Where growing, making & good living come together

Surprise damsons

Posted by on Friday 19 August 2011 in homebrewing | 11 comments

Our fab friends Vic and John B texted the other day to ask if we’d like some damsons – they’d used as many as they could but had some spare that needed eating/processing ASAP. “Some” turned out to be about 5kg (11lbs)! Thanks so much Vic & John B! :)

Last year, we thought our mysterious plums might be damsons – they’re about the right size – but the colour is very, very different. Ours are a very deep pink when ripe but these are such a rich indigo-blue, it’s almost unreal. I feel by the process of elimination, we’ll work out what our plums are eventually :)

We gave a few handfuls some to Strowger & Urbanwide for eating and my John turned the rest into wine last night. He did a lot of exclaiming about the amount of sugar needed for the wine – it’s a good job I don’t have any immediate jamming requirements as he’s used up practically every grain of sugar in the house.

Have you grown/foraged damsons this year? What did you do with them? Any favourite recipes?

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The weekend of exploding cider bottles

Posted by on Monday 20 June 2011 in homebrewing | 7 comments

It actually started on Thursday night/Friday morning. I woke up to find Lily-dog shut out of the kitchen and John inside the kitchen looking confused. There were bits of glass on the floor but not enough to be a whole bottle or glass – but he couldn’t find the rest of whatever had broken. He was inspecting the empty beer bottles from Wednesday night’s beery evening when Detective Louisa stepped up and suggested the cider – which was housed at the other end of the kitchen, about 4m away – may be to blame. Lo and beyond, the rest of the shattered bottled was found.

John cleared up and put a towel over the remaining bottles – just in case any others decided to go bang. And go bang they did – yesterday morning while I was relaxing (well, gaming) on the sofa in the next room. I have no idea how we missed the first one – the second boom was LOUD. It turned out three bottles had broken – presumably one had set the other too off, and they had also shattered the glass of the kitchen clock (which was above the bottles) and left deep scars in its plastic. Thankfully the towel had caught most of the glass – but sticky cider dripped everywhere.

While he was cleaning up that lot, he put the remaining five bottles into a strong plastic bucket, with a piece of wood on the top, weighed down with a 2kg weight. Just after he’d finished cleaning up, one of those bottles exploded too – the force of the explosion didn’t break the other bottles but it was enough to lift the wood & weight to spray small bits of glass in the vicinity of the bucket. John immediately decanted the cider from the remaining bottles into strong plastic bottles and vowed that it would be drunk by his family that afternoon (it was).

We think a few things might have caused the explosions:

  1. a little too much sugar added at the last stage
  2. not enough air space left in each bottle
  3. the bottles weren’t a strong as they appeared – he’d reused old shop-bought cider/beer bottles as instructed by experts/other homebrewers but perhaps they weren’t as strong as they should be. It was the bottles that gave way, not the caps popping off.

Whatever happened though, it was frickin’ scary and definitely something we don’t want to repeat. I can only imagine the damage it would have done to us or the animals if we’d been in the kitchen at the time.

Have you had homebrew explode before? What precautions do take to avoid it?

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