Crabapple Whisky

There are two large crabapple trees here and both are laden with fruit this year. I filled a carrier bag with them today and the trees look no different. Therefore, I have to find something to do with a huge glut of crabapples. You can only eat so many of these before you double up in gut-agony so alternatives had to be explored.

Crabapple cider is a possibility. I do have some large fermenting bins here. I also have to clear the lab soon so I’ll have a lot of 5-litre conical flasks with nothing to do. Then again I do have a lot of grapes this year too.

I will also bring home a 4-vessel continuous culture system with the temperature controlled by a water bath. Continuous booze production could become a thing.

A tip I picked up for home cider making when you don’t have a juicer. Cut up the apples and freeze them for a few days. Turns them to mush. Much easier than trying to juice them fresh, by hand. Of course, that does mean you can’t rely on the natural apple yeast but wine yeast is cheap.

There is a pear tree too. That’s a recent discovery. CStM noticed it first because it carried one lonely, sad-looking pear. I think it needs a bit of TLC. Chainsaw TLC. I have to get a chainsaw.

While searching for things to do with crabapples that involve alcohol, I came across crabapple whisky. There are many recipes out there. This is the one I used. With slight adjustments.

I was not going to use a good single malt for this first experiment but then I didn’t want the real low-end crap. No need to buy that anyway, with the Spiteful Nannying Puritans’ new minimum booze price, the toilet cleaner whiskies are the same price as some far, far better ones. I wanted some decent but low-price whisky. Aldi have Famous Grouse at £14 for 70 cl, and they now have Highland Black in a 50 cl bottle so they can sell it for £10. So I bought those.

We already have 1-litre jars here from CStM’s past pickling experiments. Considering the volume of fruit going in, we reasoned that a 50 cl bottle of Highland Black would probably be enough. It was. I prefer the 70 cl bottle because there’s some left over, but experiment comes first.

I weighed out 750g of crabapples as required but I also had about 200g of blackcurrants in the freezer from the earlier blackcurrant harvest. Not enough to do much with, they were bound to end up blended with something so they went in here. That meant that for the two jars I made today, the 750g of crabapples plus a few extra was enough for two jars.

Jar one:

Crabapples washed, dried and halved (quartered for the bigger ones). Load them in to cover the bottom, add two tablespoons of sugar and one slice of fresh ginger root (I cut off the outer skin). Then pile in some blackcurrants and cover with whisky.

Another layer of crabapples, one tablespoon sugar, another slice of ginger and more blackcurrrants. Cover with whisky. If you just fill the jar with apples first they’ll go brown too fast.

Same again, another slice of ginger, two spoons sugar, cover with whisky. Finally fill with apples and make sure the whisky covers everything. This won’t be easy because the bloody apples float. Oh, they float. They all float down here. Sorry, drifted away for a moment there. I filled it right up with Highland Black and let the lid press them down.

Jar two:

This time I opted for honey rather than sugar. It’s much harder to measure accurately and takes longer to dissolve but we have honey lying around so…

This jar had no blackcurrants (I used them all in the first jar) so this one had a cinnamon stick added at the halfway mark. Otherwise the procedure was the same. Jar two also used Famous Grouse whisky and to my delight there were a few drams left over.

I have no idea how this will taste. It should be left alone until Christmas to infuse properly, and ideally left alone for several years. I doubt I have the patience for that so it’s going to be opened around Christmas time unless I forget where I put the jars.  Freshly made, they look like this:

All the blackcurrants fell to the bottom anyway. So the careful measuring was a waste of time.

I have another of these jars and some smaller ones too. Tomorrow I will get either another Famous Grouse or a different decent low-price whisky, maybe Whyte and MacKay, and make one with ginger, cinnamon and chliies among the crabapples. I always have a good crop of chillies.

I expect I’ll pour it into a jug through muslin and then into a decanter or empty whisky bottle (you can’t buy them empty, they all come inconveniently full but I have a way to fix that).

How does it taste? I have no idea and won’t know until Christmas at the earliest. That’s why I didn’t risk the malts. If it turns out really good then I might try with a decent malt next year.

There are still loads of crabapples left. Cider recipes will be next.

If there are enough left, maybe a pie. But hey – priorities!


Update: I might be pushing the envelope with this one but I had so many chillies, I really had to try it. I suspect it will be hard to find independent taste testers though.


Not even one

There is an American tobacco brand called American Spirit. Rolling baccy and readymades. They are available in the UK although you might need to get them by mail order because (certainly round here) nobody has heard of them.

They are apparently very good, but are the UK ones the same as the US ones? Well, someone offered to send both myself and Roobedoo a pack of the US American Spirit cigarettes to try out. We could compare them to the UK ones, although at £10 a pack, the UK ones wouldn’t be a regular smoke. Not for me at least.

So, one pack of cigarettes in a package. Will they be allowed through? One pack cannot be considered smuggling. Keep in mind that these cigarettes are legal in both the country they are coming from and the one they are going to. That they will not explode, leak or spontaneously combust on the way. That they pose no risk of harm whatsoever. Will they get delivered?


They didn’t even make it out of the state. Why?

They are prohibited. They are perfectly legal to buy in both countries but you cannot send even one pack between countries. Not even one.

Now, I could understand if we were talking a crate of cigarettes, but we are talking one pack. Actually, smugglers wouldn’t even send a crate of them by post. The cost of postage would wipe out any profit from the price differential. Sending one pack at a time would leave you with a street price way higher than even the UK shop price. So ‘smuggling’ is not an excuse.

Nobody is going to smuggle tobacco all the way from the US to the UK. Not when you can load up a small boat in Amsterdam and land it at night on a Dover beach. Hell, you could do it with sail, you don’t even need fuel.

Still, at least the US post returned them to the sender. The UK post would probably burn them, and I wouldn’t be even slightly shocked if I heard they burned them one at a time.

The UK’s Royal Mail have such heavy restrictions on what can be posted, even within the country, that it’s really no surprise we have so many private courier companies now. The private couriers are always your best bet for anything large or heavy – they are cheaper and many of them will collect from your house. Very useful way out here because the little sub-post office in Local Shop can’t handle parcels unless they fit wilthin the general post. Posting anything big means a 25-mile round trip or call a courier.

But I digress.

This is how deep the antismokers go. How petty they can be. How spiteful they have become – all with the full support of those governments who demand taxes on earniings, taxes on spending, in the case of booze, baccy and fuel, taxes on taxes. They rip money off us at every turn and yet are petty enough to enforce prohibition on the transport of a single pack of cigarettes.

‘Oh but one pack could become ten, then a hundred…’

Yeah right. At international postage prices that is really going to happen, isn’t it?

It has been true for a long time that you can visit a EU country from the UK, have a nice weekend away, load up on baccy for your return and save enough on baccy prices that your trip was essentially free. That won’t be true after a real Brexit of course. It probably won’t be true after the fake Brexit that is about to be instituted by Tory and Labour MPs with the backing of Mad Merkel, the Queen of Chaos. So we won’t even have that.

It’s been true for years that in many EU countries you’ll get a far better deal on baccy in the corner shops than in duty free. Most of the duty free only applies if you are leaving the EU.

Same for booze. Duty free whisky prices are beaten by a local Tesco or Aldi if you travel within the EU. There’s really no point even visiting duty free shops. Unless you are leaving the EU – then you get proper duty free prices.

Well, we’re leaving the EU, aren’t we? So at least we can pick up a litre of cheapo giggle water on the way home from our agonising sunburn holiday.

I’m betting that’ll be a ‘no’. I’m betting there’ll be a strict limit on what you can bring back, as if we weren’t in the EU, but the prices will be fixed as if we were. It will apply to cigarettes too.

I haven’t grown my own tobacco for a few years. I’m going to have to start doing it again.

Fortunately I have already stocked up on homebrew equipment. And I’m betting the farmer will let me have a kilo or two of barley cheap – probably free if I fix something or paint something that saves him a job.

I have also, during the course of reclaiming the garden from the weeds, found (so far) three blackberry bushes, some huge elder trees, brambles, raspberries, strawberries, so far five apple trees and seven cherry trees. Oh and let’s not forget the three well-established grapevines in the greenhouse. There’s no shortage of stuff to make booze from here.

There won’t even be a financial paper trail.

All this, you say, because you couldn’t get one pack of cigarettes? Yes. Not because of that one pack.

Because of the spite that stopped it.

Covert Rationing.

Some time ago, there were reports of a poor olive harvest with a resulting shortage of good quality olive oil. Suddenly, olive oil went from ‘good for you’ to ‘bad for you’ in the eyes of the Food Freaks. You don’t want this, oh no, it’s bad for you, and if you want it there might not be enough for us.

Now we have sugar as the new smoking. It’s addictive, you must have it or you will suffer withdawal symptoms and since it’s what your brain runs on, these symptoms can be pretty severe. Naturally, anti-everything Puritans will suffer no ill effects from a total sugar withdrawal since they are already brain dead anyway.

This new demonisation has a cause. There might not be enough sugar to go around, so naturally the plebs must be scared away from wanting to have any. Demand by plebs will only push up the price, and the plebs won’t riot when they can’t get something they’re scared to have anyway.

The Puritans gave up on salt control very abruptly, didn’t they? There’s no shortage of salt. I bought a 3 kg bag in Poundland the other day and I’ll buy more. They also sell plastic containers to store it in. Tesco sell the same size plastic containers for four times the price. It only has to keep the stuff dry on a garage shelf, it’s not some kind of kitchen fashion statement. A one-pound plastic box does the same as a four-pound plastic box.

I’ll have to lay in a stock of sugar too. There are six pounds of frozen plums waiting for the demijohns to be freed up – although I have noticed, on eBay, plastic fermentation bins that will be far easier to get the first fermentation run out of. There’s a lot of mashed fruit in that first run and demijohns have very narrow necks.

Also, I have been eyeing up those huge plastic bottles of cheap supermarket water. Much cheaper than demijohns and so easy to fit with an airlock… but I’m digressing as usual.

I wonder about this antismoking stuff. I used to think it was based entirely on spite because there is no other clear motivation. There is no advantage to the Dreadful Arnott and her drones if we all stop smoking. It is already banned anywhere it could trouble the delicate nostrils of the girlie-men. Banning it in private cars (and soon homes) does not improve the life of a single whining toadie anywhere. There is no reason for it other than pure spite.

Maybe there is. The level of control over the hive-mind of the drones that was established by the antismokers has proved useful. They believe the crap about second, third and nine hundredth hand smoke, they believe all smokers are stupid (a very useful thing to have them believe, I find). They believe it all.

The same technique formed the Church of Climatology with its army of useful idiots who believe what they are told to believe. It has formed the legions who think that eating any kind of fat will make you fat, who believe that sugar is addictive, that inhaling a wisp of smoke from half a gram of burning leaf is more deadly than sucking on a SUV tailpipe (I’m going to get one of them to prove it, one day, I just need to find one stupid enough), that meat and cheese are deadly, that tax is a good thing, that the amount of time you sit at your desk is a measure of how much work you’re doing… and so on.

On that last point, I have sat at this desk all evening and achieved bugger all. It’s too early to write and I have to sleep in order to work tomorrow. Soon this mad time-frame will end and I can get back to normal hours, spent in the cold darkness of past-midnight when the ideas that come border on the dangerously insane. Luckily for the rest of this town, all I ever do is write about them. It just has to be dark and silent save for the scratching at the windows and the creak of distant doors in an empty house.

A quick digression (it’s worth it) – here are some two-line stories that are worth a few minutes of your time. I didn’t think of any of them, I’m ashamed to admit. I especially liked No. 13.

Five a day. Units per week. Smoke that becomes ever deadlier the more it is diluted. Remove fats, salt and sugar from your diet and you will live forever (you won’t last a month). All utter nonsense and all believed, unquestioningly, by the drones. All because they have been trained by the antismokers to believe absolutely anything at all.

Recently I resisted temptation. One of the Local Shop girls had apparently waved to me as she came out of the swimming pool. I never go there but I pass it every day on the way to work. She was mortified that I hadn’t seen her because it made her look as if she was some kind of loony waving at nobody.

Normally, there is one thing more delightful than wrecking someone’s day, and that is wrecking their entire lives. For the lulz. But, I quite like this girl so I didn’t say what was in my mind. “Swimming pool? You go in there? It’s just a load of people sharing a bath full of each others’ filth.”

She’s young and the young are thoroughly indoctrinated. Their minds can now be turned with just a few well chosen words. It would have been cruel. But funny.

If only she had been an antismoker. I’d have listed the bacteria in the water and described the growths in the filters. She’d never have bathed again and could have become a Green.

I think I’m going soft in my old age, you know.

The conditioning of the antismoking mindset has a purpose. You want to raise the chocolate ration from 35g to 25g and have them rejoice? You can now do that. They will not notice.

There is no need to publicise shortages any more. All you need do is tell the drones it’s as bad as smoking and they won’t want any. Then the price won’t go up.

The smart ones stock up from the pound shops, before the supermarkets notice the ‘shortage’ stories among the hype of the ‘bad for you’ stories.

Poundland currently have 1.5 kg of sugar for a pound. And the plastic containers to keep it in. I’ll be in there tomorrow. No rush, the drones won’t touch it.


Clouds in the plums and a space octopus.

Two very short ones combined, to produce a title that Captain Beefheart would definitely have used for a song, if he’d thought of it.

First – my plum wine is cloudy. I treated with pectolase before fermentation but even after racking twice it’s still cloudy. Any expert tips?

Second – The Mail have photos of a top secret American spy satellite, including a close-up of the logo, provided for them by the top secret agency who launched it. That must have been gruelling investigative journalism, all that opening of emails and copy-pasting of text and so on.

It’s another of the camera-laden lumps of metal the USA throw at the sky from time to time and then they let Google play with the medium resolution images. I’m sure the military images are far superior to anything on Google Earth, and when the new one gives better images, Google Earth will also get the (now outdated) better images from the old cameras.

Soon they will be able to diagnose dandruff from orbit. Quite how this advances the American security agenda, I cannot immediately see. But it must be extraordinarily important, considering how much money and effort they are putting into it.

Am I concerned about the Eyeballs in the Sky? Not at all. I live in Scotland. All they see when they look down are the tops of clouds. The cameras on the streets are the ones I’m concerned about.

Those space geeks are very clever people. The ones we have in charge of street cameras are minimum-wage lackeys with Napoleon complexes.

I know who gives me more cause for concern.

Enzyme experiment, day 2.

The first hard frost has arrived. There was still frost on the ground at midday today and we are officially below zero C at night now. That’s it for the growing season until May, although I have one plant in the greenhouse in the hope of getting some seeds. It doesn’t have many leaves left, but it won’t need many now. There’s hardly any sun.

To start with, here’s a seasonal autumnal leaf. Don’t they go a lovely colour?

autumnleafThis leaf is a little over-dried around the edges but is otherwise ready to use. No further treatment is really necessary. However, further treatment can enhance the leaf and also I cannot resist meddling. Hence the enzyme experiment.

Yesterday’s wads of leaf are drying. I teased out the wads and found that there was some difference. Those with the high level of enzyme fell to bits, while those with no enzyme still had large intact chunks. So the enzyme is doing something. Whether it’s doing something good is the question and I won’t know that until it’s dry enough to burn. Shouldn’t be long. The teased-out Day One wads looked like this:

dayone24As far as colour and smell go, there’s not much to choose between them – at this stage they all smell of ammonia. The difference is in the degree of leaf breakdown and whether that is a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen.

These have now been compressed into little blocks and are having the remaining excess juice squeezed out.

Today I opened the 48-hour enzyme treated packs. Here is what they look like –

daytwoThese are (left to right) packs 2, 4 and 6. Pack 2 was water with no enzyme. Pack 4 was 1 tablet in 100 ml and pack 6 was 2 tablets in 100 ml. Again, I can’t see or smell a lot of difference here. When they’ve dried a little, tomorrow, I’ll take them apart and see if there is the same enzyme degradation as with the 24 hour ones.

So far then, I see little difference in terms of colour or smell with or without enzyme but I am seeing some rapid leaf breakdown with the double-strength enzyme. First impressions are that the 48 hour incubation offers no advantage over the 24 hour incubation and that if that enzyme is going to do anything, it needs to be at least two tablets per 100 ml and roughly 50 ml per 5g of over-dried leaf.

The real test will be smoking it. Until then, I can’t say whether rapid leaf breakdown matters at all. It might make it excellent, it might make it crap. Testing will not be easy – I’m not smoking six cigarettes in rapid succesion! I’ll pass out. Maybe I can make six ultra-thin rollies to try it.

Aside from drying and smoking, the experiment has ended. I’ll leave any further testing until I get back to the lab and when I do, it’ll  be 24 hours only and with 2 and 4 tablets per 100 ml. Oh, and the control. That runs every time. The lab has incubators I can set to 50 +/- 1 degC so it’ll be real science time.

I might not have leaves when I finally get to the lab so I have ordered a few more from TL4U for experimental purposes. I hope the order went through okay, the Paypal did but I didn’t get an acknowledgement from the site this time. If nothing happens in a few days I’ll get in touch.

As far as I can tell, if this method works, it’s basically Junican’s wadding technique done in 24 hours. Whether that’s worthwhile when you factor in the cost of the enzymes is another matter. It depends on the quality of the finished product, I suppose – if it costs money to do it, then it needs to be better than the no-cost method or it’s not worth doing.

Where this might be useful is in the treatment of leaves that dried too fast. They still have areas with green spots because the water vanished before the leaf’s own enzymes turned it yellow/brown. Normally I’d cut out those bits and throw them away but if they can be saved, that would be good. Heck, I’ve bought the enzymes, might as well try!

Here endeth the tobacco-science part.

Tomorrow I have to rack off the plum wine. It has finally finished fermenting and needs to be taken off the sediment so it doesn’t end up tasting like Marmite. I’d already racked it off once but then added a spoonful of sugar and it got all fired up again so I kept feeding it until it had had enough. This one might need the smaller glass size for drinking purposes. Just the half-pint.

I have another two, maybe three, plum wine raw materials (frozen mashed plums) so once this one is finished with and set aside to age, the next will get underway at once.

On Firebox they have a ‘make your own malt whisky‘ kit. Don’t buy it. One hundred pounds for one litre? They say it’s ready in days but to be a true malt it would have to be in that barrel for eight years. Even to be a whisky, it would have to be in there for three years. Firebox have a lot of fun stuff but for a hundred quid you can get around three bottles of really posh malt whisky. Okay, you get the barrel, but it’s a one litre barrel. Nah. If I do go into making my own whisky (unlikely since waiting eight minutes to try it would be a stretch, never mind eight years!) I’d need a bigger barrel.

If you have money to burn, send it to me and I’ll spend it on things then burn them. You know it makes sense.

Wine bottling advice?

I will at some point need wine bottles. Apparently you can leave finished plum wine in the demijohn (after it’s all cleared) for a year before bottling but I have only two demijohns and many things to ferment. So I’ll need bottles.

Unfortunately all the bottles in the shops are already full of wine – not a problem, I can easily sort that out – but the big question is, should I buy wine with corks or screw caps?

Screw caps are easier but are there any issues with homebrew? Does it have to be pasteurised or treated in some way to be suitable for screw caps? If not, I will set about ‘disposing’ of wine from screw cap bottles.

If it has to be corks I will also have to get a corking device because the one I used to have has been lost in the mists of time. As I recall, it wasn’t hard to use. Local Hippie Shop is bound to have one – or be able to get one. They have some incredible stuff in there.

I wonder if they need any staff?