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Cheers

My kids love that I make alcoholic beverages now.

My twenty one year old, with way too enthusiasm over her newfound freedom to drink, says, “You have GOT to teach me how you make this stuff. If my MOM can do it, so can I.”

My underage son, says, “You have GOT to let me drink this stuff. Can’t be bad for me if my MOM makes it.”

But, it’s the little one who seems to truly marvel at the process. Every time a friend comes to the house, she takes them into the pantry to show off her mother’s big 6 gallon jugs of fermenting wine, then opens the cupboard to show off the jars of aging cordials. She likes to point out how the airlocks bubble, proving something interesting is happening inside, then goes on, professor-like, to explain how sugar and yeast make alcohol.

Her friends say, “Gee, that’s a lot of wine. Your mom must drink ALL THE TIME.”

Mark lifts an eyebrow and says, “With her help, you won’t get a reputation for being a great cook. You’ll be the new town drunk.”

“She doesn’t drink it. She MAKES IT.” Neva points out, with logic that, strangely enough, makes sense to her friends. “Besides which, she can’t drink it ’till later. Next year she’ll drink it all.”

Gee, thanks. It’s better for my reputation to have my drunkenness on temporary hold.


I seem to have a big bucket of something brewing by the door of the kitchen all the time now. Every time I pass that way, I pause to stir it a bit. This is tomato wine in the first stages – it is not as gross as the picture makes it look. When I am done clarifying it, it will look like a zinfindal and taste not unlike it too.


After a week or so, when the major fermenting is well on the way and I no longer need a wide air release to handle the gurgling, foaming liquid, I’ll transfer it to a carboy where it will continue to ferment for a month or so with a bacteria killing agent. Here’s my blackberry, strawberry and Pino Noir doing just that.


I feel empty myself when the primary fermenter is empty, so I start thinking “Hummm…… What’s next?” and I browse the recipe books to consider what is in season and appealing to my taste buds. Meanwhile, I re-rack the wine again to get rid of sediment that will make it bitter, readying it to wait a few months before finding a home in 30 traditional wine bottles. Because the wine is always dry at this point, I sweeten it (or not)  I am actually ready to bottle my first batch now. I bought a nifty floor model corker and collected bottles – even got a fancy bottle tree to hold the bottles bacteria free once they are sterilized. I bought a fancy computer program for making labels and picked a few styles of labels that seemed a good representation for the wines I am making. Yep, I’m ready to begin my Hendry Home Winery collection, only …..   I forgot to order corks. Duh. It’s always something, ya know. Anyway, when my rush order corks arrive in a few days, I’ll be ready to go. 


I am also having fun with cordials. I am focused on fruit cordials now, because I want to make everything in season (none of that cordial flavoring liquid for me – I like the old fashion real fruit and seasoning left to ooze flavors for a few weeks myself.) I’ve made Strawberry, Cherry, Peach, Prunelle (Plums), Blackberry, Pineapple, and Hypocras (a strawberry based cordial with orange rind made with a wine base).




I am making a mint cordial today. (Grasshoppers, here I come!) I am ready to move on to nuts, coco and coffee cordials too. Seems like fall-ish flavors to me. (Oh, and for your information, there are no recipes for pumpkin cordials – drat.) Some of these concoctions will be used as an after dinner parfait, some will be combined later with other ingredients to be turned into cream based cordials for gifts or holiday celebrations. Some will probably just be used to give a flavorful kick to my cooking, and some will be poured over homemade ice-cream as an adult dessert when friends come to dinner. I don’t know if I really have a use for them all. It’s the making, not the consuming, that I enjoy most. And displaying, of course. Half the fun is the bright, colorful array of pretty bottles filled with something yummy.

With all these flavorful, pretty liquids brewing, I had to consider what I wanted to put them in. I wanted my cordials to be as pretty bottled as they are in the jars, with the deep colors sparkling and advertising their rich flavor, so I went on E-bay and began collecting antique bottles. Some are cut in interesting, historic design. Some are colored, some clear. They went for only a few dollars, but with shipping, I had to watch what I bought. The bottles ended up 5 – 7 dollars a piece, which can add up and negate the thrill of making the brew for almost nothing.  Then, with bottles on the brain, I went to the flea market, and low and behold, I noticed old bottles everywhere. When you aren’t looking, you don’t notice something like dusty old bottles. But I did now. Suddenly, I was in old bottle heaven. I picked up the very same kind of bottles I was buying on E-bay, only this time I got them for only 50 cents or a buck! Heck, if I was smart, I’d buy them all and sell them on e-bay. That is probably what the other people are doing, and there is always a ding-bat like me willing to buy them. 


I now have a healthy collection of antique bottles. I don’t plan to stop making cordials until every one is filled. I always fill the little ones with left over cordial, so Denver has a little collection of her own. Denver is young enough that she still thinks drinking means snapping the top off a beer can – she doesn’t really understand the concept of cordials, so for her, it is all about the bottle. For me, the ex-bartender, a cordial means a world of designer drink possibilities.


My next problem is obviously going to be “where the heck will I put this stuff to age?”  Not like we have a wine cellar. We do have a small room in the basement with the water tank in it that I’ve used for hatching eggs. Since I now have a barn for my animal interests, I’m thinking of cleaning the room out good and setting up storage shelves. Bottles of wine must be stored on their sides, and since I will have about 120 of them in the next two months, a simple wine rack won’t suffice.  I’ll need Mark to help me design something. He will sigh when I ask. (Always a project to put him out, ya know.) But in this confined room, if my corks start exploding (beginner’s luck – it means the wine started refermenting in the bottle), nothing important will be ruined. And I’m extra careful, so hopefully, my wine will not start attacking anyone.

Anyway, today I am mulling over a name for my wine so I can begin making labels. I’m thinking the brand can be called HENDRY HOUSE (private reserve). Sounds lovely. Better sounding (though probably not as appropriate) as “Ginny’s  Rot Gut.” 

A rose by any name is still a rose, and while I doubt a pretty name will make my wine any more drinkable, the power of suggestion is something to consider. I am convinced friends will be more delighted to recieve a bottle of something that at least LOOKS fancy and professional.

Speaking of which, I haven’t made rose pedal wine yet…… and since my tomato wine is about ready to rack – that means an empty bucket. Can’t have that! Do you think Mark will notice if he comes home tomorrow and his 10 prize rose bushes in the front of the house are picked empty? I’ll blame it on the deer. That seems to be my best overall excuse for most of what goes wrong around here.

Cheers!



P.S.  A few updates:

* Something ate 3 of my five ducks. I’m left with the white one and one Appleate (the pretty spotted one which now has a green head.  Pissed me off good. I also have one brown duck.  I bought another batch of duck eggs just so this winter my ducks will have a flock – safety in numbers don’t ya know. These will be my first barn raised critters.

* Yesterday, my peacock eggs were due to hatch. I stare at them twenty times a day. Nothing! I’ve got a bad feeling about this potential hatching. Drat. I might have to change Early’s name to “Only”.

*Barn is coming along nicely. I’m so excited. Here is the picture at this point. Actually, this is a few days old. They’ve finished the roof and are now on the doors. My farrier made fun of me because it is such a nice barn. He said, “I suppose it does have air conditioning…. where you putting the couch?” These good ole boys sure like making fun of me. Ha, well, I give as good as I get.

Last but not least, Mark just took a week long broom making class at the Campbell Folk School. At first I thought “Brooms?” but when I saw his work, I understood the appeal. He puts an artistic twist into everything he touches, and his work is, as always, magnificent. The teacher told him he should sell them – they are of a quality you see in art galleries – his brooms certainly surpass what most students do at the start. No surprise to those of us who know him.

Handmade brooms go for 80-600 dollars, and Mark’s are on the upscale end. These one of a kind brooms are particularly lovely as wedding gifts and home warming gifts (real estate agents give them to people buying expensive, fancy cabins) because the history of the broom and the symbolism is very interesting. Mark will include brooms in our artwork in the new shop and he is doing research to include a descriptive folklore explaination of the meaning of each broom. Here are a few of his creations – the first is on a naturally shed deer antler-  the other handles he gathered in the woods and finished from odd bits of stick and limb.\





He made more, but these are the ones I have pictures of. He gave me the big one above left for sweeping the kitchen floor. Like I’m gonna use it to sweep! Get real. I happen to know how difficult these are to make and how special such a broom is. He is particularly good with devising interesting handles, don’t you think? But then, he is good with wood. He has been trying to come up with a name for his hand turned bowls, brooms and baskets. He was toying with “Dancingwood”, which I thought was appropriate, but I think he is leaning towards “Woodweaver”. Soon he will settle on some artesian title or another, and he’ll build a website on this division of craftsman products that will be featured in our gallery. I’ll keep you posted.

*Last, but not least, yesterday, our offer on a plot of land directly across from the Blue Ridge Scenic Train station, was accepted. We will close shortly – as soon as the FLEX is finally closed (keeps getting postponed). We are now beginning the process of planning and preparing to build the afore mentioned business. Gosh, it is exciting to break new ground and venture places you’ve never been. Scary, but exciting. I loved our many years in dance, but I don’t miss it. Especially in light of society changes and some of the people now involved in the business  – I keep hearing disgusting news about one former employee particularily, but that is another issue and not one I wish to address. Ick’s me out and makes me ashamed of her.) I’ll share our exciting gallery vision eventually, but that is subject for a blog all its own. It’s a BIG idea – different in the best of ways.

Now – I must go attend my bees. I’m overdue.

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

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