After picking the grapes we have to crush the grapes to allow the liquid to escape from the skins and also to separate the stems from the grapes. Many years ago the whole process was done by hand or by foot. The grapes were put into a big container and they were crushed underfoot. This would be a lot of work for even a small vineyard like ours. For this reason we use a detemming and crushing machine. Our machine uses about 600 watts so as long as the sun is shining we can use the solar panels of the house to power it.
It is at this moment that we have to measure the sugar content of the must. This is the best way of knowing what the final alcohol percentage will be. We use a refractometer to do the measurement. It works a bit like a prism which reacts differently to light (by giving a reading on a scale) depending upon the amount of sugar that is available in the sample.
When the must (grape juice) comes out of the machine it drops into buckets. We then carry the must to the 200 litre plastic drums. After a couple of days the yeast from the skins of the grapes will start to ferment the sugars. This is called initial fermentation which lasts a few weeks depending on temperature and other factors. It is in the initial fermentation that the wine gets the color from the skins. In the wine made in the video below we allowed the wine to stay with the skins for about 4 weeks. This is probably a little too long and the wine picked up a bit too much tannin from the skins. This year we will press the wine (separate the skins from the liquid) sooner.
So the 2018 courgette season has arrived and I’m enjoying trying out new recipes to find different ways of preparing them. I prefer to pick them when they are still quite small. That way you can use several at a time when they are at their best for a side dish rather than waiting until they are the size of marrows. There are always some that get away but I’ll slice these lengthways and give them to the chickens so that they can peck out the seeds.
FAVOURITE COURGETTE RECIPE
My all-time favourite way of preparing courgettes is to slice the small courgettes into 2cm slices. Fry them in a covered pan with some extra virgin olive oil. Turn every so often so that they lose their liquid and catch a bit of colour on each side. After 10 minutes or so, toss in a knob of butter, grind over some black pepper and squeeze over some lemon juice. Delicious.
My challenge each year is to find some new and interesting recipes to use up the abundant crop.
The first recipe I tried didn’t salt the courgettes first which proved to be a messy mistake. In the second one I salted the grated courgette and left for an hour before squeezing the water out.
One of the problems with having chickens is what to do if you want to go on holiday. Water and food are fairly easy to solve but collecting the eggs is more difficult.
Sarah designed the Eggstractor which is basically just a crate with a way of decelerating the eggs so that they don’t smash. We have been using this system for almost 3 years and it works perfectly. As far as I know it is not possible to buy one or even buy a similar product which would solve the same problem.
Being able to see the chickens over the internet is a good idea. One time we were in a storm crossing the Bay of Biscay in a ferry and we were able to watch the chickens getting onto their perches.