Saturday, October 17, 2009

The first attempt at Rhubarb Wine

Three months ago, my dad and I harvested the last 15 pounds of rhubarb from their garden. I spent much of the next night hunched over the sink washing & cutting all the stalks, and into the freezer they went.

Today, with some simpler wine & mead projects under my belt, I've decided to tackle the rhubarb. This is my first batch using actual fruit (or vegetables). I pulled all 15 pounds of rhubarb out of the freezer and into the nylon straining bag. Water & sugar was added in small batches. I boiled 1 gallon at a time, and dissolved 4 pounds of sugar into each gallon. With all the rhubarb in the fermentation bucket, there was only room for about 3 gallons of sugar water. I also decided to try one of the optional ingredients in the recipe: white grape juice as a substitute for some of the sugar.

After about 7 hours of cooling down, the tannin, yeast nutrient, and metabisulfite are added. Tomorrow morning Pectic Enzyme is added to help break down the rhubarb and keep the wine clear. Finally, yeast is added on Monday morning to start fermentation.

In a few days the bag of rhubarb is removed, and I can add more water and let the fermentation continue. So far it smells good. With any luck it will turn out tasting good too.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Baseball & Baby Showers

Here I am, relaxing at home on a Friday night, watching the Twins and assembling our son's new swing. This photo summarizes the last couple weeks of our lives.

Our friends and family have thrown us two baby showers the last two Saturdays, both hosted at our house. We've received a lot of nice new things for taking care of Nathan when he arrives, both useful and just plain cute stuff. We're definitely looking forward to getting use out of all this stuff, and at 35 weeks along, we're not too far away. All the little toys look like fun, and we have our baby photo book filled with family photos already. Tomorrow we'll have our third baby shower, from the Brandt side of the family.

We've also been having a blast following the Twins at the end of their season. Our group of friends shares a season ticket package each year, which let us secure tickets to what would have been the final game at the Metrodome. However, the Twins crept up on the Detroit Tigers, and the "final" game at the Metrodome tied up the AL standings. This led to an amazing tiebreaker game at the dome on Tuesday, where we got to watch the Twins pull off a 6 to 5 win in the 12th inning of a very intense game. Nathan didn't miss out either. He was awake and moving (and listening to record-breaking cheering crowds) during both games.

Tonight we watched the second game of the AL Division Series, but I'm sorry to report we lost to the New York Yankees. We have our tickets for Sunday's playoff game at the Dome, and if the Twins can win that one, we're guaranteed a second crazy playoff game at the dome on Monday.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Finishing & Bottling the Apple Wine

I'm happy to report my first wine experiment has successfully made it all the way to being bottled. The Apple Wine stopped fermenting while it was still a bit sweet, but I liked the flavor. Rather than ferment it out further, I decided to call it a Sweet Apple Wine and call it a day.

The wine had cleared up quite a bit while it sat in the carboy, but could have sat & aged longer. However, with our son's birth fast approaching, I wanted to bottle it before he came and life got busier. I borrowed my brother-in-law's Mini Jet wine filter to remove any remaining haze/particles from the wine, and the difference was impressive... crystal clear.

After collecting a surplus of bottles from craigslist, I was well stocked and ready to bottle. Bottles were washed & sanitized, I started the siphon from the 6-gallon carboy, and began filling bottles. I only spilled a little wine when the bottle filler bumped against the outside of a bottle; not too bad for my first try. All total, I got almost 31 bottles out of the 6 gallon batch. The last partial bottle was sacrificed for quality control purposes, so to speak. You can definitely taste the apple flavor. It still has some of the alcohol "burn," but that should mellow-out over time.

Corking went relatively well, considering I have the most basic corker available. I had to put a lot of force into it to cork each one. I can say now that I appreciate the mechanical advantage of a good corker. I may need to upgrade before bottling my next batch. I left the bottles standing upright for a couple days so the corks could expand and seal up, and then turned them on their sides for storage.

During the months the wine was in the carboy I was working out label designs in Photoshop and eventually arrived at the final design shown here. Just in case I decide to change label shapes in the future, I decided to use full-sheet label paper so I wasn't stuck with a fixed size. It's a bit more work to cut them out, but not too bad.

I've seen labels printed on inkjet printers before, and I know the ink can run & bleed when it gets wet... especially when the wine bottle gets some condensation on it. So I tried something a bit different. After finalizing my label design, I brought it over to FedEx Office (formerly Kinkos), and printed 6 sheets (36 labels) for less than $4. The key was printing in color laser-printing. This won't bleed when it gets wet, and as an added bonus, they have a nice shiny finish to them.

Now the wine can continue to age & improve in the bottles. It's been a fun project with results I can be proud of and enjoy. Maybe we'll break some out at Thanksgiving & Christmas, or maybe when our son is born! I'm sure we can find reasons.