Monday, August 30, 2010

Moving Blog

For awhile now, I was running my blog on two different blog sites. Even though this blog site is superior in posting videos, I find it to be a little lacking in formatting and administration. Therefore, I will no longer be posting to this site. To keep reading what I'm learning about and watching me grow at making cider and fruit wines, please follow me at:

Thank you,
The Candle Wine Project

Friday, August 27, 2010

Book Review on Infusing Spirits and Making Liqueurs

Here are some books on infusing spirits and making liqueurs – a process completely legal so long as you don’t sell it.

Classic Liqueurs: The Art of Making and Cooking with Liqueurs by Cheryl Long and Heather Kibbey is part of the Creative Cooking Series and was updated in 2005. It has a nice short and concise intro including the basics, equipment needed, alcohol basis, other ingredients, and ageing before offering up 37 pages of fruit liqueur recipes and 21 pages of non-fruit liqueurs using herbs and spices. It does have some cream liqueurs in it. Next, it has 17 pages of drink serving suggestions, followed by 65 pages of food recipes using the liquors. This seems like a fun book, but there are no pictures to inspire you. Still, it seems very well organized. I accidentally got my hands on the older version printed in 1996, which appears to have less recipes in all the categories.

Cordials from Your Kitchen by Pattie Vargas and Rich Gulling was published in 1997. It is set up very much like Classic Liqueurs, but with more chapters breaking out fruit liqueurs, nut liqueurs, herb and spice cordials, cream liqueurs, candy cordials, coffee liqueurs, flavored brandies, rums, and vodkas, and fruits preserved in spirits. There are chapters dedicated to drinks or food recipes with the liqueurs, but instead are included as side notes in the margins. Again, it doesn’t have pictures, but I would probably pick this book over Classic Liqueurs.

Homemade Cream Liqueurs by Dona and Mel Meilach was published in 1986. Not to be confused with crème de liqueurs, which is a sweeter liqueur, cream liqueurs such as Baileys contain dairy cream. There really isn’t another book like this out on the market. It starts off with a brief intro and then the history of cream liqueurs, explaining that cream liqueurs contain cream, and saying that cream liqueurs have really only been on the market since 1979 when Bailey’s Original Irish Cream Liqueur figured out how to add cream to their product, keep it from separating from the alcohol, and keep it stable enough for it to be on shelves for years. Homemade cream liqueurs, it warns, will have a shorter shelf life than store bought because a person at home will not have the same tools to homogenize the mixture. To make a cream liqueur, the book says you will need a blender, measuring spoons, clear liqueurs, flavorings, canned or fresh milk, possibly eggs, and containers to store the final product in. It warns that the quality is a bit tricky to control, but offers up a suggested recipe record sheet. It talks a little bit about theory so that you can later go and experiment to make your own cream liqueurs. It then offers up 23 pages of cream liqueur recipes, followed by a chapter on cocktails, coffees, and ice creams, a chapter on cakes and cheesecakes, a chapter on pies, filled pastries, and fruit dishes, a chapter on cookies and cupcakes, a chapter on candies and confections, a chapter on sauces, quiches, fondues, and flan, all made with cream liqueur in it. While other books might have cream liqueur recipes, I feel that they don’t cover the topic as well as this book does.

Luscious Liqueurs: 50 Recipes for Sublime and Spirited Infusions to Sip and Savor was written by AJ Rathbun in 2008. The library lost the copy, so I can’t really tell you how this book is laid out or the quality of the recipes. However, I do remember this book for having pictures, which can inspire you on how to package the liqueur up, especially if you are giving it as a gift.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Drink Review: Jalapeño Infused Guava Margarita

Some time ago, my husband and I went to a restaurant, and their drink special of the night was a prickly pear jalapeño margarita on the rocks. We asked them how it was made, and much to our surprise, they told us. Thing is, they used prickly pear puree, which is kind of hard to find, so we modified the recipe to guava juice instead as it is a mild juice. Look for guava juice with lower amounts of sugar.

The process involves infusing tequila with jalapeño, and then mixing it into a margarita drink. In this case, infusing is just flavoring the tequila by letting it seep, but not sweetening it like one would do for a liqueur. This is not a spicy make your eyes water drink, but instead a nice smooth sweet drink that gives a little bit of a jalapeño burn in the throat. The whole drink works together quite well. My mother’s cousins love it, and once we made a pitcher of this drink and offered up our entire liquor cabinet, and everyone drank the margarita rather than touching anything else. Mind you, this was before we made our own beer and wine.

One starts by taking a jalapeño, cutting it open, and removing the seeds from it. I highly recommend wearing gloves when you do this, as the jalapeño is hard to remove from your skin and under your nails, and will burn your eyes if you rub them hours later. Place the jalapeño in a mason jar and add tequila. Since this will be used in a margarita, it does not need to be the best tequila you can find. Cover the jar and let the jar sit at least three days, and then begin sampling it until it reaches your desired taste. This is usually around a week, but it could be faster or slower depending on the jalapeño. Remove the jalapeño, and recover the jar and label it as being jalapeño infused tequila.

The margarita is then as follows:

1.5 shots jalapeño infused tequila
2 shots guava juice
1 shot triple sec, blue curacao, or other orange flavor liquor (or infuse it yourself!)
3 shots sour mix
1 squirt lime or lemon juice (fresh is better)

Mix together and serve over ice.

Actually, I have come across infused spirits recently, including pepper, but why pay the extra money when you can do it yourself?

Other infusion inspirations:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Making Liqueur

In my last blog, I talked about adding an alcoholic spirit to wine to increase the alcoholic content. But one can also add juice, sugar, and other flavorings to a spirit to make a liqueur. Only the act of distilling is illegal, but if you purchase an already distilled alcoholic spirit and convert it into a liqueur, it is legal so long as you don’t sell it.

Let me back up and say that a spirit is a wine or beer that that been distilled in an attempt to capture only the alcohol, and it is completely dry with no sugar in it. Examples of this include vodka, rum, tequila, gin, brandy, whiskey, and others. A liqueur is a spirit in which flavoring and sugar has been added to it, such as schnapps, Grand Marnier, Frangelico, and others. All liqueurs start off as a spirit.

It isn’t hard to find liqueur recipes on the internet. Some of them are quite simple. My grandfather used to take vodka and mix it with hazelnut syrup that you would use in coffee, and he would call it Frangelico. Some are a little more complex.

According to, the basic recipe for a general fruit liqueur is as follows:

1 lb. (450 g) berries or fruit
3 cups (710 ml) 80-proof vodka (or 1.5 cup pure grain alcohol + 1.5 cup water)
1 1/4 cup (300 ml) granulated sugar

Rinse the fruit or berries. Fruit must be cut into small pieces. Place berries or fruit in a container, add vodka. Cap and store in a cool, dark place, stir once a week for 2 - 4 weeks. Strain through metal colander. Transfer the unsweetened liqueur to an ageing container (glass bottle or container with tight cap). To 3 cups (710) ml unsweetened liqueur add 1 1/4 cup (300 ml) granulated sugar. Let age for at least three months. Pour carefully the clear liqueur to a new bottle. Add more sugar if necessary.

The fruit used for liqueur making can be used as deserts: mix with sugar and use with ice-cream.

Storage of liqueurs
The flavor of almost all liqueurs improves during storage. Fruit and berry liqueurs should be stored for at least 6 months for maximum taste. Some lemon liqueurs (e.g. Limoncello) should not be stored for a long time.

Sugar content
Liqueurs should contain approximately 1 cup sugar per 3 cups finished liqueur (300-350 g sugar per liter). If your liqueur is too sweet, add a mixture of vodka and water (1:1).

Sweetness change during storage
Sugar is converted to glucose and fructose which are simple sugar types with less sweet flavor. Therefore sugar must sometimes be added to homemade liqueurs after storage for some months.

Alcohol content
The alcohol content should normally be 20-30% for fruit and berry liqueurs, except for citrus liqueurs which might have higher alcohol content. If your liqueur has too strong alcohol taste, add some water (or fruit juice) and sugar. If your liqueur has too low alcohol content, add vodka and sugar.

Liqueurs of fruit mixtures:
Don't mix more than two types of fruits or berries in liqueurs. You can make successful mixtures of bitter berries with mild ones, like blueberries and cranberries. If you mix more types you might end up with a sweet-sour drink with no interesting flavor.

Other liqueur making websites:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Target SG 1.090

Lots of fruit are coming into season around here, which means it is time for making fruit wine. Thing is, most fruits do not contain enough sugar to make a wine that is stable. That is to say, the sugar in the fruit becomes alcohol, but not at a high enough quantity to act as a good preserver of the wine. Therefore, more sugar should be added until a hydrometer reading comes out to be SG 1.090. This gives the wine a potential alcohol content of 12%. This process is called chaptalization, and is usually heavily frowned upon with grapes and apples, but necessary for other fruits.

I find chaptalization very frustrating.

First off, one would figure out how much sugar is in the juice that you are working with by taking a hydrometer reading. For example, maybe it reads 1.070. Based on Daniel Pambianchi’s Techniques in Home Winemaking, I was converting the specific gravity to degrees Brix, and having to do all my other calculations in metric. What a headache! However, I have recently found out from Ben Waston’s Cider, Hard and Sweet that it takes about 2.25 grams of sugar per gallon to raise the SG 5 points. So, to raise a 1.070 reading to 1.090, which is a 20 point difference, so 20 divided by 5 is 4, which is then multipled by 2.25, so it would take 9 ounces of sugar times the number of gallons you have.

But wait, it isn’t that simple!

First off, it is difficult to get sugar to dissolve into juice, so it is usually added to boiling water first and dissolved. However, the water can dilute your total sugar! Therefore, the syrup that you create should try to be the highest amount of sugar to the lowest amount of water possible.

Secondly, sugar has a volume, even without being dissolved in water. 1 kg of sugar will have a volume of about 0.7L. Therefore, if you have 1 gallon of juice and wish to add 2 lbs of sugar, those two pounds are 0.9 kg, which would have a volume of .63L, or .16 gallons. Since there are 8 pints in a gallon, one pint is .125 of a gallon, so the 2 lbs of sugar will increase your one gallon by a little over a pint! Either you have to toss some juice, or find a new container to put it in because you now have more than a gallon.

So, when chaptalizing, remember:

  • You want a target of 1.090 SG to have a stable wine.
  • 2.25 grams of sugar per gallon to raise the SG 5 points so long as there is no added water.
  • 1 kg of sugar will have a volume of about 0.7L, without water. Adding 2 lbs of sugar is like adding 1 pint.

Further reading:

The metric version of chaptalization:

  • SG 1.090 is about 21.54⁰ Brix
  • One degree Brix means that for every 100 grams of juice (1 Liter), it has about 1 gram of juice, so the juice is 1% sugar. Of that sugar, only 55% of it will become ethyal alcohol. That is to say that the Brix x 55% = the potential alcohol quantity.
  • 9.2 grams of fermentable sugar per liter will increase the Brix by 1⁰.
  • Remember to convert gallons to liters!
  • Again, monitor for volume issues: 1 kg of sugar has a volume of 0.7L

Friday, August 20, 2010

Game Review: Wine Tycoon

My husband’s computer died a few months ago, so we went out and purchased a new one. Of course, with the new computer, he had to have a new computer game, and while I was browsing with him, I discovered Wine Tycoon by Got Game. I had a coworker rave about Railroad Tycoon to me once, so on an impulse, I bought this game for $20.

I played it for a little bit, thought I wasn’t really impressed. You are given an estate in some region of France, and you have to manage the existing vineyard for weeds, pests, over growth, and soil depletion. You have to make a one time purchase for equipment to do this, and then periodically check in to see if the equipment needs any maintenance. There is a market demand, which helps guide your selection of what grapes to plant, though one would think that some of the market would find the product other places in the amount of years it takes to meet an order. You have other buildings such as grape sorting/crushing, fermentation, and bottling, and you have to build a storage room and purchase barrels for aging. When fermentation is done, it asks you about “blending”, which is really what you have ready to bottle unless you want to set some aside for aging in barrels. It seems to me that you can buy x number of barrels and put less wine in it than they can hold, and the program will treat them all as full when maybe only a quarter of them are. Also, two types of grape wines are never bottled together, so I’m not sure why they still call it “blending.”

The game marches on in time with or without you. In fact, at one point I was cooking dinner and just letting it run, and would periodically check in on it. You just have to periodically check in on the vineyard to make sure it is healthy, on the equipment to see to maintenance, and also deal with blending and possible selling of wine. So much more of it is automated, including harvesting and bottling. I was never really sure if I had the right equipment for crushing or if I needed more fermenters, but I figured if I didn’t, that hopefully, like a real wine estate, the employees would come to me and make recommendations for new equipment purchases. Maybe I just haven’t played enough to hit that point. In fact, I decided to look up reviews to see if I was missing something about the game. There were very few reviews out there, but the ones that did exist were not positive. I wish I had known this before I bought it.

I also found the controls to this game very clunky, and I find myself repeatedly opening windows upon windows, wishing it was all there in one window to begin with, and cursing about how I clicked the wrong button and opened the wrong window. Saving is also a bit odd, as I don’t seem to be able to title my saved games.

Apparently, there is a Beer Tycoon out there, made by a different FIP Publishing & Virtual Playground. If it is anything like Wine Tycoon, I would stay away. As for Railroad Tycoon, I would probably still purchase it because it is done by Sid Meier, and I love playing his Civilization games.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wine Tasting: Clark County Fair Beer and Wine Competition Results

I entered a cider and my bell pepper peach wine in the local fair last week, and I got the results and the judge’s notes back. I found the judging experience quite fun, but the entering part quite odd.

I got a blue ribbon for my bell pepper peach wine 12 points out of 20 points, which is 60%. According to the judging scale, that is a “Good” wine. A lot of the comments I got I was actually kind of expecting, but I decided to go ahead and enter it anyway just to see it though. Everyone was talking about it, and when I went to pick up the score sheet, the clerk even commented on the buzz it produced. I’m definitely going to make this again with recipe modifications for next year.

My cider didn’t hold up as well, which could have been because it got shoved over to the beer competition, where it is impossible for them to score the “hops”. It got a red ribbon with 32 points out of 50, which fell into the “Very Good” category. Actually, that is a 64%, which is higher than the bell pepper peach wine even though it got a red. Good news was that was the top cider, but I think next year I would purposely mislabel it as a “apple wine” to get it into the wine competition. You see, there is a organized Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) which has encompassed beer and mead, even those two are made in a wine like fashion. I would not expect beer drinkers to really understand how to judge it, as it would be like having a coffee drinker judge tea.

As far as judging goes, my favorite wine that I had tasted that night was a Pinot Grigio by Ken Stinger. I originally ranked it a 17, but some of my fellow judges ranked it only an 11, partly because it was the first wine we had of the night. As a result, I lowered my score to a 15 due to we all needed to be within 4 points of each other, which we all later regretted, giving it an average score of 13.44. I’m glad that he had a Pinot Nior that took second place with 16.50 points. I wish them luck with their amateur winemaking label, Gam Cellars. If they ever get a license, I would definitely recommend them.