Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nettle Beer

I went picking nettles tonight. I'll post up the recipe for nettle beer in a week. It takes that long to ferment and I want to taste it first to make sure its drinkable.

So bets on whether It will be palatable?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Birch Sap Mead Failed

So I'm walking out of the undergrowth wearing gardening gloves and holding a black bin bag gingerly. When a Garda car cruises past, The Garda inside takes a quick look at me. The car darts into the next turn off. So now I have to firstly get myself looking less like someone cleaning up after a murder secondly decide what to tell them when they started asking awkward questions.

For some reason my outfit looked suspicious...

Artists impression

5 minutes earlier I got back to the birch tree and found the tube for the sap had fallen out. I must not have put it in deep enough and I think I put it in too low. I examined the tree and the demijohn and there was very little evidence of sap for either of them. So I sealed up the trunk with mud and decided to try again with another tree in a week. It is very important you seal up any hole you make or you risk injuring the tree.

Anyway police in Dublin 15 are like hens teeth. A busload of orphans could be set on fire by Osama Bin Ladin and they would not send a car out. So I was a tad unlucky with them seeing me. Whenever I lie my life turns into an episode of curb your enthusiasm but the problem is "I was drilling a hole in a tree to make booze out of the sap" is the sort of truth that makes you sound like you are 1. mad 2. talking in code 3. lying.

So the Garda car has done a rapid u-turn and is passing me at 5kph. I am no longer wearing murderer gloves and a pikey hat, also I'm trying to look nonchalant as you can holding a black bin bag. Luckily even in a French secret service polo neck I must not to much like an axe wielding maniac so they just sped up and headed off.

The recipe I plan to use is similar to the one in "First steps in winemaking" by cjj berry
3.5 Liters of Birch Sap
.5 liters of water
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 tea spoon of yeast nutrient
Wine Yeast (What would you recommend?)
Honey. Most recipes say a kilo to kilo and a half of sugar. So I plan to use 2 kilos of honey.

Any suggestions on the recipe? Or indeed on how to avoid being arrested while out gathering food?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Birch Sap Mead

I decided to brew up a birch sap wine. I have been waiting for spring like a grumpy bear and now is the ideal time for taping some birches. Not owning any birch trees this involves some guerrilla maneuvers. After some scouting of locations in the glamorous industrial estates of Dublin 15 I found an ideal location.

First we cleaned a demijohn. Most descriptions recommend using cotton wool to prevent yeast and such getting in but we had a proper bung so went with that. The description on how to make this brew I took from the wild food year book.

Is it possible to hold a drill without looking mad?

I found a birch tree about 30 meters off the road. This involved wearing a polo neck a hat and singing "breaking the law" from Beavis and Butthead. I drilled slightly upwards to a depth of about 3 centimeters. Some sap started to form. I am not altogether sure this was enough, I will see when I go back tomorrow. It usually takes about 3 days to get enough sap to fill the demijohn. You have to seal up the hole when finished to prevent the tree bleeding to death.

I then snuck back to my car like a ninja rolling as I went and celebrated at home with a newly bottled mead. The mead used an ale yeast and the end was too yeasty to bottle so here is me drinking it. I manage to look mad even without a drill

There are a load more guerrilla recipes in the book so hopefully I will get to post some more over the next while. I will write up the recipe for the mead to make with the birch sap when I collect some.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bunratty Mead

This is an Irish made mead. The smell is like a slightly sweet turpentine. The taste is pleasant initially. This is not a drink you could have much of cloying is probably the best word. It is initially pleasant but the sickly sweetness gets to you quickly.

The marketing of the mead (well pyment really as it uses grapes) is dodgy. It is made in a sort of paddyland irish theme park Bunratty. The website gives a flavour of the paddy whackery here (warning has worlds worst music). This drink is designed for selling to Americans who want some heritage of their ancestral homeland. So Bunratty mead is similar to leprechaun outfits and bits of "the old sod" turf as more a nostalgic trinket then a product to be enjoyed on its own terms. It is an understandable nostalgia but it is sad that perhaps the only well known Irish mead is pretty poor.