Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Making of the Autumn Olive Wine

Hi everyone!  Well, better later than never I say.  I should have had this post done up a while ago, but life, it seems, gets in the way most of the time.  But now is the time to get rolling.  Here are a few pics and the process of making our Autumn Olive Wine.  If you are wondering what Autumn Olives are, give a scroll down to the post below and there is some good information there on what these little beauties are.  Let's now get down to business.

Step 1.  Pick the Autumn Olives.  DONE  This year we enlisted the help of Mark's Brother in Law Mike, and picked in the back yard of Mark's Dad Leonard.  There were 3 trees absolutely full of these yummy gems.  Here we are:

A two person berry picking job....I got stuck holding the proverbial bucket !

Leonard, the Chief Overseer of the Autumn Olive Berry Picking Crew  A.K.A. Mark's Dad
 Here are some of the Autumn Olives we picked.   Now, we had to fill this bucket completely up in order to have enough to make the wine!

In the bucket they go!
Step 2:  Smashing the berries:  Now this is a process.  After all of the berries have been "looked", (gone over and had the stems removed and any bad or smashed berries removed from the mix) we then put small portions into our nylon straining bag and "Smash" them with a sterilized potato masher.  This helps to release the juice and allow for proper fermentation.

Some of the berries, in the bag, in the primary fermenter, already "smashed"!
Step 3:  Once the berries have all been smashed....and let me tell you, it is a workout for your arms...the required amount of Sugar and Water are added.  The sugar has to be melted into the water over heat.  For this partiular recipe, it takes almost 13lbs of sugar to 5 gallons of water.  Mark is an expert at heating the water, I do have to say!

Berries, Water, and Sugar, all ready to go!
Step 4:  To add the required other ingredients that help the water, fruit and sugar turn into wine.  We only purchase our products from Midwest Supplies.  They are so great at getting us what we need when we need it.  If you ever want to get into making  your own homemade wine, please take a look at their website, and drop them a line and tell them how you found them!   Below, are the necessary additives that, for this recipe, went into the mix.  These are natural ingredients like Acorbic Acid, grape tannin (comes from grapes), Yeast nutrient (natural food for helping the yeast work at it's best), Pectic Acid, (a form of pectin that helps the sugar and yeast work together).

Additives necessary for proper results of homemade wine.  Midwest Supplies is our supplier.  Visit them sometime!
Now that everything has been added, but the yeast, the "must" as it is called must sit for a full 24 hours before the yeast is added.  After we put the yeast in, we stir daily, as it bubbles and bubbles in the air lock.  When the SG or Specific gravity reaches the required level we "rack off" to the secondary fermenter, where it sits and finishes its fermentation over 2 to 6 months.  The next post will be of the bottling process, which is another workout!

"must" ready to be covered, and a finished bottle of Autumn Olive Wine, started Last year about this same time, now ready to drink!
Step 5:  PATIENCE!  Fine homemade wine takes its own time to become ready!  This wine will be ready to drink about this time next year.....Good thing we have last year's wine!  We also have a batch of Fall Grape wine in the secondary, working it's magic as well.  I plan on putting up a bit of information for you on the type of grapes we used for that wine as well.  A few posts down, you can view one of our latest grape picking adventures!  We even brought along Snooch!

I hope you have enjoyed this little look at our home wine making!   Please stay tuned for more!

Have a great day and A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A little history and information of Autumn Olives, a tasty little fruit we use to make our lovely Autumn Olive Wine.

Hi everyone!  It is that time of year, when we go out to pick the ripe fall grapes and Autumn Olives for our wine making endeavors.  Now I can imagine you all are saying, "What is an Autumn Olive?"  Hey, I didn't really know either, but after a bit of research, I have gathered a bit of information on this fantastic wine making fruit.

The Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)... commonly called Autumnberries or Japanese Silverberry, is a decidious shrub, native to eastern Asia from the Himalayas to eastern Japan.  They are classified as an "invasive species" because they spread rapidly and are very difficult to eradicate should you want to get rid of one in your yard.  They are banned in several states due to their invasiveness.  However, they were frequently used to help reclaim land used forstrip mining of coal (here in Southeastern Kentucky we have tons of them) and the mining of other natural resources.  If you are lucky enough to have the plants near you, you can use the fruit, which have been found to have 7 to 17 times the lycopene as tomatoes and possibly contain cancer fighting properties, for delicious jellies and extremely tasty homemade wine.  Which is exactly what we plan to do after we acquire the required 18 to 20 lbs. of these red beauties. 

When ripe, the Autumn Olive is juicy with a sweet tart taste.  I seem to always taste cherry on the finish.  But that is just me.  The fruit is relatively easy to pick,  you just have to watch out for little thorns sometimes hiding among the fruits and leaves.  Below you will find what the Autumn Olives here look like.

Autumn Olive Berries on the tree shown here by Mark McKnight.  Photo by Jessica L. Gill copyright 2010

They grow in bunches and are either bright or dark red, or on occasion, a dark orange color with very very small silvery brown dots.  They contain a chewable seed, but I never eat the seeds.  Nothing is wrong with them, I just don't like them.  But the wine that these berries produce is simply delicious.  We often add a bit of cherry fruit to accentuate the sweet/tart taste and enhance the blush color.

While there is much debate on the invasive qualities of this shrub, and much research being done on its value as a potential cancer fighting fruit, we are just as happy to pick it in the cool fall weather and produce our Autumn Olive Wine, which in itself, is good for you, in moderation.  There is just something calming and pleasing about going out, testing the berries for taste, and spending an afternoon with Mark, picking the berries and talking about how we are going to make the wine, and possibly some jellies.  It is our "Together" hobby and we truly enjoy the time we spend together doing this.   I do hope that  you will check back soon to see the wine making process with these delicious fruits.  And soon, the Fall Grape information post will be up.

Hoping you all have a great day!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

That lovely Peanut Butter Cheesecake (made in a smaller size!)

It is that time of year again.  Sir Markus wants the sweets.  Sooooo, I do what the bossman commands.  This time I cooked up little individual Peanut Butter Cheesecakes for him.  I, personally,don't care for peanut butter, but I have to say these little guys were goooooood!  For those of  you that have convinced  your other half that you can't cook or bake, don't try this at home, it WILL blow your cover! 

Usually most cheesecake type desserts have a graham cracker crust, but no, not this one.  The crust is made from Vanilla Wafers!!!!!  I didn't think I would like it, but ohhh, I loved it!  Before you get to making this dessert, make sure you have some cupcake liners handy.  I had to put mine on hold while the Mr. went to the store to obtain some!  So, are  you ready for some cheesecake???? Let's get busy.
RECIPE adapted from Hershey Holiday Favorites)

**NOTE:  These take a while to bake, so I suggest that you use several cupcake tins so you can get it all done in one shot.**

The ingredients that I used, you can substitute for your preference.

1/3 cup Peanut Butter Chips
1 1/4 c. vanilla wafer crumbs, crushed (usually takes about 35 to 40 cookies)
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter, melted.   **Here is where I don't skimp on ingredients, I only use Land O Lakes butter for my baking.  It DOES make the difference.**

Directions for CRUMB CRUST:
Chop the 1/3 c. peanut butter chips up (you can use a food processor, but I found it much easier to just put them on the cutting board and chop with my super duper Paula Deen Chef Knife!  Gotta Love Paula Deen!  Stir together vanilla wafer crumbs, cocoa, powdered sugar and butter in a medium bowl.  Stir in chopped peanut butter chips.  Line cupcake pan with liners and put a good heaping tablespoon of the crumb mixture in the bottom of each liner and press down with a flat bottomed cup.  (You will have crumbs left over,  but the  mixture gets harder to use if you let it sit so, what I did was, once I had the first batch of crumb crusts done, I pulled the liners out and carefully set them aside and repeated the crust making process so that I could get all the crust used up before it got too hard to work.  (I did have a few cupcake liners that didn't make it all the way to being filled.  I just chilled the crumb crusts and ate them like a cookie!)
Set all your little crumb crusts aside.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Proceed to making the batter for the little cheesecakes.

3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened.  **Again, no skimping here, I use Philadephia Cream cheese only!**
1 c. sugar divided
1/2 c. dairy sour cream
2 TBSP vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon juice
3 eggs
3 TBSP All Purpose flour
1/4 c. cocoa
1 TBSP Veg. Oil
1 1/3 c. peanut butter chips
scant 1/4 c. Milk

Beat cream cheese, 3/4 c. sugar, sour cream, vanilla, and lemon juice in large bowl on med. speed of electric mixer until it is smooth.  Add eggs and flour; beat until blended.  Remove 1 1/2 cups of the cream cheese mixture and place in another medium sized mixing bowl.  Beat in cocoa, rmaining 1/4 c. sugar and oil into to it.  Set aside.

Place 1 1/3 c. peanut butter chips in a microwave save bowl and heat on medim power for 30 seconds to melt, stiring after the 30 sec. are up.  If they still aren't completely melted, microwave an additional 15 sec, stirring after each additional heating. Gradually add warm peanut butter mixture to remaining vanilla batter, beat on high speed for 5 minutes.

With a small lever-action scooper, (I found a great Faberware one at Wal Mart for  like 6 bucks, I use it for cookies, melon, you name it, it is the perfect size for baking), place one full scoop of the chocolate batter in your crumb crust cupcake liners. (I do 12 at a time, so I don't get left with odd ball crusts that don't get the additional peanut butter scoop).  Tap or smooth down the chocolate cheesecake mixture in each of the cups. (I smoothed, but you could tap if you don't do it too hard to crack the little crusts).  Next, place one scoop of the peanut butter cheesecake mixture on the top of the chocolate cheesecake mixture.  Smooth down again. Once you have all of your mini cheesecakes made, pop them in the oven for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.  After 10 minutes, and NOT opening the oven door, turn the heat down to 250 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes.  After that, turn the oven off, and do NOT open the oven door, and let the cupcakes set an additional 30 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Refrigerate after they have cooled. 

Oh so easy to serve and eat.  One or two on a plate, a fork, and a good cup of coffee and you are all set!

Final baby Cheesecakes!  Yummy!

I do hope you get a chance to try these out and let me know how you like them!  Next up, Actually Making the Wine!

Have a great day,

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ohhhh, Fall Grapes for the Wine!

Hey everybody!  Well, it has been a good week here.  We (Sir Markus, myself, and Snooch, the grape lovin' pooch) went up on the mountain and found a large supply of perfectly sweet fall grapes.  I mean these *taste* like the word Grape sounds.  The fresh grapi-ness just explodes the minute you bite into one of these little beauties!  We spent about 2 hours picking them off the vines.

This is how we pick the grapes, pick the grapes, pick the grapes

The Great Grape-mobile!
......this is how we get stuck!

Hung up in the ditch.....well, while I am up here, these grapes  look like they need to be picked.

  Mark had to climb up on a not-so-safe-looking rock to pick them. 

Not the safest place in the world to be a-pickin grapes!
 I stayed on the ground!  After all I had already had my hand smashed under a big piece of steel and a chunck of wood.  "Graceful" is NOT my middle name.

   And Snooch stayed in the buggy, filtching grapes out of a coffee container that we brought along to put them in as we picked them.  She is a sneaky little bugger!  We did not even know she liked these grapes, guess we do now!

We had to put a lid on the smaller buckets!!!!  She was a little thief!  I found grapes smashed on her little feet!
 Anywho, we did not quite get enough to  make the 18 to 20 lbs. of grapes that we need for a full batch of wine, so we have plans to go back up after another frost to see if all the other good spots have sweetened up enough.  For those of you that have never see or heard of Fall Grapes, here is what they look like.

Fall Grape Clusters
  They are small, like a pea, but they grow in bunches like grapes that are in the supermarket. 
They are simply beautiful hanging out on their vines in nature!

Lovely Lovely Sweet Fall Grapes!

Grapes on the vines.

Now that the frosts are coming, we will be able to get the rest of these lovely grapes to start the Fall Grape Wine.  The great folks at Midwest Supplies are the "ONLY" people we trust to order all of the necessary items to make our fantastic wine.  If you are a wine lover, head on over to MidWest Supplies to see all of the great winemaking kits, supplies, glasses, labels, openers, and oh so much other good stuff!  We would not think of using anyone else!

Well, that is about it for this Grape Picking Adventure!  We will be doing another adventure here shortly and then I will be putting up the entire process we go through to get the batch started!  Hope you will stay tuned to see how it all is done!

Have a great day!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pumpkin Muffins!

Hi everyone!  As promised, I am putting up the Pumpkin Muffins.  And you won't believe the ingredient list! These muffins are super moist, and I even filled mine with a cream cheese frosting filling and frosted them, and that just sent them over the top!  So without further mouth watering, let's get cookin!

Pumpkin Muffins
Ingredient list:
1 18.5 oz box Spice Cake Mix
1 15 oz. can of pumpkin - NOT Pumpkin Pie Filling!
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (optional) - I use it because Sir Markus loves the taste those spices bring to the pumpkin.

Cream Cheese Filing and frosting are optional and those directions will be at the bottom of the post.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, put in the spice cake mix.  Add the 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice if you are using it and stir together well.  Then add the entire can of pumpkin and mix well.  This mix will be very very thick.
Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners.  Using a regular size lever action ice cream scoop, put one scoop into each cupcake liner.  Tap the filled pan on the counter a few times to settle.  Put into the oven for 20 to 22 minutes, as they need this full time to bake fully.  To test for doneness, use a toothpick and insert into the center of the center muffin.  It should come out 99% clean.  Take the muffins out of the oven and let cool in the pan for 2 or 3 minutes.  Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.  NOTE:  if you try to remove the cupcake paper before these are completely cool, they will break apart, because they are extremely moist! Repeat the baking procedure until all the batter is used. Once they are cool, you can enjoy them as is, or, read on below to make them extra special.

Cream Cheese filling and frosting:

4 Cups powdered sugar
8 oz pkg of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 stick of butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
Milk, only by the teaspoon, if needed.

Cream the butter and cream cheese until it is light and fluffy.  Begin adding the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing til there are no lumps, then add the next 1/2 cup of sugar.  Once all the powdered sugar has been mixed in, add the vanilla and lemon juice and mix well.  If your frosting is too thick, add milk, 1 tsp. at a time until it is of a spreading consistency.  If it gets too thin, just add more powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Once your frosting/filling is ready, you can just frost the top of the muffins, or you can go over the top and fill them first.  To fill them, put 1/2 of the frosting/filling into a pastry bag fitted with a filling tip (they are long and slender).  If you dont have a filling tip, you can poke holes in the tops of the muffins, almost all the way to the bottom  with the handle of a wooden spoon, and just use a regular tip on your pastry bag to fill the hole.
Put your fill tip into the muffin, from the top, almost all the way to the bottom, and on the way up, squeeze the filling into the muffin, being careful not to overfill.  Continue until all the muffins are filled. 
Frost the tops with the remaining frosting.
And here is what you get:

I do hope you all get a chance to try these muffins!  They are simply scrumptious!

Bon Apetite'

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Time for Faux "Fried Ravioli with Marinara Sauce

Hey everyone!  As I promised, but a bit late is the Faux "Fried" Ravioli with Marinara Sauce.  This recipe is sooooo easy, anyone can throw it together 20 minutes before the game, or for a quick lunch.
Nothing is handmade in this recipe.  So no pasta or sauce making! (I do love home made pasta, but this is so good, it is not necessary!)

Let's get to cookin!

1 Bag Frozen Cheese Ravioli
1 Small Jar of your favorite Marinara or Pizza Sauce
1 Small bag of shredded Italian cheese mix.  I suggest Sargento 6 Cheese Italian Mix (it is my fav!)
1 1/2 cups Italian Bread Crumbs (seasoned)
1/4 cup of  shaker style Parmesan Cheese
1 plastic quart ziplock style bag
 EGG Wash (2 eggs and about 1/2 c. milk, mixed well.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Prepare frozen pasta according to directions.  (Personally, I put on a large pot of boiling water, add some olive oil and salt and bring to a boil.   Then put in the ravioli and boil for 5 minutes or until done)

Drain Ravioli and allow to cool down a bit.  While the ravioli is cooling make the egg wash.  Mix 2 eggs with approximately 1/2 cup of milk in a shallow small baking dish.
Mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan Cheese in the plastic ziplock style bag.  (this keeps your fingers and hands from getting too messy.)

Once the ravioli has cooled enough to handle, place 6 to 8 ravioli in the egg wash, turning to make sure they are completely covered in the egg wash.  Shake excess from the ravioli and place in the plastic bag.  Shake until well coated.  Remove and place on a baking sheet.  You can spray it if you like with cooking spray to minimize sticking, but I have yet to have these beauties stick.  Continue to coat the remaining ravioli, 6 to 8 at a time with the egg wash and shake in the breadcrumb/cheese mixture.  If you run short on the breadcrumb/cheese mixture, just mix up additional in the same ziplock style bag.  Once they are all on the baking sheet, place in the oven, which has been preheated to 350 degrees, and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown.  (I hit the broiler for the last 3 minutes to give them a bit more crunch and a bit more color.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle them with the Italian Shredded cheese.  Place back in the oven and bake for 3 more minutes, or until the cheese is melted.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest on the baking sheet.

Next, heat your marinara or pizza sauce.  I just pop the open jar in the microwave and heat for 30 sec. intervals, stirrring after each, until the sauce is hot.  Pour the sauce into a dipping cup or cups.

And there you have it.  Plate it up and gobble them down!  These little beauties are fantastic to have during the big game!

Goodness look at that cheese filling!

I hope that you all get a chance to make these.  They have the crunch of being fried, but the goodness of being baked.

Stay tuned, because I have some super easy Pumpkin Muffins that taste so good, you won't believe they came from a boxed mix!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Oh goodness.....Time to make the wine!

Yep, you heard me correctly!  Time to make the first Autumn batch of wine.  We just got our third 5 gallon add on kit for our wine making equipment.  Man those guys at Midwest Supplies are awesome!  We've picked the berries, but will be making an Autumn Olive run here this weekend. They make the best best best Zinfindel type wine you have ever tasted!  Once we get like 20 lbs of those little red beauties, we will be off and running to start our mixed berry and Autumn Olive batches.  Once we start, I will post our pics.  But in the meantime, I have to run to the grocery and get the ingredients for my "Fried" Ravioli and Marinara Sauce dinner for this weekend.  You simply must try this quick and easy dish for the big game, or just an easy breezy dinner.  Ill be back with the recipe and pics for you all!

Stay tuned....right now, off to do my Yoga and my UPHILL walk! (Getting ready for the Raviolis!)