At the weekend. I went out into the Yorkshire Dales with Tim to try to make the most of the lovely weather. This has been increasingly important in the UK this year, because the weather has been extremely weird! We had a fairly dry winter with slightly more than usual snow, followed by a couple of fantastic weeks in spring, and then massive rainfall.
At the wrong end of October, any dry, sunny or extra-warm days are to be savoured, because we know that winter is fast approaching. There is already a forecast of Siberian winds to bring the first snows at the weekend for the North of England. (Scotland has already had some freak snow, I believe.)
It was a lovely day, and while we did not have direct sunlight into the waterfall, we did get a chance to try long exposures to get the water to look blurred while everything else was in focus. Tim got some good shots with his digital camera – I will have to wait to see what comes out on the film in mine! This is not one of ours, just a great shot of the falls. A couple of tree stumps have fallen in since this one was taken at the foot of the falls:
I love being out in the Dales, especially when the road is narrow and steep. Somehow part of the adventure is the successful navigation on what were built as sheep-droving tracks, with their high limestone dry-stone walls and random glimpses of the fields beyond. Only the occasional widening gives room to pass other cars, and some of the hills are too steep for my handbrake to hold the car… One day I would like to learn real rally-driving techniques, but until then this is the closest I get.
We were going to photograph some of the Highland cattle in one of the fields we passed, but there was no-where to stop as we travelled by. We will have to go back and find one of the many footpaths to capture the cattle for ourselves. They look at their best in the cold, when their breath forms clouds over them.
- A quiet Sunday in the Dales (justnowdesigns.wordpress.com)
The gooseberry wine is still bubbling away at the same rate, although it has now absorbed all the sugar. The recipe instructions said to re-rack it last Friday, but it was nowhere near ready then, and there is no sediment to take it off yet. I’ll wait until it slows down or the yeast starts piling up at the bottom.
The question is – what to try next? I really would like to give a Rumtopf a go, but I would need one of those special jars that are made best in Germany. Oh, well. I may have to eBay it!
Last night I took the gooseberry wine juice and yeast mixture off the fruit pulp and tried to add the sugar as per the recipe. However this was not easy. I have been left with a demijohn full of pink juice resting on a bed of white sugar stubbornly sitting at the bottom of the jar. So either I have to stir it regularly and risk spoiling it in some way, or wait for the remaining yeast to slowly munch its way through the sugar layer.
To be fair, the carbon dioxide is chugging out of the airlock rather nicely, and there are pretty bubbles chasing up the sides. This never happened with the blackcurrant wine.
The final concern is that because the sugar did not dissolve properly, I couldn’t take a specific gravity reading for the “before fermenting” reading. It has sort of fermented with the sugars in the fruit, but not a lot. I can only hope that the “before the sugar” reading is sufficient.
I suppose that after all I am experimenting, and if I find that either recipe does not work, I can always start again with a new batch. There are plenty more blackcurrants, and Tim found that I had stashed some gooseberries in his freezer!
The weekend has seen a lot of work done in the freezer and the baking department! I made my special chicken and vegetable pizza (from scratch – no jars of pizza topping, bread from the recipe not a packet). Then simultaneously I made a rather last-minute blackcurrant meringue pie, trying desperately to use up the 6kg of blackcurrants I found when I cleared the freezer out… And to top it all, I finally had room to put the peas away.
The peas that I first planted this year, at around the normal time, failed abjectly to sprout. So in July I was so disappointed that I planted a whole new batch, including some Heritage Seed Library hand-me-downs from Tim’s garden. These are no longer commercially available so it is illegal to sell them, but in their day they were sold under the name Stephen’s Pea, and have bright purple pods. Marvellous plants to look at! The peas are lovely, and there are loads in each pod.
The peas have been sitting in the bottom drawer of the fridge in their pods waiting for room in the freezer, so they are not at their absolute best but should be okay in stews or similar. I will, of course, be saving some to sow next year.
If you are interested in the Heritage Seed Library, follow the link. Tim’s mother bought him a membership one year for his birthday, and you get a set of five seed types (or did) when you join. You can pick plant types that you are interested in or get a random selection. The idea is that you sow the seeds, make sure you keep them true (by not planting things they could cross-pollinate with nearby) and when you finally grow enough to spare, you give some back to the HSL for them to pass on again. It is all about protecting old varieties that were once commercial, but whose seed patents have lapsed.
I am into week two of my first attempt at making wine. I decided that this would be the most efficient and pleasant way to empty the freezer, so once I am sure that the blackcurrant wine is working, I’m going to try some red gooseberry wine as well. I have a lovely little book called First Steps in Winemaking by CJJ Berry to help me. The author has a real sense of fun – he was probably tipsy when writing it!
The wine was started on 15/09/12 with 3lb blackcurrants, 3lb sugar and 4.5litres of boiling water. It had to be treated with pectin-destroying enzyme for 24 hours, and then the yeast and nutrient went in to brew for six days. It is now in a demijohn to let the yeast settle out, so that I can rack it properly. Tonight I need to work out whether it is okay or has stuck.
Well here it is. My first go at blogging, which may or may not be a good idea. I have plenty of things to keep track of, and lots of random interests, so hopefully you will find something you enjoy reading about just as soon as I get the hang of WordPress!