It is now almost a year since he first winemaking efforts began here at Space.The apple wine which was started last February remained a little cloudy but was bottled up nonetheless. As the spring came, the Plot broke out in Dandelion flowers: we picked them all one sunny day, and as luck would have it there were just the right amount of flowers ("enough to fill a pillowcase", said the recipe) for one batch of wine. In summer the redcurrant bushes in the front garden excelled themselves, and there was exactly the right weight of fruit (if we added a punnet of strawberries which had got a bit squashed in transit...), to put together a "redcurrant and strawberry" must. Later in the season we were spoiled for blackberries, and last of all came the elderberries.
Bottling the apple wine turned out to be a bit scary. Well, scary in that sense that somehow gets to the backs of the knees. I bought professional corks and soaked them as per the instructions, but in spite of the massive mechanical advantage given me by the corking-device's long levers, it took practically all my body weight to press the corks in: a stunt interrupted by the unwelcome thought "What if that bottle shatters under the weight?.."
I haven't dared use the corker since.
After deeming it not quite smooth or clear enough for actual drinking, we discovered that the apple wine made an excellent, and very cheap, substitute for the Chinese cooking wine which we use for marinading the meat for stir-fries.
Then Christmas came, and with it the present of a vintage book on winemaking, which proved the perfect sequel to the practical little tome that had been my only guide so far. Reading it through shed much-needed light on several mysteries: why had the apple wine been cloudy? (Pectin in the fruit: you can get enzymes to destroy it) How can corking be made easier? (thread a plastic-coated piece of wire down the neck of the bottle so that you are no longer pushing against the air trapped within...then pull out the wire) and finally, how can you tell the strength of a wine from its density? (by using the book's conversion table).
But the serendipity hasn't ended there. Browsing for kitchen stuff in a charity shop, what should I spot but...THIS!
There's anough space in there for no fewer than thirty bottles of wine! The exact number, in fact, that can be made using the kit I bought last year. Which is a perfect pot-boiler for the winter, until the dandelions come round again.