Hedrick was an academician as well as pomologist and a very good one, but Munson created many of the grapes Hedrick reported. Hedrick's color illustrations of the grapes are arguably the finest paintings of the subjects ever produced, while Munson used black and white photography to illustrate his book. But Munson took great pains to compose his photographs with grapes and leaf to help in their identification. Hedrick wrote about the grapes generally while Munson wrote with great specificity. If you have the vine in front of you, you can identify it with Munson's descriptions. Hedrick's career brought him in contact with the vines on a frequent and continuing basis, but Munson's entire adult life was spent collecting, growing breeding, and hybridizing grapes.
Munson's work culminated in the creation of hundreds of new cultivars, of which only a few score survive today. He was Vice President of the American Pomological Society, Honorary Member of the American Wine Growers' Association and the Société Nationale D'Agriculture de France, twice awarded France's Chevalier du Mérite Agricole (de Legion d'Honneur) for service to the French grape industry, and a self-described "practical viticulturist and nurseryman."
Perhaps his greatest achievement was in the development of rootstocks from native species. When the great phylloxera epidemic swept through and devastated European vineyards in the late 19th century, Munson realized that American natives were resistant to the root louse and organized an effort to send tons of American vines to France to serve as rootstock for grafted Vitis vinifera cultivars, thus saving the noble grapes of France and the rest of Europe. That's why they gave him the Chevalier du Mérite Agricole (de Legion d'Honneur) -- twice!
Munson also organized and classified the taxa of American grape species. His organization was not without fault, but served as a foundation for later taxonomists such as P. Galet, M. O. Moore C. R. Lacroix, D. J. Rogers, and B. L. Comeaux to build upon.
Munson's Foundations of American Grape Culture is unusual in that it contains no forward table of contents but rather a "Synopsis of Chapters" at the rear. There are two indices, one for species and varieties and one for topics.
Chapter I, Botany of American Grape Species, introduces his classification system and is invaluable in details for identifying the species, even though the species have been reduced by inclusion and exception in later years. The names Munson used have themselves undergone some subsequent revision, but any name Munson used can be rectified by using the North American Native Grape List at my own Native North American Grapes and Wines page on my site.
Chapter II, Breeding of Varieties of Grapes, although a mere 26 pages, served as the reference for hundreds of later grape breeders and is still widely cited today despite being eclipsed by modern techniques and practice.
Chapter III, Select Families and Varieties of Grapes for Practical Vine-Growers, includes a great many of the very best of Munson's own varieties. He makes no apology for this, but notes that those mentioned are only the very best of the more than 75,000 hybrid seedlings germinated, grown and "...culled with extreme care. Hundreds of varieties better than Concord have been thrown away." While most of these varieties have been eclipsed by better cultivars, they are still important and used today in grape breeding programs because of their inherent resistance to many grapevine diseases, especially Pierce's Disease. Thus, his legacy survives.
When Chapter II is married with Chapter IV, Adaptation of Varieties, they laid the framework and inspiration for grape breeders such as E. Swenson, L. Rombaugh and faculty and staff at numerous universities and experimental stations to breed grapes for specific climates and soil types.
Part II, Practical Grape Growing, on the surface, appears less useful as modern agriculture has far surpassed Munson's abilities and knowledge, and yet its underlying premises remain sound today and are worth reading.
Munson's life work was astounding. He traversed much of Texas, often on horseback, collecting vines from the wild and plotting their range. He also witnessed the beginning of the demise of several species in this state due to grazing, agriculture, lumbering, and urbanization. He noted this in his Foundations, which makes it all the more important a book for historical reasons. This was the first book I ever bought on grapes alone and it remains the most used book outside The Holy Bible I possess.
Munson's Foundations can be viewed or downloaded from several archival libraries. A cheap, poorly executed paperback version is available from the .com bookstores, but is not recommended. A hardbound reprinting of the original can be purchased for $39.95 plus $5.00 shipping from Grayson College Foundation, Inc., ATTN: Cindy Perez, 6101 Grayson Drive, Denison, Texas 75020. You may call Cindy at (903) 463-8621. You should consider this a good investment.
I received an email yesterday from "Chase Notifications" regarding a secure online message for me. Having a Chase credit card, I did not analyze the email before clicking on the enclosed link. Luckily, I have good security software and the site was blocked as a known "phishing" site. Only then did I relook at the email and chided myself for my haste and stupidity. The actual sender was "email@example.com; on behalf of; Chase Notification [SMNotification@emailonline.com]". Everything that could be wrong was.
If you value your identity and assets, please, please, please make sure you have good security software on your computer -- firewall, antivirus, antimalware, phishing and pharming, for computer, email and websites. If you don't have it, you might start by looking at Free PC Services (my site) for free programs, but the very best will be the versions you have to buy. I use Avast! Internet Security Suite, which sends me 2-5 updates per day, but there are others probably as good. The responsibility for your security is yours.
Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, in Easter Parade
I don't know where in the brain these things come from, but I woke up this morning with the Irving Berlin song Easter Parade in my head. Come on, now, this is from a 1948 movie of the same title starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, with Ann Miller and Peter Lawford as co-stars with competing love interests. How would I remember this song and its lyrics? I was four years old when it played in the theater -- and yet, I do.
I need to find a good book that explains how ancient memories surface in dreams. It intrigues me that this happens so often.
Now, in my awakened state, the song keeps cycling through my head perfectly, but I question one word. I remember the line, "And you'll find that you're in the rotogravure," but I wonder why it isn't "photogravure" instead. I head to Google and end up in Wikipedia where I learn, or perhaps relearn because it seems that I learned this once in high school when I was in journalism class and on the staff of my school's weekly newspaper, that rotogravure was the rotary process used in newspapers while photogravure was flat plate used for high-quality prints in magazines and other media. Did our school use rotogravure or photogravure? It seems like we used the latter.
In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.
I'll be all in clover, and when they look you over,
I'll be the proudest fellow in the Easter Parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you'll find that you're in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I'm taking to the Easter Parade.
While I checked the lyrics to be certain I had them correct, there was no need. I remembered them perfectly. Explain that, Dr. Freud....
5 Daily Snacks for Belly Fat Weight Loss
Belly fat, 2011 on Kaua'i
I often mention my belly fat diet, but those of you who do not see me in person have no idea how bad it was. The picture at the left of my wife and me was taken in 2011. The belly is clearly visible. Our next trip after this was to Spain, where the belly had grown even larger. I looked for a photo from that trip showing the magnitude of the problem but all had been cropped so the belly was not visible.
In March 2012 I thought I was looking in the mirror at a third-trimester pregnancy. I could no longer accept what I had allowed myself to become. That month I bought The Complete Idiot's Guide to Belly Fat Weight Loss and began reading and changing the way I ate.
I have always been a big eater -- big meals, large portions and I cleaned my plate. I also ate a lot of things (entrées, sides and snacks) this book warns are major contributors to belly fat. The first thing I did was to rid my pantry of the bad things stored there. Almost everything in a box or bag was donated to a food drive. Except for vegetables, beans, fruit, sauces, soups, and a few other things, many canned goods were donated as well.
I kept my instant mashed potatoes, rice, flour, and corn meal, but I no longer cooked servings for meals, but added a tablespoon or so to soups and stews as thickeners. My weekly loaves of sourdough are memory. So too are rice and gravy, potatoes bathed in melted butter, chicken and dumplings, pasta of all sorts and pizza...except on special occasions. Starches feed belly fat, so I had to limit them.
One of the biggest dietary changes concerned fats. All my life I have been addicted to Southern fried chicken, barbecued pork ribs, marbled rib eye steaks, grilled pork chops, chicken fried steak drowned in white gravy, thick bacon slices, and blends of meat loaf. All of these are loaded with bad fat that the body stores as fat.
Bad fat is both saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids. These fats tend to cling, congeal and get stored as fat. Good fats are polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish, flaxseed and certain oils, and monounsaturated fatty acids from avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, and canola oil. These fatty acids don't congeal, flow easily in the bloodstream and get utilized by the body as energy.
There are many avenues to shedding belly fat, but diet, exercise and stress management are common to all. I chose to approach diet in the following manner. While I try to a Mediterranean eating pattern generally, I am still a son of the South and certain cultural foods are occasionally indulged in, although sparingly. At home, I try to eat one main meal per day, supplemented by five healthy snacks. It is usually impossible to do this when away, but home is where I live.
The one regular meal a day is composed of small portions. I try to include at least 2-4 ounces of meat, fish or tofu, two veggies, a small portion of fruit, and sometimes a piece of cheese (small piece of low-fat cheese -- Laughing Cow Light wedges are great for portion control while delivering satisfying flavor).
Belly fat, 2013 at Knoxville, -37 pounds later
You might wonder what "five healthy snacks" might include. A couple of family members and a few friends have asked me about this. To answer this, I have made a list of a few of my choices. This list is by no means complete or static, but is offered to give one an idea of how one can hold hunger at bay while fueling the body with variety. Naturally, the choice of fruit and vegetables are seasonally limited, but there are always many available to select from.
5 green olives with 15 nuts (almost every day)
small avocado with lemon juice (almost every day)
1 long stick of celery cut into bite-sized pieces, with 15 cashew halves or a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter
1 Roma tomato (every other day) and 1 tablespoon of tofu or cottage cheese
mug of soup (any kind) with a teaspoon of flaxseed stirred in (my favorites are lentil, split pea, tomato, onion, pumpkin, chicken broth, creamed anything -- creamed soups are splurges, not regulars)
1 small nutritional drink (like Ensure, but only 8 ounces)
small bowl (about 1 1/2 cups) of fresh salad (greens chopped small, diced mushroom, tomato, avocado, cucumber, onion, bell pepper, shredded or sliced carrot, sliced olive -- see * NOTE below) with sunflower kernels or pumpkin seeds, very lightly drizzled with olive oil, and with a teaspoon of flaxseed sprinkled over it
small bowl (about 1 1/2 cups) of cut fresh spinach leaves, very lightly drizzled (and tossed) with olive or coconut oil and a teaspoon of flaxseed sprinkled over it
5 dates and 1/2 banana (2 days in a row)
8-10 baby carrots
1 pear with 5 teaspoons cottage cheese
1 banana and a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter
3-4 wedges of oven-baked sweet potato fries brushed with olive oil and spiced to taste before baking (leftovers can be frozen in ZipLoc snack bags for later meals)
4-5 wedges of pickled beet and 4-5 teaspoons cottage cheese
2/3 cup of fresh broccoli (cut small) or zucchini or summer squash, drizzled lightly with olive or coconut oil and sprinkled with a teaspoon of flaxseed
1/2 large dill pickle or 5-6 slices of sweet pickle (depends on mood) with 15 nuts or a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter
1 cup of low-fat yogurt with a teaspoon of flaxseed stirred in
4 "Cutie" mandarin oranges
1 navel orange
1/2 large apple, sliced (2 days in a row) with a tablespoon of peanut or almond butter
1 or 2 plums (depends on size)
3 figs with 3 teaspoons of tofu or cottage cheese
1 large or 2 very small peaches
1/2 cucumber, speared (with or without peeling on -- depends on toughness)
5 dried apricot halves with 15 nuts
1/3 cup drained (cold) lima, butter, black, or kidney beans, or black-eyed or purple-hulled peas, sprinkled with a teaspoon of flaxseed
3-5 mushroom buttons (depends on size) with wedge of Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss Cheese
* NOTE: I make up small, segregated containers containing onions, bell pepper strips, small flowerets of broccoli, sliced olives, shredded or thinly sliced carrot, chopped firm tomato, etc. and add pinches of each to greens to make a salad. I'll add to it a wedge of avocado cut up, dice up a mushroom, cut a few slices of cucumber, and anything else that doesn't store well diced. This allows me to make a salad in about 4-5 minutes every day. I sometimes add 6-8 garbanzo beans if I think I need protein. The sunflower or pumpkin seeds (kernels) and flaxseed are essential for oils, fiber and protein. But you also want to ensure you include antioxidants and a good mix of vitamins and minerals. My selections do that.
When traveling, I make up a snack-size Ziploc bag or two containing nuts, pumpkin seeds, dried fruit (bananas, papaya, raisins, cranberries, apples, chopped dates), soy beans, M&Ms, etc., plus a Mini Babybel Light cheese round. It tastes good, is filling and nutritious.
Not everything above is in the book as "good" (cheese is generally "bad" unless low-fat -- "light"), but most is. A little variety makes it easier to do and I try to get a good daily mix.
FOOTNOTE: I gained 4 pounds in Rochester, but lost it all in a week at home. It works! I still have a ways to go but am getting there. And, as I said earlier, there are many avenues to belly fat weight loss. Select one that suits you.
The Grapes of New York
To those who are serious about American native grapes, there are three books that are "must-haves" and one webpage. I will concentrate here on U. P. Hedrick's The Grapes of New York, Albany: J.B. Lyon, 1908. If you could afford one original printing book, this would be the one to choose. The illustrations alone, possibly the finest anywhere of American grapes, are worth the steep asking price. Reprints in black and white are available for a fraction of what the original demands but are a poor substitute.
Ulysses Prentiss taught botany and horticulture at Oregon Agricultural College (1895–1897), Utah Agricultural College (1897–1899), and Michigan Agricultural College (1899–1905). He became a horticulturist at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York in 1905, which he directed from 1928 until 1937, when he retired. The Grapes of New York was his first of many seminal works.
The first thing one must realize is that Hedrick wrote this 564-page book as a "Report of the New York Agricultural Experiment Station for the Year 1907." Its style and content are geared to be agriculturally and commercially informative, while at the same time presenting a history of grapes, their uses, their cultivation, and their varieties. Thankfully, he did not succumb to the temptation to highlight the Vitis vinifera grapes being grown at that time but focused on American grapes and their hybrids. This allows a treatment of the true "grapes of New York," even if many are hybrids.
Hedrick's organization is logical, but tempts one to jump to whatever section one is most interested in. This, in my opinion, would be a mistake as the book builds upon itself and is much richer in content if read straight through, even if some of the reading is "speed" reading with reduced retention. His chapters are:
1 - The Old World Grape
2 - American Grapes
3 - The Viticulture of New York
4 - Species of American Grapes
5 - The Leading Varieties of American Grapes
6 - The Minor Varieties of American Grapes
I appreciate the fact that Hedrick was educated when he was and footnoted his book extensively. Some footnotes run over half a page, but I'd rather have them than not.
His chapter on American Grape Species begins with a very useful synopsis of the botanical classifications of the grape, meaning a chronological summary of their descriptions by the botanists describing them. He then progresses to descriptions of the grapes.
I said in my opening paragraph "there are three books that are 'must-haves' and one webpage." The one webpage is my own Native North American Grapes and Wines, and I recommend it to correct the misnaming grapes in the past. As the science of taxonomy has progressed, many named "species" of yesteryear have gone by the wayside. Hedrick followed and applied his judgment to the conventions of his day, but names such as V. candicans, V. cordifolia and V. longii, for example, are no longer in academic use. My page will inform you at once that these are, respectively, V. mustangensis, V. vulpina and V. acerifolia.
But, this issue aside, Hedrick's Grapes of New York offers the best compendium of American species and hybrid grapes of its time. And, as I said earlier, possibly the finest illustrations anywhere of American grapes. I highly recommend it. Scanned versions of the original are available for online viewing from several archival libraries.
I just about threw up today when I heard that Washington State has legislated against the use of the word penmanship in favor of handwriting because penmanship contains a gender bias. Don't the loonies in Washington have anything better to do than strip our language of its evolutionary usage? Penmanship is handwriting, but handwriting with distinction, style and precision. Not all handwriting exhibits penmanship. Will the citizens of Washington state know this in 10-15 years?
What asinine alternative will they come up with for German language classes or Roman history? Will they rename the Ottoman Empire? What about being human? Will they remove Harry Truman from the list of Presidents? What if your name is Herman Chapman? I'm sick of this politically correct insanity.
If politicians are going to collect salaries while writing a 475-page bill, as this one was, I'm sure the citizens of Washington state would be better served if its aim was to repair or expand roads, bridges and other infrastructure. This was a six-year endeavor to dilute the richness and precision of our language without returning tangible substance.
Serious Home Winemakers
far left (clockwise) Charlotte Klose, Audrey Sibert, Paul Carletta, author, Dick Rizzo, Larry Kilbury, Mindy Zoghlin, Ben Zoghlin
Last night I returned from Rochester, New York where I had the pleasure of spending a few days with some serious and fun home winemakers. And they treated me to some very good homemade and Finger Lakes commercial wines.
I flew to Rochester as the guest of the Rochester Area Home Winemakers to meet them and accept their award for contributions to home winemaking. It was an honor to do both. I have been a member of this club in absentia for several years.
While there I was introduced to many historic and cultural sites I had been totally ignorant of. I knew George Eastman, of Eastman Kodak, was a Rochesterian. However, I was surprised to learn that Joseph Wilson (founder of Xerox), John Bausch and Henry Lomb (founders of Bausch and Lomb), Hiram Sibley (founder of Western Union), Henry Wells (founder of American Express and co-founder of Wells Fargo), Henry Augustus Ward (founder of Ward's Natural Science), Paul Bucheit (creator of Gmail and Adsense), Donald Stookey (inventor of CorningWare), Clara Barton (founder of the Red Cross), Cab Calloway (composer, band leader), Chuck Mangione (jazz musician, band leader), Mitch Miller (band leader), Lou Gramm (band Foreigner), Will Hollis (band The Eagles), Joe English (band Wings), Stephen A. Doulas (Lincoln-Douglas debates in Illinois), Henry Jarvis Raymond (founder of The New York Times), Joseph Smith (founder of the Church Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [Mormons]), Susan B. Anthony (women's rights leader), Frederick Douglas (abolitionist), Emil Gruppe (impressionist painter), actors Bud Abbott (Abbott and Costello), John Lithgow, Hugh O'Brian and Peter Deuel, and scores more famous personalities hail from Rochester.
Author and Mark Misterka at the falls of the Genesee River. I still have a little work to do on that belly fat....
I enjoyed beautiful weather for sightseeing. We stopped to see the falls of the Genesee River, combining that stop with a tasting and tour of the Genesee Beer Brew House and Museum where we also lunched on great salads of greens, apples and walnuts -- a wonderful mixture of textures and flavors.
We stopped at Highland Botanical Park to tour the Lamberton Conservatory and enjoy the woodland groves the park is famous for. There is far more to see and do in the Park than we had time for, but if I get back to Rochester I'll make time for Warner Castle and Sunken Garden, the Lilac Arches, and hopefully can time it to enjoy the annual Lilac Festival.
Shopping and snacking at the historic Public Market allowed me and my guides, Larry Kilbury and Betty Moley, to take advantage of some real bargains. Walking the causeways flanking the Lake Ontario entrance to Irondequoit Bay presented an opportunity to collect some wild grape cuttings. I have no idea what species they are as they have not yet leafed, but I'm hopeful they will root and allow me to identify them.
The sightseeing highlight was the George Eastman House and International Museum of Photography and Film -- the world's oldest museum dedicated to photography and one of the world's oldest archives of film. Whether you're interested in photography and film or not, this is a must-see stop if you're visiting Rochester. There's no way I can summarize this stop except to say it was more rewarding than I anticipated. The mansion tour was well worth the time. The evolution of the house and grounds was presented by an enthusiastic and dedicated guide who obviously loves her job and considers her tours a grave responsibility.
The Conservatory, George Eastman House, where Eastman enjoyed music daily. A built-in pipe organ is in the far wall. Eastman spent years and considerable money making the room acoustically perfect.
The Museum's photography collection includes more than 400,000 specimens from the invention of photography to the present day, with more than 14,000 photographers represented. It includes a major collection of Ansel Adams' early and vintage prints, a major collection of 19th-century photographs of the American West, two major photographic collections of the American Civil War, a major collection of early British and French photography, and one of the largest collections of daguerreotypes in the world -- and these are only highlights of the whole.
The Museum's Motion Picture Collection is one of the major moving image archives in the United States, with over 30,000 titles and the personal film collections of directors Kathryn Bigelow, Ken Burns, Cecil B. DeMille, Norman Jewison, Spike Lee, and Martin Scorsese. It also includes the largest single collection of nitrate Technicolor YCM negatives in the United States. As important as the collection itself is, the on-going preservation program, one of the most intensive and comprehensive efforts in the world is possibly more important. The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation, in partnership with the University of Rochester, provides student archivists with the training and techniques necessary to continue the work of film restoration within an archive environment.
Any tour of the George Eastman House leaves the visitor with a solid appreciation of George Eastman's love of music and his endowment. Not associated with the House and Museum is the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester and from its inception was an innovator in American music education. The value of an Eastman academic degree is demonstrated by the number of graduates who hold positions in professional orchestras, bands, chamber ensembles, opera companies, conservatories and college music departments, school music programs, community music schools, the recording industry, the musical instrument and technologies industry, and many other fields. While I did not visit the ESM, I left with a deep appreciation of its legacy.
The author greeting each attendee at the Rochester Area Home Winemakers Annual Banquet.
The Rochester Area Home Winemakers' proximity to the Finger Lakes region influences but does not define the club. Whereas the San Antonio Regional Wine Guild heralds mustang wine because that grape surrounds it, Riesling tends to be heralded by the RAHW. As one would suspect, both clubs tend to perfect their heralded wine. I sampled several Rieslings in Rochester and every one of them was crisp, well-rounded and delightful. These folks know this grape.
But the RAHW is not a one-wine club. In a short span of two days I sampled reds and whites of a long and varied gauntlet. While the majority were vinifera and French-American hybrids indicative of the northern latitude, the first and last wines I drank were delightful country wines.
Mindy Zoghlin's dandelion wine reminded me to what heights one can take this trodden weed. It was the perfect opener to a wonderful evening of wining, dining and great conversation. And the meal was in a class of its own. I can't thank Mindy and Ben enough for the magnificent things they did to my taste buds.
Tom Banach hosted a relaxing and well-appointed afternoon with a dozen or more club members. While I did not count the wines we enjoyed, the quality and variety were impressive and seductive. Wine invites relaxation, and all were well-relaxed before we broke to prepare for that evening's banquet.
I'll make no pretenses about the banquet. The food was delicious, the wines superb, and if anyone spoke too long it was probably me. The main event was the installation of club officers for the coming term. Outgoing President Bruce Dunn passed the gavel to Tom Banach, who was joined by VP Jack Turan, Treasurer Paul Carletta, Secretary Hank Kingston, and Board Member Ernie Sulouff. Absent due to recent surgery was Board Member David Gerling. Bruce may not be President any longer, but he remains in service as Board Chairman.
After formalities, we socialized. It was during that period that I was treated to Karen Anne Lowenguth's wonderful catnip mead -- first a generous splash and then a glass. It was everything a mead ought to be, plus more. The unique flavor was a joy to savor and ingest. A hint of the honey lingered and slowly melted away, inviting another sip. It was a great finish to a pleasurable evening.
I was truly delighted to meet winemakers who are self-critical and searching craftsmen, serious but light-hearted aficionados, who combine their wine with fun, introspection, genuine friendship, and enthusiastic camaraderie. These attributes capture the essence of what a home winemaking club should be. Thank you, Rochester.
Inside of a Dog
I'm reading a fascinating book entitled "Inside of a Dog" and subtitled "What Dogs See, Smell, and Know" by Alexandra Horowitz. The author warns at the outset that if you own a dog you will never look at it the same way after reading this book.
I picked it up in an airport shop to have something to read on my flight. I've only read about a third of its 384 pages because I was side-tracked by conversation, but I'm already looking at my dog differently.
The author is an ethologist, a scientist of animal behavior. She also owns a dog. The more she applied the scientific method in her research of a highly social species (the white rhinoceros), the more she questioned her long-held assumptions about dogs in general and her own dog in particular. It was the rapid changing of dogs' behavior when with people and then with other dogs that shattered her familiarity. Their behavior was anything but simple and understood as she had previously believed.
She began making videos of her dog and other dogs playing at a dog park and when she watched them in slow motion she began to see complex communicative nuances, split-second assessments of each other's abilities and desires. The dogs could play with each other for long periods of time, animals being animals, seemingly rough but at crucial times gentle, and yet when called by their humans they slipped into another role, the role of loyal pet. Fascinated, she began studying dogs.
We tend to commit one of two sins when it comes to our dogs. We either treat them as animals that, but for us, would revert to wolves from which they are descended from or we anthropomorphize them -- assign human emotions, thoughts and desires to our pet. Both perspectives are wrong.
Dogs are the descendents of domesticated wolves but are not tame wolves. Yet they share all but 1/3 of 1% of their DNA.
Man's first canine companion was a wolf. Archeological evidence dates the domestication of the wolf at 10 to 14 thousand years ago. During that time, dogs have lost their wolfness. They cannot hunt for food efficiently, don't make dens for their litters, don't form family unit packs (but might join together temporarily in bands). And yet dogs and wolves share all but 1/3 of 1% of their DNA. But it is that 1/3 of 1% that makes dogs decidedly dogs and wolves decidedly wolves.
Dogs are not interested in what we are interested in, unless we are interested in feeding them, petting them or playing with them. Their needs are simple compared to ours. We have whole houses full of stuff, but most of it is of no interest to our dog, so much so that it is invisible to it. If the dog cannot lay on it, chew it, eat it, or play with it, it doesn't exist to the dog unless it emits a peculiar or unpleasant smell.
Dogs smell so much better than we do that we are, in comparison, pathetic smellers. A dog can enter a house and within seconds smell everyone who has been in it and everything that was eaten in it in the last month. They can smell your fingerprints on a glass a week after you touched it. And they watch you intently when you are active to try and understand what you are going to do for or with or to them. As soon as they determine you are not going to interact with them, they go back to sleep. But if you look at them, they are intently mindful of it and await your next action.
This is a captivating book. What I have learned so far has opened my eyes to my dog, Reba. I can't wait to read more. I'm sure I'll have more to say later. If you want to join me in this discovery, you can order the book here.
As I look out the windows behind my desk, a covey of quail are finding something of interest among the blades of grass needing mowing. In the back acre three deer are nibbling among the wildflowers. My dog, as usual, is sleeping, possibly dreaming of a covey of quail working its way across the lawn or deer nibbling. I wish I knew....
Sparkling Wine in Regular Wine Bottles
A reader wondered why you cannot make sparkling wine in a regular wine bottle. He noted that beer bottles are the same thickness as a wine bottle and they don't explode. He sounded like he might be on the verge of doing this, so I immediately warned him not to.
Beer bottles are smaller, have less surface area and therefore have stronger structural integrity. If a wine bottle were two feet wide and eight feet tall and the same thickness as a 750mL wine bottle, it would explode simply from the pressure of the wine inside pressing against the glass. The fact is that wine bottles are very fragile when under pressure. Use them for sparkling wine at your own risk, and I do mean risk. Even if they hold the pressure while at rest they can explode while trying to remove the cork. There is over two centuries of human experience with this. Learn from it.
It is the nature of man to be curious, but it is also the nature of man to develop solutions to problems. If it were not we would not have progressed beyond the hunter-gatherer stage. When you see that centuries of winemaking have evolved into a certain set of procedures, you should assume it is for a reason even if you don't understand why. It's okay to ask why. In fact, I would prefer you ask why than just assuming there is no good reason and acting counter to the established procedures.
If you think reducing the amount of CO2 is a work-around to bottle thickness, please think again.
First of all, the correct amount of sugar to prime a cuvée must be exact even when making sparkling wine in Champagne bottles. To reduce the internal pressure enough to render a regular wine bottle safe to use would require knowledge of how much pressure the bottle can handle safety and how much sugar to add to achieve that pressure and no more. Such a calculation is beyond my knowledge.
Secondly, a reduced pressure will not produce a Champagne-like sparkling wine. It will be spritzy and may be a good sparkling wine when first opened, but you should expect it to lose its carbonation rather quickly, which a Champagne-like wine should not do. Don't try to use work-arounds if you want to make good wine. Follow tried and true established methods (and equipment).
Not For Sale
Bess and Harry Truman at home in Independence, Missouri
Harry Truman was a different kind of President. Aside from his decision to drop the atom bomb, which stands alone in the annals of human history, he probably made as many or more important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 32 Presidents preceding him. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.
The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence, Missouri . His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father and outside their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.
When he retired from office in 1952 his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.
After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There were no Secret Service agents following them.
When offered corporate positions at large salaries he declined, stating, "You don't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale."
Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."
As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.
Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth while paying few if any expenses. Today, too many current and former Congressmen also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale (i.e.the unsavory memory of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich).
Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!
I hope you relish this glimpse back upon the last President to actually emulate the spirit of what our Founding Fathers envisioned a citizen politician to be. There will probably never be another to do so. How sad.
I read that Google Reader, the search giant's rss aggregator, will be discontinued on July 1st, 2013. If you use Google Reader to subscribe to my rss feed, you have until then to select another rss aggregator (reader). I agree with the blogger I read and question this move by Google, which continues to make room for its Google+ social network, "...but not a service that fits right in with their core mission: cataloging the world's information."
If you will be looking for a new rss aggregator as a result of Google's misguided decision, or simply don't know what an rss reader is, please scroll to the introduction of my February 21st, 2013 WineBlogentry on this page. There I explain what an rss reader is and which ones you might want to look at for convenience.
I personally recommend FeedDemon for three reasons. First and most importantly, you can download it now and synchronize it with Google Reader before it disappears. This will load all your rss subscriptions, tags and shared content. Second, it lets you assign your own tags (keywords) to items and make it easier to classify and locate articles you've previously read. Third, your own tags (keywords) can be used to search your subscribed blogs as well as watch for your keywords in future blogs you don't even subscribe. With very little work, you can begin to build a library of blogs with your keyworded content. This is a powerful option.
FeedDemon is also highly configurable, a feature that might interest you more than my three reasons above. You can display your feeds in a long list, as does Google Reader, or arrange them into three columns, newspaper style. You can also us scores of customizable keyboard shortcuts that let you do almost anything you want in the reader without using your mouse. Very cool.
An rss aggregator (reader) can make your visits to this blog a lot more timely. You won't have to check in here daily to see if new entries have been added, and what has been added will be summarized for you so you can pick and choose what you want to read.
Missing Money Found!
I recently went to Missing Money, a website for finding money you didn't know you had owed you. I found two amounts owed me and eight amounts owed my wife under her previous married name which she can claim. In all cases they were small amounts, but better than nothing. Try it yourself!
The Missing Money website is easy to use and costs you nothing but your time. All states keep records of monies owed past and current residents of their jurisdiction. These might be unclaimed utility deposits, refunds on a terminated services, unclaimed dividends, balances of closed accounts -- whatever. If you find a hit relevant to you, you'll have to file a claim with the state and provide documentation asserting your claim. I did not find this step to be difficult at all. You should search all states where you have resided. Do not be duped into paying a "money finder" to search for missing money owed you. It's easy enough to do yourself and free. You may not find anything, but then again you might
Let me know if you do. I'm not asking for a finder's fee....
5 Tips for Winning Home Wine Competitions
Having judged many, many home wine competitions, I've compiled a list of tips for home winemakers that will increase their odds of winning. While some of these may seem like common sense, it is amazing how many wines I judge that ignore them.
If you get in the habit of bottling 750mL or, better still, 1500mL in 375mL "splits," you can sample the bottled wine every 3, 6 or 12 months to see how it is maturing. Before entering a wine into competition, open a split and check the wine for these key factors.
1. Bouquet and Aroma: Pour a small amount (about two fingers high) and immediately smell the wine. This will be the wine's bouquet, the esters and volatile acids created in the bottle. An off-odor should alert you that the wine may not score well. Wait 30 seconds and smell the wine again. The nose should change after the bouquet has dissipated, leaving he underlying aroma of the base (grape, fruit, flower, etc.). The more suggestive it is of the wine's base, the better it will score. Complexity influences judges. Wines with neutral aroma can still be entered, but may not score well. Slower fermentations yield better aroma. Proper aging yields complexity.
2. Color and Hue: White grapes should produce white wines, not yellowish-amber. The closer your wine is to the expected color -- straw, light yellow, even light greenish-yellow -- the better it will place. Some reds are expected to be light red but still red, while others are expected to be deeper in hue or even dark -- but red. Managing skin contact and/or using color extracting enzymes is often key with grapes, berries and many fruit.
3. Clarity and Polish: With few exceptions, all wines are expected to be clear, devoid of and haze or floating particles. A wine that isn't clear is greatly handicapped before it is even entered. Polish is another aspect of clarity. A polished wine is crystal clear, brilliant in direct sunlight, and refracts light off the bottom of the glass in bursts of gem-like displays. Time itself will render most wines brilliant, but simple fining, followed by racking, or filtering will polish those that do not rise to expectations.
4. Taste: We all know a great wine when we taste it. Its flavor exceeds what we expected. The fruitiness of the grape or berry is "in-your-face" evident -- fruit-forward is the tired but nonetheless appropriate term. For flower, leaf and root wines, the flavor is obvious yet delicate. A less than delicious wine can still place, but its flavor must still be enjoyable. Longer maceration and cooler fermentation brings out these qualities and judges appreciate them.
5. That All-Important Balance: A beautiful wine that lacks balance is a rose with wilted petals. A fabulous wine without body robs the taster of substance and feels like flavored water in the mouth. Too much sweetness or dryness are both sad mistakes Except in dessert wines, excessive residual sugar overwhelms the judge and will not be appreciated. Equally sad is a near masterpiece that is so dry that even the smallest imbalance in alcohol, acidity or tannic astringency stands bold. Both acidity and alcohol must be present, but neither should rise to attention. A deficiency in tannin constricts or negates the bite one expects of wine, while too much leaves the judge reaching for a drink of water. Follow the chemistry and orchestrate the final balance with careful judgment.
Placing well in competition begins with the quality of the base and depends on good winemaking practices. Testing as many parameters as one can is useless unless one knows how to manage the results. We all enter inferior wines from time to time, but this should be rare if you judge the wine according to these tips prior to entering competition. Bottling some of the batch in splits allows one to critically evaluate his or her own wine without opening a 750mL bottle.
My mother, sister Barbara, me, and my father in 1945
Thank you all who have expressed sympathy sentiments for the passing of my father. This is not an uncommon event in the nature of things, but it only happens to each of us but once. Thanks again for your compassion. (Photo at right: my mother holding my sister Barbara, my father holding me, 1945)
My father was honorably discharged from the United States Navy on November 26, 1945. On December 19, 1945 the following letter was mailed to him by James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy. Hundreds of thousands of such letters were mailed in 1945 and 1946, each of them hand typed. Think about that....
"My dear Mr. Keller:
"I have addressed this letter to reach you after all the formalities of your separation from active service are completed. I have done so because, without formality but as clearly as I know how to say it, I want the Navy's pride in you, which it is my privilege to express, to reach into your civil life and to remain with you always.
"You have served in the greatest Navy in the world.
"It crushed two enemy fleets at once, receiving their surrenders only four months apart.
"It brought our land-based airpower within bombing range of the enemy, and set our ground armies on the beachheads of final victory.
"It performed the multitude of tasks necessary to support these military operations.
"No other Navy at any time has done so much. For your part in these achievements you deserve to be proud as long as you live. The Nation which you served at a time of crisis will remember you with gratitude.
"The best wishes of the Navy go with you into civilian life. Good luck!
He truly was part of "the greatest generation." Thank you, Dad.
The shock, horror and sadness evoked by the Boston Marathon bombings confirms for us all that the specter of terror remains at large. If any had become complacent in the intervening years since the 9-11 attacks on America, the horrific scenes from the heart of Boston should bring them back to reality.
The killing of one suspect and the capture of the other are comforting, but should not lull us from realizing there are still people out there who want us dead. They have not gone away. Anyone who denies this is delusional. Boston proves the passage of time without an attack is no indication we are safe. People who believe in jihad will be around for many, many years.
Our prayers should be focused on all who were touched by the double bombing. Be thankful so many were willing to run toward the blasts to render aid. That typifies the true spirit of America, and as long as it survives America will also survive. Be thankful too that our law enforcement community can rise to the occasion of investigating such acts and zero in on suspects.
The capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Watertown, Massachusetts was an exercise in self-restraint by law enforcement. I know I join all of you in congratulating all departments and agencies that helped bring about this desirable conclusion. God bless them, each and every one.
Thank you all who have expressed positive thoughts about my article in the current issue of WineMaker magazine. I appreciate being appreciated.
A couple of months ago I began seeing boxes of small Mandarin oranges called "Cuties" in my supermarket. Shortly thereafter, a neighbor mentioned them, saying they were the best mandarin oranges she had eaten -- sweet, juicy, easy to peel, seedless. I didn't buy any until recently, fearing there were too many in each 3.2-pound box for me to consume before they went bad. I finally bought a box with the idea of sharing them with my neighbor, but after tasting one, then two, then three, I decided to make wine with them. I had to buy another box, as I was eating them three at a time, three times a day.
Cuties are classified as mandarins and Clementines, a hybrid tangerine whose origin is uncertain. The Clementine is believed to be a cross between a mandarin orange (Citrus reticulata) and Chinese sweet orange (believed to be Citrus sinensis). Clementine mandarins first came to Florida 1909. Five years later the first saplings were received by the University of California at Riverside where they flourished and were bred.
Clementines are one type of mandarin -- others are Satsuma, Owari. Mikan, Murcott, Tangerine (also known as "Dancy Mandarin"), and Tangor (also known as "Temple Orange").
According to Alecia Li Morgan, the Cuties brand is available for a long time "...because they very wisely use TWO varieties of Mandarin: Clementine Mandarins, available November through January; and Murcott Mandarins, available February through April. This explains why some packages call them California Mandarins and some call them California Clementines.
Each of the boxes I bought had 40 Cuties in them. I used a box and a half to make my wine. I'm basing this recipe on two wines (Clementine and Mandarin Orange) I've made before.
Cuties Wine Recipe
about 60 Cuties (Clementines or mandarins)
2 c sweet orange juice (pulp or no pulp -- doesn't matter)
1 1/2 lb very fine granulated sugar
1 tsp acid blend
3/4 tsp pectic enzyme (powdered)
1/4 tsp powdered grape tannin (powdered)
1 finely crushed Campden tablet
2 1/2 qt water
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Red Star Premier Curvee or Steinberg wine yeast
Put water on to boil. Meanwhile, peel Cuties and chop across the segment 3-4 times, collecting released juice. Place segments in fine-mesh nylon straining bag, tie closed, place bag and juice (including bulk orange juice) in primary, and cover. When water is almost at a boil, turn off heat and stir sugar into water until dissolved. Stir in acid blend and tannin and stir some more. Cover water and set aside to cool (about 4 hours). Stir crushed Campden tablet and yeast nutrient into water and set aside 10-12 hours. Stir pectic enzyme into water, add to primary, re-cover primary and set aside an additional 10-12 hours. Add activated yeast as starter solution and re-cover primary. Stir daily several days (until specific gravity drops to 1.010). Drip drain bag (do not squeeze) and transfer liquid to secondary. Top up if required, attach airlock and ferment to dryness. Rack in about 30 days, top up and reattach airlock. Rack again, top up and refit airlock every 60 days for 6 months, adding crushed Campden tablet as needed.. Taste. If too dry or tart, stabilize, sweeten to taste, wait additional 30 days to ensure no referemtation and rack into bottles. Age one year before tasting. [Author's own recipe]
My must is fermenting, but I am confident this recipe will produce a winner. If not, I will modify as needed.
When Can I Drink My Homemade Wine?
I get a lot of emails throughout the year asking something like, "I know the recipe says to let it age a year, but it tasted good when I bottled it a month ago, so can I drink it now?" This is not a difficult question to answer if you've been making wine a long time, but it is difficult for the novice to understand the reasoning behind the answer.
In my March 19th WineBlog entry I mentioned my article in the current issue (April-May 2013) of WineMaker magazine on aging country wines. In the opening to that article I wrote:
"Wine is a dynamic chemical soup, constantly changing, evolving reducing and oxidizing. From the moment it is made, its fate is sealed. Yes, it will improve, mature, reach a peak, and then it will decline and eventually become undrinkable. The best we can do is make it in such a way that it ages gradually, reaches that peak when we expect it to and declines slowly. It can be done, but in both grape and non-grape wines it is not an everyday occurrence."
While the cited article concentrates on aging, one should note that the process begins with improving, maturing and then reaching a peak. Most of the recipes on my site include a recommendation as to the minimum time the wine should be allowed to improve before drinking it. This period is not absolute, but rather an assessment based on batches of this type of wine made in the past.
If a recipe says, "Drink after 6 months; will improve to a year", it means that no matter how good it tasted when bottled, it will be better in 6 months and even better still, on average, in 12 months. The phrase "will improve to a year" means it should peak at that point and then start its decline, but it might peak two months earlier or six months later. The creator of the recipe is giving you the benefit of his or her experience with this wine, on average. But every wine is different.
I long ago made it a habit of bottling at least 750mL and preferably 1500mL of each batch into 375mL bottles -- known as splits because they split a 750mL bottle into two equal halves. The reason for doing so is to be able to judge when a bottled wine is ready to drink without sacrificing a full, 750mL bottle in the process.
My advice is to heed the advice in the recipe. You can usually start drinking most country wines earlier than the advised period, but they should be better if allowed to improve and mature. There are exceptions.
Some wines, most notable flower and root wines, simply cannot be consumed enjoyably without allowing them to improve adequately. Dandelion wines are notorious for taking 18 months to reach a window of enjoyment. Beetroot wines take 2-3 years and sometimes longer to become enjoyably drinkable. Such wines usually carry a warning to that effect at the end of the recipe. Pay heed to such advice. It is based on experience.
But if a wine tasted good when bottled, go ahead and enjoy it. After all, it's your wine. Just set one bottle aside to drink when advised to do so by the recipe. Then see if it has truly improved or not. I'll bet it has.
I've received numerous comments on the new look of the WineBlog and a few pages of my Winemaking Home Page website. All were positive. I promise to work on the remaining pages as time permits, but this is a busy time for me. Please practice patience.
I will be flying to Rochester, New York later this month to accept an award for contributions to home winemaking, presented by the Rochester Area Home Winemakers. It is an honor to be thusly recognized. The RAHW is a vibrant club and I look forward to visiting with them.
I will attend my 50th high school reunion in May. The San Bernardino High School Class of '63 is doing it right, with a dinner and dance at Marina Del Rey followed by a 4-day cruise out of Long Beach and a picnic on Catalina Island. Ours was a BIG class. We have located 375 classmates, still cannot find the whereabouts of 316, and 96 have passed away.
l to r, Rosalie Keller, Barbara Garner, Jack Keller Sr., and Barry Keller, Thanksgiving 2012
As announced in my last WineBlog entry, my plans were to start working on my taxes and beat the last minute rush. My plans were interrupted by a phone call from my sister. My father, age 91, had fallen at home and was in the hospital in San Bernardino, California. They found minor internal bleeding between the skull and brain, but it looked okay. No sooner had the neurosurgeon given her the good news when my father developed a respiratory problem. The next morning my sister called to say it didn't look good and I had better fly out. I did. A few days later, on April 3rd at 3:15 a.m., he passed away with eight of us by his bedside. The only reason I flew back to Texas six days later was because I still had to prepare and file my taxes. I'm taking a break from that unpleasant chore to write this....
The photo at right is my mother, father, sister Barbara and brother Barry last Thanksgiving. What follows is the obituary I wrote for him, with only minor editing.
Jack Keller Sr. was born in Eunice, Louisiana November 22, 1921 to Dennis and Eva Keller. He had three brothers and two sisters. His father was a baker and he took up the trade at an early age. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and underwent his basic seaman's training in San Diego. His future bride, Rosalie Robertson of Lake Charles, Louisiana, arrived at San Diego by train at the same time his train, unbeknownst to her, was leaving the same station to take him to Bremerton, Washington for Cook and Baker School. Rosalie moved to Seattle and they were wed on September 26, 1942.
Jack and Rosalie have five children: Barbara Jean Garner (Eugene, Oregon), me (Jack Jr., Pleasanton, Texas), Larry Glen (Everett, Washington), Keith Alan (Gardnerville, Nevada), and Barry Wayne (Highland, California). In 1956 the family of seven moved from West Orange, Texas to Muscoy, California and Jack secured employment with Noyes Bakery in San Bernardino.
Jack was Noyes Bakery's cake decorator for 35 years. His creativity was showcased when Dick Noyes had a picture window installed at Jack's workbench so people could watch him create masterpieces for thousands of weddings and special occasions throughout California's Inland Empire. He retired from baking in 1985 and took up traveling with Rosalie and family members throughout Europe, North Africa and Mexico. Later, he loved to go on cruises with his wife and family. Above all, he treasured visiting Israel and walking the roads, paths and gardens where Jesus walked.
Jack was the consummate small town citizen. He achieved life membership for service in the PTA, combined 25 years of service as Boy Scout Master and Explorer Advisor, was active in Democrat Party politics for over four decades, taught regular and themed Adult Bible Studies at the Muscoy United Methodist Church for 28 years, served with the Muscoy Recreation Association for almost 20 years, and simply was involved wherever he felt needed. His life was a demonstration of citizenship, friendship and fatherhood.
Jack was witty, intelligent, generous, kind, and loving. He loved gardening and creating unique landscapes around their home. He made it a point to pack the family into their station wagon every free weekend and holiday and head out on the back roads to enjoy the beauty and history of California. He loved camping with his family and his Scouts.
Jack is survived by his wife of 70 years, his five children and their spouses, fourteen grandchildren and nine great grandchildren by blood or marriage, and countless friends. He will rest eternally at the Veterans Administration Riverside National Cemetery.
I miss him dearly.
Black Raspberry Wine
I received an inquiry about my Best of Show Black Raspberry Wine recipe on the San Antonio Regional Wine Guild website. In the method portion I say to add acid blend, but there isn't any listed in the ingredients portion. The inquirer wanted to know how much to add. This sent me digging through my recipe logs, where I made a startling discovery.
My log showed, "Measured acidity and added acid blend to reach 6 grams per liter." I didn't note from where to reach 6 g/L or how much acid blend was added -- only that it was deficient and I bumped up the acidity. This was nearly 15 years ago, so my memory of that specific measurement is, well, fuzzy to say the least.
What I do remember is the wine. It was the best batch of black raspberry wine I've ever made. I was saving two bottles to enter in the Texas State Fair -- they had a home wine competition back then -- but my wife served them proudly to her sorority sisters.
I told the inquirer to follow the chemistry. His black raspberries might not need an acid bump, but I thought mine did. Blackberries and dewberries seem balanced at around 5.5 g/L, but black rasps and blueberries taste crisper at 6 g/L...to me, anyway. So here is the original recipe, edited lightly.
Black Raspberry Wine Recipe
4 lbs black raspberries
1 tsp pectic enzyme
2 lbs sugar
7 pts water
1 crushed Campden tablet
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1 pkg Cote des Blancs wine yeast
Pick only ripe berries. Combine water and sugar and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Wash and destem berries. Put in nylon straining bag, tie, put in bottom of primary, and crush berries in bag. Pour hot sugar-water over berries to set the color and extract the flavorful juice. Add acid blend if needed and yeast nutrient. Allow to cool to room temperature and add crushed Campden tablet. Cover primary. After 12 hours, add pectic enzyme. After additional 12 hours, specific gravity measured 1.092. Add wine yeast and re-cover primary. Stir daily for a week. Remove nylon bag and allow to drip drain about an hour, keeping primary covered as before. Do not squeeze bag. Return drippings to primary. Continue fermentation in primary until specific gravity falls below 1.015, stirring daily. Rack to secondary, top up with water and fit airlock. Use a dark secondary or wrap with brown paper (from paper bag) to preserve color. Ferment additional 2 months, then rack into clean secondary. Refit airlock and rack again after additional 2 months. Wait a final 2 months, rack again and stabilize wine with potassium sorbate and another crushed Campden tablet. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar and refit airlock. Wait 30 days to be sure wine does not referment and bottle in dark glass. Drink after one year. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
This is an excellent sweetish wine, but you must ferment the full 6 months and age another year. Berry quality and ripeness are key. They should be jet black and soft to the touch.
It is difficult for me to give up something that has been with me for years, but the other day I decided to make the WineBlog more easily readable. I hope you like the results. I will probably tweak it some more, but have decided not to return to contrasting backgrounds. I realize they obscured the written content on the page and am sorry for subjecting you to that.
On March 17th Marvin Nebgen gave me a bottle of his Mustang Port. It was uncorked, but stoppered with a T-cork. Since I could not lay it down, it stood in my dining room until two nights ago, when temptation overcame me and I removed the closure and sampled it. It was delicious. Now it is gone. Thank you, Marvin. Tonight I had to open one of my own.
Life would be less enjoyable without wine, but it would be less rich without port. Port gathers itself in age where lesser wines languish. Port has substance. Port has depth. Port is rich in complexity. I raise my glass to port and its delicious magic.
I am about to go into "income tax preparation" seclusion for a few days and thought I should post this single-subject blog entry before I do. I hope it appeals to some of you.
A Tale of a Flower Wine
On my page, Edible Flowers Suitable for Use in Home Winemaking, I list 234 flowers -- some wild, some cultivated -- suitable for winemaking. It is by no mean an all-inclusive list, as there are undoubtedly thousands of flowers out there I have no knowledge of, or have limited knowledge of but no access to. I did more than due diligence in compiling this list. I searched every list of edible and toxic flowers I could find up to a point.
Many, many lists out there are merely copies of other lists. After searching over 200 lists, I reached a point where all I was seeing were copies of previous lists, or lists compiled by others that contained few names and none of them new to my compilation. After days of searching, I stopped. I had reached a point where no further progress was being made.
A few of the flowers on the list can be found on lists of "toxic plants." While these lists are useful, they only identify plants that have some form of toxin somewhere in their system, and the toxin(s) that put them on the lists may only be mildly toxic to, say, sheep or cats, but perfectly fine for humans. There are huge data repositories concerning plants and their relationship with our pets and domesticated grazing animals. I spent days confirming that every flower on my list was not toxic to humans even though it might be harmful to, say, cows or horses.
Many of the flowers on the list -- notably the composites -- simply contain pollens that some people are allergic to, and for some strange reason the definition of "toxic" has been expanded by the creators of some "toxic plants" lists to include those with pollen allergens. This defies the medical definition of "toxic" and I simply ignored this bastardization of the language. But in fairness I should say that if you suffer from hay fever, stay away from the composite flowers and any others you know cause you a problem. For the vast majority of us, none of these flowers will cause us problems.
For the remaining few listed somewhere as belonging to plants that are "toxic" in some sense, I have done enough research in each case to satisfy myself that I would make wine with this flower. You have to decide for yourself if you would.
I get email occasionally challenging some flower on the list. The "big two" are lilacs and lavender. Both appear on numerous lists as "toxic." It is not an exaggeration to say that I have spent literally days confirming, again and again, that these flowers pose no health risk to humans as the base for wine.
Quite a few flowers on the list contain unique compounds that serve a purpose to the plant producing them. Some compounds are unsavory -- they simply taste bad if enough are eaten. But they are not toxic. The purpose of the compound in the flower is interpreted as a defense mechanism to discourage deer and other herbivores from eating them and thereby preventing the flower from producing seed. Other compounds are unusual but simply produce a unique odor that attracts certain pollinators. In both instances the compound serves a purpose that contributes to the continuation of the plant's future existence. If the compound is not toxic, the flower remains on the list. It may not be the best flower to make wine from, but it is suitable by the standards I have set for myself.
I say all of this as prolog to relating a wine from a single flower -- that of the magnolia tree. Many years ago I made wine from magnolia blossoms collected at a friend's home in Louisiana. It was not a great wine but was drinkable. It possessed a slight aftertaste that was unique but not entirely unlikeable by me. I never published the recipe but have shared it a couple of times in correspondence. Now, it seems, I have misplaced it, as no log notes can be found. Since, over the years, much material I have produced has been boxed up and retired to storage, I am confident it still exists but I have neither the time nor desire right now to expend the effort to locate it. But I did make the wine once.
Be that as it may be, I am not the only person to have made this wine. Several months ago another winemaker reported to me that he had started a batch of magnolia blossom wine. In due course he sent me a bottle for my evaluation. His only instructions were to allow the wine to rest a couple of weeks, to recover from any ill effects of shipping, before opening it. When I received it I looked at the calendar and realized the wine would be well rested when the San Antonio Regional Wine Guild (SARWG) met at our house in March. I had planned on conducting a mock "judging" of a wine at the meeting and decided I would present this wine to the members.
At the meeting, I introduced the wine and told the members everything I knew about it. I had them clear their glasses and passed out SARWG judging forms and the wine was poured to everyone. Then we went through the judging form, item by item, and each person recorded his or her score and was asked to write comments if the wine did not receive the highest score for an item.
SARWG members on author's patio
The purpose of this exercise was threefold. First and foremost, to discuss the various aspects of judging a wine that no one other than myself had ever tasted, let alone made. When dealing with a completely foreign wine, certain latitudes must be given in certain areas. For example, is the color of the wine exactly as expected for this type of wine, or is it lighter or darker than expected? If you have never encountered magnolia blossom wine before, how are you to know? The answer is you cannot know, so unless the wine is obviously colorless or has darkened from aging as you know white wines do, then the wine should receive the benefit of doubt and be rated highly in this area.
Secondly, I wanted to challenge the members to both write comments and to do so constructively. If you say, "This wine has a peculiar smell," it is not helpful to the winemaker. But if you say, "The wine smelled slightly of cooked cabbage," the winemaker can do a little research and discover that this is caused by methionol or methyl mercaptan, both of which are distinct sulfur compounds caused by a reductive-oxidative (often shortened to redox) progression generally allowed by too low a pH value. This comment is constructive and potentially can help the winemaker while "a peculiar smell" is not at all helpful.
Thirdly, I wanted to evaluate the magnolia blossom wine for the gentleman who made it. I could have done it alone, but thought it would be more valuable to him if he received numerous evaluations.
I think the first purpose was fulfilled. Many of the members present commented that they learned a lot from the exercise and how to approach the various aspects of the SARWG judging form. The second purpose was less successful, but at least a lot of people were challenged to at least make comments, even if they could not always figure out how to word them constructively. But it was in the third purpose that the force of numbers came into play
This wine possessed a peculiar aftertaste. The members were all over the spectrum in trying to describe it. Some thought it was from too much alcohol. Some thought it was too much acid. I can say with some authority it was neither of those. Others called it bitter and still others called it astringent. But in reality, it was neither. It was something else.
Bitterness is a taste sensation most notably perceived near the back of the tongue, but it truly can be perceived elsewhere as well. Astringency is a tactile response perceived throughout the mouth, not just on the tongue. The aftertaste we perceived in the magnolia blossom wine was almost universally perceived at the back of the tongue and especially where the tongue descended into the throat. I personally had trouble describing it but remembered it from (1) having eaten a magnolia petal and (2) from my own magnolia wine (although I thought my own wine possessed less of it). This experience led me to think it was possibly a non-flavonoid phenolic compound, a naturally occurring unsavory discouragent to herbivores or an attractant to specific pollinators. Whatever it was, I could not identify it but believed it was pronounced because too many flowers had been used in making the wine.
I later summarized the results in an email to the winemaker and told him I was mailing the judging sheets that contained comments. My email comments focused on the wide variety of scores, from very low to fairly good, and on the aftertaste. I stressed that at least two people actually liked the aftertaste while most thought it was a distractant at best, a fault at worse. The email I received in return was both interesting and non-illuminating.
He said as soon as he read about the aftertaste he went to his cellar and retrieved and opened a bottle of the wine. To him, it was as balanced and pleasant as it had always been. Then a thought occurred to him. His wine was stored at 55° F. and consumed before it had risen a degree. So he wondered if I had served the wine chilled or at room temperature. He allowed a glass of the wine to sit out until it was near 70° and tasted it. There was a noticeably disagreeable aftertaste that wasn't there when the wine was chilled. I found this taste difference very interesting, but had encountered it before with at least two other wines. I am just sorry he did not ask me to chill it before serving as I surely would have done so, but in truth he did not know it would change taste at higher temperatures.
The non-illuminating aspect of his reply was that it shed no light to me on what might have caused the aftertaste. Certainly there are knowledgeable and analytical wine tasters out there who could turn this information into an informed guesstimate (Alison Crowe, John Hudelson, Marian Baldy and Jamie Goode come to mind), but I doubt any of them read this blog.
And so it remains a mystery to me, but I do believe it is a natural taste of the magnolia blossom petal as it was present when I ate a petal many years ago. But in spite of it, the magnolia blossom is decidedly a flower suitable for use in home winemaking. Just serve it chilled.
The San Antonio Regional Wine Guild (SARWG) met here this past Sunday and we had a stellar time. The pot luck feed was great, the wines brought for tasting were exceptional (okay, one was over the hill but the rest were exceptional) and the social conversations were both enjoyable, entertaining and sometimes educational. When this many winemakers get together, you cannot help but learn something without even trying. Someone will taste a wine and say, "This wine reminds me of the time I...." I pays to listen.
Thank you SARWG, for a great day! And thanks for leaving me a little of my brisket to enjoy on another day (yep, once again I slow cooked a whole brisket in the oven, tightly covered, at 175° F. for 10 hours -- this one prepared with a sweet/spicy barbecue rub instead of my usual Creole rub -- on a bed of sweet onion halves). And thanks one and all for participating in the wine judging program. I think we all benefited from the sharing of so many perceptions and opinions. As I said several times during the judging exercise, there are no wrong opinions, so write yours down on the judging form so the winemaker knows why you scored it as you did. As a judge, you owe the winemaker that much.
It was a totally enjoyable day. The only detraction was the members who could not make it and those who have passed on. We missed them.
When I look back over the years, SARWG members who could not consistently make the long monthly drive to the San Antonio area have gone on to form the Austin Area/Central Texas Wine Guild, the North Texas Wine Guild and the Central Louisiana Wine Guild, each of which has grown and evolved into its own universe. As Martha Stewart likes to say, "It's a good thing."
If you make wine or just enjoy wine and do not belong to a club or guild you are missing out on so much potential for sharing and growth, not to mention just plain fun. Consider this: life is shorter than we think and we either embrace it fully or its full potential passes us by. By all means, embrace it.
I don't know how old this is (I have traced it back to March, 2012) but I like it. According to the email I received, there's an annual contest at the Griffiths University, (five campuses) Australia, calling for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term.
This (2012) year's term was "political correctness".
The winning student wrote:
"Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rapidly promoted by mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of shit by the clean end."
I think he (or she) hit the nail squarely on the head. The sooner we abandon political correctness and get back to honest, open dialog using real words that have common and exact meanings the better off we will be as a body politic (regardless of nationality, race, religion, gender, you-name-it). If someone is offended by a word or phrase that is real, defined and in the common lexicon, that is their problem -- not mine -- and they need to deal with it.
I once fought a nearly year-long battle over the use of the term "Dago Red" in one of my recipe names. An Italian-American advocacy organization got involved and I felt the weight of pressure until I felt myself bending. Then the person who started the whole campaign because she thought the word "Dago" was derogatory wrote me a scathing email in which she stooped to the lowest of name-calling, and that is when my spine straightened, my heels dug in, and I firmly said, "The name of the recipe stays. The names you have called me will be deleted with all of your emails. End of discussion. Further emails from you will be rejected."
I'm tired of political correctness. I want to get back to the English language with all of its colloquialisms. If my language or opinions offend you, you are free to close your browser or navigate elsewhere.
Nearly two years ago the editor of WineMaker magazine asked me to write an article on aging country wines. I did so. It was the most difficult article I ever wrote. Eventually I submitted it on the deadline date. Then nothing happened. I scanned each issue as it arrived but the article never appeared. About 5-6 months ago I asked the editor for the courtesy of a rejection letter if he did not intend to use it. He replied it had inadvertently gotten overlooked, but he had slotted it for the April-May 2013 issue. That issue arrived today and it was there.
When I say, "It was the most difficult article I ever wrote" I mean that in every sense those words mean. Usually, I spend a few days mulling the subject over in my mind to arrive at my approach to the article. Then I spend 1 1/2-2 days writing it. I save it and go about my business for a few days and then read what I wrote. Then I edit/rewrite until I am satisfied. I then skip a day and re-edit it. At this stage the article is spell-checked with two different programs and minor editing is done. I immediately send it off to the editor. This article was quite different.
First I pondered the subject for several weeks, trying to get a handle on how to approach the subject matter. I never really felt comfortable with an approach so decided to just start writing and see where it went. Then I spent fours days and nights writing version one. Three days later I read it and felt very sick inside. It read like a chapter in a book on organic chemistry.
I immediately began rewriting it, using a few snippets from the first version but deleting all the names of specific compounds, the reaction diagrams and the charts on reductive/oxidative sequences. Two days later I "put it to bed" and reviewed it a few days after that. Once again I felt sick inside. Everything I wrote was correct, but it was haphazard at best, skipping about like a stream-of-consciousness recital on LSD. While I could understand it, I cursed the author for making me try to pull it together for him.
I slept on the problem for a week, then another, then looked at the calendar and panicked. The deadline was six days away. I began cutting paragraphs out of the second version and pasting them into a third. Slowly it began to make sense. At 4:30 in the morning I stopped and went to bed. The morning brought a new day but an old sickness in the stomach. Version three was not a disaster, but I didn't want my name on it. I turned off the computer and went fishing.
Flyfishing is a wonderful hobby when the mind is troubled, jumbled or otherwise in torment. Mine was all of the above. There is something about being outdoors, standing in the cool water and feeling the slow current, sun and breeze both playing on the skin, and trying to think like a fish lying somewhere out there in the bottom structure of the river that liberates the mind, elevates the soul and focuses the senses. When this happens, it makes no difference at all if you actually catch a fish or not. It is the transformation within that is important. And this is good, because I did not catch a fish that day. But I went home at peace with myself.
The next morning I began rewriting each paragraph in turn to stabilize the voice, the tone and the flow. About six hours later I saved it, turned off the computer and curled up on our loveseat with the book, "Why Does E=mc²? (and why should we care)" by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. This was the second time I had read it and will probably read it again. It provokes thought, which I like in a book. Strangely enough, I completely forgot about the article. I mean really forgot about it.
A few days later I was looking at the calendar and noticed the notation "Article due." Holy smoke! I retrieved the article, quickly read it, and felt sick. Once again I was dissatisfied, but it was too late. I drafted a cover letter saying I was not satisfied with it but did not think I could improve it much with a deadline extension so here it is. I expected a cautiously worded request to rewrite it or a rejection, but received neither. Time passed and you know the rest of the story as that is where I began.
Well, I have now read in print what I labored and agonized over. Separated by many, many months, it was like I read "Aging Country Wines" for the first time. It is better than I had allowed myself to believe. I am just very glad it is in the past.
By the way, if you don't yet subscribe to WineMaker magazine, you really should think about what you're missing. You can become a new subscriber or renew a lapsed subscription by clicking on the banner image below:
Maria's Black Bean Salad
I get sent a lot of recipes because I occasionally post recipes I really like and people want me to try their favorites. When this one came to me I immediately recognized it as both heart-healthy and nutritious. Two other things impressed me. One, all ingredients are budget friendly and two, they are all allowed in my adopted diet to keep away the belly fat I've shed (37 pounds in the past 12 months!). The question is, how does it taste? There is only one way to find out, so I made it. Bingo!
The recipe originated with Maria Zoitas, creator of "Maria's Homemade" line of prepared food sold exclusively at Westside Market NYC, with four locations in New York City. Since I am half a country away from there, I cannot pop in and buy Maria's prepared foods, but luckily for me (and you) she shares the recipes. Willingly.
Most people have heard of the so-called Mediterranean diet. The secret here is that traditional foods of Spain, France, Italy, Greece, etc. are higher in monounsaturated fats than saturated fats, which is good for the heart and circulatory system, and they contain foods that lower bad cholesterol while building good cholesterol. Combined with other aspects of the diet, a Mediterranean diet, coupled with a modest amount of regular exercise, greatly benefits the cardiovascular system, reduces the risk of type-2 diabetes, obesity, depression, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer of the breast, colon, pancreas, prostate, and endometrium.
The ingredients in this recipe are all in the Mediterranean diet and are also good for reducing belly fat. The olive oil in the Italian dressing is the number one source of monounsaturated fat. The avocado in the salad is the number two source. They are also high in fiber, vitamins E and K, folate, and potassium. As a bonus, they also provide lutin and zeaxanthin, both of which are good for eye health.
The black beans provide about 14 grams of protein per 1-cup serving. What's more, that same amount provides 12 grams of fiber, half the recommended daily amount to maintain good health and shed belly fat. The recipe makes 4 servings, so you're only going to be eating slightly more than 1/2 cup, but the benefits are still there.
The tomatoes in the recipe are high in lycopene, an antioxidant good for the prostate and skin. The onions and scallions are in one of the seven groups of "super foods," nutritional all-stars providing lots of fiber, phytonutrients and vitamins when compared to other foods.
The only component of the recipe not in my diet is the tortilla chips, but moderation is the key when it comes to such things. One could omit them altogether without messing up the recipe, but I follow the advice my cardiologist gave me right after I had a long visit by the hospital's dietician/nutritionist following my second heart attack. He essentially said if I strictly followed the dietary recommendations I was just given I would be healthier than if I didn't, but conceded that the diet might be boring for someone (me) who listed as his favorite foods barbecued pork ribs, Southern fried chicken, pork chops, and porterhouse steak. He said I could reward myself every once in a while for staying on the diet by eating something not in the diet, but stressed that moderation and "every once in a while" were the key components of his advice. I think a dozen or so tortilla chips might be covered here as small rewards for eating the rest of the meal.
Below is the original recipe, untouched. My only tweaks were to add 2 tablespoons of unsalted sunflower kernels and 2 teaspoons of flax seeds. These are both rich in monounsaturated fat and fiber and are solidly in my belly fat weight loss diet; i.e. they are muy healthy. They also blended into the recipe beautifully.
Enjoy. I did. Oh, and if you'd like to order the book I use for belly fat weight loss, simply click on the book's image just above on the right.
Black Bean Salad (4 servings)
2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 avocados, diced
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 medium red onion, diced
5 ounces Italian dressing
In a large bowl, place black beans, avocados, tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, red onion and toss with Italian dressing.
Serve with tortilla chips on the side.
What to Do with Your Wines-In-Progress When You Move
A home winemaker recently asked me what he should do with his wines-in-progress when he moved to a new residence. His wines had a lot of lees but it wasn't time to rack them yet. I've faced this problem myself and it can cause anxiety, but it need not do so. The answer is quite simple.
The person who asked stated that he did not want the lees disturbed by the move. I suspect he feared the agitation might cause problematic reductive off flavors and odors. It could if the lees were old and starting to decay -- a process known as autolysis -- but young, healthy lees can withstand agitation. Nonetheless he stated his instincts were to rack the wines off the lees before moving. I concurred with this.
Racking a wine early has only one potential problem, which time will overcome. Most wine yeasts settle into the lees and do their work of fermentation there. As they release microscopic bubbles of CO2 that rise, combine again and again with other bubbles and eventually increase enough to become visible to us, the action of the rising bubbles causes the wine to slowly circulate in the carboy and continually brings new food to the yeast in the lees. Racking early leaves that yeast population behind and for a period lasting up to several weeks the airlock sits dormant while the yeast population rebuilds.
Not to worry. Some yeast always make it into the receiving carboy and as long as sugar is present in the wine they will reproduce to numbers that once again cause activity in the airlock. But they do use up most or all of the remaining yeast nutrients as they reproduce, so adding 1/2 teaspoon of nutrients into the receiving carboy while racking is a good idea. Adding a pinch of potassium metabisulfite is also recommended to reduce the risk of spoilage organisms gaining hold in the sugar rich environment.
There is a dichotomy when it comes to autolysis. Certain wines such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc benefit from autolysis by gaining complexity during the process that enhances their structure and mouthfeel, giving them extra body and increasing their aromatic complexity. The practice of aging a wine on the lees for a few months to a year is called sur lie (French for "on the lees") aging. It is accompanied by frequent (every few days) stirring of the lees -- what the French call bâtonnage. Aging a wine sur lie avec bâtonnage can result in a creamy, viscous mouthfeel.
By the way, when we speak of sur lie aging, we specifically mean the yeast lees, not the initial gross lees composed of organic matter from the grapes or fruit base the wine was made from. Any wine destined for sur lie aging must be racked off the gross lees -- usually within 5-7 days following the cessation of vigorous fermentation -- so that a clean deposit of fine yeast lees can commence forming. These are the lees you will begin stirring every few days after allowing the layer to thicken for about 2 months.
But not all wines react favorably to prolonged contact with the lees and not all yeast produce lees conducive to sur lie aging. Unfortunately, I have never set out to collect data on which wines and which yeast are best predisposed to sur lie aging. If any reader has knowledge of such data I would appreciate hearing about it.
Political Correctness, post in The AnswerBank, earliest reference to the Griffith University student definition I've found thus far
This blog entry was written on March 13th, but almost as soon as it was saved I lost my internet connectivity and was not able to post it until March 16th. My apologies, but it was beyond my ability to control.
The San Antonio Regional Wine Guild is meeting at our house Sunday and I still have much to do to make the place presentable, so this will be a brief entry -- with more apologies.
"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance." -- Cicero , 55 BC
So, evidently we've learned nothing in the past 2,068 years.
My brother in Everett, Washington sent me the link to this video. I have to admit I was overwhelmed by thoughts about how complex the mechanisms must be to make this happen. This is a "music box" of sorts. Turn up your sound and click if you want to be amazed....
Oh, just mouse-over the annoying pop-ups and close each at the little "x" in the upper right .
I once designed a spring-launched, 6-function device that turned to open a valve, power two auxiliary functions, throw a switch, trip a lever and complete an electrical connection. It served no actual purpose (but could have) and was never built, but I did it to see if I could back when I was single and had too much time on my hands. The hand-drawn schematics took about 40 drafting pages to fully show all parts and functions. I probably still have ithem somewhere, in one of the 83 boxes stored in the garage. But this...the sheer complexity blows my mind. If you did not click the link, please rethink that decision. I guarantee you will be amazed.
Author at TVOS Conference Banquet, Knoxville, TN; the red nose means too much wine
The TVOS conference in Knoxville was a lot of fun for me, but there were a time or two when too much wine was evident. Not that that was necessarily a bad thing. Shortly after this picture was shot I was dragged out onto the dance floor by a beautiful blonde to bogie to a jazzy blues number that lasted oh so long. It was sufficient enough to get the metabolism going and get that wine moving through my body and ended just before my legs did. Timing is a good thing.
So is hospitality. I could not have desired more of that than the Tennesseans exhibited to me and each other. I was truly impressed.
Texans have always had a special affection for folks from Tennessee. The first and third President of the Republic of Texas was former Tennessee Governor Sam Houston. Of the 180+ fallen defenders of the Alamo, 32 were from Tennessee. Tennessee is woven into our history as is no other state.
If a couple of good folks in Tennessee had not sent me photos of the event I would not have any at all. All 86 photos taken with my camera were next to useless. It turns out there was an oily smudge-- probably by own fingerprint after eating some finger foods -- on the front aperture of my camera, blurring the results. Of course, I did not notice this until I got home and transferred the photos to my computer. I have cleaned the camera, but too late to recapture what was loss.
So, if any of you fine folks who attended want to share your photos with me, send them to jackredkellerwhitewine(at)gbluemail(dot)com -- just remove the patriotic colors from the address and normalize the items in parentheses. And please identify the subjects. I was introduced to far too many folks to remember all of the names.
Chiltepins and Chile Wine
We have a little pepper that grows wild called the chiltepin, also known as Texas Bird Pepper; Bird Pepper; Pequin, Tepin, Petin, Bird's Eye Pepper, Turkey Pepper and probably a few names I missed. It is about the size of your small fingernail (trimmed) and packs a lot of heat for so small a berry. I have two growing in the back next to an oak tree and the birds plant them along fences and under trees. Naturally, I had to make wine from them.
But first, a few words about this potent little berry.
Some years ago we had some Latino workers doing some work in our yard. In the hot Texas heat, they earned every penny we paid them. While bringing them some iced tea, I noticed one of the workers taking a chiltepin from his shirt pocket and popping it into his mouth. Within a minute sweat broke out on his forehead. I asked how he could eat them in this heat. He laughed and said they cooled him off. They make one sweat, he explained, and sweat cools you off when it evaporates in the heat. And the heat in the mouth, he said, keeps you alert.
He also explained that his family lives about a hundred miles south near Corpus Christi. The drive there late at night can lull him to sleep while driving, but if he pops a chiltepin in his mouth and chews it, it is impossible to go to sleep while driving. I have used this advice on a couple of drives and can swear it works.
Only after the workers left did I discover they had stripped my plants of every ripe chile. My wife and I dry these and grind them into a very hot chile powder. But it was okay. The bushes flower and produce new berries all summer and into the fall so our supply was soon renewed.
When I decided to make chiltepin wine, I turned to my tried and true jalapeno wine recipe. Jalapeno wine is both a cooking wine and a sipping wine. As a cooking wine, it is very versatile. It can be used to marinade meats, spice up barbeque sauces or glazes, or added directly to foods and sauces. It does something to spaghetti sauces that is beyond description. But as a sipping wine on a cold night, this is a superb choice. It will warm you like no other, and even goes well mixed with V-8 Juice for a Bloody Mary affect with much less alcohol than Vodka delivers.
Where my jalapeno recipe uses 16 hot jalapenos, my chiltepin recipe uses 20 much, much smaller chiles but make every bit as hot a wine. The heat is sharper, but delightful if you like hot and spicy....
Chiltepin Wine Recipe
20 ripe chiltepins
1 lb golden raisins, chopped or minced
2 lbs very fine granulated sugar
2 tsp acid blend
1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
water to one gallon
1 finely crushed Campden tablet
3/4 tsp yeast nutrient
Red Star Pasteur Champagne Wine Yeast
Cover the raisins in warm water and soak them overnight. The next day, wearing rubber gloves, wash the peppers, remove the stems and cut in half length-ways. Remove the seeds for mild heat, but leave them in for a full-strength wine. Removing the seeds is easiest with a pecan pick. Now cut the halves in half and place in a fine mesh nylon straining bag. Chop or mince the raisins and place them in the bag with the chiles in a primary. Add the remaining ingredients except the pectic enzyme and yeast. Stir well to dissolve the sugar, cover and set aside for 12 hours. Add the pectic enzyme and cover for another 12 hours. Add the activated yeast. Re-cover the primary and stir daily for 7 days. Wearing rubber gloves, squeeze the nylon straining bag and transfer all liquids to a secondary and attach an airlock. Ferment to absolute dryness (45-60 days). Rack, top up and refit the airlock. Rack two more times, 30 days apart. Wait a final 30 days and carefully rack into bottles. The wine can be used for cooking immediately or drink in 2 months, but it will age if 1/4 teaspoon of tannin to ingredients. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
As a marinading wine for pork and red meats, fully hot chiltepin wine is exceptional at imparting a piquant flavor into the outer 1/8 to 3/8 inch of meats. Other herbs and spices should be selected to compliment the heat. Your own tastes must guide you.
As with jalapeno wine, I used some chiltepin wine in making both barbecue and spaghetti sauces. Here it seems to shine, as not much wine is used in either. The flavor and inherent heat are subtle but there, giving them a uniqueness unrivaled. Finally, as with jalapeno wine, it mixes well with tomato juice and V-8. If you make it, you will discover your own niches where it will shine.
I've found myself in a time crunch -- too much to do and not enough time to do it. The image says it all. I really DO need a day between Saturday and Sunday!
In the midst of this crunch, Friday evening and almost five hours on Saturday a week ago were lost due to computer problems encountered from a root sector malicous program that got by my security software. This is embarrassing, especially since I have two free rootkit detection and cleaning programs listed at my Free PC Services website on the "Serious Tools for Serious Situations" page. In a moment of idiocy, a few months ago I removed the one I actually had installed on my computer in order to free up some C-drive space. Fool, fool, fool.
I'm no security geek, but it appears the root sector program I had was not complete an therefore wasn't doing whatever it was designed to do. It could have been streamed in through a website or a video email attachment in pieces that would assemble themselves when all were present, installed itself in my root sector where normal antivirus programs could not find it, and has been there for at least three - possibly four -- weeks. But it seems it was not complete. Whatever it was supposed to do, all it actually did was trigger repetitive errors in my Event Log.
I discovered it by examining the Event Viewer, an almost never used utility that has come with Windows for many years. Here I found 516 errors and warnings that freaked me out. I then closed everything I had open and surrendered to rising blood pressure. I'm not going to go through the whole process, but eventually I was able to select the right program that detected, located and removed it. Unbelievably relieved, I had the program delete it. I should have had the program email it to the software company so they could identify it. My bad!
If you want to examine your own computer's Event Viewer, left-click on your Start button (lower left corner when Windows is running), type "eventvwr" (without the quotes) in the dialog box at the bottom of the pop-up, press "Enter," and then click on the listed program. In the program's central window (labeled "Recently Viewed Nodes" in my version) may or may not be one or more entries. If the second column of any entry starts off with "Critical, Error and Warning events...", double-click on each such entry. I had 516 such listings over a three-week period and a concluding notation that my computer was at "high risk." Take my word for it, it was quite unnerving.
If you follow the above steps and discover a perceived problem, DO NOT call me. Do what I did and run the most in-depth security scan your security program allows. In fact, I ran scans on two different security programs -- only one being enabled at a time. No active viruses were found by either, but the first found and removed two malware infections that had slipped in and both indicated possible problems outside their programming ability. (At that point I went nuts. I won't go into details, but I eventually downloaded and used four additional programs.)
If your security program finds things it cannot cleanup for you, you might have to Google a few terms to understand what it found. That should tell you if you need a registry cleaner, a rootkit cleaner or some other specialize utility. Go to my Free PC Services website and look at the items in my navigation bar at the top. Most are straightforward in their description. The obscure stuff is in the Serious Tools for Serious Situations page. Or, call in a computer security geek.
DISCLAIMER: I simply found and listed the programs on the pages. I accept no responsibility for their use or effectiveness. I did download and play with each program before I listed and described it, but that is all. Some links may be broken and some programs may be dated but you will still find plenty of help there. When I began that website I had no idea how filled my days would become. I am busier in retirement than I was when I worked fulltime.
The other day I listened to a close but liberal friend of many years wail against talk radio and Fox News Channel with venomous passion and hateful words and flatly declare in the strongest terms that both should be silenced forever.
My only response was to quote the late and great Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935). "If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate."
Sadly, my friend's response was to glare at me with contempt and walk away. I believe a long friendship has ended, snapped by the endearing wisdom and logic of Oliver Wendell Holmes confronting unyielding hatred.
Holmes, who often was the dissenting voice on the Supreme Court, also said, "The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving." Sadly, my friend would have us moving in the direction of one voice, and that is tyranny. The Nazis, Bolsheviks, Fascists, Maoists, and Fidelistas all liquidated dissenting thought. It did not bode well for their countries. We must passionately embrace and preserve our constitutional rights, for only they guarantee our freedom.
Tennessee Viticultural & Oenological Society 2013 Conference
The author at the TVOS Conference in Knoxville (photo by John Freels)
I returned last night from attending the annual conference of the Tennessee Viticultural & Oenological Society (TVOS) in Knoxville. I was invited to speak on making country wines and on indigenous grapes. I did both, but more importantly I met some truly outstanding people who are serious about making wine, I drank some wonderful examples of their craftsmanship, and I had a terrific time. The only way I could have had a better time is if my wife had been with me to kick that terrific time up a notch.
Within minutes of arriving at the Knoxville Hilton, which was fully booked, at least a half-dozen people asked me if I was there for the concert. I responded to the sixth query with, "No, but who is in concert?" The answer was, "George Strait." Damn, so close but...no ticket.
The two-day TVOS conference was an excuse for me to meet a couple from Sharp Chapel, a mere 36 miles away, who were kind enough several years ago to share with me their secret for infusing chocolate flavor into fruit wines. They have sent me many, many wines over the years to evaluate for them and nearly all were excellent, so I looked forward to meeting them both at long last.
Unfortunately, the husband half of the couple had to be elsewhere on business, but I had lunch and a great afternoon with his wife. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time, ate some terrific grilled shrimp at Calhoun's, and discussed winemaking with Nedra in an attempt to glean a few more secrets. But the real secret I sought resides with Allan and he wasn't there. Still, I am so glad I was able to spend time with and thank at least one of the people who walked me through a nagging problem of winemaking.
By the same token, many people approached me during the TVOS weekend and thanked me for helping them in some small way in their winemaking. Every time someone thanks me I am mindful of the many folks who have helped me over these many years. The thanks I receive is the fuel that fires my furnace and keeps me going. I thank all of you who have thanked me. The circle is complete.
The conference had split sessions -- simultaneous sessions in difference conference rooms -- so no one could attend every presentation. Nonetheless, I was able to attend the sessions I most wanted to attend so I felt the agenda was well designed. My own two-subject session was well attended and the interest pleased me. I'm not sure every attendee appreciated the time I spent on indigenous grapes of Texas but many said they did. My presentation also tied in very well with Chris Card's presentation on the indigenous grapes of Tennessee so I think it was appropriate.
I certainly learned from the sessions I attended, especially John Freels' presentation on serious deficiencies in wines. While I was able to identify some, one had me (and many others) stumped. I learn something every day.
As in most such gatherings, the greatest rewards came from interacting with interesting people who are passionate about winemaking and their wines -- which we sampled until 2-3 a.m. on consecutive nights. People who came to pick my brain may be surprised to know that I was picking theirs. There are so many roads that lead to Rome that one is guaranteed to cover new ground on each of them. Life continually rewards us if we are receptive. Thank you, Tennessee (and Kentucky), one and all.
Revisiting Key Lime A-Rita
Saturday I tasted the Tennessee Viticultural & Oenological Society's home wine competition's Best of Show wine. It was a lime wine and it was exceptional. Later that evening during an unorganized late night partying session I tasted a lemon wine which the winemaker insisted be poured over ice. It, too, was exceptional served as instructed. About that time it occurred to me that something was missing in the lime wine I had tasted earlier but this was not the time to think about it. Later that night -- actually well into Sunday morning -- as I tried to drift off to sleep, the lime wine I had tasted burst through the cobwebs and I had to confront it. While thinking about it, my wife's favorite wine pushed it's way forward and I knew what was missing in the lime wine -- Triple Sec.
I first published this recipe in January 2009. I credit Martin Benke with the original recipe although I've tweaked it a bit. What the TVOS Best of Show wine lacked, in my estimation, was the Triple Sec. It doesn't take much to change the character of the wine. Key Lime A-Rita takes the character to another level.
Triple Sec is a liqueur that begins as Curacao but contains the peelings of two other oranges. Curacao is made using the peelings of Laraha oranges, small bitter oranges grown on the island of Curacao. It is unlikely you will ever find a suitable substitute orange for Laraha, as their peelings are exceptionally aromatic. The dried Laraha peelings and some secret spices are bagged and hung in alcohol to make Curacao. Triple Sec uses the peelings of Laraha and two other oranges -- one bitter and one sweet. Today, the science of chemistry allows both Curacao and Triple Sec to be made synthetically.
The Triple Sec used in Key Lime A-Rita is a cheap synthetic Triple Sec syrup available in HEB grocery stores in Texas. It is also available elsewhere at Wegmans, More Wines, Walmart, and other outlets. If you want to use real Triple Sec, a number of companies will take your money.
This recipe makes one gallon. To make more than that, do the math.
zest and juice from 10 key limes
juice from an additional 10 key limes
11.5 oz. can Welch's 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate
1 lb. 10 oz. sugar*
1 tsp. pectic enzyme
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1/4 tsp. powdered grape tannin
3.25 qt. water
1/2 tsp. potassium sorbate
potassium metabisulfite (or finely crushed Campden tablets) as needed
*To produce an initial dry wine, sugar should not be increased; the grape concentrate will provide 8.45 oz. of additional sugar. Initial PA will be reduced after topping up following racking but this is expected. This wine is not balanced above 13% abv.
Collect the zest from 10 key limes and then juice them and 10 more, Put zest, juice, tannin, yeast nutrient, and sugar in primary. Add grape juice concentrate and water and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in pectic enzyme and cover primary with sanitized cloth. Wait 10-12 hours and add activated yeast in starter solution. Recover the primary, set aside until vigorous fermentation subsides and transfer to secondary. Top up to within 3 inches of mouth of secondary and attach airlock. After one week, stir in 1/16th tsp. potassium metabisulfite (or one finely crushed Campden tablet) and top up to within 3/4 inch of bung. Wait for wine to ferment to absolute dryness (30-45 days) and rack, top up and reattach airlock. Rack again when wine is brilliantly clear (additional 45-60 days). Add potassium sorbate and additional 1/16th tsp. potassium metabisulfite (or another finely crushed Campden tablet) and let bulk age 3 months. If additional sediments have formed, rack once again. Obviously, the "secret" ingredient is the Triple Sec syrup. Add it now and stir. Bottle and set aside to age. Do NOT taste this wine for at least 6 months --1 year if you have real willpower. It will be worth the wait, but you will hate yourself if you don't make several gallons initially. [Jack Keller's own recipe, with inspiration from Martin Benke]
I receive several emails each year asking for a schedule of when I will post entries so the senders don't have to check here every day to see if I've posted something new. I tell them all the same thing. If you want to be sure to catch my next (and every next) posting, instead of checking here daily just subscribe to my RSS feed by clicking this button:
This is painless. You do need an rss reader, but they are numerous (276 free readers are listed here) and most are free. But when you click the "RSS" button above it will ask you to identify your reader, and the ones they list for you to choose from are My Yahoo, NewsGator, My AOL, Bloglines Reader, Netvibes, Google Reader, Pageflakes, Feed Demon, NetNewsWire (smart phones app), RSS Owl, and Shrook (for MacIntosh). Click the button, select your reader and rest easy. You'll be notified when there is new content. Here is what the rss feed looked like for my last entry:
Scrumptious Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Here is my favorite grilled cheese sandwich creation. Read more....
The Best On-Line Wine Grape Resource
We've been having a discussion in the grapebreeders Google Group about Anthony J. Hawkins' "Super Gigantic Y2K Winegrape Glossary." This massive listing was my first go-to resource for wine grape information before my wife gave me Jancis Robinson et al.'s "Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours" (see my January 13th WineBlog entry for my review). Our discussion centered on concern for the future of this fantastic online list. Read more....
Fresh Guava Wine
Some time back I got a good deal on some small guavas that were very ripe. Fearing they might spoil if fermented on the pulp, I chopped and boiled them and extracted the juice. The wine I made was very good although a bit light in body. I've tweaked the recipe to correct this. Read more....
Not only is it simple and painless, but I go through quite a bit a trouble to prepare the feed and you would be making it worthwhile for me to do.
My "Scrumptious Grilled Cheese Sandwich" was the most viewed item in my last dated entry. It also generated a number of emails. Here are three.
"Jack, I tried your grilled cheese sandwich and agree that it is scrumptious. As soon as I finished it I made myself another one. Unlike most grilled cheese sandwiches, this one is moist inside and the flavors just flow together. I ate it with potato chips and cucumber spears on the side and White Zinfandel in my glass. Thank you for this wonderful, quick and delicious lunch entre."
"Mr. Keller, I made your grilled cheese sandwich with Gruyere cheese and added the bacon. It was fantastic. Next time I will take your advice and have it with sweet potato fries."
I rarely mention movies but watched a good one last Sunday on the National Geographic Channel -- Killing Lincoln. Based on Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's best-selling book (over a year in the top 10 on the NT Times best-sellers list) with the same name, the movie gives equal billing to the President, the conspiracy, the assassin, and the ensuing manhunt. It is a history-lover's movie. Produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, directed by Adrian Moat, narrated by Tom Hanks, and starring Billy Campbell as Abraham Lincoln and Jesse Johnson as John Wilkes Booth, Killing Lincoln is National Geographic's first ever docudrama movie. It also drew the largest viewership in National Geographic Channel's history.
Whenever I think of Billy Campbell, I always think of the young, daring aviator in The Rocketeer, starring opposite the seductively lovely Jennifer Connelly. So I later marveled that not once during the 1 hour and 28 minutes of Killing Lincoln did I even think that Lincoln was Campbell or Campbell was Lincoln, but rather a creditable portrayal had been rendered.. Nor did I compare him with Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of Lincoln in the excellent movie Lincoln. The two movies cannot be compared. Being a documentary when no film of the man or events was possible, Campbell's job was to stand in for and represent the great man in his final days, hours and minutes. He did this creditably.
Jesse Johnson as Booth was easy to fathom. I only know him from one film, Chapman, but after Killing Lincoln, in which he did a superb job, I have the highest respect for him but will hereafter probably always think of him as John Wilkes Booth. If anything, his performance somewhat stole the movie
Killing Lincoln was presented in a way I enjoy. The timeline is accurate but, like all timelines, contains both sequential and simultaneous events. Here they are juxtaposed so you gain insight to the plot as it unfolded. Some have said Tom Hanks' role as narrator was unnecessary but I disagree. His role was to put things into both perspective and the timeline. He did this well.
I especially appreciated his paraphrasing of Jefferson Davis at the end -- that the two most crushing events to the future of the South were the Civil War itself and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Booth, blinded by his hatred of Lincoln, never appreciated, let alone even realized, that the best hope for a forgiving reconstruction of the South lay in the stewardship of Abraham Lincoln. His murder unleashed the wrath of those who sought vindictive retribution, and the result was as brutal as Sherman's march to the sea.
O'Reilly's book is an important contribution to the history of a watershed moment of this nation. The movie, for those who cannot or will not read, is equally important. I only hope National Geographic releases it to a wider arena of outlets so more people might see it.
If you missed the airing, it will be re-aired Saturday, February 23 at 9 p.m. Eastern on the National Geographic Channel. Make it a personal appointment.
Dandelions Are Coming
Five days ago I saw my first dandelions of the year in bloom while pruning my grapevines. Since then I have seen another 16-20. Most of you won't see yours for another month or two, but mark my word, they're coming. I think it was Ray Bradbury who said dandelion wine is bottled sunshine. It certainly is a special treat and one of the first "from scratch" wines many of us will make this year. Here is the recipe for the last dandelion wine I made and it was superb.
I've said this before but it's worth saying again. When you see all those yellow petals greeting you soon, make sure they are real dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) and not one of the several "false dandelions" that look similar but are not as fragrant and make a lesser quality wine. True dandelions put up a single flower on a single stalk. False dandelions put up a branched stalk sporting two or more flowers that look almost exactly like true dandelions.
The look-alikes are usually catsear (Hypochaeris radicata or a closely related Hypochaeris species), but could also be the mountain dandelion (Agoseris ssp.), hawksbeard (Crepis ssp.), hawkweed (Hieracium ssp.), hawkbit (Leontodon ssp. or Scozoneroides ssp.), or even Nothocalais or Pyrrhopappus. Of the false dandelions, the catsear and mountain dandelion make the best of the lesser quality wines, which is like saying they are the better of the consolation prizes.
The flowers need to be dry when picked. The importance of this is not trivial. If it rained overnight or in the morning, or there was a morning dew, wait a day to pick the flowers unless a full sun comes out and dries them completely by noon. Noon is the best time to pick them as the flowers will be fully opened and most fragrant at that time. Do not pick them and set them aside to de-petal later because the flowers will close within 2 hours of picking. Get those petals off as soon as you can. If you can't pick enough at one time to make wine, pick, de-petal and refrigerate or freeze the petals in a ZipLoc bag until you have enough.
The following recipe uses both dandelion and rose petals and makes a gallon of wine. If you don't have rose petals (or crushed rose hips as an alternative), add that volume of additional dandelion petals. Age it at least a year. It will peak at around 18 months (the best time to drink it) and should be consumed before it reaches 24 months in age from date of bottling.
Incredible Dandelion-Rose Petal Wine Recipe
6 c dandelion petals
1 1/2 c rose petals, packed
1 lb golden raisins, diced or minced
1 lb 12 oz very fine granulated sugar
juice of 2 oranges
zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp acid blend
1 tsp pectic enzyme
water to 1 gallon
1 tsp yeast nutrient
sachet of Red Star Steinberg Wine yeast
Bring 2 quarts of water to boil in a large stock pot. Add sugar and stir until dissolved while returning water to simmer. Meanwhile, put raisins, orange zest, dandelion and rose petals in nylon straining bag, tie closed and place in simmering sugar water. With wooden spoon, push bag down under water ad hold while water returns to simmer. Release bag and cover pot to simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, add orange juice and water to total 1 gallon volume and allow to cool, but while still warm (but not hot), add acid blend, pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient. Cover pot and set aside 12 hours. Stir vigorously to oxygenate water and add activated yeast in a starter solution. Punch down bag 2-3 times a day for 7 days. Remove bag and squeeze to extract liquid. Discard bag contents and transfer liquid to secondary. Attach airlock and set aside for 3 months (Steinberg yeast is slower than others, so follow this schedule). Rack, top up and reattach airlock. When wine is clear, rack again, mix 1/2 teaspoon potassium sorbate a finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet and add to secondary. Top up and reattach airlock. Wait 2 months, rack, sweeten to taste and bottle. Age as instructed above. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
I cannot emphasize aging of dandelion wines enough. Many times I have questioned people who criticized dandelion wines as highly overrated or worse, and every singe time I found them drinking a wine that was only 1-6 months in the bottle or, on one occasion, a 4-year old wine. My instructions on aging are clear. Age it at least a year. It will peak at around 18 months and should be consumed before it reaches 24 months in age from date of bottling. Ignore this at your own peril.
Where has the time gone? Consider these two sayings. Time flies when you're busy, and time flies when you're having fun. Well, time really flies when you're busy having fun. Question answered -- guilty as charged and no apology offered.
My brother Larry sent me a link to the following video and I hope you take a moment -- 2 1/2 minutes, actually -- to watch it....
As a Vietnam veteran, I can sympathize with the veteran in the video. Only since September 11, 2001 have people thanked me for my service, although I do not really need their thanks. But also, only since September 11, 2001 have I approached servicemen and servicewomen in uniform and thanked them for their service.
There is a distinct difference between my service and those serving today. Initially, I was drafted. Because of specific test scores and demonstrated performance during Basic Training, I was selected to attend Officer Candidate School and was subsequently commissioned, but my point is that, like 90% or more of those who served in Vietnam, my entry into the Army was through the draft.
To my knowledge, no one serving today has served so long that they entered the service through the draft. If that is correct, today's military ranks are 100% volunteers, men and women who volunteered knowing they will probably be deployed into harm's way. If you want to thank someone for their service, by all means thank them. They serve by choice knowing there could be great risk to their lives. While their risk is no greater than the risks to our Vietnam-era draftees, today's service members did volunteer. They truly do deserve our thanks.
Please join me in thanking them whenever you encounter them.
Scrumptious Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Here is my favorite grilled cheese sandwich creation.
Spread mayonnaise or your favorite condiment on facing sides of two 9-grain (or other favorite) bread slices. Lay one slice of Gouda (or your own favorite sandwich cheese) on each bread slice. Lay a single layer of baby spinach leaves on one slice of Gouda. Cover the layer of baby spinach leaves with a single layer of avocado slices. Cover the avocado with a single layer of roasted red pepper, opened flat. Cover the roasted red pepper layer with another single layer of baby spinach. Carefully turn the other slice of bread onto the layer of baby spinach, Gouda side down. Now very lightly butter the top side of the sandwich and turn it buttered side down into a pre-heated non-stick skillet on medium heat.
Set timer for 3 minutes and during that time lightly butter the side facing up. Using a spatula, turn the sandwich over and set the timer for 3 minutes. I wrap the sandwich in waxed paper, baker's parchment or butcher paper to handle while eating. I make this at least once a week. It's doubly great with sweet potato fries.
I have added fried bacon to this creation, fried crisp to reduce the fat, between the avocado and roasted red pepper layers, as a variation. I have also added a barely fried egg, dusted with ground cayenne, in lieu of the bacon. Both are fantastic for different reasons.
The Best On-Line Wine Grape Resource
We've been having a discussion in the grapebreeders Google Group about Anthony J. Hawkins' "Super Gigantic Y2K Winegrape Glossary." This massive listing was my first go-to resource for wine grape information before my wife gave me Jancis Robinson et al.'s Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours (see my January 13th WineBlog entry for my review). Our discussion centered on concern for the future of this fantastic online list.
Recently Jeff Siegel, known to countless thousands as "the Wine Curmudgeon" online and in print, published a blog entry about Hawkins and his Glossary. It is an interesting story I didn't know.
Hawkins, now age 83, is retired from the ceramics department at Alfred University in western New York state. He began his wine grape glossary in the early 1990s to learn how to use a computer and teach himself some simple programming. Interestingly, I began my Winemaking Home Page with my "Glossary of Winemaking Terms" as a place to consolidate information from scattered sources and teach myself simple internet programming, so I can identify with Hawkins' motives.
There is a major difference in our two paths. When I began my work I was already a long-time winemaker while Hawkins wasn't all that interested in wine or wine grapes when he began his project. He knew a home winemaker and wanted to know more about what was involved and what grapes were available in western New York at the time. His curiosity got the better of him and the result is this astounding resource.
There weren't any good online lists of grapes at that time as the internet, formerly a resource of the military as MILNET, was only opened to the public in 1992. He eventually received decent references from Cornell, but his list was a slow build and sometimes not too accurate. Users set him straight when he made mistakes and his desire for accuracy sent him into exhaustive research.
The value of his work is beyond measure. He has attempted to cross-reference official grape names with country and regional synonyms and aliases, provide parentage, preferred clonal variants and rootstocks, growing areas and conditions, and winemaking notes. His work is fairly well annotated with academic sources and references, making it the single best go-to source on the internet today, even though it has not been updated since 2007 when health problems caused him to cease work on it.
Hawkins very much wants to find someone to take over his work. It would be a tremendous challenge and responsibility. If my plate weren't so full....
If any reader out there has an interest, you can contact Anthony Hawkins at hawkins at alfred dot edu. I sincerely thank Jeff Siegel for his informative blog entry from which I borrowed heavily.
Fresh Guava Wine
Some time back I got a good deal on some small guavas that were very ripe. Fearing they might spoil if fermented on the pulp, I chopped and boiled them and extracted the juice. The wine I made was very good although a bit light in body. I've tweaked the recipe to correct this.
Guava are highly nutritious and rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene and minerals. Depending on variety, the flesh can be soft and melting or firm and crunchy and everything in between. The flavor can be rich or mild but is always distinctly "guava." Some have a rich aroma and others are nearly odorless. The small seeds can be eaten (but are best if not chewed) right along with the flesh, making the entire fruit edible.
Originating in the tropical Americas, guavas have been so prized that they have spread throughout the tropical world. For folks not living in guava-producing areas, they are an underrated but exceptional fruit. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, color and characteristics.
When I lived in San Bernardino, California a neighbor grew a small tree on his fence that produced very sweet fruit, the size and shape of large lemons, with yellowish skin and flesh. In Florida I ate red-fleshed guava with few seeds and good flavor. In Hawaii I enjoyed sweet, pear-shaped guava with yellow skin and pink flesh of exceptional flavor. I have bought small round guava from Peru with white flesh, few seeds and good flavor. The small guava I used to make my wine were from Florida and were yellow-skinned with mildly pink flesh.
All the guava I've mentioned thus far are best suited for eating raw, but a number of varieties are high in natural pectin and favored for making jelly. Others have firm flesh and are idea for canning. Guava nectar is excellent served chilled and blends well with other fruit juices.
When I made my wine, I neglected to weigh my guava but guess I had 3 1/2 to 4 pounds. I quartered them, put them in a stock pot with a cup of water and simmered them for about 20 minutes, stirring once. Simultaneously, I began a yeast starter with sweetened water and nutrient. I left the guava to cool with the lid on and then hand pressed them in a fine-mesh nylon straining bag. I added 1/4 cup of the juice to the yeast starter and exactly one quart of juice to the primary. The recipe below deviates at this point to add Old Orchard 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate for body.
Fresh Guava Wine Recipe
4 lbs fresh guava
12-oz container Old Orchard 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate
1 lb 5 1/2 oz very fine granulated sugar
water to 1 gallon
1 tsp acid blend
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1/2 tsp powdered pectic enzyme
1/4 tsp powdered grape tannin
1 pkt Lalvin EC-1118 wine yeast
Use only sound fruit, quartered into a stock pot with a cup of water. Bring to a simmer and hold 20 minutes, stirring once. Cool with the lid on and then hand press in a fine-mesh nylon straining bag. Measure one quart of juice and add to primary with thawed grape concentrate. Add remaining ingredients except yeast and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Cover primary and set aside 12 hours. Add yeast in a starter solution and re-cover primary. Ferment to 1.020 s.g. and transfer to secondary. Attach airlock and ferment to dryness.
Rack, top up and reattach airlock. Rack again after 30 days and allow wine to clear. After wine clears, rack again, adding 1/2 teaspoon potassium sorbate and one finely crushed Campden tablet. Wait two weeks and sweeten to taste. Wait 30 days and bottle. Great after aging one year. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
While this makes a delightful dry wine if the flavor is strong, lesser flavored fruit make a better wine if sweetened to just off dry (0.998 to 1.000 works for me). The small amount of added sweetness summons and enhances the guava flavor considerably. This is, of course, a matter of taste so work with a sample before sweetening the whole.
A greater quantity of fruit will yield more juice and a stronger flavored wine. I simply have not made it so cannot advise you from experience. However, a winemaker in Florida says he uses 6 pounds of fruit per gallon of wine, chops his fruit finely and ferments on the pulp. He does warn that a yeast starter solution should be husbanded for 20-24 hours before chopping the fruit in order to start a vigorous fermentation before the fruit spoils. Makes sense to me....>
My apologies if my comments on email in my last entry offended anyone. Perhaps I did not say things correctly. In my heart, I appreciate all email because it means that you at least appreciate some aspects of my attempts to make winemaking easier, more varied or more meaningful to you. I'm not ungrateful that you send it and if I appeared that way I apologize for por wording. Be assured I do read every email that is about winemaking or my internet content. What I cannot do is answer most of it. I simply don't have enough time to respond to all of it even if all I did every day was answer email. I do hope you understand that without being offended.
A fellow named Clifton -- a name most of us don't see every day -- wrote me to say that my posting on "Ghost Riders in the Sky" in my previous entry stirred a memory. He was in a saloon outside of Austin, Texas several years back (and we do name them saloons here in Texas) when he heard a fellow who was playing guitar and harmonica simultaneously start playing "When Johnny Came Marching Home." About 30 seconds into it he just changed a cord or two and was playing "Ghost Riders in the Sky." He did this several times, switching seamlessly from one song to the other for several minutes and got a huge ovation when he was done. Clifton didn't know the performer's name but opined it should have been "Damned Good."
"Ghost Riders in the Sky" and "When Johnny Came Marching Home" do share certain melodic intervals but "Ghost Riders" is a much later song. The earlier was written in 1863 by bandleader and composer Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore and published under the pseudonym Louis Lambert. Gilmore admitted the song was inspired by a tune he heard someone humming in New Orleans. He claims he wrote it down, dressed it up and set it to words expressing a feeling of the times. The melody set to different words was published as "Johnny Fill Up the Bowl" previous to Gilmore's publication and later Gilmore wrote that "When Johnny Came Marching Home" should be sung to the tune of "Johnny Fill Up the Bowl."
Some have suggested both were based on the melody of "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye," but the latter was not published until 12 years after Gilmore's publishing. Nonetheless, "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" is claimed to be about a British conflict of 1803-1815, thus pre-dating the American Civil War. Still, many songs have existed for decades or longer and were passed on orally before being formerly published, so this may well be the case here. [Consider the melody for "Danny Boy," composed as "O'Cahan's Lament," circa 1610 by Rory Dall O'Cahan, later rendered and popularly known as "Londonderry Air" before being adapted to the words of "Danny Boy" by Frederic Edward Weatherley in 1913.] Gilmore claimed no credit for the melody itself -- only the words and arrangement.
"When Johnny Comes Marching Home" also bears a melodic resemblance to "John Anderson, My Jo," the tune of which dates back to 1560 or so. But they are not the same.
"Ghost Riders in the Sky" is, in fact, loosely based on, inspired by or influenced by portions of the melody of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," although the two differ. It therefore makes good musical sense that someone would interweave the two together as Clifton witnessed.
A Wireless Sensor Bung for Monitoring Wine Development in the Barrel
Every now and then something really awesome happens in technology and excites me. George Gale, University of Missouri at Kansas City, sent me an article by email of the latest happening -- a wireless sensor bung that monitors temperature, pH and malolactic fermentation progress and completion in a wine barrel and relays that information to a receiving base station and computer.
The system was tested in 2011 at the Azienda Agricola Comparini winery in Empoli, Tuscany, Italy. The sensor was placed into a 225L Bordeaux-style barrel of Sangiovese red wine and set to acquire data every 5 seconds. In normal winery operations the frequency could be set to any interval, with 4 collections per day (6-hour interval) assessed to be sufficient, but a 5-second interval was set to test the reliability and precision of the system. Manual measurements were also taken to compare to the system's data.
The 5-second interval taxed the system and resulted in data interruption due to battery drain after 8 days. A 6-hour interval would allow a 75-day battery life.
Manually acquired data and that from the wireless sensor bung were very similar, with a higher level of correlation of pH and malic acid concentration issued by the wireless sensor bung. Thus, the novel new system proved more accurate and potentially useful than traditional but time consuming data collection methods.
The system is obviously in research, development and testing stage. The authors of the original article, subsequently reported in Becca Yeamans' The Academic Wino blog entry of January 14, 2013 (sent to me by George), believe the system could be used to simultaneously monitor up to 250 wine barrels. They also discussed using both analog and digital channels in the hardware to easily integrate other types of sensors and thereby create a complex system of monitoring and analyzing the wine in the barrels that would save even more time and resources.
It is obvious this is not a system aimed at the home winemaker, but it does possibly suggest the development of future systems we might all be able to afford and use.
Three Cinnamon Tea Wines
It is difficult to say how good these three wines are, but they are good. The predominate flavor is cinnamon, but each one has a different spice profile. Easy to make, wonderful to drink, here are three sure-fire recipes guaranteed to delight you and your guests next winter if you start them now.
First, a little history is in order. As I mentioned in my recent Christmas Eve post, I make kombucha -- a tea fermented with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. A week or so before Thanksgiving while looking over the tea selection at my local supermarket for my next batch of kombucha, I spotted a box of Bigelow Cinnamon Tea and decided to try it. Ten days later I was enjoying my first glass of cinnamon kombucha and was hooked. I had already started a second batch of cinnamon kombucha, each time using eight teabags per gallon of tea, and realized I needed more cinnamon teabags for my next batch. On the way to buy some more the idea of Cinnamon Tea Wine took hold and I bought a lot of tea.
I'll admit I was going to keep the secret of my cinnamon kombucha to myself. In my Christmas Eve WineBlog entry I mentioned putting a cinnamon stick in kombucha to flavor it -- which will work -- but in truth I was trying to get around admitting to the Bigelow Cinnamon Tea because I wanted it to be my secret. So what changed? Read on....
After starting an initial batch, the idea to kick up the spice took hold. The rest is history and the following three recipes are the proof. I decided to "come clean" only after tasting each of the three while racking.
Each recipe uses a can of pure white grape juice frozen concentrate to add body. If you want to add even more body add two cans and reduce the sugar to 1 pound 2 ounces and adjust the water accordingly.
Now, you might ask how do I know these wines will be so fantastic if I only recently started them? Well, they were all started on the same day and I just recently racked them for the first time, tasting each as I racked. I have enough winemaking experience to know that these are all winners and I'll stake my reputation on it. You can trust me now or wait a year to see if I am right.
Cinnamon Tea Wine
6-8 teabags Bigelow Cinnamon Tea (number depends on strength desired)
1 container Welch's or Old Orchard 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate, thawed
1 lb 9 oz very fine granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp acid blend
1 tsp yeast nutrient
7 pts water
1 pkt general purpose wine yeast
In a 5-quart pot, bring 3 pints water to boil, remove from heat and add teabags. Cover pot and allow to steep 3-5 minutes. Remove and discard teabags, add sugar, stir well to dissolve, add remaining water, recover the tea and allow to cool to room temperature.
Combine sweet tea and all other ingredients except the yeast in a primary. Remove 1 cup of must and pour into a 1-pint container; sprinkle the yeast in it (do not stir). When yeast proves viable add to must. Cover the primary with a sanitized muslin cloth and ferment to 1.020 s.g. (about 5-7 days), then transfer to secondary. Add 1 finely crushed Campden tablet, stir and attach an airlock. Wait 30 days and rack, top up and reattach airlock. Wait additional 30 days and rack again. Add 1/2 teaspoon potassium sorbate and another finely crushed Campden tablet. Reattach airlock. Set aside 60 days and rack. Sweeten to taste if desired and set aside 30 days. Carefully rack into bottles and set aside until next winter's holiday season. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
Cinnamon-Clove Tea Wine
6 teabags Bigelow Cinnamon Tea (number depends on strength desired)
1 container Welch's or Old Orchard 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate, thawed
1 lb 9 oz very fine granulated sugar
12 whole cloves
1 1/2 tsp acid blend
1 tsp yeast nutrient
7 pts water
1 pkt general purpose wine yeast
In a 5-quart pot, bring 3 pints water to boil, remove from heat and add teabags and cloves in a tea ball/cage. Cover and allow to steep 3-5 minutes. Remove teabags and cloves, add sugar, stir well to dissolve, add remaining water, recover the tea and allow to cool to room temperature.
Combine sweet tea and all other ingredients except the yeast in a primary. Remove 1 cup of must and pour into a 1-pint container; sprinkle the yeast in it (do not stir). When yeast proves viable add to must. Cover the primary with a sanitized muslin cloth and ferment to 1.020 s.g. (about 5-7 days), then transfer to secondary. Add 1 finely crushed Campden tablet, stir and attach an airlock. Wait 30 days and rack, top up and reattach airlock. Wait additional 30 days and rack again. Add 1/2 teaspoon potassium sorbate and another finely crushed Campden tablet. Stir and reattach airlock. Set aside 60 days and rack. Sweeten to taste if desired and set aside 30 days. Carefully rack into bottles and set aside until next winter's holiday season. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
Spiced Tea Wine
6 teabags Bigelow Cinnamon Tea (number depends on strength desired)
1 container Welch's or Old Orchard 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate, thawed
1 lb 9 oz very fine granulated sugar
12 whole cloves
9 whole allspice
1 1/2 tsp acid blend
1 tsp yeast nutrient
7 pts water
1 pkt general purpose wine yeast
In a 5-quart pot, bring 3 pints water to boil, remove from heat and add teabags and cloves and allspice berries in a tea ball/cage. Cover and allow to steep 3-5 minutes. Remove teabags but leave the cloves and allspice berries in another 10 minutes, add sugar, stir well to dissolve, add remaining water, re-cover the tea and allow to cool to room temperature.
Combine sweet tea and all other ingredients except the yeast in a primary. Remove 1 cup of must and pour into a 1-pint container; sprinkle the yeast in it (do not stir). When yeast proves viable add to must. Cover the primary with a sanitized muslin cloth and ferment to 1.020 s.g. (about 5-7 days), then transfer to secondary. Add 1 finely crushed Campden tablet, stir and attach an airlock. Wait 30 days and rack, top up and reattach airlock. Wait additional 30 days and rack again. Add 1/2 teaspoon potassium sorbate and another finely crushed Campden tablet. Stir and reattach airlock. Set aside 60 days and rack. Sweeten to taste if desired and set aside 30 days. Carefully rack into bottles and set aside until next winter's holiday season. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
I am making all three wines in 1-gallon batches, which will give me 15 bottles of wine. I intend to open the first wine (Cinnamon Tea) at Thanksgiving and the other two over the Christmas-New Year holidays. I intend to start 3 more after Thanksgiving.
Slow Cooking At Its Best
Several months ago I acquired a new slow cooker cookbook and have been making some mighty tasty meals from it. When I like something I recommend it. I can now say that the Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook is a great investment for those who love sensational food that is easy to prepare and cook without making you a hostage to the kitchen for hours.
I have used the cookbook seven times and every dish thus far has been incredibly delicious. The recipes I have tried so far are:
Sunrise-Sunset Apple Bacon Strata -- a satisfying and tasty melding of flavors (apples, bacon, green onions, Dijon mustard, smoked Gouda cheese) with stale cubed bread; I added some diced, fire-roasted red peppers to satisfy a craving I always have for their flavor (I paired with a crisp Texas Moscato);
Cranberry Party Meatballs -- made with ground lean turkey, dried cranberries, toasted pecans, grated onion and a dozen other ingredients, these are moist and delicious meatballs that can be served as hors d'oeuvres, with a meal or in a roll for a meatball sandwich (these pair with any red wine);
Casablanca Chicken Soup -- this is a hearty, delicious soup that taught me a thing or two about blending unexpected flavors together; highly recommended for a cold winter night (I paired this soup with a chilled rosé once, my own white Mustang another time, and my own Blanc du Bois another time);
Beef Goulash -- this is the dish on the cover of the book, incredibly flavorful from an excellent blending of spices and other ingredients (I added sliced water chestnuts and celery sliced thin), served over buttered noodles or rice (I paired this with an aged Malbec once and my own Mustang another time);
Hoisin Ginger Beef Stew -- I had a favorite diner in San Francisco that served this but never had a recipe until now, and believe me this will be made often from now on; sweet and spicy, rich and lively, thick and satisfying, I served it with both buttery noodles and diced sweet potatoes (I paired this with a lively Texas Merlot and my own slightly sweet Black Raspberry);
Flamenco Stew -- this took me back to Spain, blending chorizo sausages with pork shoulder blade and a dozen other ingredients, served with roasted garlic potatoes and steamed broccoli (I paired with a Tempranillo)
Apple-Cranberry Cake -- if someone had served me this and said it was made in a slow cooker I'd have seriously doubted them, but it's true; the only things I had to buy to make this were 2 Fuji apples and a small bag of frozen cranberries; I had everything else on hand (I paired this with my own cranberry wine).
The two best things I found about this book are that (1) the print is large so you can read it easily even f you have macula degeneration as I do, and (2) every single ingredient I've needed thus far was on hand in my kitchen or pantry or readily available at my local supermarket. There was no need to drive into San Antonio to a gourmet grocery as I have done so many times in the past.
Well, I suppose there is a third and fourth thing -- (3) the recipes are easy and (4) every one seems to be a real winner. What more could one ask for?
If you are at all interested in this book, which you should be if you like to cook without a lot of work, please click HERE and order it through my Amazon portal. I will receive a small commission that will help support the costs of bringing you this WineBlog and The Winemaking Home Page. You will get a great book at a discounted price, shipping is free and I will be in your debt.
Note: I consulted 11 or 12 sources on "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" and associated songs mentioned in my entry above; not all sources are listed here because some are inconsequential, although the most consequential are buried within the texts of books and not easy to direct you to. My notes on "Danny Boy" were written some years back and I have no records of the source material.
Tuesday a friend called to inform me that his emails to me were bouncing because my mailbox was full. I deleted about 700 emails and clicked "Send/Receive", but nothing happened. I called my ISP and discovered I had to delete them from the mail server to free up room. Once I was certain what to do I deleted every message I received in 2012 as I already had them backed up on my computer.
Why do I mention this? It has something to do with the message on my Home Page asking you NOT to write to me, and warning that if you do I probably won't answer you. Despite this message, many, many people write to me anyway. Most are not looking for a response, but some are. I disappoint many but answer some. Every now and then I answer one and the person interprets that as an invitation to write to me almost daily, asking one question after another. I usually drop a hint or two and the emails stop, but sometimes I have to get rude. I hate having to do that, but today's exercise in message deletion might shed light on why it is necessary.
In 2012 I received 10,931 emails, not counting those filtered into my Spam folder. I know because I deleted them. The biggest month was December, with 1,327 emails. I'm estimating about a third were holiday or birthday greetings.
Although I don't have time to answer even 10% of the emails I receive, it might surprise you that I read almost every one of them, with the exception of obvious spam that my filter missed, obvious chain-mail, and assorted other email I can tell from the subject I don't want to read. Finally, I also don't read emails without a subject.
Please, use discretion when mailing me, and don't expect an answer. That way if I do reply you'll be surprised instead of getting upset when I don't (yes, I get nasty-grams from people I didn't reply to).
Tuesday we had a $20 rain -- a light sprinkle all day in which every drop soaked into the ground with no wasted runoff. I call it a $20 rain because that's approximately how much it saved me from having to water my 2-acre lawn. Then, around 10 o'clock at night, it turned into a real downpour that lasted most of the night.
I don't know how much rain we got. My rain gauge overflowed at 5.5 inches. But I'm grateful for every drop of it.
I woke up with "Ghost Riders In the Sky" stuck in my head. But it wasn't just any version of this classic song of the old west, but the electric rock version by The Outlaws.
The song was written by Stan Jones back in 1948, based on a folk tale he had been told when he was only 12. The story was of a cowboy who sees a herd of red-eyed, steel-hooved cattle thundering across the sky, chased by the spirits of cowboys damned to do this for eternity. One tells him he had better change his ways or he would be joining them one day.
The song, released as "Ghost Riders In the Sky," "Riders In the Sky," "Ghost Riders," and "The Legend," has been charted by The Outlaws, Vaughn Monroe, Bing Crosby, Frankie Lane, Burl Ives, Marty Robbins, The Ramrods, and Johnny Cash, but over 50 artists have recorded it. My earliest memory of it was Gene Autry singing it in the 1949 movie "Riders in the Sky." I was only 5 at the time and remember seeing it at the Round-Up Drive-In Theater in Lake Charles, Louisiana with my folks and my sister.
The following video displays the words to the song while being sung and played by The Outlaws. Enjoy....
The Outlaws omit the final verse of the song but their version is still my favorite:
As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name,
"If you want to save your soul from hell a-riding on our range,
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride
A-try'ng to catch the devil's herd
Across these endless skies."
The ghost herd in the sky.
Ghost riders in the sky.
Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours
Weighing in at 6.7 pounds, this is not a field guide and is not cheap, but it largely replaces over a dozen books in my library that together cost more than three times what this one sells for. And only one of the others uses any DNA analysis at all and even then very limitedly, mainly because it is such a recent tool and the data somewhat difficult to obtain and then interpret.
The book contains a rich variety of full-color illustrations from Viala and Vermorel's century-old classic ampelography. Truly, these are masterpieces of art of the grape. Besides the coverage of the history, growing conditions and wine potential of nearly 1,400 distinct varieties, the book also lists the many synonyms for the many varieties, an indispensible feature when trying to find a grape that has many regional names.
This work is not perfect in execution. Using extremely thin paper to keep the size manageable, it nonetheless lays 2 5/8 inches thick without the slip case. The thin paper is not opaque and print on the reverse of any page is slightly visible, making reading at times a chore. Yet if the paper were only half again as thick the book would be an unwieldy 4 inches thick and weigh over 10 pounds.
Another problem is that there are 14 pedigree charts spread throughout. Most are two pages facing, but some are facing pages with a foldout. On some charts the content dips into the binding and there cannot be read, but all of the charts are available online, thanks to Jancis (see her Purple Pages, available but only by subscription). If the missing data is important to you, it can be obtained for one month's subscription fee.
These problems aside, the book is worth every penny asked and the content is excellent. I love it. It may seem relatively expensive, but only compared to far lesser books. The book lists for $175, but is available on Amazon for $97.75 with free shipping. It can be obtained from third party book sellers for $1 less, but with shipping fees added. Considering the content, it is worth the money at either of the prices mentioned, imperfections and all.
If you are at all interested in this book, which you should be if you grow or plan to grow wine grapes, please click HERE and order it through my Amazon portal. I will receive a small commission that will help support the costs of bringing you this WineBlog and The Winemaking Home Page. You will get a great book at a discounted price and I will be in your debt.
I pulled the February-March 2013 issue of WineMaker magazine from my mailbox today and confirmed my article on making Mustang Port was in there (pp 46-51). I've had a number of emails on that subject but did not want to address it until the article came out as a professional courtesy. Since I know a lot of folks in mustang country have bags of these grapes in their freezers, let's make some port wine....
The mustang grape is not at all a perfect wine grape. It is highly and unusually flavored, rich in tannins, high in acid, and low in sugar. Despite these unseemly characteristics, it is so plentiful in Texas that the very first American and European settlers tackled the grape, determined to see what kind of wine could be made from it. What it produced was so good, albeit unlike anything they had tasted before, that they made wine by the thousands of gallons. Indeed, the first commercial wineries in Texas made Mustang Wine exclusively.
One has to add both sugar and water to mustang juice to make wine. The water is essential to dilute the acid and strong flavor, but adjusting the quantity of grapes used per gallon of wine is the biggest flavor regulator. For a "jug wine" for personal consumption I will use a little as 4 pounds of mustang grapes per gallon. For something I want to be proud of I will use between 6 and 8 pounds per gallon -- with 8 being the better number. For making a port, I generally us 10 pounds per gallon. This will produce about 3.6 pints of juice which is ameliorated with 4.4 pints of water to produce a gallon -- less water is actually required because of the volume increase from the added sugar. These numbers are for average-size grapes but big mustangs yield considerably better numbers than this (by about 50%) and thus the winemaker really has to work with what the grapes provide.
To make Port I want to start with a must chaptalized to 1.118 s.g. and fermentation arrested at 1.028. This will give me a 12% alcohol wine with some residual sweetness that I will fortify to port levels --18 to 22% abv. Fortification is accomplished according to the sound math provided by using the Pearson Square.
To use the Pearson Square, you need to know three things to solve for the other two. If you know the percentage alcohol by volume (abv) of the fortifier (A), the percentage abv of the wine to be fortified (B) and the desired abv of the port you are making (C), you can calculate the ratio of the wine (D) to fortifier (E).
For example, if the fortifier is 80-proof (40% abv) brandy, the wine is 12% abv mustang and you want a 20% abv port, subtract B (12) from C (20) to solve D (8 parts of brandy) and subtract C (20) from A (40) to solve E (20 parts of wine), or 2 parts brandy to 5 parts wine. If you have 1 US gallon (3.785 liters) of mustang wine, you need to add 2/5 of that amount (roughly 1.5 liters or 50.72 fluid ounces) of brandy, or 6 cups and 2 ounces. The result will be 5.285 liters of port, or seven 750mL bottles and a shot for your efforts.
Fermenting to a higher alcohol level will require less brandy, but with 12% abv wine the brandy required works out to exactly two 750 mL bottles of brandy. You can get by with less spirit if you use 190-proof Everclear, but the port will take longer aging to "smooth out."
Here is a recipe for Mustang Port. It uses dried malt extract as a body-builder and makes an excellent port. It also uses heat to extract color, tannins and juice from the grapes. One can eliminate the heating and simply crush the grapes cold and ferment as usual. The heat produces a deeper colored and more tannic port-styled wine, capable of aging for many, many years. This recipe is one of two in the WineMaker magazine article (three recipes if you count the one for Mustang Wine).
10 lbs ripe mustang grapes
2 lb 15.2 oz granulated sugar
1/2 c dry or extra light dry malt extract
4 pts 6 oz water
1 crushed Campden tablet
1/4 tsp acid blend
1 tsp pectic enzyme
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1 pkt recommended wine yeast*
*I strongly recommend you use one of the following wine yeasts, each of which can handle the high sugar content of the must where other yeasts might fail to even start fermentation: Red Star Pasteur Red, Lalvin BDX, ICV-D21, K1-V1116, or RC212.
Wash and destem the grapes. Place in large stainless steel pot with one cup of water and set over low to medium heat, covered, but do not allow to boil. Stir with wooden paddle every few minutes until grapes break apart and juice oozes out. Allow to cool in the pot off the heat. Meanwhile, boil remaining water and pour over sugar in crock or plastic primary, stirring to dissolve. When water has cooled, stir in dry malt extract and stir until dissolved. When grapes are tepid, pour grape juice and pulp into primary with juice. Add water mixture, acid blend, yeast nutrient and pectic enzyme. Cover and set aside 10-12 hours. Add finely crushed Campden tablet, stir, cover, and set aside another 10-12 hours. Add activated yeast in a starter solution and re-cover primary.
Use wooden paddle to push down cap twice daily for 5 days. Strain pulp into nylon straining bag and press pulp well to extract residual juice. Add pressed juice to primary and measure sg. Retain in primary until target (1.028) is reached. Add required (calculated) amount of spirit into a sanitized 3-gallon carboy and transfer wine into same to make the port.
If all that air in the 3-gallon carboy makes you nervous, either add CO2 to the carboy or add another finely crushed Campden tablet to the port. You should rack the port after 30 days and again 30 days after that. If you later decide it needs another racking, you can postpone that until bottling as the only deposits then should be errant yeast cells.
If you wish to add oak or mesquite, do so after second racking. Taste periodically to decide when to remove wood. When the port is approximately 6 months old from fortifying date, taste and decide if it needs additional sweetening to achieve balance. Bulk age until next mustang harvest and then bottle. It improves remarkably with age but you probably won't be able to resist. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
I have tasted Mustang Ports up to 40 years old. They are extremely good with age, although 40 years is pushing it. I have one that is 11 years old. I plan to drink it at 15 years, sooner if the right occasion compels it.
By the way, if you don't subscribe to WineMaker magazine, (how many times do I have to say this?) you should. You can become a new subscriber or renew a lapsed subscription by clicking on the banner image below:
With all my heart I wish a belated Happy New Year to one and all. If 2012 was not a great year for you, let's hope 2013 is better. If 2012 was great for you, let's hope 2013 is at least as good.
The 2013 WineMaker magazine International Amateur Wine Competition will be judged April 19-21. The deadline for entry is March 15th. Entry fee is $25 per wine but the sense of accomplishment, if you place, is exhilarating. Details are on the WineMaker magazine website (link following this day's entry). I mention this so you can make plans for sending in your entries. Now is not too early.
If you are not a subscriber to WineMaker magazine, you should be. It is, in my opinion, the best continuing bargain for the home winemaker one can buy. Already subscribe? Why not give a newbie or wannabe winemaker a gift subscription as a belated Christmas gift or just an act of kindness? They will forever be in your debt....
I have received six wonderful emails praising my recipe for bread pudding with Frangelico sauce published in my last WineBlog entry. I can't thank you six enough for your feedback. I was especially appreciative of this one from Constance Ryan of Chicago.
"Mr. Keller, we received a bottle of Frangelico hazelnut liqueur for Christmas and had no idea what to do with it. Your recipe was a Godsend. I used French bread instead of Italian bread because I had a fresh loaf on hand. I could not imagine that it made a great difference since it was so good, but by popular demand from my husband and two daughters I had to make it again. Since I needed bread, I bought an Italian loaf. It did make a difference. We also had another brand of spiced rum on hand which I used both times, but because the bread made a difference I sent my husband out to buy some Sailor Jerry's and another bottle of Frangelico. My third batch was exactly according to your recipe and I have to say it is the very best bread pudding any of us have ever eaten. Many, many thanks from all of us for what has already become a family favorite."
To help Constance and others use up that bottle of Frangelico on something other than my Bread Pudding with Frangelico Sauce, the next section is for you.
If you've made my Bread Pudding with Frangelico Sauce (see second intro item, above) and want to know what else you can do with that bottle of Frangelico Original Hazelnut Liqueur, here are some ideas, from simple to more complex. All are simply yummy.
Frangelico and Chocolate
2 oz Frangelico Original Hazelnut Liqueur
6 oz hot chocolate
Pour the Frangelico hazelnut liqueur into a mug of hot chocolate, stir briefly and serve. Great to serve arriving guests in front of the fireplace.
Frangelico Iced Chocolate Cake
1 oz Frangelico Original Hazelnut Liqueur
1 oz SKYY Infusion Citrus Vodka
You read it right...no chocolate in this drink, but the name fits. You can enrich it by adding an ounce of Cream de Cacao. Combine ingredients in a short rocks glass and enjoy.
1 oz Frangelico Original Hazelnut Liqueur
1 oz dark Creme de Cacao
2 oz cream
Combine, shake and pour into a v-shaped cocktail glass and garnish with cinnamon.
1 oz Frangelico Original Hazelnut Liqueur
1/2 oz Amaretto Almond Liqueur
1/2 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker half-filled with crushed ice. Strain into and old fashion glass 1/3 filled with ice cube. One sip and you'll know how it got its name.
For more recipes for Frangelico Original Hazelnut Liqueur, see the link following this day's entry.
Easy Hazelnut Wine
I was looking in the pantry for a jar of sliced dill pickles when I noticed a bottle of sugar free hazelnut syrup I had bought on sale some time back. When something stays in my pantry several months, chances are it has taken up residence. I should not allow that. I grabbed it to try in my coffee. Suddenly, something clicked in my brain and 30 minutes later I was beginning what would become a hazelnut wine.
The key to using any flavoring in a wine is to study the label carefully. This particular syrup contained both sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate as preservatives, each of which can be used to biologically stabilize a wine. That being the case, I knew I could not add this syrup to a must. But I also didn't think I needed to. I could make a neutral flavored wine and add the syrup to it after fermentation is complete.
I had several potential choices. Water and sugar will make a true neutral wine, but anyone who has made it knows it is as thin as water and actually has no redeeming value. So, my first choice was to make a rhubarb wine and add the syrup when fermentation was complete. While rhubarb has its own flavor, the wine will readily adopt just about any other flavor added to it. Unfortunately, I didn't have any rhubarb.
Next on my list of choices was to make a Niagara wine from Welch's 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate. While not a true neutral wine, it easily lends itself to added flavors. I cut my list right here and opened the freezer. Thirty minutes later I pitched yeast in a starter solution into a primary. It was an easy wine to make, so thought I'd share it with you.
To make the must, combine the following:
2 11.5-oz cans Welch's 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate, thawed
1 lb 2 oz very fine granulated sugar
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1/2 tsp acid blend
1/8 tsp powdered grape tannin
6 pts plus 1/2 cup water
1 pkt general purpose wine yeast
Combine all but the yeast in a primary. Starting specific gravity should be exactly 1.090. Remove 1 cup of must and pour into a 1 pint mason jar and sprinkle the yeast in it (do not stir). When yeast proves viable add to must. Ferment 7 days and transfer to secondary. Do not top up, add 1 finely crushed Campden tablet and attach an airlock. Wait 30 days and rack. Do not top up. Reattach airlock. Wait additional 30 days and rack again. Add 375 mL bottle (12.7 fl oz) of sugar free hazelnut syrup (any brand will do).and another finely crushed Campden tablet. Reattach airlock. Set aside 60 days. Either rack and then bottle or carefully rack into bottles and set aside 3 months before drinking. Alcohol should be about 11%. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
The syrup lifts this wine off dryness, but it isn't sweet. The hazelnut flavor is subtle but there. I think it would be better with 1 1/2 bottles of the syrup or possibly even two, but that would change the recipe and I haven't done it so cannot guide you. I've added 16 drops of hazelnut extract to the bottle I opened and that improved the flavor considerably. I arrived at 16 by first adding 10, then 2 more after stirring and tasting, then 2 more, and finally 2 more. I think 1 1/2 teaspoons to the gallon would have been about right for the whole, or the extra syrup as mentioned, but only if one wants the stronger hazelnut flavor.
Even without adding extra syrup or extract, this is a nice, subtle wine, better chilled than not. Adding the extract simply intensifies the flavor and is not considered necessary unless pairing this wine with a strong competing flavor. I initially drank this wine while enjoying Monet Original Entertainer Crackers generously covered with Giovanni's Lobster Spread with Cognac. Perhaps the richness of the spread made the addition of extract seem desirable. I finished the enhanced bottle that evening with a lettuce, spinach and cucumber salad (no dressing) and the hazelnut flavor was loud and strong. I will drink my next bottle without adding extract.
I started this entry over a week ago, but suffered a lower back injury that, while minor, nonetheless was painful and prohibited me from sitting or standing for more than a few minutes. A constant diet of muscle relaxers and pain suppressors -- and time -- finally did the trick. It's great to be able to finish it in time to say Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah (a bit late) to all.
It was nice to survive the end of the Mayan calendar. As I said to my wife last week, I think the whole great Mayan calendar of cycles simply starts over again. Why a simple alignment of only some of the planets with the center of our galaxy should somehow create a doomsday scenario has defied logic ever since I first became aware of it. Just a cursory knowledge of the calendar made it obvious to me that it would simply start over. It is, after all, a calendar of cycles, so why should it not also be cyclic. But that conclusion wouldn't sell any books, so it wasn't very popular among the spooky set who seem obsessed with finding doom and gloom everywhere, no matter how improbable. Every single day I find reason to wish logic were a required course in high school and college, regardless of one's major.
So here (lifts glass) is to the recycling of the Mayan calendar, the celebration of the rededication of the second temple of Jerusalem, the celebration of the birth of Christ, the ending of 2012, and the ushering in of the year of financial uncertainty and more political bickering. We can always depend on politicians to avoid making the tough decisions they were elected to make while spending ever more money they don't have. John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage ought to be required annual reading for every member of both houses of Congress and the President. What a collective bunch of spineless wimps! Cheers...!
A couple of weeks ago I was setting up my telescope in the back yard for a little winter sky star gazing when a very bright, steady light traversed the sky at a heady speed. I knew instantly it was the International Space Station as I had observed it many times when its passage was foretold on the news.
In due course I set my sights on my second favorite celestial sight, the spectacular Orion Nebula. Visible with the naked eye for those with normal far vision and with even the cheapest pair of binoculars for anyone willing to seek it out, it is a delight to see through the telescope. Certainly not as spectacular as the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) image on the right, it is nevertheless colorful and alluring. Estimated to be approximately 24 light years across, it is the closest region of massive star formation to earth, about 1,600 light years distant.
Over 150 protoplanetary disks have been discovered thus far in the Orion Nebula. These are clouds of hydrogen and other elements broadcast by former stars that long ago exploded that remains in gravitational orbit around newly formed stars and possess the potential of condensing into planets. These are too far away to be resolved by earth-based telescopes but are visible to the HST.
While we amateurs are drawn to the Orion Nebula in Orion's sword, it is but one of several observable nebula in the Orion Molecular Cloud, a massive nebula of which the nebula in the sword is but a bright portion. Other distinctive portions generally considered by the uninformed to be separate nebula are Barnard's Loop, the Horsehead Nebula, the Flame Nebula, and M78, the latter a huge reflection nebula illuminated by two stars of 10th magnitude brightness.
My favorite celestial object to view in my telescope is the Andromeda Galaxy, also visible with the naked eye and any pair of binoculars. Visible in the Autumn sky opposite the Big Dipper on the other side of the North Star, Andromeda lies below and to the right of Cassiopeia when viewed as a "W". While only visible to the naked eye as a small smudge, that smudge is actually the central cluster of the massive galaxy. The entire galaxy, if it could be discerned with the naked eye, is 6 x the diameter of our moon when full! It is 100,000 light years across, contains about 400 billion stars, and is 2 million light years away from us. However, our two galaxies are moving toward each other and will collide in about 4 1/2 billion years.
The beauty of the Andromeda Galaxy is that you can clearly see its spiral disk with even a modest telescope such as I own.
A Different Kind of Fermentation
Although I have long heard of kombucha as a healthy drink, I had no working knowledge of its production. Two months ago a fellow mentioned he made kombucha and drank it daily, so I tapped him for knowledge. I quickly realized it is easy to produce. All one needs is a mother culture and a cup or so of the fermented drink, just as all one needs to begin making sourdough products is a little starter culture.
Kombucha, the drink, is produced by fermenting a sweet tea with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. The yeast transform the sugar in the tea into alcohol and the bacteria convert the alcohol into acetic acid. The bacteria can contain several species, but will always contain Gluconacetobacter xylinus (formerly known as Acetobacter xylinum). The culture grows a cap on top of the batch called a mushroom, mother or SCOBY (stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). It can grow from 1/4 to 3/4 inch in thickness, depending on diameter and time it took to grow it. The greater the time, the greater the thickness. You can see the mushroom in the photo below.
The drink of often made effervescent by bottling it before fermentation is complete and forcing the carbon dioxide byproduct into the liquid. I choose not to make it that way, preferring it noncarbonated. But the drink itself contains "... a sea of health giving organic acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and nutrients. It also contains healthy bacteria in the form of Lactobacillus Acidophilus, as well as a dozen other probiotic strains.
Based on the above, there are several health claims assigned to the drink. One source claims, "Some of the benefits to drinking kombucha are that it improves digestion, boosts energy, improves circulation, prevents acid reflux, improves sleep, and it boosts the immune system." Such claims (and more) are common, but the principle benefits seem to me to be that it detoxifies the body and promotes more thorough digestion. I have done substantial reading on the subject and have found little peer-reviewed scientific evidence for these claims, although it does seem to do both, but especially assists in detoxifying the body.
The evidence for the latter is complex and I shall not attempt to do more than generally summarize it here. It appears that glucaric acid in the drink acts upon certain extreants from the liver to break these down into nondigestible constituents that are then expelled from the body. In this way it appears to improve the efficiency of the liver. While this is beneficial for all of us, there are potential side effects from kombucha itself for very small segments of the population. These are varied and rare, but that is no comfort if one is affected. To read more about both the benefits and side effects, read the Wikipedia article linked at the end of this day's entry and then refer to the references it cites.
While I can find no absolute evidence that kombucha aids digestion, I must admit it seems to help my own digestive functions. This could be completely coincidental with a period of better than normal digestion or there could be a placebo effect at play, but for now I am content to think there may be some benefit from the kombucha itself.
Photo at right: Two batches of kombucha in 1-gallon and 1/2-gallon fermentation jars, cover removed to show mushroom. Both vessels are on rubberized heating pad designed for kombucha production.
Making a batch requires four things:
A mushroom from a previous batch
1/2 to 1 up of kombucha from a previous batch
A quantity of freshly brewed tea, usually black tea but green is okay
Approximately 1 cup of sugar per gallon of tea
To begin making kombucha you need to obtain the first two items from another kombucha maker or from a vendor. The cultures (mushrooms) usually are about 51/2 to 6 inches in diameter because most gallon jars reduce to that diameter above their shoulder, but they can be any size. I use a gallon-size glass canister with a 7-inch inner diameter for my kombucha fermentation and began my first batch with a 5 3/4-inch culture, but a new mushroom formed over it and was 7 inches in diameter.
First you brew a strong tea. As I said before, black or green teas are preferred, but not blends containing substances with natural oils in them -- Orange Pekoe and Earl Grey are two to avoid. Tea bags make the process easier to manage (6-8 bags per gallon) but you can use loose tea (2 tablespoons per gallon) and strain the leaves out afterwards. After the bags/leaves have been removed, add sugar at the ratio of 1 cup per gallon and stir it until dissolved. Cover the pot of tea and allow it to cool to room temperature.
In a fermentation jar, which should be glass, ceramic or inner-glazed earthenware, place a fresh culture (mushroom) and 1/2 to 1 cup of fresh kombucha. When the tea is fully cooled, pour the sweetened tea over the mushroom. The mushroom may sink or float; it makes no difference. Cover the mouth of the jar with a closely woven cloth held by a rubber band and place the jar in a warm place.
In 2-3 days the new mushroom will have covered the surface as a thin layer, but it will grow fairly quickly. Smell the covering cloth after about a week. You should smell acetic acid as vinegar. Remove the cover and slip a straw past the edge of the new mushroom to a depth of 2 inches and take a sip. If it is sweet, replace the cover and wait. Taste it daily. It will become more acidic each day and at some point will taste "right" to you. This assumes you have tasted kombucha before. If you haven't, call your local Whole Foods or other such market and ask if they have it. I've found it in four large markets in San Antonio. Buy a bottle and drink it. It will be acidic. It will probably be effervescent. It may be flavored. But it at the vey least it will taste like kombucha.
Mine tend to taste right to me around the 10th or 11th day. At that point I slip a short racking cane (with tubing attached to the outer end) between the mushroom and the glass and siphon the new kombucha into glass bottles with screwcaps. I leave behind about a cup or two of liquid with the mother culture. When bottling is done, I lift the mushroom and remove the old one used to start this batch. It usually is stuck to the bottom of the new one, so I peel them apart and remove the old one.
The divided cultures can each be used to start a new batch of kombucha or the old culture can be given to a friend with some of the tea as a starter for his or her kombucha. I have heard that the old culture can be cut up into strips or cubes and cooked into soups, stews or other dishes like tofu and consumed. I have never tried this, but have placed them in a blender with some water and made it into a slush which I pour over my compost pile. The new kombucha culture is retained in the tea until a new batch needs to be started in a few days.
The bottled kombucha can be kept at room temperature or refrigerated. If left out, you can expect it to continue fermenting in the bottle and will become effervescent. If you do this, just be sure the bottles can withstand a little internal pressure without exploding. I refrigerate mine and drink it cold. Refrigerating it prevents it from continuing to ferment.
Plain kombucha tastes like acidic tea. The taste is easily acquired and not at all unpleasant, but with my second batch I began experimenting with adding other flavors to it. A couple of thin slices of ginger root added to the brewing tea and removed when the tea bags are removed produced a pleasant gingery flavor. Similarly, a cinnamon stick takes the flavor in another direction. I have not tried vanilla beans but could. But I have crushed and strained some store-bought blackberries and added the juice to the kombucha as it is bottled. This sweetens the kombucha slightly while flavoring the drink.
As with winemaking, the making of kombucha should be done in a clean, sanitize environment using sanitized equipment, fermentation vessels and bottles. If bottles are left at room temperature or a batch is fermented at too cold, it is possible for mold to grow on its surface and spoil it. However, once it starts becoming acidic it is usually protected against spoilage by the acetic acid. I have never experienced spoilage yet. To ensure a warm fermentation environment I place my working batch on a rubberized heating pad designed for kombucha production.
Kombucha can be consumed at any time, but I drink mine with or just after a meal. If there are in fact digestive benefits to kombucha, this seems the most reasonable way of obtaining them.
There are dozens of sources online for obtaining kombucha mushrooms and enough fresh kombucha to start a batch. I obtained the heating pad from one of the sources when I purchased my starter culture.
Bread Pudding with Frangelico Sauce
Back in April 2010 my wife, son and granddaughter vacationed on Galveston Island after my retirement and ate shrimp platters and other repasts at Bistro LaCroy on the Strand. After the meal, owner Tommie LaCroy served us a bread pudding which he claimed would be the best bread pudding we had ever eaten or it would be on him. Well, it was indeed the best bread pudding any of us had ever eaten and I gladly paid the bill. I have been trying ever since, without success, to make a bread pudding that held a candle to it. Well, I have come close.
Any bread pudding aficionado will tell you that it is the sauce that makes it or breaks it. This belief is only 75% true. Tommie's bread budding, which is made from a secret family recipe, is fantastic in itself. The sauce simply makes it exceptionally decadent.
I have given up trying to duplicate the LaCroy bread pudding, even though Tommie's cousin and Bistro LaCroy co-proprietor Barbara Davis shared a few secrets about it with us. I am convinced minor details were left out that make a difference -- the particular brands of key ingredients perhaps, or the particular bread used. And she simply clued us in on certain ingredients, not their proportions. Since I now realize I cannot duplicate LaCroy's fabulous bread pudding, I am instead trying to make a bread pudding that makes a statement in its own right.
My latest attempt took liberties Tommie LaCroy did not, adding Frangelico Original Hazelnut Liqueur to both the bread pudding and the sauce. It gives it a complex flavor my previous attempts lacked. I also used a different sugar that, I am convinced, also adds a little je ne sais quoi to the result. Finally, and this is very important, I used golden raisins soaked overnight at room temperature in enough Sailor Jerry's Spiced Rum to cover the raisins with another 1/2 inch of the rum above them. Take a look....
6 cups Italian bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes, crust on
1/2 cup golden raisins soaked overnight in Sailor Jerry's Spiced Rum (divided) (any spiced rum will do, but Sailor Jerry's is exceptional)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons Frangelico Original Hazelnut Liqueur
2/3 cup Zulka brand Morena Pure Cane Sugar
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 jumbo or 4 large eggs, beaten lightly and strained through wire mesh
1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed (crumble finely before using)
1/4 cup pecan pieces, chopped small
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup Zulka brand Morena Pure Cane Sugar
1/3 cup light Karo Corn Syrup
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup Frangelico Original Hazelnut Liqueur
Optional (see Note):
Hershey's Caranmel Syrup
On the night before making the pudding, measure the raisins, place in a lidded container, and cover with Sailor Jerry's Spiced Rum to 1/2 inch above raisins. Place lid on container and set aside unrefrigerated until needed the next day. Before using, drain the raisins over a bowl to retain the rum. Transfer rum to a glass and set aside.
In a bowl large enough to hold all of the pudding ingredients (2-quart is minimal, 2 1/2-quart about right), combine the milk, Frangelico, Zulka Morena sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, sea salt, and beaten eggs and stir well with a whisk. Add the bread in stages, tossing to coat as you go. When the bread is all in, add half the raisins and continue tossing to mix in. Spoon the mixture into a greased (I use butter-flavored Crisco) 11-inch x 7-inch baking dish. Distribute remaining raisins evenly over mixture, pressing each one between pieces of the bread. Cover the baking dish with foil and refrigerate for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the pudding, foil covered, for 20 minutes. Remove, uncover and sprinkle pecan pieces and brown sugar evenly over the top. Lightly dust the top with cinnamon (using a clean salt shaker to distribute the cinnamon works very well). Return to oven uncovered and bake an additional 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside on cooling rack.
While baking the final 12-15 minutes, prepare the sauce. Combine sugar, corn syrup, butter and vanilla in a small saucepan and set on medium heat. Stir constantly while bringing to a simmer, holding simmer for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in the Frangelico Liqueur. Transfer to a serving bowl equipped with a gravy ladle. Ladle sauce generously over each serving of warm bread pudding.
If you want a stiffer sauce, you can add 1 small egg, beaten, into the corn syrup before combining for the simmer.
Note: For a truly decadent bread pudding, very lightly dribble Hershey's Caramel Syrup over the bead pudding before ladling the Frangelico sauce over each serving piece. By lightly, I mean a thin dribble making an "S" pattern over a square or double "S" over a rectangular serving. The caramel need not be heated as the pudding and sauce will both transfer their heat.
I swear, short of visiting Bistro LaCroy on the Strand in Galveston, bread pudding doesn't get much better than this.
Wow. It's December 5th already! Only 20 days until Christmas. I have to get my packages in the mail soon.
Sometime in the past couple of days I must have heard a commercial that played the song "Happy Holidays" because I woke up with it in my head this morning, complete with full orchestration. It took several hours for it to play out and allow my head to be music free.
Then I ran to Wal-Mart for some mouthwash and laundry detergent and they were playing Christmas music. Yes, just as I dug out my wallet to pay they played "Happy Holidays."
After I post this blog entry I'm going to put on a CD of nature sounds and do some meditation....
Victoria, artist proof, by Christine Rosamond, 1976, image copyrighted by Rosamond Publishing, used under fair use doctrine of 1984
I was talking recently to a friend in Virginia I have not seen in over 20 years. Somehow the conversation turned to things we collect and after a bit he asked what I considered my most prized possession. Without hesitation I said my artist proof of Christine Rosamond's "Victoria," pictured here. It hangs in my living room above a love seat. I purchased it and the majority of my Rosamonds from the late Garver Johnson at his Royce Galleries, in Denver.
Christine Rosamond (1947-1994) was an exceptional, self-taught artist. She exhibited her first work in Los Angeles in 1972 and within six months would achieve national acclaim. By the time I discovered her in 1976, she had become the most published artist in the world, surpassing even Norman Rockwell and Salvadore Dali. And yet, even today her name is not well-known.
On March 26, 1994 the world lost this very talented and treasured artist on the Pacific's rocky coast. My friend and former wife, Michele, called from half-way across the country the next morning to tell me Christine had drowned while swimming near Big Sur with her daughter. She was caught by a rouge wave and swept away. Her daughter survived.
The artistic legacy of Christine Rosamond is a body of work which eloquently expresses the essence of femininity with a simple charm and beauty that can only originate in the heart of the artist. She was a master of using negative space to complete her compositions. This can clearly be seen in "Victoria."
I own 19 Rosamonds. I collect many things but value these above all else. But I value "Victoria" foremost.
As an aside, I am amused by how many websites have plagiarized entire sections of my tribute page to Christine Rosamond, omitting only the personal perspectives I included. I suppose if you can't write (or rewrite), you plagiarize. Attribution would have been nice (and proper), but we live in a society growing less respectful every day. I'd better leave it at that....
Oh, and some of what I wrote above was cut and pasted from my own tribute page. In other words, I plagiarized myself.
A reader asked me if I had a recipe for nannyberry wine. My response was sincere and accurate as far as I knew, but upon reflection I realized it was only a partial answer. So let me try to do a better job here.
Nannyberry is a name assigned to the berries of several plants in the large bush to small tree category but two dominate. In the South the names nannyberry, southern nannyberry and rusty nannyberry refer to Viburnum refidulum, also known as the bluehaw, blackhaw, southern blackhaw and rusty blackhaw. It can reach a height of 30 feet, produces large clusters of white flowers in the spring that give way to dark blue to blue-black fruit in the autumn. They sport a central disc that contains the seed. The pulp is thin but very tasty, a cross in flavor between raisins, prunes and dates with the sweetness of the latter.
From Kentucky and Virginia north into Canada and west into Colorado and Wyoming the names nannyberry, sheepberry, wild raisin, blackhaw, and sweet virburnum refer to Virburnum lentago. It is a slow growing shrub that reaches small tree heights of up to 28 feet. Their taste has been described as "hints of banana, prunes, raisins and even a slight 'holiday spice,' all with the distinctive and unique Nannyberry flavor."
"The fruit is dramatically different from others in the fact that it is only ripe when it looks slightly overripe. That is, when it is just beginning to wrinkle like a raisin. Also, the texture is unique in that it is not really juicy, but more fig-like...." [See link below for source of quotes.]
For eating, the fruit to seed ratio presents a problem. A large central seed is best removed in bulk by gently simmering them in a little water for 30-60 minutes and then running them through a food mill while still hot. The seeds are separated and the harvest becomes "the distinctive puree of Nannyberry: a thick, black creamy pudding." This need not be done to make nannyberry wine, but it would certainly make the yeast's job a lot easier.
The recipe for the southern nannyberry or southern blackhaw is posted elsewhere on my site (see link following this day's entry). I had assumed the recipe for the northern nannyberry, the Virburnum lentago, was the same, but it is not. I offer here a different recipe, with apologies to the reader who wrote me requesting it.
A note of warning here: this wine should be fermented with a wrapping around the carboy or in a dark closet. The photo at the right shows that fermenting and aging in ambient room light degrades the color from deep reddish-purple to a dull red, but the flavor was not affected as far as I could determine. I live and learn and report it here so you can avoid my mistakes.
3 1/2 lbs ripe nannyberries, destemmed
1 lb 12 oz finely granulated sugar
7 pts water
1 1/2 tsp acid blend
1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1 pkt Red Star Pasteur Red or Lalvin RC212 wine yeast
Destem and wash the berries, then place them in a pot with 1 quart water, bring to a simmer and maintain for 45 minutes. Place a ricer or metal colander over a large bowl and mash the fruit, working the cooking water and pulp through the ricer/colander. Discard seeds. Retain water and pulp and, while still hot, stir sugar into it until completely dissolved. Transfer to primary, add remaining water, acid blend, yeast nutrient and pectic enzyme. Stir briefly, cover with sanitized cloth and set aside for 12 hours. Add activated yeast in a starter solution, re-cover the primary and stir daily for 7 days. Strain through muslin into secondary, squeezing muslin to extract all juice. Do not top up. Attach airlock and ferment 30 days in a dark place.
Rack into clean secondary, stir in a finely crushed Campden tablet , top up, reattach airlock and set aside in dark place. Rack again in 45 days and again after an additional 45 days, stirring in another finely crushed Campden tablet and 1/2 teaspoon potassium sorbate during this racking. Wait 30 days and carefully rack into bottles. Cellar at least 3 months in darkness before tasting, but should improve greatly at 12 months. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
Chicken Recipe With A Spicy Tang
One of my father's favorite dishes is mustard chicken. I've made it many times, many ways, having adopted my father's love for it after making it just once. There are scores of ways to prepare a dish that fits the name, but I like to create my own. This one would win a prize if I knew where to enter it.
First a word about mustard. There are mustards and there are culinary mustards. In America mustard is that bright yellow stuff most people use to adorn a hot dog or sandwich but is just not well suited for incorporating into a cooked dish. Mustard is also that brownish stuff that tastes more refined -- i>Grey Poupon is one of the better known brown mustards that cooks well. For sandwiches and burgers I have always preferred a brown honey mustard, but for cooking I preferred brown mustards with some fire in them -- mustard with chipotle is nice, but mustard with horseradish is better. But for a spicy mustard, the mustard I used here is now my standard.
Based on a recommendation, I tried Colman's Original English Prepared Mustard for this dish with a certain skepticism. It isn't bright yellow, but still more yellow than brown. My recipe below changed my impression, for this is a true, spicy culinary mustard and this dish is the proof.
Colman has been making their Original English Prepared Mustard for nearly 200 years. It is made from a blend of brown (Brassica Juncea) and white (Sinapis Alba) mustard seeds grown locally near the Carrow factory at Norwich, England. Don't make this dish with any other mustard! Trust me on that.
Jack Keller's Mustard Chicken Thighs
8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2/3 cup Colman's Original English Prepared Mustard (no substitution)
3/4 cup Panko style bread crumbs (any brand, but no substitution)
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 1/2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
hot paprika to taste (or mild, if you prefer)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a non-stick oil in a 1 1/2 or 2-quart baking dish.
Brush the chicken thighs on all sides with the Colman's mustard. Place the Panko bread crumbs in a shallow dish and press the chicken thighs into the crumbs and turn to evenly coat all sides. Arrange the chicken thighs in the sprayed baking dish, smooth side (where the skin was removed) up. The chicken will exude a lot of water, chicken juices and some fat while cooking -- from the cut (deboned) side.
In a bowl, mix the remainder of the mustard, melted butted, lemon juice, water, onion powder and garlic powder. Dribble about one tablespoon of this mixture over each chicken thigh and pour the remainder around and between the thighs.
Cover the baking dish and bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven. Uncover, sprinkle the paprika over each thigh and continue baking, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
In the South, mustard chicken is traditionally served with rice. After the chicken thighs are placed on serving plates and a side of rice added, quickly stir the drippings and residual mustard mixture, pour into a gravy boat and use to lightly dribble over the rice. Any vegetable side will complete the meal but green beans, buttered broccoli, okra, or cooked (but not overcooked) carrots are good choices. I paired this with a Kumquat Wine my friends in Tennessee sent me. It was the right choice.
Christine Rosamond 1947-1994, My second tribute to Rosamond, March 2000, after the first tribute was removed at the insistance of Stacey Pierrot of Rosamond Publishing
I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving with loved ones. It is a day for being thankful for abundancy -- in harvest, in blessings, in love, fellowship and caring, and in life's rewards. Rewards are not merely material or financial in nature, and in fact life's greatest rewards are neither.
Thanksgiving in America is usually a huge meal centered around a turkey. I am not a great turkey fan, so I prepared a boneless leg of lamb roast.
My method was simple. I prepared a moist rub of minced garlic, fresh rosemary (chopped), coarsely ground white pepper, lemon juice, warmed coconut oil, and two teaspoons of a dry white wine I had open, rubbed the roast well, seared it in a hot oven (450 degrees F.), and then reduced the heat to 325 and cooked it until the internal temperature was 126 F.
I removed it from the oven, poured the drippings into a saucepan and tented the lamb with aluminum foil. After 20 minutes the internal temperature read 132 F. and I carved it. Meanwhile I prepared the drippings into a sauce with two tablespoons of Geaux Ragin Cajun's Louisiana Sweet Blueberry Pepper Jam. I served it with roasted carrots and parsnips and whole leaf spinach cooked in butter alone.
I was going to pair it with Brushy Creek 2009 Rachel's Reserve Tannat, but at the last minute decided to open my final bottle of my own 2009 Blueberry Mead to pair with the sauce. I'm glad I did. It was absolutely perfect, although I was surprised it had aged so well.
I will get many meals out of the leftover lamb, and leftovers are my favorite part of Thanksgiving meals.
I don't know where these things come from. I woke up this morning with the 1950 Patti Page hit "The Tennessee Waltz" stuck in my head. I have no idea when I last heard that song, but I would guess over 40 years ago. So why was it in my head when I woke up and what part of memory could it have escaped from? Since I wake up with a song in my head every 2-3 days, I'd sure like to know the answers. There's a file in my head I need to keep closed when I sleep.
"The Tennessee Waltz," lyrics by Redd Stewart and music by Pee Wee King, was Patti Page's career signature song, hitting number 1 on Billboard in December 1950, staying there for 13 weeks and charting for a total of 30 weeks. It was her second number 1 song -- the first was "All My Love (Bolero)", which hit number 1 in mid-1950 -- and her third million-record seller (her first was "With My Eyes Wide Open, I'm Dreaming", also released in 1950). "Tennessee Waltz" sold over 7 million copies in the early 1950s and has sold nearly 15 million copies to date. It holds the distinction of being the last song to sell a million sheet music copies. Up until 1974, it was the all-time best selling song in Japan. Who'd have guessed that?
Patti Page had a career 110 chart hits, recorded 40 studio and 2 live albums, and was the first artist to over-dub her own songs with harmonies. Her 1947 "Confess" was the first over-dubbed song.
Patti Page was born Clara Ann Fowler in Oklahoma, where she was raised, and her roots were country. Mitch Miller, who controlled Mercury Recordsduring the 1950s when Page was recording there, liked the simple-structured melodies and storylines in country music and adapted them to pop music. Patti Page was keen to this idea and many of her songs charted both on the pop and country charts. In 1973 she decisively switched to country music as a career path. As a result, she is one of very few vocalists to make the country charts in five separate decades. "The Tennessee Waltz" is one of her crossover songs.
I was dancin' with my darlin'
To the Tennessee Waltz
When an old friend I happened to see
I introduced her to my loved one
And while they were dancin'
My friend stole my sweetheart from me
I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz
Now I know just how much I have lost
Yes, I lost my little darlin'
The night they were playing
The beautiful Tennessee Waltz
Too Full Flor Dessert
I was recently introduced to a wonderful cocktail I want to share with you. I was going to serve this at Thanksgiving but lacked an essential ingredient. Instead I served vanilla ice cream with a sweet Maraschino Cherry-Chocolate Wine sent to me from Tennessee. Now, having assembled the necessary ingredients, I made myself a "Too Full Flor Dessert" cocktail and have to say it is incredible.
First, a word about the "essential" ingredients. I cannot imagine any substitutions. Each is so unique that I consider them essential. You will need Flor De Caña 7-year Grand Reserve Rum, Diego Zamora Licor 43, chocolate ice cream and vanilla syrup; four mint leaves as garnish are less essential but add a little je ne sais quoi to the overall that should be included if at all possible, especially if you are making it for guests. The ingredients are:
2 oz Flor De Caña 7-year Grand Reserve Rum
4 mint leaves
1 scoop chocolate ice cream
Â˝ oz vanilla syrup
Â˝ oz Diego Zamora Licor 43
Pour all ingredients except the mint leaves in a mixing glass. Shake for 20 seconds. Serve in a chilled martini glass with the mint leaves as garnish.
Alternative recipe. Bruise four mint leaves. Pour all ingredients in a mixing glass. Shake for 20 seconds. Serve in a chilled martini glass with the mint leaves incorporated. This version allows the mint to impart a very slight flavor to the cocktail but is not as pretty a presentation.
Flor De Caña 7-year Grand Reserve Rum is an exceptional rum and can be used in any classic rum cocktail with excellent results. Here's another recipe that requires fewer ingredients and is very flavorful.
Pour the following into a chilled mixing glass:
1 oz Flor De Caña 7-year Grand Reserve Rum
1 oz fresh lemon juice
2 oz white cranberry juice
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with two maraschino cherries on a skewer.
Vanilla Margarita 43
Don't buy a bottle of Licor 43 just for the Too Full Flor Dessert cocktail. Buy it because it is a great liqueur that is delicious all by itself on the rocks and centers in many other cocktails as well. Its taste is a blend of Mediterranean flavors with hints of vanilla and citrus. The Vanilla Margarita 43 is my favorite:
3/4 oz Licor 43
3/4 oz tequila (I use Patron Silver)
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
Shake and strain over crushed ice in a margarita glass (rim salted or not, according to taste ad diet). Garnish with a slice or wedge of lime and enjoy!
I received an inquiry concerning making wine with frozen pawpaws. The writer noted that his pawpaws had turned brown in the freezer and asked if they could still be used for wine. He also asked if I knew of a way to keep pawpaws from turning brown in the freezer. I have answers.
Pawpaws, botanically known as Asimina triloba, are truly an American fruit. Related to the cherimoya, atamoya, guanabana, and soursop, pawpaws are the only member of the Annonaceae family adapted to temperate zones. They grow in 28 eastern states and portions of Ontario.
Pawpaw fruit have a custard-like texture, a unique, tropical flavor and a fruity, floral aroma. Native Americans prized them so dearly they are one of the few trees they cultivated. George Washington savored them chilled as a dessert. Lewis and Clark subsisted on them for a period. In short, it is a superb fruit completely overlooked by the majority of Americans today. But, I digress.
Let's handle the second and third questions first.
Yes, you can still use the brown pawpaw flesh for wine. The brown color is oxidation and the pigment will precipitate out after fermentation. The oxidation will not be transferred to the wine.
Preventing the browning is relatively easy. I'm sure there are several methods that will work, but I will only report the method I know personally.
You must begin before you cut the fruit. Fill a large bowl or stock pot about a third full with cold water. Add to it 2 tablespoons of Fruit Fresh, an anti-browning agent, and stir to dissolve. Now cut the fruit in half lengthwise and deseed them. There is no need to remove the sac around each seed but you may if you wish. It is both edible and fermentable. The seeds, however, are neither and must be removed.
Once the seeds are removed, use a large spoon and begin separating the pulp from the inner peel. Drop each spoonful into the water. Continue until all the pawpaws are finished.
One usually freezes pawpaws in the amount to be used at some future date in a recipe. They bake well and can be used in any bread, cake, pie or pastry recipe calling for bananas or applesauce. They are excellent in puddings and ice cream. They can be frozen in freezer containers or freezer-weight ZipLoc bags. Simply remove them from the water and pack them in the container or bag, pressing out all the air between pieces. If placed in a plastic container, plastic wrap can be pressed against the pulp to seal any air from the fruit and then closed with a lid and frozen. In a bag, once the air is pressed out the bag is sealed and frozen.
Frozen in 3-pound lots, each flavoring a gallon of wine, the pulp can be thawed and used without further preparation. The wine is best dry and served chilled. It should not exceed 12.5% alcohol.
3 lbs ripe pawpaw pulp, thawed if previously frozen
1 lb 13 oz finely granulated sugar
7 pts water
1 1/2 tsp citric acid
1 tsp pectic enzyme
1/4 tsp powdered grape tannin
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Champagne wine yeast
Put the water on to boil. Put the thawed fruit pulp in a nylon straining bag, tie closed, and place the bag in your primary. Mash the pulp in the bag, pour the sugar over the fruit and, when boiling, pour the water over that. Cove the primary and set aside to cool. When at room temperature, add all ingredients except the yeast. Recover the primary and set aside 12 hours. Add activated yeast as a starter solution. When the must is fermenting vigorously, stir twice daily for 7 days.
Drain the bag and squeeze very gently to extract most of the juice and flavor, then discard the pulp and transfer the liquid to a secondary. Attach an airlock and set aside for 2 months. Rack into a sanitized secondary, add a finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet, top up and refit airlock. Rack and check wine for clarity after 2 months, then again if necessary after an additional 2 months. If wine has not cleared by then, fine with gelatin, wait two weeks, and rack carefully into bottles. Age an additional 6-12 months in the bottles. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
This week greeted me with a lot of wine. I received the two bottles of Tannat I purchased from Brushy Creek Vineyards and Winery, two bottles from a winemaker in Florida who asked for an evaluation of each, and eight bottles from a winemaking couple in Tennessee who also asked for evaluations. It will take awhile to work my way through them, but I'll do my best.
I have already started evaluating the wines -- beginning with the Tannat. I received two bottles, the unoaked and Rachel's Reserve, a reputedly oaked wonder by Rachael Cook, Brushy Creek's esteemed winemaker. I wanted to try one -- I didn't know which -- with a nice rib eye steak.
The steak I selected at the market was thick, well marbled but not too large. I pricked it on both sides with a fork (you do it your way, I'll do it mine) and placed it in a Zip-Loc bag containing Dale's Seasoning for an hour, flipping it at half-time.
I grilled it over hot charcoal. Just before centering the steak I spread a handful of soaking wet hickory chips on the charcoal to create a thick smoke, placed the steak, and set the domed cover on the grill to lock in the smoke. After 8 minutes I basted the steak with Dale's and turned it over, then replaced the cover. After 6 1/2 minutes I moved the steak to a dinner plate and sided it with a generous helping of steamed and buttered asparagus. Simplicity itself.
I tasted the steak and only then decided to open the unoaked bottle. I did not want to mix hickory and oak. The wine was deep red -- not quite garnet -- and smelled of something as I poured it. Truffles? Some unknown woodlands herb? Not sure, but in the glass it had an earthiness to it that promised depth (and it certainly had that).
I cut another bite of steak and kept smelling the wine while I chewed. I swear I smelled saddle leather in there somewhere, and I am not one who has ever used leather to describe a wine before. But this wasn't any leather. This was the smell of a saddle after you've been in it 3-4 hours. Only this leather had herbal undertones...and something else. Dark chocolate? Not possible.
I took a very large sip. It was very full bodied and sank in my mouth. Great gripping tannins. Dear Lord, Les Constable has put blackcurrants and black raspberries in it. Absolutely wonderful. I started jotting down notes as I swallowed -- long finish, very satisfying residual flavors all throughout the mouth. Another bite of steak. Fantastic blending of wine and rib eye as I chewed. Have to remember to eat the asparagus....
Well done Brushy Creek, well done.
Regina Brett, on Doug Miles' podcast on RadioSRQ
Regina Brett is a columnist for Cleveland's The Plain Dealer. In 2006 she wrote a column entitled "50 Life Lessons", which has since been the most distributed column she has written to date, and has been expanded to fifty chapters in her 2010 book, "God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours". Regina's "50 Life Lessons" have been published on other blogs and Facebook, as well as linked to on Twitter. They are so common sensical and yet insightful I am posting them here for any who have not seen them, with deep appreciation to Regina Brett for sharing them with us.
1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.
18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.
19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
45. The best is yet to come.
46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
48. If you don't ask, you don't get.
50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.
If you weren't awed, read them again...slowly.
One more "rambling" entry and we'll get on to winemaking.
Powerline, a conservative blog, held a competition earlier this year with a cash prize for whoever could most effectively and creatively dramatize the significance of the federal debt crisis. Any creative product was eligible: videos, songs, paintings, screenplays, Power Point presentations, essays, performance art, or anything else. Several entries have gotten a lot of attention and a lot of views or listens. But unquestionably, the hands down winner in People's Choice voting (62%) was "The Doorbell."
You may have seen this elsewhere as it has had well over 1,000,000 views on Power Line Channel, YouTube, Big Hollywood, and other venues. Enjoy reality....
The bottom line will increase greatly by 2016, so remember who you voted for.
Pumpkin Pie Wine for the Holidays
A woman wrote me today and asked if I could give her a recipe for a pumpkin pie wine she could make for the holidays. I told her pumpkin pie wine takes two years to age, but I explained how to infuse a white wine with pumpkin pie spices for this year and also provided her a recipe for a wine she could start now for the 2014 holidays.
To infuse a wine take a shot glass (tall one if you have it) and add to it 1 1/2 teaspoons of prepared pumpkin pie spices (we use McCormick brand) and then very gently pour vodka over it until the liquid reaches the line for a shot of liquor. If you want to stir the spices in you can, but they will soak into the vodka soon enough. Carefully cover it with a piece of trimmed paper napkin, paper coffee filter or paper towel and secure it with a rubber band. Set aside in a cool place (even a corner of the refrigerator will do) undisturbed for a month.
The day before serving, open a bottle of sweet Moscato or other wine of choice and pour some into another shot glass up to the shot line. Drink this. Place a funnel into the bottle and line it with a paper coffee filter. Very carefully remove the paper covering from the shot of spices and vodka. Very slowly pour the vodka into the funnel, trying NOT to disturb the spices on the bottom of the glass. I would stop pouring as the spices start to flow into the funnel, but if you have lots of patience go ahead and pour them in. They will clog the coffee filter and it could take hours to drain completely unless you are very fortunate.
When the vodka has all drained into the wine lift the coffee filter and gather it. Gently squeeze it with your fingertips to get the last drop out and discard the filter. Place the cork (or a stopper) into the wine bottle, chill and serve it the next day.
Pumpkin Pie Wine Recipe
You have a choice here. You can use sweet pie pumpkins (those small ones, labeled as Sweet Pumpkins or Pie Pumpkins) or Hubbard squash. Most people don't know this, but 90% (or higher) of all commercial pumpkin pies are made from Hubbard squash. They are far cheaper per pound than pie pumpkins, are immensely larger, have much thicker meat to work with, and when baked with pumpkin pie spices are indistinguishable from pumpkin.
Other squash that could be used, with lesser "pumpkin" flavor but still good, are acorn squash, butternut squash or turban squash.
Hubbard squash are huge, grayish-blue in color (although crosses with pumpkin come out pumpkin-orange or variated), and sort of football shaped or pumpkin shaped. They are near impossible to cut into with an ordinary knife. You'll need a meat cleaver, a hatchet or a large butcher knife and a hammer to start the cut. Once cut in half and deseeded, you can cut long strips of squash (2-3 inches wide) and then cut these into pieces and separate the flesh easily enough from the peeling. But one Hubbard will produce a LOT of flesh -- consider making wine, a couple of pumpkin pies and a casserole (use your favorite sweet potato casserole recipe) or two.
This recipe uses Hubbard squash and makes one gallon. To scale up, do the math.
5 lbs ripe Hubbard squash flesh, grated
2 lbs Demerara (or Turbnado) sugar (light brown sugar is a poor substitute)
11-oz can of Welch's 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate
zest and juice of 3 Valencia oranges
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp finely diced ginger root
3 3-inch sticks cinnamon
6-8 whole cloves
1/4 tsp powdered grape tannin
6 1/2 pts water
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Champagne wine yeast
Put water on stove to boil. Cut and remove seeds from squash. Peel and grate squash and place in nylon straining bag with zest, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Tie closed and set in primary. Remove water from heat and stir sugar and Welch's concentrate into water until sugar is dissolved and pour over nylon bag. Cover and set aside to cool. When cooled to room temperature, add citrus juice, tannin and yeast nutrient. Stir and add yeast in a starter solution. Re-cover and stir daily, punching down the bag each time, until specific gravity drops to 1.010 or below.
Remove and drip drain bag (do not squeeze). Discard bag contents. Transfer to secondary, add one finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet, stir gently and fit airlock. Rack every two months for six months. Stabilize with one finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet and 1/2 teaspoon potassium sorbate and let sit 10 days -- 30 days if you sweten it -- then rack into bottles. Cellar two years at least before drinking. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
Honestly, you should make at least 3 gallons. One large Hubbard will certainly support that.
Do NOT be tempted to taste this wine early. You will be disappointed. It should be ready for the 2014 holidays but if still rough save it for later. If you freeze the grated squash in gallon Zip-Locs with most of the air pressed out and start it next July, it will be perfect for the 2015 holidays.
With wines planned for holiday consumption, you have to plan well ahead. Hubbards, pie pumpkins and other substitutes are winter squash and will not be available in July, so buy now, start ther wine no or prepare the squash and freeze for future use.
A winemaker in Iceland wrote to me about sluggish fermentations in three wines -- bilberry, crowberry (fresh) and crowberry (cooked). He sent along a chart he had prepared showing the rate of fermentation. There was no doubt the fermentation rate was slower than expected but only one must appeared in actual trouble. I replied with an educated guess and eight days later he sent me another chart showing great improvement. The thing is, he worked out the solution all on his own.
I focused on two things. First, the data he sent me. In addition to the first chart shown here, he also plotted the temperature of the bilberry wine using an in-the-wine probe that recorded the temperature every three minutes. All three wines are in a fermentation chamber (a converted freezer) kept at 21 degrees C (69.8 degrees F.) with a 0.5 C swing in either direction at very regular intervals. This is very close to the lower tolerance of the yeast he is using (RC212).
Secondly, I pointed him to a piece I wrote in my April 24th, 2007 WineBlog entry on "Undisclosed Ingredient." This concerns the propensity of certain berries, bilberries being one of them, that naturally contain benzoic acid in increasing amounts the farther north the berries are grown. In the entry I propose a strategy to overcome this acid, which renders yeast incapable of reproduction and thus sticks a fermentation. My implication was that he may have to resort to using this strategy, which is time and resource intensive.
To be fair, he actually included data that I somewhat ignored. For example, he informed me of his feeding of the yeast with both DAP and Fermaid-K and his plans to add more Fermaid-K; he asked if I thought he should add more DAP as well but I neglected to answer that question. He also said that all three musts were below pH 3.0 -- one at 2.8 and the other two at 2.5 He asked if the yeast were capable of sustaining fermentation in that acidic an environment. Again, I was focused on the northern latitude and actually thought his problem was with the bilberry, as the other two seemed to me to be fermenting fine, albeit slowly, and so I did not answer that inquiry either. My bad!
Exactly how he came up with his own "fix" is not clear to me, but it was excellent deduction. He examined the chemistry of his wines and decided to raise the pH of his cooked crowberry wine (identified as "krækiber cooked" on the charts) just to see what would happen. He raised it to 3.0 using potassium carbonate and after 24 hours saw a doubling of s.g. decrease. He then did that to the raw crowberry and the bilberry (albláber on the charts). All three wines increased their fermentation rate as a result, as seen on the second chart.
I should also report that he added 6.67g of DAP to the bilberry and saw an increase in fermentation rate after both DAP and pH corrections of three times the previous rate. After another 24 hours the rate doubled again.
As much as I would like to, I can take no credit for these improvements. I was so narrowly focused on the potential benzoic acid problem that I put on blinders and did not look at all the data with as much attention as I should have. I congratulate the winemaker for an excellent job of self-analysis.
Lessons to be taken away from this case study are that very low pH can indeed affect the fermentation rate of some musts, especially using RC212 yeast. Additionally, increased feeding during sluggish fermentation can also increase the rate of fermentation.
Actually, I should have done much better on this one than I did. All too often people send me problems with almost no data on their wine or how they are making it and expect me to pull a miracle out of the air. What is more amazing is that I very often pull it off. But here was a well presented case with lots of data and case history and I fluffed it. I am embarrassed, but I highlighted the case here because I am really proud of this winemaker. Way to go Manuel (a nice Icelandic name)!
You folks are too kind. I received a couple of donations to help offset the expense of maintaining the WineBlog and Winemaking Home Page. I received numerous emails thanking me for my military service, commenting on the quotes from Alexis de Tocqueville, and commenting on my photos from our Vancouver Island trip. I received two regarding Tannat and Brushy Creek Tannat in particular and a few comments on the Kristy Lee Cook song I linked to. Interestingly, my entry on extended maceration drew no comments and I had three emails mentioning my string bean wine recipe.
Thank you all for your emails and continued support and understanding about email -- I answer very few so that I have some time for my own affairs, and I don't mean the General Petraeus or President Clinton kind of affairs.
I have much to write about today, so will dispense with my usual opening ramblings and jump right in. I hope you find something of interest here.
Postscript: It has taken me all day to get this written. Numerous interruptions were partly to blame, but the biggest setback was a power flicker and -- wouldn't you think I'd have learned by now? -- I hadn't saved it once since writing my short intro. I don't think my rewrite is as good as the original, but we'll never really know.
It is not often that an indigenous grape garners any recognition, so when one is responsible for a winery winning Wine Enthusiast magazine's Wine Star Award for "European Winery of the Year," you just have to stop and take notice. The grape is Sagrantino, claimed to be the most tannic grape in the world and an indigenous varietal of Umbria, central Italy. The winery is Arnaldo Caprai. The wine is inky purple with a bouquet of dark red fruit and aged a minimum of 30 months before release, but only if then ready.
Sagrantino is an indigenous varietal of unknown origins grown in and around the village of Montefalco. Sagrantino di Montefalco was granted DOCG status in 1991, must be 100% Sagrantino, aged 30 months -- 12 in oak barrels -- before release. The wine was historically made in a dessert style or used in blending until 1976, when winemakers started making it in a dry style as well.
The Arnaldo Caprai winery wonWine Enthusiast magazine's Wine Star Award for "European Winery of the Year" with a dry wine that ages extremely well. Arnaldo Caprai purchased the winery in 1971. Then at 12.5 acres, today it is 370 acres with 336 acres in production in Montefalco, Gualdo Cattaneo and Bevagna, as well as the DOC Montefalco, DOC Colli Martani and DOCG Sagrantino di Montefalco production zones. It's quite a nice success story.
Arnaldo Caprai is represented by Folio Fine Wine Partners -- an importer, fine wine agency and producer of quality wines from the world's premiere and emerging wine regions.
Apple Wine, Applejack
As late autumn sets in the fruit selection in the produce department seems to sport only apples and a few fruit from the southern hemisphere. With so many apples, it is natural that a lot of people are making apple wine and a few are making applejack. You have to make apple wine before you can make applejack. Neither is very difficult.
In my humble opinion, cider apples generally make the best apple wine. Cider apples were selected based on sugar content, acidity and tannins. The English have been growing cider apples and making cider since before there were colonies in North America, so it would be prudent to look to them for cultivars best suited to cider making first.
Cider apples are usually divided into four categories: sweet (low acid, low tannin, good for blending), bittersweet (low acid, high tannin), sharp (high acid, low tannin), and bittersharp (high acid, high tannin). There are many nuances and styles of cider, which is outside the scope of this entry.
The best apple wine I have ever tasted was made from crabapples from a single tree, although the maker did not know the name of the crabapple cultivar. Having said that, my own experience has been different, mainly because I do not have an apple or crabapple tree and have to buy my base.
In my early days of winemaking I made a lot of apple wine from juice because it came in 1-gallon glass jugs and I needed 1-gallon secondary fermentation jugs. After I had collected 26 or so jugs it seemed silly to keep making apple wine from juice when there were so many other things to make wine from. After that, whenever I wanted to make apple wine I bought apples or found myself the recipient of a bunch of apples from someone with a tree.
If you rely on a farmers market or supermarket for your apples, you would do well to mix several cultivars for your wine. I usually buy a pound of any four of the following, using a ratio of 3 tart to 1 sweet. Among the tart are: 'Braeburn', 'Empire', 'Granny Smith', 'Gravenstein', 'Jonathon', 'McIntosh', 'Rome', 'Sierra Beauty', 'Winesap'. Among the sweet are: 'Fuji', 'Gala', 'Golden Delicious', 'Honey Crisp' (slightly tart), 'Jonagold', 'Pink Lady' (slightly tart), 'Sonya'. But this list is not inclusive. There are many, many cultivars out there and most fall into the tart or sweet side, although some straddle the line (like 'Honey Crisp' and 'Pink Lady').
The recipe for the apple wine required for the applejack is contained in the recipe for applejack itself. Read on!
Applejack, or Apple Jack if you prefer, is a beverage with old roots in the United States, dating back to colonial times. Laird & Company claims to be the oldest continuously operating maker of applejack in the States, starting production in 1780. According to their website, George Washington asked for their recipe and was the only outsider who ever got it.
Laird makes their applejack by distilling. Most of us would run into trouble with the feds if we distilled apple wine into applejack. In fact, the method I will discuss here will get you into trouble with the feds, for any method of increasing alcoholic content outside of fermentation or fortification is illegal in the United States.
Thus, this entry is strictly for those living in countries which do not have such a law. I know of no such country, but I don't know everything.
So what exactly is applejack? Quite simply, it is fermented apple juice (or cider or wine) that has been distilled by whatever means to reduce the water content while retaining the apple flavor, thereby concentrating (increasing) the alcoholic content. The reason I said "fermented apple juice" and enclosed "or cider or wine" in parentheses is because both cider and wine imply a certain amount of craftsmanship has been applied to balance the drink while fermented apple juice implies no such thing. In other words, one can make terrible apple wine and still make good applejack from it. However, I am a firm believer that good apple wine makes a much better applejack.
The method espoused here will run counter to my last statement of belief as it makes no effort to produce a balanced wine from which to make applejack. The reason is simply to show how easy it is to make applejack. If you desire to add acid blend and tannin, o for it. There is no need, however, to add sulfites or pectic enzyme.
It is essential, before anyone begins this process, that they have two one-gallon plastic milk or juice containers or four half-gallon plastic milk or juice containers AND enough room in their freezer to store them. It is desirable, although not essential, that the freezer have an adjustable thermostat.
In addition, one should have several wide-mouth plastic containers capable of holding a combined total of two gallons volume. These can be plastic water or juice pitchers, plastic jars or any containers you have on hand. The key is that they be wide-mouthed. Lids are optional, as the containers can be "closed" with plastic wrap secured with rubber bands.
Other equipment one will need is a colander or large wire mesh flour sifter and a large funnel. Also, one will need normal winemaking equipment.
Ingredients needed are:
1 gal apple juice (see *NOTE below)
1/2 gal water
4 lbs brown sugar
2 tsp yeast nutrient
1 pkt general purpose wine yeast (Champagne, Montrachet, etc.)
*NOTE: Check the label carefully and do not use juice that contains preservatives. Use only juice that has been pasteurized or irradiated to kill yeast, mold and bacteria (irradiated juices are completely safe to drink).
Bring water to boil. Remove from heat and add sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved completely.
Pour apple juice into a primary container at least 2 gallons in volume. Pour sugar-water and yeast nutrient into apple juice and stir enough to dissolve the nutrient. Cover and set aside to cool.
Add yeast to juice. I would make a starter solution just to make sure the yeast is alive and active, but if you like living with uncertainty just sprinkle the yeast on top of the juice. Do not stir.
When juice shows distinct signs of fermentation, pour it into equal amounts through the funnel into the milk or juice containers. Two one-gallon containers or four half-gallon containers each will be filled to slightly over 3/4 full. Attach airlocks and set aside to ferment to dryness (3-4 weeks).
Transfer the wine (yep, it's wine) to the wider-mouth containers, filling only 3/4 full. Seal these (with lids or plastic wrap secured with rubber bands and set these in the freezer. Leave it for a day or two, until they form a body of ice or ice slush. If ice, it will be quite solid around the sides and on top -- less so on the bottom. Solid ice can be carefully removed and discarded, as it is just frozen water. The alcohol will not freeze and most of the flavor will concentrate in the alcohol. If the ice does in fact form a slush, pour the slush, a little at a time, through a colander or sifter into a bowl or other container. Allow the shush to drain freely and thoroughly and then discard the slush. Return the liquid to the wide-mouth containers, seal them and return them to the freezer.
Check the containers after 4-6 hours and, if ice has reformed, again follow the procedures above. Repeat this as often as necessary until no further ice forms.
If your freezer is set to 0 degrees ice will form until the liquid reaches 14% alcohol, only slightly more than apple wine. At -10 degrees, ice will form until 20% alcohol. At -20 degrees, ice will form until 27% alcohol. At -30 degrees, ice will form until 33% alcohol. Most home freezers are quite capable of reaching -20 degrees F. -- some even lower. For energy saving reasons, many are set to a higher temperature but normally have a thermostat to allow you to reset them to a lower temperature.
Apple Mallow Sweet Potato Bake
Just the name sounds delicious! An apple and sweet potato casserole covered with miniature marshmallows. Its good anytime, but should really be a crowd pleaser at the Thanksgiving table. And I think it will pair well with any off-dry white wine.
I made this just for me and managed to stretch it out to accompany six meals, thanks to my portion control diet.
The recipe is simplicity itself.
1/2 cup Brown sugar, packed (I used dark)
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
2 Apples (tart preferred), peeled, cored and sliced
1/3 cup Pecans, chopped (I used 1/2 cup)
2 15 oz cans Princella or Sugary Sam Cut Sweet Potatoes, drained
1/4 cup Margarine
2 cups Miniature marshmallows or enough to cover
Preheat oven to 350Â°F. In a large bowl, mix brown sugar and cinnamon. Toss apples and nuts with combined brown sugar and cinnamon. Alternate layers of apples and sweet potatoes in 1 1/2-quart casserole. Dot with margarine. Cover and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows over sweet potatoes and apples. Broil until lightly browned. Serves 4 to 6, depending on portions.
I think next time I'll add maybe 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom in with the cinnamon. I can almost taste it....
Sagrantino, Wikipedia article, source of the photo used, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license
Happy Veterans' Day! Remember, this is not a day to mourn the fallen, although we will certainly do that. Rather, this is a day to remember those among us who served and are serving their country in arms. The day to mourn the fallen is Memorial Day, in May, but they served and we include them in our remembrances this day.
To all who served, who are serving, and who will serve in the future, I salute you. Stand tall, walk proudly and persevere in all you do.
As I expected, I received mixed reactions on my post-election comments in my last blog entry. All but two were positive and supportive. However you felt about them, thank you for coming back to my WineBlog.
I believe President Obama' reelection team chose the only path to victory they had. Unable to run on a dismal economic record, they chose to divide the country into demographic segments and then launched negative ads against the character of a very decent and successful man in order to appeal to each segment. True, they had a superior ground network that got out the vote where it counted, but the one thing they never did was allow his record of economic failure to dominate the larger debate. Whenever his record was exposed by Romney/Ryan, they responded with character attacks that the media writ large echoed.
I am reminded of the genius of Alexis de Tocqueville: "I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America."
Just as pertinent, also from de Tocqueville: "I have always thought it rather interesting to follow the involuntary movements of fear in clever people. Fools coarsely display their cowardice in all its nakedness, but the others are able to cover it with a veil so delicate, so daintily woven with small plausible lies, that there is some pleasure to be found in contemplating this ingenious work of the human intelligence."
The electorate has spoken. Thy will be done. Do not be surprised by the future.
Looking southeast from the pier at Port Renfrew, Vancouver Island, BC. Photo by Patrick Keller
Just a couple more photos from the Vancouver Island trip. Just skip this section if you aren't interested.
This one is looking south from the Pier at Port Renfrew, the farthest west we traveled along the west shore of the island. There is no beach here that we could discern -- mostly a surf-worn rock shelf -- although Botanical Beach, considered a jewel of a beach, is located nearby.
The distant haziness is caused by a light rain in the San Juan de Fuca Strait and possibly on far land itself. A light drizzle was falling when we arrived here. We retreated into the Port Renfrew Hotel/Pub and had some great beer and fantastic burgers with sweet potato fries. After our feed the rain had let up and we explored the pier.
The water here is San Juan Bay and beyond it is the transition from the Pacific Ocean to the San Juan de Fuca Strait. The bay is usually calm but the Strait can becalm one hour and stormy the next.
The forests around Port Renfrew contain some of the largest trees in North America outside California's redwood and sequoia giants. The endangered Avatar Grove is pristine old growth, the Red Creek fir is the world's largest Douglas Fir, and the San Juan Spruce is Canada's largest Sitka spruce.
China Beach, Vancouver Island, BC. Photo by Jack Keller
Looking east on log-strewn China Beach. Portions of this beach were so thick with driftwood we had to climb over the logs to continue onward. Accessible by a trail approximately 2/10 mile long that winds down a nice decline before dropping down a steep slope to a pile of driftwood you have to climb over to gain access to the beach. The brochures say it is a sandy beach, but we arrived at high tide and along most of the beach little sand was visible.
The Olympic Peninsula lies across the San Juan de Fuca Strait off-camera to the right. It was barely visible through a slow drizzle that thankfully missed us.
A stream outlet lies perhaps 300 meters ahead in this photo although not really visible here. There are two such stream outlets slicing this beach into segments. The other is near the west end of the beach, behind me as I took this photo.
There were some really interesting shaped driftwoods on this beach suitable for craftwork, but most were too large to haul up the trail to the parking area (which I doubt is even allowed).
Seashell with seaweed attached, China Beach, Vancouver Island, BC. Photo by Jack Keller
I found this shell with seaweed rooted to it along China Beach. I left it because I knew it was doubtful it would have survived the climb back up the trail intact. I'm glad I did, as I have since learned that removing shells and rocks from the Provincial beaches is prohibited. I wonder if my wife will become a wanted person in Canada for removing a dozen or so rocks from French Beach....
The waterway to the right is the migratory route for an estimated 17,000 whales annually. The orcas were migrating while we were there, but we never saw any -- from land or our two ferry crossings.
China Beach is the eastern trailhead for the 47-kilometer Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. The trail ends at Port Renfrew. Port Renfrew is also the southern end of the West Coast Trail, a world famous hiking trail built in 1907 along the west coast of Vancouver Island to save shipwrecked sailors. Between 1830-1925, 137 major shipping tragedies occurred along Vancouver Island's west coast. The waters off Port Renfrew were known as the Graveyard of the Pacific in the days of sailing ships.
China Beach is located 37 km west of Sooke and 4 km west of the Jordan River.
A woman new to winemaking wrote and asked what was the purpose of my piece in my last entry on Tannat. I guess I didn't elucidate enough. My purpose was to point out that here is a grape notorious for its astringent tannins which, when grown in Texas' heat, has softer, smother tannins that allow the winemaker to use a range of fermentation and aging methods to coax other distinguishing characteristics from this grape that usually takes years of aging to even begin to emerge. Whew! That was a long sentence, but necessary.
I have ordered some Texas Tannat. I figured the shipping costs were at least equal to the gasoline costs of driving up to the nearest winery that makes it -- possibly less. I anxiously await it's arrival so I can taste it once again.
While shopping for the right wine to order, I discovered that one winery I mentioned a few days ago makes their Tannat wine from grapes grown in the Bella Collina Vineyards of Paso Robles, California. In my last entry I simply echoed what a previous article espoused, leaving the impression the grape was grown in Texas. Bella Collina is a well respected vineyard and I have no doubt their grapes are excellent, but the article I cited specifically spoke of the natural softening of tannins due to the heat of the Texas sun. I did not feel this wine would present a fair tasting of what I was seeking to validate so I called Les Constable at Bushy Creek Winery and ordered each of his Tannats (see label above for his unoaked Tannat).
In all fairness, the winery I declined to order from is growing Tannat and probably has its own grapes in barrels as I write this, but I want it now and so I called Les.
I have no doubt I did the right thing. Les brought Tanat to Texas and is a fussy individual with a methodical approach to grape growing and winemaking. He believes in experimenting to feel his way through a grape's nuances, so ordering my wine from him was very comforting. His winemaker, Rachel Cook, is also a highly respected artisan who knows how to accomplish what Les envisions. I excitedly await the arrival of my wines. I'll grill a rib eye steak (small one) and see how they go together. You can believe I'll let you know.
My good fishing buddy John, a 101st Airborne Division veteran, sent me the video below. The song is "Airborne Ranger Infantry" by easy-on-the-eyes Kristy Lee Cook. John said, "This brings back (some good, some bad) memories." Amen, brother. I think every war vet, Vietnam era or not, will say the same thing.
It's a nice song, nice video, and sure to touch you if you ever served in harm's way. I hope it touches you as much as it touched me. Oh, and just click to skip the ad....
The lyrics to this song are:
My daddy was a soldier in a foreign war
But he doesn't like to talk about it any more
He kept a picture of my mama right by his heart
He'd give it one last look before the fighting would start
He said all I ask is that you don't forget
Cause the wars not over when the fighting ends
There's a part of me that will always be
Just a boy in a hole with an M-16
Airborne ranger infantry
I left my best friend lying in a pool of blood
While I crawled away through the brush and mud
If I could choose to go back again
I'd die lying there next to him
I still see his face when I close my eyes
As I won't forget his sacrifice
There's a part of me that will always be
Just a boy in a hole with an M-16
Airborne ranger infantry
I didn't do it for the money didn't do it for fame
I didn't do it so the world would remember my name
I did it for my family and my country,
and my brothers who died right next to me.
And all we ask is that you don't forget
Cause the wars not over when the fighting ends
There's a part of us that will always be
Just boys in a hole with our M-16s
Honoring souls and memories
Airborne ranger infantry
To all the veterans out there, I hope you have a blessed Veterans' Day.
I want to thank the many eating, retail and recreation establishments who are offering free meals or special discounts to veterans on Veteran' Day. I also want to thank the National Parks Service for opening over 100 National Parks to veterans, for free, today. For a list of discounts and freebies for vets on Veterans' Day, Click Here and may God bless each and every one of you.
Maceration: How Much Is Enough?
In my previous entry on Tannat I mentioned that one winery was producing two wines. One used a "regular fermentation" while the other used an "extended maceration" to produce a wine with an entirely different tasting experience. But "extended maceration" has two meanings. One is what I prefer to call a "cold soak" before introducing yeast and the other involves keeping the wine on the skins after fermentation has ceased.
Cold soaking is used to extract tannins, fruit, flavor and aroma constituents from grapes in the absence of alcohol. It works well on some grapes but is totally unnecessary for others. Cold soaking has a danger -- oxygen. The normal methods to prevent the onset of serious oxidation before you even start making wine is to either blanket the grapes with CO2, ozone (in commercial wineries), argon or some other inert gas, drop a floating lid on the grapes, or blanket the grapes with a layer of plastic wrap, directly on the grapes themselves, tucked in at the edges to seal out the atmosphere that gives us our oxygen to breathe. It is a preferred method with Pinot Noir. But that is a whole other topic I will not cover here.
Extended maceration in the second sense is used to soften tannins readily available and easily extracted during fermentation. There is no need to cold soak Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Merlot, Zinfandel, Shiraz, Malbec, or the wild mustang grape -- at least not here in Texas. But a little or a lot of post-fermentation maceration on the skins relaxes and softens their tannins and allows for an easier drinking wine at a younger age. So the questions this raises are, which grapes are best suited to extended maceration and how long on the skins and pips is long enough?
When I make wine from my Cynthiana, Merlot, wild mustangs or other red grapes I used to follow a traditional formula of keeping the wine on the skins until the cap collapses and falls to the bottom of the primary. This indicates the end of fermentation, as it is the CO2 produced during fermentation that keeps the cap of skins afloat. My thinking and methods changed slightly when a respected winemaker told me that mustangs give up about as much color and good phenolics as they are going to surrender after the third day of fermentation.
I made my next batch of mustang using this claim as a guide. I pressed the grapes on the fourth day and my wine was as deeply red as it ever was in the past with one exception I'll mention later. It tasted well and aged well. This method also worked beautifully with some Merlot grapes I was allowed to pick but failed with Cynthiana. It had lighter color and lacked the nice tannins it is capable of yielding. Furthermore, it didn't taste right. It lacked fullness on the mid-palate and structure in general. It didn't even place in competition. And it didn't improve with age.
My next batch of Cynthiana -- actually a field blend of Cynthiana, Ives Noir and Dog Ridge -- stayed on the skins about a week beyond cap collapse because I wanted to draw everything out of the Ives and Dog Ridge they were capable of giving. I blanked the wine with CO2 twice a day and covered the primary with a sheet of plastic. This was a much better wine -- possibly because it was a mix of three grapes but also because of the longer maceration. It had good structure and balance and drank well, competed well but was gone before it had time to age in the bottle.
My Ives Noir declined and died, probably from Pierce's Disease, before I could attempt an extended maceration, but I think it was a good grape to attempt this. The extra week I left the three-grape field mix on the skins was a slight extended maceration, but I would have liked to have extended this to two weeks one year and three weeks the next.
Many years ago I left a batch of mustang on the skins for 2-3 weeks past cap collapse because I was out of town. The wine was only covered with a piece of finely woven muslin and not blanketed with CO2. The previously black skins were a dull pinkish-purple when I finally pressed them. The wine was very mustang in flavor, but the color was lighter than I expected it would be and the fullness of the wine was weak. I have searched the literature for years looking for a reason for this but never really found a solid scientific explanation. But I never left a mustang wine on the skins that long again. We live and learn but don't always understand.
All I know is that a short (3-day) skin exposure works for mustang and Merlot but not Cynthiana. It also did not work for a grape I was allowed to pick but unknown as to variety. The wine I bottled as "Unknown Grape" was decent and placed in competition, but it was not a great wine, lacking natural structure. I helped it along with the addition of tannin and glycerin during bulk aging.
For more astringent (tannic) grapes, an extended maceration may be your salvation. If you have 150-200 pounds of good grapes (no shrivels, mold or grape berry moth mummies), you might want to do an experiment. Divide the grapes into two groups of equal weight and start two fermentations. Press one after cap collapse and the other after a two-week extended maceration. You'll want to blanket the extended batch twice a day with CO2, but it isn't expensive. You'll also want to stir the wine every five days or so to prevent hydrogen sulfide formation. Also, if you don't sulfite this batch you can induce malolactic fermentation near the end of yeast fermentation and it should be finished by the end of extended maceration or a week after pressing.
To determine if extended maceration works for your grape variety, Google "[variety name] + extended maceration".
String Bean Wine
A friend in a neighboring town invited me over to finish harvesting their garden. All that was left were a few eggplants, butternut squash, two cauliflowers, and about four pounds of string beans. I left the cauliflowers, which were badly infested with aphids or some other minute bug but took the rest. I had planned on canning the beans but time slipped by and suddenly they were no longer plump and fresh. So I made wine out of them.
Pea pod wine is made from the pods only. This wine too can be made from just the pods, but because they are typically harvested green and the pods do not open easily to release the beans contained therein, the whole thing (pod and beans) is usually used in the winemaking process. This wine is not to everyone's liking, but it is wine and some folks have a natural affinity for it. I can drink it with just enough sugar to bring it off dry.
4 lbs string beans
11 oz can of 100% pure white grape juice frozen concentrate
1-2/3 lbs granulated sugar
3 tsp acid blend
1/4 tsp powdered tannin
1 tsp pectic enzyme
1 finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet
6 1/2 pts water
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1 pkt Champagne or Hock wine yeast
Wash the beans. No need to remove the stems. Cut beans diagonally into 2-inch pieces, so as to expose more of the interior of the fleshy pod. Put in pot, just cover with water, and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, put 6 1/2 pints water in separate pot and bring to boil. Stir sugar into water until dissolved and set aside. Pour beans into a nylon straining bag (discarding their water) and tie bag closed. Place bag in primary and pour sugar water over it. Add thawed grape juice concentrate, yeast nutrient, acid blend and tannin, stir and cover primary. Set aside to cool. Add pectic enzyme, stir and set aside (covered) for 12 hours. Add activated yeast in a starter solution.
Stir daily but do not squeeze bag of beans. When specific gravity drops below 1.020 drip drain bag, save drippings and discard the beans. Gently Transfer to a secondary (do not top up) and attach airlock. Rack after 30 days, adding a finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet top up and reattach the airlock. Rack again twice, 30 days apart, topping up and reattaching airlock each time. Wine should clear, but if it doesn't, then treat with Amylase or starch enzyme. Stabilize with another finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet and 1/2 teaspoon potassium sorbate when clear and no longer depositing sediments. Sweeten slightly if desired, wait 30 days and bottle. Age one year before tasting. [Jack Keller's own recipe.]
As I said earlier, this wine is not to everyone's liking. It can be improved by substituting 2 pints of pulpless orange juice for two pints of the water. I have thought of substituting apple juice as well but have not done it and therefore cannot say it will work. If you want to try it with apple juice, let me know how it turns out.
The U.S. Presidential election is over. With all my heart I hope I am wrong in thinking the United States I believe in is forever gone -- or soon will be. The past four years revealed what candidate Obama meant in 2008 when he said he wanted to "fundamentally transform America."
The biggest change thus far is in the humongous bill the Democrats passed, without a single Republican vote in the House or Senate, which we refer to as Obamacare. It is now a law with the only path to revision closed with the reelection of President Obama. As a senior with a considerable history of heart, respiration, vision, ulcer, and PTSD problems, I now look forward to reduced care, more expensive drugs, and more costly life-saving procedures being refused by government regulators.
Administration spokesmen have insisted this will not happen, but simply reading the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) reveals they were not being truthful. Several key aspects of the law, which Nancy Pelosi rushed to a vote without giving anyone time to read it, reveal the truth.
Section 1311 of the law provides that government regulators will dictate how doctors, even those secured under private insurance policies, can treat patients. If you don't believe this, read the law (see link following this day's entry)
Seniors can expect less care than before because over half of the law deals with ways to cut costs and does so at the expense of Medicare patients. Hospitals, for example, will receive $247 billion less in this decade to treat an ever-growing number of senior patients. They will pay for these cuts by reducing nursing and other healthcare staff. These cuts have already begun, which is why there is a nurses strike in California.
If you are one of the 165 million people currently receiving health insurance through your employer, in 2014 you are likely to see your employer stop offering health insurance. They will either opt to pay the fine for not insuring you, which is considerably less than they would pay to insure you, or they will reduce your hours so that you are technically a part-time employee to whom they are not required to provide a health plan. If this happens, you will have to turn to the mandated insurance exchange and purchase your own insurance or, if unable to afford it, drop down to Medicaid coverage, which is only as good as your state can afford.
For women, nothing in the huge law requires that contraception be covered by insurance. That is totally up to the President's appointed regulators who will decide what is covered and what is not. Contraception coverage could change with each new president.
In 2008 then-candidate Obama promised that "no family making less than $250,000 per year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes." This statement was a huge "misstatement", as only persons making less than $9,500 a year will pay no new tax (but then, they don't pay any taxes anyway).
There are 20 new taxes in the PPACA. Most are unknown by the electorate because they purposely were designed to begin after the 2012 election, starting as early as January 1, 2013. Some specifically affect your payroll and capital gains taxes, which Candidate Obama said would never happen. There is a new tax on selling your home and one requiring some employees to pay a 40% tax on the portion of their heath insurance paid by their employer regardless of the employee's tax bracket. Presidential candidate Obama clearly lied to you and me.
To read the law itself or more about the hidden taxes you will soon be hit with, see the references at the end of this date's entry. But first ask yourself why the mainstream media didn't inform you of these issues during the past two years. Fox, talk radio, the Wall Street Journal and a few other newspaers did, but by and large the media didn't.
As I said in my opening paragraph, I sincerely hope with all my heart I am wrong in thinking the United States I believe in is forever gone. By using health care as only one of many measures of "fundamentally transform America" President Obama sought and obtained, I fear I might be right.
Forest trail to French Beach, Vancouver Island. Photo by Patrick Keller
Our trip to Vancouver Island would have been idyllic had we not had to plan our outings when the rains let up. Admittedly, they were very light drizzles and we weathered them fine when caught in one, but we did get a few late starts while waiting for them to stop. My nephew's son Jackson is only a few months old and we were concerned that he not get wet or catch a cold.
Several of us took photos when we remembered to take a camera with us, but my nephew Patrick always had a camera with him, has a better camera and is a better photographer than the rest of us, so I was happy he posted a few photos on Facebook where I could grab them.
The one above is a well tended trail through a new growth forest to French Beach, just a few miles west of Sooke Harbour. This is what it looked like as the sun broke through the clouds. Enlarged to full screen, the ferns and ground moss paint the forest floor and really create an enchanted atmosphere.
Driftwood on French Beach, Vancouver Island. Photo by Patrick Keller
While beachcombing along stone-covered French Beach, the clouds moved back in and shut off the sun's warmth, but Patrick still managed to snap a great shot of a driftwood tree's roots reaching skyward. The point of land in the background illustrates a possible source of the driftwood, with trees growing right up to the usually vertical coastline. Beaches like this are small and infrequent but fun to explore.
The surf-tumbled stones were varied and some quite beautiful. My wife collected quite a few and reluctantly left some behind, but we teased her about the extra weight she carried in her suitcase when we packed to leave. Displayed in a bowl of water, their varied colors are quite apppealing.
The water here is the San Juan de Fuca Strait. It isrelatively narrow here and Washington State is just a few miles off camera to the right. On clear days the snow-covered mountains of the Olympic Range offered a picturesque horizon. The temperature on this day was probably around 62-64 degrees F., felt warmer when the sun broke through, and only dropped about 10-12 degrees at night while we were there.
Sooke Harbour Marina sunrise, Vancouver Island. Photo by Patrick Keller
Patrick shot this photo of Sooke Harbour Marina at sunrise. The landmass in the far distance (left to center) is the Olympic Peninsula. Port Angeles (birthplace of football Hall of Famer John Elway) is just off-camera to the left. The Olympic mountains are not visible in this photo, hidden by the tree-covered spit of land to the right.
This photo is spectacular at full screen. The colors are richer than revealed here. Patrick took several great photos that morning but I like this one best. My only regret is that I have to display it too small to do it justice.
We stayed at Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina. Our 3-bedroom unit was nicely furnished and appointed and I would stay there again. This is a portion of the Marina of the establishment, which is far more extensive (off-camera to the left) than revealed here. Had our visit occurred earlier in the season we might have gone salmon fishing on a charter out of the Marina.
There are many other photos I'd like share but do not want to bore you unnecessarily.
For the wine lover, Vancouver Island is a great place to visit. There are 47 wineries (including 3 meaderies and 2 cideries) on the Island. A week is not long enough....
I recently read an article in The Wine Roads of Texas about three Texas wineries producing wines from the Tannat grape. These include Westcave Cellars at Round Mountain, Brushy Creek Winery at Alvord and Bending Branch Winery at Comfort, Texas.
The Tannat grape originated in the Madiran AOC in Southwestern France's Basque country and is called Harriague in Uruguay where it enjoys great popularity. The grape packs powerful tannins that can overwhelm other characteristics of the grape. According to the article, it was to round out and soften Tannat's tannins that micro-oxygenation was invented. Even so, the varietal is often blended with Cabernet Franc or other wines to soften it's finish.
But in Texas, the sun and heat naturally soften the grape tannins and allow flexibility in fermentation methods to produce vastly different wines. According to the article, "...this phenomenon enables Texas winemakers to play with Tannat's more delicate qualities, its undertones of raspberry, chocolate and subtle red floral notes." Based on the tasting notes of the writer, the results are tremendously exciting deep, heavy reds with rich color and a variety of flavor profiles and complexities.
Westcave blends Tannat with 12% Cabernet Sauvignon for a weighty wine with "marvelous complexity." Brushy Creek blends the unoaked Tannat with Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo, but is experimenting with French Oak for a stand-alone varietal. Bending Branch produces two lines using different fermentation methods. One is a "regular fermentation" in which the wine sits on the skins until fermentation is complete, then transfers the wine to barrels for aging. The other is "extended maceration," where the wine is kept on the skins and pips for 30 days past fermentation completion and is then barrel aged. The author described the first as "a very masculine wine -- rich, deep, tannic, heavy in the mouth," and the second as more feminine, with "floral notes, soft vanilla and hints of raspberry."
While I had heard of Tannat before, I did not consider it a "local" grape and have only tasted it once and loved it as I love deep, tannic wines that are heavy on the palate -- thus my preference for Cabernet Sauvignon. I simply did not know it was being produced in Texas. Now I am looking for an excuse to drive up to the Hill Country and make a side trip or two.
Prickly Pear Cactus Flower Wine
I recently talked to a gentleman who was considering making prickly pear cactus wine. During our conversation I mentioned making wine from the flowers of the prickly pear cactus. The flowers are easier to gather and prepare for fermentation, no one is allergic to them and I believe the wine actually tastes better than that made from the fruit.
Prickly pear cacti belong to the Opuntia genus with about 200 species. They are native only to the Western Hemisphere, including the Galapagos Islands, but they were long ago introduced to arid regions all over the world where they became invasively established. I once talked to a fellow from Malta who did not believe they weren't native to the island, so pervasive are they there. Their flowers are usually between 2-4 inches in diameter and are colored yellow, orange or red including all hues in between. All colors make a white wine as the pigments precipitate after fermentation. I did make one batch solely from red flowers that retained a very slight pinkishness.
I first published my basic recipe (the one below is improved) as Cactus Flower Wine because I believed then, and still believe now, that this wine could be made from almost any cactus flower of sufficient quantity. I renamed it here because the prickly pear is far more common than any other cactus I know of and I want one to recognize instantly that its flowers make a good wine. But first you have to harvest a bunch of prickly pear cactus flowers.
Look inside the flowers before harvesting them. I found a bee in almost every one of them, but they left when I disturbed them or if very deep in the flower were left behind when I cut the flower off above them. With one hand gather the petals together and with the other hand cut the petals off their base with a long, sharp knife. The length of the blade depends on how far you want your hand from the spines that cover the pad the flowers are on. I was very careful and used an 11-inch filet knife but still got stuck several times. The petals are quite thick, so use a sharp knife. They make a delicious white wine, best served chilled.
2 1/2 quarts firmly-packed cactus flowers
2 lbs granulated sugar
11-oz can of 100% white grape juice frozen concentrate
2 1/2 tsp acid blend
1/4 tsp grape tannin
6 1/4 pints water
1 finely crushed Campden tablet
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1 pkt Champagne wine yeast
Wash the flowers and put them in a nylon straining bag with a dozen marbles for weight, tie the bag closed, and place it in a primary. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil, remove from heat and dissolve the sugar in it. Cool the water with the frozen grape juice concentrate and the remaining water. Add this to the primary. Add the remaining ingredients except yeast and stir well. Cover the primary and wait 10-12 hours before adding activated yeast in a starter solution. Recover the primary and stir daily.
When specific gravity drops to 1.020, drip-drain the nylon straining bag and transfer the wine to a secondary. Affix airlock and set aside. When fermentation has finished the wine should be clear or will begin to clear, although pollen will continue to settle for another 1-2 months. Rack after 45 days and again after another 45 days, topping up and refitting airlock each time. Rack again 60 days later, adding another crushed Campden tablet, top up and reattach airlock. Set aside another 90-120 days to bulk age.
Stabilize with 1/2 teaspoon potassium sorbate and another finely crushed Campden tablet, sweeten to taste and wait 30 days before bottling. May taste after 6 months in the bottle. Drink within 2 years of bottling. [Jack Keller's own recipe]
This wine is much better than it placed the two times I entered it in competition (2nd and 3rd place). It just happened to compete with better wines each time. I've served this wine socially without announcing what it is and it was very well received. I also served it with artichoke hearts and a spiced ranch dip and a chilled cucumber soup (don't make faces -- it is a delicious soup) and we killed two bottles.
Consider making it next spring if you live in prickly pear cactus country.
I flew in last night from my week on Vancouver Island, British Columbia and too few days with my brother Larry and his wife Bonnie in Everett, Washington. It was a very satisfying visit. My brother was up and active after his back surgery, well ahead of his doctor's predicted recovery time. We had some great meals together, went antiquing in Snohomish, and he helped me set up my laptop for transfer to my wife.
I thank all of you who prayed for him, for without you his recovery probably would have progressed much more slowly. For those of you who do not believe in the power of prayer, I will pray for you -- not that you believe, but that you do not need the power of prayer to overcome some adversity.
It is good to be home with my dog Reba.
Pair of Bald Eagles resting between fishing flights. Photo by Patrick Keller
Our stay on Vancouver Island was at Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina about 40 minutes southwest of Victoria. Our party consisted of my wife and I, my nephews Patrick and Jeffrey, and Jeffrey's wife Kelly and son Jackson.
Our three-bedroom unit was well furnished and contained all the amenities we expected and many we did not. The kitchen was amply appointed and we cooked daily but also ate half our meals while out and about. An added bonus were a pair of Bald Eagles that frequented a tree next to the water, easily sighted from our balcony, between fishing flights in the protected harbor off San Juan de Fuca Strait.
The weather was mostly inclement, with daily rain but enough breaks to allow us to go sightseeing, hiking and shopping. We carried umbrellas but never opened them. We all packed for cold weather but it never got cold enough for anything heavier than a medium-weight wind breaker. Indeed, some of us wore shorts and short sleeves in mid-60's temperatures.
Among the pleasures we enjoyed while in Canada were Cuban cigars, excellent wild salmon, sweet potato fries with chipotle-mayo-barbecue sauce dip, and meals usually so large we easily shared portions. We found great wines, Sailor Jerry's Spiced Rum, and Fireball Cinnamon Whisky to warm us at night.
A Fabulous Meritage
One of the wineries we visited was the Brentwood Bay Winery, Vancouver Island, BC, of Church and State Wines. We tasted several really super wines, including a 2011 Island Estate Viognier, a 2009 Island Estate Pinot Noir, a 2009 Coyote Bowl Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2008 Coyote Bowl Meritage. The latter was an exceptional wine, winner of two prestigious silver medals and the 2012 gold medal in the New World International Wine Competition and 2012 All-Canadian Wine Championship. At $35 a bottle, this is the only wine I purchased although I loved the Pinot Noir as well.
The Meritage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, all grown in different vineyards in Oliver and Osoyoos in British Columbia's long Okanagan Valley. The grapes were picked in late October 2008, fermented in stainless steel tanks and transferred to French Oak Barrels where the varieties matured for 12 months before barrels were selected for blending, then matured another 19 months in French Oak before being bottled in May 2010.
This wine is a deep garnet, soft, smooth, richly flavored in black cherry, plum and spice. It is full bodied, rich in tannins, long in finish. It expands mid-palate with layered complexities despite a youthful fruitiness. It could be cellared for another two years without worry of peaking but is a great wine right now. Because I was limited to two bottles duty free, this wine did not hurt my pocketbook as greatly as it might have.
Canadians can order this wine online Unfortunately, the winery cannot ship it to the United States. But if visiting Canada, consider picking up two bottles for duty free carry back across the border. It is available at the winery and at most fine wine shops across the country.
The Curious World of Wine
Before I left for Vancouver Island I was asked to provide a pre-publication review of The Curious World of Wine: Facts, Legends, and Lore About the Drink We Love So Much by Dr. Richard Vine, Professor of Enology Emeritus at Purdue University. I read the book on the plane to Seattle and wrote the review on the plane home. This is that review. It was an enjoyable, informative and entertaining read, a book that will enrich the knowledge of every reader of this WineBlog.
Divided into ten topical sections -- they simply do not seem like chapters to me -- the book chronicles some of the history, appellations, vineyards, moving characters, and both chance and orchestrated events that define the drink we all enjoy today. True, you can still enjoy wine without knowing what Dr. Vine has so lovingly compiled, but that glass of vino is forever enriched after having read this book. Whether a winemaker or simply an enjoyer of an occasional glass, this book was written for you.
Some of the sections include Legends and Lore, Founders and Fathers, Movers and Shakers, Fascinating Legacies, California Chronicles, and Charming Wine Characters. I offer these headings as examples of the breadth of topics covered, but I assure you the book covers the global expansion of vineyards, wineries and the visions for creating fine wines from them. Theses and other sections are fleshed out in broad and fine brush strokes that inform and entertain while weaving a fabric of a culture that both focuses on local detail and chronicles the march of winemaking across Europe and America and in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile and wherever fine wines are crafted.
Examples of detail and expansion are as varied as the story of the elephant in the courtyard of Cos d'Estournel in Saint Estèphe to the modern marriage of Robert Mondavi Winery and Château Mouton-Rothschild to create Opus One, the most successful modern winemaking venture in terms of bottle price in history. And yet Dr. Vine gives equal respect to the rise of the Gallo empire on the back of Thunderbird, sold for 60 cents a bottle, and Fred Franzia's Two Buck Chuck, which won the 2002 Best of Show at the 28th Annual International Eastern Wine Competition. The stories are large and small, bitter and sweet, loaded with trivia and legend.
There were a couple of vignettes that differed from what I had read elsewhere, but these only whetted my curiosity and created foci for independent research to resolve the differences at some future date. Histories are, after all, continuously unfolding. Why should the history of wine be any different?
The Curious World of Wine is not a book of quotes but does contain more than a few and is itself quotable. Indeed, I have compiled a few of each type for future use and only await the opportunity to inject them into conversation or enrich a story or enliven an argument. Dr. Vine has provided me good material for future use.
One of my favorite quotes involves Sir Winston Churchill, often criticized for his frequent excesses with Champagne, a practice that riled London socialite Lady Astor. At one particular encounter Lady Astor addressed the Prime Minister, "If you were my husband I would poison your coffee!" Churchill shot back, "If you were my wife I would drink it!" Another favorite, from Ernest Hemingway, "Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."
If you are at all interested in this book, which you should be, please click HERE and order it through my Amazon portal. It goes on sale tomorrow and can be pre-ordered today, in hardcover, for less than $14. This is a great price for a wonderful 212 pages of pure enjoyment.
I leave tomorrow for a visit with my wife to the Pacific Northwest to spend some time with my brother and part of his family. He recently had three vertebra fused with some attached hardware assisting. He initially had two bad nights -- one from overdoing it in physical therapy and the other due to negligence that resulted in him not receiving any pain medication in a recovery facility. He is on the road to recovery, but prayers do not hurt. If you pray for "Jack's brother Larry," God will know who you mean.
My wife, two nephews (one with a new family) and I will also go up to Vancouver Island for a week's retreat in a timeshare. I have not been up that way in far too long and am excited to return no matter how the weather turns out.
I'll return late on November 4th. I'll write to all of you shortly after I return but probably not until after the General Election. Until then, I hope each of you are able to spend time with loved ones and get out and see some countryside. Wherever you live you live on a beautiful Earth. Enjoy some small part of it and bring alone some wine.
I have said more than a few times I do not wish to express political opinions in my WineBlog but still I have done so. That is not what this space is about but sometimes I feel compelled. Because this nation faces a clear choice in our approaching election, just two days after I return from my trip, I have decided to express an opinion once again by hosting someone else's opinion.
The short video below is from a citizen of Mexico. What he expresses so poignantly in so few words are sentiments I wholeheartedly agree with and have been expressing privately for some time.
If you do not agree with them, I am fine with that. I hope you are fine with my sentiments too. Regardless of political views, we have to live together. The alternative is the course followed by our forefathers in 1861, a course unthinkable to all men and women of consequential intellect. Regardless of your persuasion, I do hope each of you will watch the short video.
If you skipped the video, please reconsider. As the old ditty goes, stick and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you, unless you voted early and are afraid you might regret your vote....
Yeast Recommendations for Non-Grape Wines
I still receive a lot of requests for recommendations of yeast for various non-grape wines. This is a subject I covered in detail in an article for the April/May 2010 issue of WineMaker magazine entitled "Yeast Selection for Country Wines". Not only did I make specific recommendations, but detailed the criteria for selecting them. Unfortunately, this is not an article selected for on-line publication, so if you were not a subscriber you missed it. I will cover the yeasts here. if you want to know the many criteria for selecting them, you'll have to order a back-issue, which is possible.
Some of the selection criteria I used (but are only covered in the article) are fixing color, alcohol tolerance, acid reduction and enhancement, vigor, sulfur dioxide tolerance, cold tolerance, glycerol production, ester production, polysaccharide production, stoppable fermentation, and other. While you really should understand these things, such knowledge is not necessary to make wine.
If you don't yet subscribe to WineMaker you are missing out on a great publication. Each issue is a keeper as it regularly addresses topics of interest to the makers of grape wine, kit wines and country (non-grape) wines. In addition, I periodically write for it, specializing in country wines but also covering indigenous American (native) grapes. I'm honored to write for this fine publication, and I read every issue cover to cover and constantly learn a lot.
If you are not yet a subscriber, kindly move your mouse to the link below and subscribe. I dare say you'll be gad you did....>
Below are a list of seven Lalvin and six Vintner's Harvest active dry yeasts and the base ingredients they best pair with. Obviously, **** indicates a recommended pairing. Not all of these yeasts are available at your local homebrew shop, but most are available from MoreWine!, linked following this day's entry. It is my go-to source for wine yeast (and they didn't pay me to say that).