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How to make lilac wine

Lilac Flowers

I have always loved the smell of lilac, especially of a Summer’s evening, when the temperature has cooled and there is a bit of humidity in the air, the fragrance is uplifting.

This is again a first for us, if the wine captures the essence of the fragrance, it should make a lovely wine.

Pot of lilac flowers

  • Ingredients:
  • 3.5 quarts/3.5 kilograms lilac flowers, fresh
  • 2.5 lb/1.5kg raw organic sugar
  • 1 tsp citric acid
  • 1.2 US gallons/4.5 litres water
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient & yeast
  • Sterilising agent: peracetic acid, Milton, or silver colloidal water
    A small amount of distilled water to fill the airlock.Equipment:
    Any bucket size above 5 litre, in food grade plastic
    Siphon
    Stirring rod
    4.5 litre/1 gallon demijohn
    Air lock & Bung
    Travel/Luggage scale
    Nylon straining (sporage) bag or muslin cloth

Bring the water to the boil.  Switch off the heat.  Add the lilac flowers to a fermenting bucket and add the hot water.  Leave the sealed bucket to stew for 2 days.  Sterlise a demijohn, airlock bubbler and bung.  Rince out the demijohn and equipment well to remove the sterilising agent.  Add the sugar, yeast and citric acid to the demijohn.  Strain the flowers through a muslin clothe and funnel in the demijohn and top the level up with water if needed to the level shown in the picture below.

 

 

Add a airlock value and keep beside a fire or in a warm place for 3 – 6 months, depending on your preference for sweet or dry wine.

Label your carboy with the name of the wine and date it was made.  Fit a temperature sticker to the carboy.  Within 24 hours, the yeast should start converting the sugar into alcohol and in the process produce gas.  The airlock is to allow gas to escape and no contaminants to enter the sterile solution, as the airlock is filled with distilled water.  Remember to put a cap on the top of the airlock bubbler, this prevents airborne bacteria or yeast floating down into the bubbler.  The yeast kills all other micro-organism to maintain a sterile environment.

The colour was not what we expected.  It reminds me of rosehip syrup.

 

How to Make Parsnip Wine

Parsnip wine we have been told is one of the nicest wines the homebrewer can make.  Again we are relying on the following book for the recipe.

Front cover book 130 new winemaking recipes

We had plenty of good sized parsnips left over.  We left them in the ground to keep them fresh until we were ready to use them.  Despite our best efforts, and I mean parsnip for dinner many, many evening in a row, we still had loads over.  The raised bed they were in needed to be cleared for this years growing, in any case.Peeled and chopped parsnip

The parsnip was washed to remove any dirt before peeling and chopping.  Chop the parsnip into small pieces like shown in the picture.  A travel scale is a handy tool for measuring the weight of large quantities of fruit/flowers/roots/leaves and can picked up in most discount shops for around €3/£2.  Add your parsnip to a large saucepan or pot, with 11 litres of water and bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for about 40 minutes.  Check the parsnip regularly as you do not want the parsnip to go to mush, boil them to tender.  Remove from the heat.  Allow to cool for several hours until tepid or it is safe to pour.  Strain through a muslin clothe/sporage bag.  Add the strained juice to another 11 litres of cold water already in a fermenting bucket.  Add the sugar and stir.  Pour into a pot and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 45 minutes.

Boiling the parsnip

You may need to split the liquid between two pots as we had to do.  Cool to about 22°C/72°F, or add yeast and nutrient, pectin enzyme (this helps to clarify the wine) and then pour back into a sterilised fermenting bucket, cover with a muslin clothe or lid and keep beside a fire for at least a week.

Parsnip wine in fermenting bucket

 

Racking parsnip wine from bucket into carboy

Racking parsnip wine into carboy

After the week, rack (siphon from one container to another, leaving the sediment at the bottom) it into a carboy and add a airlock value and keep beside a fire or in a warm place for 3 – 12 months, depending on your preference for sweet or dry wine.

 

 

 

 

Label your carboy with the name of the wine and date it was made.  Fit a temperature sticker to the carboy.  Within a couple of minutes to 24 hours, the yeast should start converting the sugar into alcohol and in the process produce gas.  The airlock is to allow gas to escape and no contaminants to enter the sterile solution.  The yeast kills all other micro-organism to maintain a sterile environment.

 

Rack (siphon) off into a sterilised brewing bucket after 6 weeks to help clear sediment and clarify the wine.  Pour back into the washed carboy and then again after three months, repeat the process of racking off, before bottling.

Our tip: Once you are happy with the finished taste, specific gravity, alcohol content.  Then add a 1/2 beaker of silver colloidal water to the brew to stop/slow down fermentation.  Stir in and bottle as normal.

Silver water generators are available from our shop to make your own Silver Water: Click here

Ingredients:
7kgs/15lbs Parsnip
5kgs/11lbs Raw Organic Sugar
4 tbsp Citric Acid
1 & 1/2  tsp Yeast & Nutrient
Pectinol/Pektolase (Pectin Enzyme) – Consult manufacturers recommendations
1/2 cup of silver water
Sterilising agent: peracetic acid, Milton, or silver colloidal water
A small amount of distilled water to fill the airlock.

Equipment:
27 litre/7.5 Gallon (UK) Brewing bucket
Siphon
Stirring rod
27 litre/6 Gallon Carboy
Air lock & Bung
Travel/Luggage scale
Nylon straining (sporage) bag or muslin cloth

All brewing equipment and the winemaking book are available from Mullingar Homebrew – mullingarhomebrew.ie (Coming Soon) – Until the website is launched you can contact Brendan: +353 (0) 86 8127 305

Fitted Airlock

Airlock just fitted to carboy, notice that the water is not levelAirlock just fitted to carboy, notice that the water is not level in the airlock.

Airlock, water now level after a few minutes

Airlock, water now level after a few minutes

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Making Rhubarb Wine

Making wine is simple, it requires very little equipment to get going and you can make delicious home grown or foraged wines.

Front cover book 130 new winemaking recipes

There is a glut of rhubarb in the garden at present and every year we wonder what to do with it.  There are only so many rhubarb tarts you can eat!  So last year we tried the rhubarb wine and it was very pleasant.  Problem solved.

Sunday 15th May 2016 was a fantastic day to gather the rhubarb and sit outside chopping it up.  10 kilos is required for a final volume of around 23 litres

bucket of chopped rhubarbChop the rhubarb into small pieces like shown in the picture.  A travel scale is a handy tool for measuring the weight of fruit and can picked up in most discount shops for around €3/£2. The rhubarb is washed to remove any dirt before chopping.  The water is filled to 22 litres of cold well water.

bucket filled to 21 litres

Then lid it and keep indoors for the next three day.  Twice daily, stir the rhubarb to help infuse the juices of the rhubarb.  After three days.

The rhubarb after 3 days

Strain off the rhubarb and pour the juice into a sterlised 23 litre carboy, adding 6kg of raw organic sugar, stir well add 1 & 1/2 teaspoon of yeast and nutrient and 4 teaspoons of citric acid.  Stir the sugar until dissolved.  Fill to the level indicated in the picture below, add additional water if required.

Straining the rhubarb juice into carboy

Next fit an airlock to the carboy and place beside a heat source, such as a range, open fire, for the next three months, so the brew can ferment at at average of 22°C/72°F, avoid allowing the wine to go below 22°C/72°F or above 27°C/80°F . Label your carboy with the name of the wine and date it was made.  Fit a temperature sticker to the carboy.  Within a couple of minutes to 24 hours, the yeast should start converting the sugar into alcohol and in the process produce gas.  The airlock is to allow gas to escape and no contaminants to enter the sterile solution.  The yeast kills all other micro-organism to maintain a sterile environment.  Remember to place the cap on the airlock, as shown in the picture below, in this case it is red.

Carboy with rhubarb juice, sugar, yeast and citric acid added. Now fitted with airlock

Rack (siphon) off into a sterilised brewing bucket after 6 weeks to help clear sediment and clarify the wine.  Pour back into the washed carboy and then again after three months, repeat the process of racking off, before bottling.

Our tip: Once you are happy with the finished taste, specific gravity, alcohol content.  Then add a 1/2 beaker of silver colloidal water to the brew to stop/slow down fermentation.  Stir in and bottle as normal.

Silver water generators are available from our shop to make your own Silver Water: Click here

Ingredients:
10kgs/22lbs Rhubarb
6kgs/13lbs Raw Organic Sugar
4 tsp Citric Acid
1 & 1/2  tsp Yeast & Nutrient
1/2 cup of silver water
Sterilising agent: peracetic acid, Milton, or silver colloidal water
A small amount of distilled water to fill the airlock.

 

Equipment:
27 litre/7.5 Gallon (UK) Brewing bucket
Siphon
Stirring rod
27 litre/6 Gallon Carboy
Air lock & Bung
Travel/Luggage scale
Nylon straining bag or muslin cloth

All brewing equipment and the winemaking book are available from Mullingar Homebrew – mullingarhomebrew.ie (Coming Soon) – Until the website is launched you can contact Brendan: +353 (0) 86 8127 305

Fitted Airlock

Airlock just fitted to carboy, notice that the water is not levelAirlock just fitted to carboy, notice that the water is not level in the airlock.

Airlock, water now level after a few minutes

Airlock, water now level after a few minutes

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Blueberry, Lemon & Honey Milk Kefir Smoothie

Looking for a delicious & healthy desert. Try this one, it’s yummy.

Can be made as a smoothie, frozen ice-cream or frozen pops.

Blueberry, Lemon & Honey Milk Kefir Smoothie

Blueberry, Lemon & Honey Milk Kefir Smoothie

Recipe:

Take 250 mls of milk kefir, add 8 – 10 organic blueberries/bilberries or faughans and generous tablespoon of organic honey and the zest of an organic lemon.

Blend and serve as a smoothie.

Or alternatively freeze as iced lollies.

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Making Milk Kefir – Step by Step Guide (Pictures)

Milk kefir is a balanced pro-biotic unlike most probiotic products sold in supermarkets and health food stores, as it contains not only the beneficial bacteria, but also the yeast.  Not including the beneficial yeast in a probiotic is only half the solution, as it leaves a vacum in your intestinal eco-system for non-beneficial yeast to occupy and cause bad health.  The bacteria and yeast in kefir live symbiotically and produce nutrients to help sustain one another.

In milk kefir, the yeast and bacteria, feed off the lactose sugar contained within the milk, so by end of the fermentation process such of the lactose that can cause intolerances are digested.

Starting with a tablespoon of milk kefir.  Add the kefir grains to a clean sterile fermentation jar, about a 1/2 litre jar.  Top up with organic milk, or raw unpasteurised/non-homogenised milk preferably.

Milk kefir grains in a straining tub

We use organic milk as pictured below.

kefir grains in fermentation jar and carton organic milk

Once topped up with milk, leave on a kitchen counter top, out of direct sunlight to ferment.  Shake twice daily until fermented and the milk thickens and the kefir may float to the top.  When straining no metal must be used.  A solution we found, was to take an disused plastic pot and drill 3mm in the bottle to act like a sieve.  Using plastic is not a first preference, as plastic contains BPA, however it tends not to leech BPA so long as the plastic is not heated, so it’s grand to use in this case.

Strain off the milk yoghurt every 24 – 36 hours depending on how well it ferments and fill into a large fermentation pot, like above and leave out for a further 24 hours to fully ferment.

Or you can pot into small yoghurt ports like below.

small milk kefir yogurt pots

Then refrigerate, and it should keep for 2 – 4 weeks.  Return the strained kefir grains to the a freshly washed jar and top up with fresh milk to continue the process for again.  Sometimes we pour the yoghurt into a large pot for use when making the Oatmeal Porridge Bread as a substitute for natural yoghurt.

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Improving Fuel Efficiency: HHO Devices – Fact or Fiction?

Looking to cut fuel costs?  Read on

Car fuel gauge showing low fuel

What is HHO?
By running an electrical current through distilled water (dH2O), the hydrogen and water split, creating hydrogen and oxygen gas. The hydrogen is then carried to the carburettor and is combusted along with the normal air flow. An small amount of salt (electrolyte) in the form of Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) is added to the water to aid current flow as distilled water is a poor conductor of electricity.

Hydrogen isn’t that dangerous?
Not really, most of these devices monitor and control the current and prevent a run away reaction. Small amounts of hydrogen are produced, but sufficient enough to improve fuel economy.

What type of engines can these devices be fitted to?
They are suitable for both petrol and diesel engines and are most easily fitted to older cars. The most challenging aspect of using these devices especially on newer engines is tweaking the oxygen sensors to reduce the oxygen intake.

What kind of improvement in efficiency can be expected?
Users claim they have reduced their fuel consumption by up to 30%

Have you or someone you know fitted one of these devices?
Not yet, however a trusted friend has fitted several of these devices, to a stationary engine and generator, a number of pre 1990 jeeps and classic car.

He maintains he is getting close to the 30% improvement in fuel efficiency.

Why aren’t more people using these devices?
People perhaps have concerns when they hear the device produces hydrogen. Flashbacks to history classes with thoughts of the Zeppelin come to mind. The airship in the early 20th century that exploded in flames causing the death of many people.

There are also concerns about the admissibility of engines fitted with these devices for National Car Test/Ministry of Transport and Department of Transport vehicle tests. We can’t be certain, but we can see no reason why the device would affect emissions and in fact if anything it would reduce carbon emissions. This is a question best directed to the seller and/or your national or local car test centre or department or ministry.

Would you fit one of these devices yourself?
Yes we have plans to purchase one and fit it to a stationary engine we will connect to the off-grid electrical generator later in the year.

Are they expensive, these HHO devices?
No, they generally retail from upwards of 150E/100GBP.

Would you recommend any particular site to purchase them from?
No without having purchased and tested one, we couldn’t recommend any particular site.

However my friend purchased all of his from HHO Plus (a Portuguese company specialising in making and selling them) and was happy with the quality and service of the product and company.

Are they easy to fit?
They are relatively easy to fit to stationary and older type transport engines.  Best advice is to get the assistance of a good mechanic when fitting it.

Happy and cheaper motoring.

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Travelling off-grid – A guide to getting around

Travelling can be an issue for people, who want to live off-grid and reduce their dependence on money.

Travelling Short Distances

A solution inspired by a friend in Wexford, Scott was to convert a bicycle into an electric bike. There is no road tax, NCT/MOT (vehicle test), insurance.

It’s cheap to run, the only outlay is the small cost to charge the battery, and perishables such as tyres etc.

As you cycle the bicycle, the motor, which in my case is fitted to the rear wheel, kicks in and assists you as you go. The faster you pedal the more assistance you get from the motor. A 20 mile trip feels like a 5 mile trip. The pedal assist can be set from 1 (least assistance) to 5 (most assistance).

Hills are no problem either, the pedal assist really helps there too!

The bike has a range of about 12-30 miles/19.5-48 kilometres depending on the level of pedal assistance, the weight of the bike, wind speed/resistance and your weight and anything you might be carrying. Which is fantastic for my needs.

I got a bicycle given to me by another good friend, Brendan. It has front and rear suspension. This was great because I needed something built for comfort not speed.

We got the kit from Electric Bike Conversions (UK). The kit included everything needed to do a home conversion. A replacement rear wheel with motor, the battery and rack to hold it, the controller box, and on-board odometer to tell you your speed, the time taken to travel, the battery charge.

I remember as a child, the sense of freedom I had when I got my first bike. I grew up in the country, our nearest town was 8 miles away. At that time country shops were in decline, but we had a local shop only a few miles away. My cousins and I would go off on adventures, exploring and visiting other friends and perhaps stop off at the local shop for a treat.

Living in a rural setting, with no public transport, I still have that childhood sense of freedom, knowing I can go anywhere. When we make a sale through the online shop, I will trip on into the village to post off a parcel.

It’s a great way to get fit and have a closer connection with nature. You get to see more of life, the flowers, insects, the birds and animals. You’re not travelling as fast as a car and notice more of your surroundings.

I spent around €800 getting the bike ready between the kit and accessories. The kit costing €600.

I like the old style Dutch bells, the sound alone brings back such happy childhood memories. I picked one of them up for around €3, and a powerful led torch and holder for €6, which came with added bonus of a head lamp.

Dutch Bell for Bicycle

Available from eBay

It took a short time to convert the bike and I got a second battery to double the distance I can travel.

Here it is, the finished project

Electric Bike

The bicycle is now my principal means of transport and when the off-grid electrical system gets installed, the four hour battery charge will be from home produced free electricity.

Travelling Longer Distances

We have friends dotted all over the country and as good as telephones and Skype are, they are a poor substitute for a hug, a face to face chat or sitting down talking or enjoying a meal together.

For longer trips I like to hitch-hike or thumbing as we call it. It’s not at all common today, but many people that will stop an give you a lift are people that at some point in their life have done it, so they know the relate easily to you.

It’s a great way to meet people that you otherwise would never encounter and a great way to travel if you not looking to get anywhere in a hurry. You get to hear their stories and experiences and gain their perspective on different real life issues and vice versa It’s great for whoever gives you a lift, it shortens the journey for them, having someone to talk to.

Almost always, if there is something I am looking to understand or find a solution to, the universe will bring forth someone with that understanding or solution I have been searching for and I have been told the same is true for them. Many times I have answered questions or given direction which has helped the driver.

I have never had a bad experience and have travelled many miles by hitch-hiking. I have met many generous people, who have given advice as to where to get the next lift, offered me food and drink.

One wonderful lady, a real mammy, with grown up children, explained, her husband would scold her if she told him she had picked up a man. He would have been concerned for her safety, picking up a stranger.

She was really kind, she talked a lot about her children and what they were doing in life. They were all grown up and I gathered she missed having them around as much. She gave me a lift from Carlow to Bunclody, offered me fruit to take in case I got hungry. Bless her, she reminded me so much of my own mother and I enjoyed the journey with her.

Another man gave me a lift from Bunclody to Enniscorthy. He turned out to be a web-developer and to my surprise, despite his business suit, was a avid gardener, bee-keeper, animal lover and small holder. Much like myself. It’s strange as I asked the universe to help me with optimising the website for search engines and it’s fantastic to have met someone who is sensitive to growing etc. and understands my needs.

On route home I met two people who both mentioned an author, sadly now deceased “Ronnie Plant” an Irish man, who wrote a number of books on herbalism and maintaining good health. That was the universe telling me to get his book, which I have done and it’s great.

ronnie plant

Talking on the subject of writing. It’s my dream to publish a book on self-sufficiency and I really had no clue how to go about it. I got a lift a few miles outside Bunclody heading towards Carlow. This man as it turned out is a writer and editor and he explained that you can publish and have your book printed on demand each time it sells, by using a site called www.lulu.com. You just upload your proof, at no cost, set your price and the Lulu take a commission on each book sold. Fantastic 🙂

People ask me was I waiting long for a lift, and in truth I seldom do. The longest I have waited is 40 minutes, which is unusual. Fairer weather is a good help when hitch-hiking.

Here is my hitch-hiking guide (Loved the film)!!

  • Plan your journey and know the names of the towns and villages you will pass through.
  • Dress and look presentable – first impressions count.
  • Wait in area just before the town limits, where road users are not yet travelling at full speed.
  • Face the oncoming traffic, in a place with good visibility.
  • Get a good sized piece of white corriboard (A3) and a whiteboard marker and write your destination on it, in large sized print. Place it at your feet. Corriboard can be easily folded over when travelling.
  • Enjoy the whole experience, from waiting for a lift to travelling. (People tend to give happy people lifts.)
  • If a lift doesn’t come quickly, don’t get disheartened, it will affect your mood and expression. Remember the universe will provide the right people at the right time.
  • Avoid being offensive and opinionated.
  • Don’t smoke unless the driver smokes, and even then ask is it ok. Avoid taking liberties.
  • Being open with people, breaks down a lot of barriers and you will find people will be more relaxed with you. How open you are is relative to how comfortable you are with the driver, if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable then talk generally. The weather is always a good ice-breaker.
  • People seldom want to hear your woes, keep topics light hearted and interesting and solution based were possible as opposed to problem based.
  • Conversation is a two way process, give the driver a chance to talk and you a chance to listen.
  • Always remember to thank the driver for stopping and thank them again once you stop and give gratitude to the universe.
  • If people ask you a personal question such as what do you do for a living, then its a given that its ok to ask the same question back. Ask questions to show your interested and help keep the conversation going.

I know people say, you are a man and it’s safer for a man to hitch-hike. A women friend of mine, hitch-hiked all over Europe. She related that she almost always felt comfortable, on a few occasions, men have stirred the conversation towards sex and depending on what was said, would either change the topic, pretending not to have heard, said she wasn’t comfortable discussing that, started talking about her boyfriend or if she so wished continued with the conversation but made it clear, she wasn’t available for casual sex.

In conclusion I believe we create our own reality, whatever you focus on, in fear or love, is what we manifest or call forth into creation.

Main image source: http://www.businesshitchhiker.com/why-hitch-hiking/

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Drying & Preserving Herbs

If your herbs are anything like ours the good weather of late, has caused a growth spurt.  Last year a friend was kind enough to loan us his dehydrator to use.  It was a godsend, we dried a wide variety of herbs, including basil, parsley, sage, mint, chives, thyme and oregano.

Using herbs in cooking is a great way to enrich your food with flavour, nutrients and minerals.  Many of these herbs have medicinal value too, for example cancer fighting, anti-inflammatory properties.

A dehydrator isn’t a necessity, but if your going to commit to growing your own herbs for cooking and making teas then they pay for themselves.

After researching them further, we found that a great model.  It’s biggest selling point was it is free from BPA, Bisphenol A, an artificial chemical released from most plastics especially when they are heated that mimics oestrogen and has many adverse health effects especially for men.

luvele

We purchased our dehdrydrator for £50 from Amazon Seller – Luvele.

There were a number of other benefits to this model.  It’s opaque plastic reduces light penetration and therefore keeps more of the nutrients in the foods.

Although this seems counter-intuitive it dries from the top down as opposed to regular models which dry from the bottom up.   As a direct comparison with the model we borrowed its seems to dry more efficiently, taking 1.5 hours to dry 6 trays of parsley.

As we said earlier a dehydrator isn’t an absolute necessity, a simple paper bag can be used just as effectively.  Herbs are placed in the bag, sealed and then place on top of a cupboard or hung high up in the warmest room in the house.  This method produces the same results, although the drying time can be anything from days to weeks.  So if your not in a rush its a good way to go.

Another method is to wash and chop your herbs, and pack ice cube trays with the chopped herbs, hydrating them with water up to the level of the cube hole and freezing them.  Once frozen, then tip them out into a zip bag and place in the freezer and pick out cubes as you need them for cooking.  The advantage of this method is a more intense flavour and more nutrients are preserved, however on the down-side they take up precious room in the freezer.

This freezing tip is a good method for storing whole foods such as wild garlic and dandelion pesto.