Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Dandelion & Burdock

Well a few weeks ago we decided to start making our own homebrews. Not just the "Beer in a tin" type of homebrews, but more of your cottage / hedgerow type brewing. Saying that, I've just bought a 40 pint cider kit from Wilko's, but I'm sure that will be another story for another blog.

The Dandelion and Burdock brew was our first brew, and unfortunately started before we started this blog.
Making the brew was a very similar to the nettle beer documented earlier on in the blog, and from bottling should be ready to drink within 7 days.

Saturday night was the 6th day in the bottle, but was also the day of my good friend Patricks Stag do, and seemed an appropriate time to open a bottle. I think I shoved it under the nose of most people at the party, and honestly, most were unimpressed with the beer. I enjoyed it, but I would wouldn't I?

Anyway a few days further on and the taste has greatly improved. Its still quite bitter, and this is probably to do with the Dandelion roots. I think that next time I shall used slightly less dandelion but as a whole its actually a really nice refreshing drink. We are actually drinking it with a small splash of lemonade, and this takes away the slight bitterness of the drink.

We have about 3 pints of it left, and then it should be time to crack open the Nettle beer. Friday will be the 7th day in the bottle, but again I guess that will get better after about the 10th day.

A Busy Week

I've got the week off of work, which is nice. Unfortunatley Phil is still working, but she works from home anyway, so we are still seeing quite a lot of each other.
This week I had planned to sort out some of the much needed work to the house and garden. So far the weather hasn't been too good, but progress is being made.
Our utility area has now been totally stripped down and painted. I shall be laying 3mm MDF boarding on the floor, before fitting a lino type material. I also have a work surface to put up above the washing machine. I hope to also pick up some cheap cupboards, as we dont have that much room in the kitchen.
The garden has had loads cleared out of it, but doesn't actually look that different. I have removed a huge ivy plant that had taken over one part of the garden. This was one hell of a job, but should now be pretty manageable. I would get rid of it, but I think that even David Blaine would have problems.

Phil and myself have also gone fishing twice. Last friday we headed off to Hythe to fish the evening tide. We had a really good evening catching dogfish, pouting and whiting. Nothing was big enough for the pot, but still an enjoyable evening.





I also treated myself to a new rod and reel :) I picked these up yesterday, so today we headed over to Bartons point on the Isle of Sheppey.
It was a pretty quiet day, only catching the smallest plaice that I have ever seen.

Hopefully next time we might catch some dinner

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

About 34 hours on...

Its been about 34 hours since the yeast was added the the nettle brew, and its beginning to honk to high heaven.
Its fermenting nicely, but lets hope it tastes better than its beginning to smell..!
This is what it curerntly looks like.. :)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Making Nettle Beer

Last week we made Dandelion and Burdock beer, and thats bottled, and maturing for a week before we guzzle it.

These basic brews dont take long to make, most of them from the first processes to drinking take as little as just 10 days.
Well whilst the Dandelion and Burdock was maturing in its bottles I thought it time to start on the next brew. This involved taking Phillipa on an exciting mission into the countryside to find some fresh young nettles. After driving for around 20 minutes we found the perfect spot, and with a gardening glove each and a carier bag we started gethering the nettles.
The best flavour comes from the top bunch of leaves, as these are generally the youngest. You can use the whole plant, but a huge range of insects use the nettle plant, so its best to only take at most the top 4 sets of leaves so that you dont disturb the habitat to much. We mainly picked the top 2 sets, as these we by far the newest, and will hopefully give the best flavour.
We needed 2lb of nettle tops for this brew, and as a rule of thumb, a well stuffed carrier bag weighs in at about a pound. With one filled each, and only a few stings later we tied the bags up and headed home.
For our Nettle beer we needed the following.

2lb Nettles
8 Pints of water
1lb Demerara Sugar
2 Lemons
1oz Cream of Tartar
2 tsp ground ginger
8 pint of water was added to a large cooking vestle, and the nettles added. This was brought to the boil, and the nettles stirred and mashed through out the process to try to extract as much flavour as possible. They were boiled for about 20 minutes.

Here the nettles are cooling down ready to be strained

I mashed the nettles in a collander to get as much juice from them

Whilst the liquid was cooling I weighed out the ingredients. I also grated the zest from the 2 lemons, and then juiced them.

When the liquid was cool enough it was passed through the collandar into another pan to remove any leaves that were still in the mixture.

The liquid was then sieved into a freshly steralised fermentation bucket. You need to be 100% sure that everything is sterile. Any baddies could stop your yeast from fermenting your brew, and you dont want that.

The sugar was added along with the lemon zest and juice

Measure out your ginger, and add 2 tea spoons

Insert silly picture :)

Weigh out and add the Cream of Tartar

Relax for a while with a fine drop of Whiskey

Stir, and stir and stir until all of the sugar has disolved

Meanwhile, the easter bunnys look on, wondering quite what I am up to..!
When the liquid has cooled down you need to add the yeast. I use a strong wine yeast, and 1 heaped teaspoon of this is added per gallon of liquid. I add this to a mug of warm water, and stir it in. This is then added to the fermentation bucket, and a clean tea towel laid over the top.
I wrap a heat belt around the bottom of the bin to keep the liquid at a constant tempreture, and this will be left to ferment for 3 days before it is syphoned off into bottles.

The nettle mulch that was left looks like this, and I ate about 3 mouth fulls of it. It tasted like over boiled spinach. Phillipa declined the offer of some claiming that she had just cleaned her teeth.

The bottling process will be up soon, as hopefully will be a review of the Dandelion and Burdock beer.

Welcome to Matt and Phillipa's Patch

After a bit of interest in what veg we grow, and our home brewing activities I have decided to post a regular blog.
Here is a bit obout the current state of our garden.
Mafro and Phillipa

Last year I dug over part of the garden so Phillipa and I could grow a few vegetables. Some we had a great success with, others weren’t so good, but the bug had bitten, and this year we have planned a little more.

Last year we managed to grow a bumper crop of Maris Piper potatoes, and had limited success with carrots as I hadn’t thinned them out enough. They were all weird and wonderful shapes, all twisted together and rather stunted, but we ate them all, and despite their odd appearance they tasted lovely.

This year, the veg patch has been made bigger, and I’m contemplating turning over more of the garden to grow more crops in.

Currently planted are the following.

  • Kestrel Potatoes
  • Onions (red and white)
  • Carrots
  • Runner Beans
  • Broad Beans
  • Dwarf French Beans
  • Sugar Snap Peas

We also have the following starting off in pots

  • Tomatoes of many variety
  • Scallopini squashes
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Chilli’s

We also have 10 strawberry plants, a gooseberry bush and an olive tree planted in pots at the end of the garden that are doing rather well, and a rhubarb plant that is looking nice and healthy. (edit, the rhubard plant is nice and healthy, but doesn't look too good as a birs has crapped all over one of the leaves)

Here are some picture of our garden in its current state

This is where the majority of the beans are planted

The empty patch at the front of this shot is where the potatoes are planted. Behind that the first crop of red and white onions that were planted about October last year. Behind them is another crop of white onions that were planted about a month ago. The stems of these are already about 2.5" tall. Then there are carrots, and then some broad beans.

Here are some of the more mature onions

The gooseberry plant (Not much of a bush yet), and the young strawberry plants.

The Strawbs

Our olive tree in its second year. Will be a few more before we get any fruits from this one...!

And our Rhubarb, or more aptly named Poobarb plant