flower press

A flower press arrived in the post, sent to us by a sweet old friend of the family. A flower press! How lovely! Such a delight, particularly as the little girls and I have been dreaming of one.

flower press © elisa rathje 2012

Simply a couple of boards with layers of cardboard and paper, sandwiched and screwed tight with wing nuts. Smart. This is a particularly cute one.

flower press © elisa rathje 2012

For our first try we plucked a few petals from the tulips we’d picked on the farm last week. May flowers from the garden are next. Thank you my friend!

apple wine

For those of us who have been daydreaming about making homemade wine, I’m delighted to offer a look into an annual apple & pear pressing day. I give you the wonderful Patricia Mellett of Making the Best.

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Firstly roughly chop fruit.

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They go into a ‘scratter’ (crusher).

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Pears work well too. You can make wine from lots of things such as tea, parsnips and even rosehips.

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The scratter turns the fruit into pulp. To make wine on a small scale at home it can be done in a food processer!

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The pulp is then put into the cider press to produce the juice.

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Take a gravity reading of the juice and add sugar to bring the gravity up to the desired level for the alcohol level you want in the wine (about 1075-1080 will be enough).

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Once you have the juice at the desired gravity, you put it into a demijohn and add the yeast – white wine yeast is best. Fit a bung and airlock and keep the demijohn in a warm place – you want about 20 to 25 degrees C. Fermentation will start within a day or two – you can tell that it has because bubbles will pass through the airlock. Fermentation will be complete after one or two weeks (the bubbles will stop). Once fermentation is complete, syphon off the wine into a fresh demijohn and refit the bung and airlock. Now wait for the wine to clear. This can take several months, but you can help things along if you are in a hurry by using a clearing agent. Once the wine is clear, syphon into bottles and cork them.

Adding Pectolase at the juice stage may help clearing substantially. You can also add a yeast nutrient to the juice to help fermentation if you wish. Some winemakers use a campden tablet to sterilise the juice before fermentation (this helps to get rid of the natural yeast in fruit). You don’t have to do this, but it helps to produce more reliable wine. If you do add campden to the juice, wait at least 48 hours before you add the yeast so that the campden tablet has time to wear off. The wine will be best after at least 6 months. This gives time for the flavours to develop.

It is very important that the demijohns, bottles and anything else that is going to come into contact with the fermenting juice, and later the wine, has been sterilised. It is best to use a dedicated steriliser like “VWP”. After using this, rinse items in clean cold water.

What are you going to do with the rosehips you have just collected Elisa? Wine maybe?

Oh, now I wish I’d made apple wine with them! I’ve made something traditional with my rosehips, I’ll show you soon. I’m thinking about perry, and ginger wine too. I feel much more brave now, thank you Patricia! That’s ever so inspiring. Patricia’s gorgeous shop in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, Making the Best, has brewing kits and supplies and classes, and other wonderful things to make.