Category Archives: misc

Making Ice Cream At Home

Hey! Isn’t this a winemaking blog?

I don’t know about you, but in my little corner of the world it’s been hot. And while all this heat has Western Washington grape growers looking forward to their best year in a long time, it has me forgetting all about making wine and trying to remember where my old ice cream maker is.

A little like winemaking

You can still buy the old style ice cream makers, even hand cranked ones, but the newer counter-top appliances are a better choice for most people. With those it really can be as simple as mixing four or five ingredients together, pouring it into the machine and turning it on. As with winemaking, there are more advanced recipes that require more work but promise richer ice cream. And for really great ice cream, you need to use really great ingredients like fresh cream, good fruit picked at peak ripeness and used right away. That sounds a bit like winemaking too, but as long as we’re talking about ice cream and winemaking, what about incorporating alcohol into our ice cream?

Not available at any price

It’s not just a tasty combination that makes this so tempting, it’s that you won’t find it on store shelves at all. So can we just add brandy to an ice cream recipe and pour it into our ice cream maker? Not quite. Alcohol freezes at a much lower temperature than water, so adding to ice cream is a bit like adding anti freeze. You’ll just end up with cold, slushy not-ice cream.

The trick is to stabilize the alcohol with gelatin. It’ll still be softer than ordinary ice cream, but it will be ice cream! You might try adding 1 packet of gelatin and 1-1.5 cups of beer/wine/spirits. But modifying ice cream recipes can be a double edged sword: you might make something much better than the original, but you might not. Problems can be as simple as the new larger volume might not fit in your ice cream maker. Or maybe the ice cream will not be sweet enough (because the amount of sugar is proportionally lower). Or not creamy enough (reduced proportion of milk fat). Or … that’s why it might be best to start with proven recipes. Jenise Addison and Valerie Lum have done the work for you in their Ice Cream Happy Hour: 50 Boozy Treats That You Spike and Freeze at Home. It includes 50 recipes, and is definitely worth a look. Chocolate Guinness ice cream, anyone?

Happy New Year!

In a hurry? Make a kit!

Kits are a great way to start making wine, but that’s not the way I started. In fact, my first kit isn’t in bottles yet. One thing I learned from making one is that kits are a great way to make wine fast. I get asked about that a lot and I didn’t have many concrete ideas because I usually take my time. Until now. It isn’t just that kits come with simple instructions and a clear schedule, it’s that you can adapt the technique and mindset to conventional winemaking. So if you’re in a hurry, make a kit or three. Learn from it (even if you’re not a beginner) and use as many of the techniques as you can in your next blueberry wine (or whatever strikes your fancy). I’ll have more to say about this after my own kit is bottles.

Liqueur: More sugar, more alcohol, no yeast

Another fast way to taste the fruits of your labor is to make liqueur. As I mentioned at the end of my plum wine recipe, I’ve recently made plum liqueur. I quickly followed up with a cherry liqueur, and  friend sent me some of his limoncello. Winemakers will find much of the liqueur making process familiar, but there are differences. No fermentation, for one! Another thing that struck me is that I couldn’t find recommendations for acidity, alcohol, and sugar. I’m convinced that a good balance is just as important as it is for wine, but I may have to find out by trial and error – someone’s gotta do it 🙂

These are new to me, and I expect to write about them in 2011. There’s still a lot to say about more familiar topics, so there won’t be any radical changes. I’m looking forward to the New Year – I think it’ll be a good one!

At Last!

Dharma WineOk, it hasn’t got a lot to do with making wine, but I’ve been waiting a long time for tonight’s episode of Lost. I made a wine from Old Orchard Concord grape concentrate, yep the kind you buy in the grocery store, and labeled it in honor of the show. This sort of wine will never be great; you won’t rave about the complexity or delight in picking up subtle notes of … anything. But it’s surprisingly good and you can make it for less than $1 a bottle.

A Chocolate Store

Chocolate: Always too small, but never the wrong size

My latest store sells chocolate for special occasions. Chocolate is a great gift, and not just for Valentine’s Day. While other things might be returned for all sorts of reasons: doesn’t fit, wrong color, already have one, why would I ever want one, when was the last time anyone returned chocolate? From “Road Less Traveled” truffles made by Sensual Chocolatiers to chocolates filled with Bailey’s Irish Cream (kinda like peanut butter cups for grown ups), you can buy the perfect gift for someone – even if you know nothing about them.

It’s gonna be a great Valentine’s Day!

Washington Winemaker Does Photography!

A 5-gallon carboy of wildflower mead flanked by two 1-gallon jugs. The light red jug on the left is raspberry mead, and the dark red one on the right is raspberry wine.

I’ve been trying show my wine and mead in a better light. The above photo shows two of my meads and one of my wines. Wildflower mead, from A Simple Mead Recipe, stands in the center with raspberry mead in the 1-gallon jug on the left. Those meads almost glow, while my raspberry wine is more subdued on the right.

I don’t have high end photographic equipment, heck I don’t have very much low end photographic equipment, but I set up this shot against a white background lit from the left side and above. I talk about the setup in a little more detail here. Photography is another hobby, and I’ve been doing a lot of research into digital cameras. Some people have asked me for advice, about buying one, so I’ve collected my thoughts into a digital camera buying guide.

Just Do It

I’ve got a freezer full of rhubarb, tomatoes, and grapes. They, and the apples in my refrigerator, are all destined to become wine. What’s the holdup? Chemicals. I need more sodium hydroxide (NaOH) to do acid titration and buffer solution to calibrate my pH meter. If I’d ordered them online, they’d have arrived by now and I’d be in business. Instead I decided I needed them fast, so I’d just pop down to the local homebrew shop and pick them up. I don’t know why I keep putting it off. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to sit in even more traffic or squeeze into a crowded parking lot? I could order them today, of course, but then I’d have to wait for them to be delivered …

New And Improved Washington Winemaker!

I use WordPress software to run this blog, and I upgraded to the latest version over the weekend. If all went well, the site should be a little quicker and more secure, but shouldn’t look all that different. I still have some details to work out, but I think the upgrade was a success. If you notice anything wrong with the site, please let me know.

Buying A Digital Camera

Steam Engine In A Sports Car: Using a film camera to illustrate my blog

I own two cameras: a Ricoh KR-5 and a Yashica T4. Both are 35mm film cameras. The Ricoh is a manual SLR and the Yashica is a point-and-shoot. They’re great cameras, and when I started, I intended to use them to illustrate my blog. The delay in shooting a roll of film, developing it, and scanning the negatives made it difficult to write about what I was currently doing. Some of my blog entries are about what I did, or how something looked, a week ago. I’ve been borrowing Marsha’s digital camera, and I just never imagined how much I would love having a finished digital image the same day (or hour!) I took the photo. So I’ve been thinking about getting my own compact digital camera. I’ve done a lot of research, and I have a good idea of what I want and why.

Megapixels: Too much of a good thing

Manufacturers have been competing on resolution, with each new generation of digital camera featuring more megapixels than the last. Since the physical size of the camera’s sensor has not been growing at the same rate, or at all, each pixel must be captured with less light. What’s happening is that the camera lets in a certain amount of light while it’s shutter is open. This light is divided up by a grid in order to produce a picture, each square on the grid is a pixel. As you increase the resolution (megapixels) and keep the sensor size the same, you divide that same amount of light into more, and smaller, pixels.

There is actually a photocollector for each pixel on the camera’s sensor, and as it tries to determine what that particular pixel should look like it still encounters a certain amount of noise. This noise is inherent in any electrical sensor and doesn’t decrease for the convenience of camera manufacturers. Have you ever heard of the “signal to noise ratio?” Well in digital cameras, it’s been going down (less signal in each pixel, same noise). Most manufacturers have reacted by trying to clean up the noise after the fact.

Bucking The Trend: Bigger sensor, fewer megapixels

They’re getting very clever about doing this, but it’ll never be as good as producing a good clean picture to begin with. That’s what Fujifilm has done with it’s Fuji Film F31fd Finepix 6.3 MP Digital Camera. It’s six megapixels provide plenty of resolution for most purposes, and it’s sensor is larger than most (maybe all) compact digital cameras. The result is good clean pictures even in low light. Fuji has recently released a newer model in this line of cameras, the Fujifilm Finepix F40fd 8.3MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom (Silver). It features more megapixels and a bigger sensor to accommodate them. This new camera is probably an improvement, but I just don’t know enough yet to say for sure. I’d feel very comfortable buying the F31fd, and if I had to buy a camera today that would be the one. I’d like to see some independent reviews of the F40fd before I decide which of the two to buy.