So, the blossom is starting to show, daffodils and snow drops are popping up and the soil is starting to warm up – I think spring has finally reached Tasmania – and about time too!
I think we were all getting a little sick of the cold weather this year. A few days ago the Bureau of Meteorology announced what many of us already knew – this was the coldest winter since 1966. But that doesn’t mean the weather’s suddenly warmer.
Last weekend we had more cold weather, snow on Kunyani/Mt Wellington and more rain than we’ve seen here in the south for several months. So, I got busy indoors 🙂
The last cider brew unfortunately lost its airlock while it was still playing out and had the first faint tinge of sourness when I’d checked it the previous weekend. So, during the week, I transferred about 8 litres to a 20 litre food grade plastic bucket and put about the same amount of clean, filtered water and Mother, my vinegar plant. The rest is sealed in clean fruit juice containers and will gradually all become Apple Cider Vinegar.
In the photo below, you can see the vague shape of Mother down the bottom, doing her thing. It takes about three months to produce a good, robust vinegar, suitable for medicinal and culinary purposes. I recommend processing to arrest the yeast. This is done by heating the strained vinegar to 70 degrees C, cooling and bottling. And of course, the longer you leave the processed vinegar, the more mellow the flavours become.
Meanwhile, the fermenting barrel got a very thorough clean out, all the seals checked and left to dry in the sunny laundry.
My sourdough plant I started at the beginning of the year, affectionately known at this house as Wee Beastie, was ready to make another loaf and there was a new brew of cider to put on.
The bread was pretty easy to get happening. Two cups of Wee Beastie, two cups of strong bread flour, half a cup of rye flour, a little salt and 2 teaspoons of bread improver to make the gluten work. No dry yeast necessary! I knocked the loaf together, kneading it for about ten minutes. Then, coated my hands in good olive oil, rubbed the dough with it, put it in a pan on the water heater (the warmest spot in the house!) and covered it with a tea towel.
Leaving the bread to prove, I replenished Wee Beastie with the usual half cup of bread flour and third cup of filtered water, mixed it well, covered it with cheesecloth and put it back on its kitchen shelf to start fermenting again.
The cider is always a bit of effort, because I like to use filtered water rather than straight out of the tap but usually, the results are pretty darn fine 🙂
This time I was using a Brewmate kit I bought a few months ago from a local brewing supply shop. I’ve never used this one before but its base is Australian pear juice and it comes with sparkling wine yeast, nutrient and apple flavour concentrate. I’m going to see how it plays out and taste a little before deciding to use the concentrate or not.
And, as always, I’ve taken notes on the brew, including the specific gravity, base temperature and so on. I find it easier to keep track if I write it down, and let’s face it life’s too busy to keep everything in our heads! The notebook lives with the clean bottles and brewing things and I add to the notes when bottling and again when I do the first tasting.
I use a heat pad to put the barrel on and with an even temperature, the brew started to take off by late Sunday.
While I was attending to the cider, the bread started to rise very nicely. I think sourdough loaves generally need longer to prove and this time of year when ambient temperatures are still quite low, it pays to give it that little bit extra.
But the result was a delicious light rye, with a beautiful sour tang. It’s still quite a robust, dense loaf that makes the best toast!
Well, I must run and get some rehearsal done for upcoming gigs – more on that later 😉
Take care and see you all soon ❤
What are your best brewing and/or bread making tips? Please leave a comment – I love to hear from you all!