Crushing and Destemming Grapes to make Wine

Grape Crushing Machine

Grape Crushing Machine

After picking the grapes we have to crush the grapes to allow the liquid to escape from the skins and also to separate the stems from the grapes. Many years ago the whole process was done by hand or by foot. The grapes were put into a big container and they were crushed underfoot. This would be a lot of work for even a small vineyard like ours. For this reason we use a detemming and crushing machine.  Our machine uses about 600 watts so as long as the sun is shining we can use the solar panels of the house to power it.

It is at this moment that we have to measure the sugar content of the must. This is the best way of knowing what the final alcohol percentage will be.  We use a refractometer to do the measurement. It works a bit like a prism which  reacts differently to light (by giving a reading on a scale) depending upon the amount of sugar that is available in the sample.

When the must (grape juice) comes out of the machine it drops into buckets. We then carry the must to the 200 litre plastic drums. After a couple of days the yeast from the skins of the grapes will start to ferment the sugars. This is called initial fermentation which lasts a few weeks depending on temperature and other factors. It is in the initial fermentation that the wine gets the color from the skins. In the wine made in the video below we allowed the wine to stay with the skins for about 4 weeks. This is probably a little too long and the wine picked up a bit too much tannin from the skins. This year we will press the wine (separate the skins from the liquid) sooner.

Courgettes 2018 – Recipe for courgette fritters

COURGETTE SEASON 2018

So the 2018 courgette season has arrived and I’m enjoying trying out new recipes to find different ways of preparing them. I prefer to pick them when they are still quite small. That way you can use several at a time when they are at their best for a side dish rather than waiting until they are the size of marrows. There are always some that get away but I’ll slice these lengthways and give them to the chickens so that they can peck out the seeds.

FAVOURITE COURGETTE RECIPE

My all-time favourite way of preparing courgettes is to slice the small courgettes into 2cm slices. Fry them in a covered pan with some extra virgin olive oil. Turn every so often so that they lose their liquid and catch a bit of colour on each side. After 10 minutes or so, toss in a knob of butter, grind over some black pepper and squeeze over some lemon juice. Delicious.

DIFFERENT RECIPES

My challenge each year is to find some new and interesting recipes to use up the abundant crop.

The first recipe I tried didn’t salt the courgettes first which proved to be a messy mistake. In the second one I salted the grated courgette and left for an hour before squeezing the water out.

This recipe is adapted from Felicity Cloake’s “How to cook …” column in the Guardian “How to cook the perfect courgette fritters“.

The second recipe worked a lot better and I’d use this technique again in the future.

Here is the recipe.

Courgette fritters
Serves 2
A simple recipe for courgette fritters
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Ingredients
  1. 2 medium-sized courgettes, coarsely grated
  2. 1 small salad onion, finely chopped
  3. 2 handfuls of grated cheese
  4. 2 tablespoons self-raising flour
  5. 2 tablespoons polenta
  6. 1 egg
  7. 1/2 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Put the courgette in a bowl, sprinkle over the salt and mix well.
  2. Leave for about an hour and then transfer to a colander and squeeze out the water.
  3. Add the onion and egg and mix well.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat some oil in a frying pan.
  6. Put in sponfuls of the courgette mixture and fry on a high heat for 3 minutes.
  7. Flip the fritters and fry for a further 3 minutes on the other side.
Cortijo de la Plata https://cortijoblog.com/

The Eggstractor Homemade Autonomous Egg Collector

One of the problems with having chickens is what to do if you want to go on holiday.  Water and food are fairly easy to solve but collecting the eggs is more difficult.

Sarah designed the Eggstractor which is basically just a crate with a way of decelerating the eggs so that they don’t smash. We have been using this system for almost 3 years and it works perfectly. As far as I know it is not possible to buy one or even buy a similar product which would solve the same problem. 

Being able to see the chickens over the internet is a good idea. One time we were in a storm crossing the Bay of Biscay in a ferry and we were able to watch the chickens getting onto their perches. 

 

Gluten-free carrot cake

Gluten-free carrot cake
Serves 24
In this carrot cake recipe, polenta and ground almonds replace the flour and olive oil is used instead of butter.
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Cook Time
40 min
Cook Time
40 min
CAKE
  1. 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  2. 350g brown sugar
  3. 5 medium eggs
  4. 150g ground almonds
  5. 100g polenta
  6. 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  7. 1 teaspoon salt
  8. 125g chopped walnuts
  9. 500g grated carrot
  10. 1 teaspoon baking powder
ICING
  1. 125g salted butter
  2. 250g light cream cheese
  3. 250g icing sugar
  4. grated zest of 2 large oranges
TO MAKE THE CAKE
  1. Heat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Line a rectangular cake tin (25cm x 29cm) with baking parchment.
  3. Beat the eggs, sugar and oil together in a large bowl.
  4. Sprinkle in the polenta, ground almonds, salt and cinnamon and mix well.
  5. Add the carrots and walnuts and give the mixture a good stir.
  6. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes.
  7. Test with a skewer to check that the cake is cooked.
  8. Cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a baking rack.
  9. Leave to cool completely.
TO MAKE THE ICING
  1. Cream the butter in a bowl with a wooden spoon.
  2. Add the other ingredients and keep in the fridge until needed.
  3. Once the cake has cooled, spread over the icing.
Cortijo de la Plata https://cortijoblog.com/

Making Pear Wine

We have a large winter pear tree. Every year the pears fall onto the floor. By mid December they are almost ripe. Some of them have started to rot and the Jay birds have started to peck at them.  Winter pears are strange because if you pick them off the tree earlier in the year and store them inside they don’t go ripe. They seem to prefer being outside or they need some frost before they ripen.  About 3 years ago I decided to try and use my pear  windfall. After a while surfing on internet I found that the Roman soldiers who were stationed in Britain had no access to grapes so they bought pear trees with them and made pear wine. Roman soldiers tended to drink a litre of wine each day so they must have needed a good source of wine.

My pear wine recipe is very simple and could be very useful in a dystopian  post technological age in latitudes where there is no grapes but it is still possible to get sugar.
I suppose the Romans’ pear wine must have been pear beer because they had no access to processed sugar so the alcohol by volume must have been about 5%. (maybe they used honey)

Ingredients:
 A treeload of ripe winter pears maybe 100kg
Some yeast. I used Young’s Dried Active Yeast.
Lots of sugar.
Boiling water.
Sodium Metabisulphate

Equipment:
200 litre plastic barrel
Plastic trugs
Knives

Method:
Cutting up pears

Pick the pears discarding pears which are totally rotten.
Wash the pears in cold water to get rid of old leaves and other debris.
Cut the pears up into chunks. Maybe 1.5cm chunks. Discard all the really nasty rotten bits but keep the over ripe areas. I did not discard the cores. 

Throw the cut up pears into Sodium Metabisulphate solution and let them get covered in the solution.

Three years ago I did not use any chemicals and everything was fine but last year the whole batch of 150 litres turned to vinegar. I don’t like using chemicals but as I am using semi-rotten fruit hopefully it will stop it turning to vinegar. I got the pears out of the metabisulphate trug with my hands and put they into an intermediate trug before throwing them into the plastic barrel. 

Metabisulphate bath for the cut up pears

Metabisulphate bath for the cut up pears

The next thing to do it to pour boiling water into the plastic barrel as fast as possible. We use every available kettle and put big pans on the wood stove.  The idea is that the heat of the boing water will kill any unwanted bacteria. I don’t know how hot we managed to get the must but it was too hot to put a hand in, maybe 60C. 

Heating up water

Heating up water on the wood stove

The next thing to do is to put in a lot of sugar. I put in 22kg. It can be disolved in the water in the pans but it seems to disolve OK in the actual plastic barrel.

I used a refractometer and the sugar reading says that this has an alcohol potential of 5%.

I want the wine to be about 13.5% so I use my Chapitalisation Calculator

This is what it tells me

“You have 150 litres of must
At the moment your must has a potential alcohol volume of 5 %
You would like your finished wine to be 13.5 % alcohol.

To do that you have to add 24.23 kilos of sugar to the must.
BTW: That is 53.42 pounds

If fermentation goes OK I will add about 20KG of sugar after a couple of weeks.

It is very difficult to be scientific about the amount of alcohol because the pears are in chunks not in solution. Supposedly they have a sugar content which would be about 5% alcohol. The last bit of sugar is added bit by bit.

The yeast and Pectolase is added the following day one the liquid has cooled down.

Maybe I had beginner’s  luck with my pear wine 3 years ago. It was wonderful. The pears shrivelled and the wine cleared on its own.  All I had to was siphon it off in April.

I served it chilled to 11C and it was really tasty.