Saturday, February 28, 2009

wild winter mead

I have a love/hate relationship with persimmons. You see, I want to love them, but they are so easy to hate. They are a fruit that I have purchased maybe twice in my life, but somehow I end up with a box or two of them every year. Not wanting to see them wasted, I've tried some different means of preparation these past couple of years. I started with a korma. Satisfying yes. Duplicated, no. Then came the sorbet. Tasty indeed, but once again, have I made it another time? No. Let's see, how about that winter soup? Nope. Okay, maybe I'll make the souffle again, but I'm not guaranteeing anything. Anyway, my point is, I've tried and tried to use persimmons in new and fun ways, but ultimately have only succeeded in getting them off the counter. I ate them, but haven't really looked forward to doing it again. This winter, that changed.

I'm not going to go into too much detail here, because like all ferments, it involves a bit of hocus pocus, and sometimes a little witchcraft, and describing it in words won't suffice. Lets say, it starts right here though, with gooey, slimey, do I have to really touch that? textured fruit. Notice the whitish stuff on the skin. That's yeast right there. Smelling and possibly tasting each piece of fruit you are using, goop up about eight of these bad boys and stir it into about half a gallon of honey. Add about one gallon of tap water, mix well and cover with cheesecloth. Don't cook anything. Well, maybe the water, but thats it. Stir somewhat frequently (whenever you remember, which for me was about every hour of so) until the cauldron you have it in begins to froth.

In this case, by day three we were rocking. I liked the idea of this being a winter fruit mead, so expanded on the theme and added the juice of a few tangerines and the arils of a few pomegranates, along with some more water into a three gallon carboy. To this I added the stockpot's contents of bubbling brew and put on an airlock valve. A few weeks of magic later, the arils were looking all bleached out, the fruit pulp was nice and separated into distinct horizons on the top and bottom and the liquid looked fairly clear. I siphoned this off into another carboy and put the airlock back on.

After another month more of spontaneous alcohol formation, it was ready to bottle. Clear, big on the fruit, yet nearly totally dry, with a slight tinge of pinky orange and well over 10 percent alcohol, this is some potent stuff, though I'm surprised how smooth it is already. It never fermented at anywhere over 70 degrees during the course of magic involved and this likely helped. Well that, and apparently, persimmons have good yeast on them. Now, finally, I have something to do with these freaky fruit that I'll look forward to duplicating next year.

Really, like, I can't wait! Because the story goes deeper, and involves two beers now, both fermented with the wild yeast that started it all. But, unfortunately, I'll have to get to blabbing about that one later. I've got some wild winter mead to sample.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

for the love of purple

My first purple cauliflower!

I was giving the plants a look see to determine my next course of action against recent, rampant aphid infestation. Apparently, during the previous week while all was sunny and warm the aphid wranglers (ants) were busily placing their minions all over the tenderest parts of just about anything I've planted. Despite the odds, staring up at me was this beauty. It seemed to pop up overnight.

Before any of the two legged garden pests could run off with my produce, I hacked it off with thoughts of my own dinner, but was beat to the table by a creature with far less neurons. I suppose we all gotta eat, and if I have tempting items in my front yard, critters are bound to notice. A plan was hatched. With the help of the eldest monkey, we placed it in a jar with some treats it apparently enjoys, and brought it inside in order to "protect it from predators daddy."

I checked my recent sauerkraut experiment, and admiring it's deep purple hue, decided that a purple beer would really "tie it all together." I mean, hey, it is sf beer week and all, so somehow cracking a blueberry hefeweizen seemed just the right thing. Maybe you had to be there. Or rather, here.

So, I sipped one ferment, tamped down the contents of another and contemplated our captives. That's right, two. Because little eagle eyes spotted another and made sure it made it into the jar too. Now, we feed our captives more brassica, protect them from predators, and hopefully watch 'em go through their own ferment of a sort and become something totally different.