Slovenian Science Project: Week 1

wine week1

(read here for the details on this Homemade Wine project!)

One week in to our summer science project, and changes are happening!  Per the instructions in the original recipe, I’ve kept the jar covered with cheesecloth and have been stirring the mixture every other day.

Day 3: the color was noticeably lighter, with some fizzing around the top,

Day 5: still  fizzy, but a little darker in color

Day 7: the fizzing had decreased, and wine had begun to separate (lighter with some sediment at the bottom, darker and clearer at the top).

Whereas on Day 1 this really just smelled like grape juice with yeast in it, by the end of the week it’s more reminiscent of Cold Duck sparkling wine (which, if you’ve never enjoyed it, can be obtained for about $5 and tastes like boozy grape juice in the best possible way).  We still have a ways to go, but I’ve scoped out some wine-making supplies online, and hope this yields a product worth bottling!

1 week down, 3 to go?  I will continue to post updates here and on Instagram.  It’s not too late to get your own ingredients and follow along!

Homemade Rosé Wine (Slovenian Science Project)

More than a year ago, I posted a recipe for Homemade Rosé Wine from the More Pots and Pans Cookbook.  I’m not sure if anyone else out there tried the recipe, but I for one never got around to making it.  This year, however, it was on my list of things to try, and I figured Memorial Day, the Unofficial First Day of Summer, was as good a time as any to get the project started.   Best case scenario, we will be enjoying delicious homemade wine mid-summer!  Worst case, I wasted a few dollars and will have a gallon of something that doesn’t taste very good.

The ingredients for this project totaled less than $5 and are pretty easy to obtain:

  • 12-ounce can of grape juice concentrate
  • 1 envelope (or 2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • granulated sugar1
  • water

The only supplies that I needed to get started were a gallon-size container and some cheesecloth.  The recipe calls for a “gallon bottle” and I didn’t have much luck finding something in a store, so I ordered this jar from Amazon.  Although I’m not using it right now, the jar does come with a plastic screw-on lid, which means that once it has served its purpose as a wine-brewing vessel, I can use it for something else (unless, of course, this wine is so exceptional that we want to have some fermenting on the kitchen counter year-round).

wine day 1

I am copying Ann Savor’s (of Warren, OH) original recipe below, along with some notes of my own:

HOMEMADE ROSÉ WINE (Domače vino2)

In a gallon bottle dissolve the sugar in one quart warm water.  Shake bottle to dissolve sugar.  Add thawed grape juice.  Fill jar with warm water to about 2 inches from top to give headspace for fermentation.  Add the dry yeast and stir (a long slender knife or wooden dowel will work).  Cover with cheese cloth.  Mix every other day for four to six weeks until fermentation stops, which depends on the weather.

There are 2 methods to tell if fermentation has stopped3:

  1. After a week, put a strong balloon on the bottle to check on fermentation.  When the ‘gas’ comes up, the balloon is upright.  When limp, no more ‘gas.’  This means the wine is ready to cap.
  2. If a balloon is not used, fermentation has ceased when the tiny surface bubbles disappear and the wine is clear above the sediment.

To siphon4, place the gallon filled jug on the edge of the table and a glass jar or bottles on the floor.  Through a plastic or rubber tube, siphon the clear wine into the jar/jars leaving sediment behind.  Cap and store in basement to ‘age’ for at least 4 weeks or longer.  “I have some that is a year old and enjoy it.”

NOTE: Supplies can be purchased in a winery equipment store.5

My notes:

1: The original recipe calls for 3-1/2 cups of sugar.  Some sugar is absolutely needed because it serves as fuel for the yeast, but because I do not like very sweet wine, I decided to take a chance on decreasing the amount of sugar called for, and I put in about 1-1/2 cups (keep in mind there is also significant sugar in the grape juice).  

2: The Slovenian translates literally as “homemade” or “local” wine.

3: Because I am using a wide-mouth jar, I won’t be able to use Ms. Savor’s “balloon method,” so instead I will just be tracking bubbles.

4: I’m a little uncertain about the siphoning method… so I will do some research over the next few weeks to see how this is best accomplished.

5: I haven’t bought any other supplies!  (yet)

I will be posting updates on the Grandma’s Icebox Instagram page, if you’d like to follow along! (@grandmasicebox, or, if you are not on Instagram, the right sidebar of this page!) Please comment below if you plan to make your own jug of wine along with me!

 

Sweet cheese pierogi (without the pierogi)

This weekend is Easter, which means that tomorrow is Good Friday, which means that if you are a member of my family, you will be eating pierogi!  It’s a tradition that I believe was started by my Grandma in an effort to come up with a meatless pre-holiday Lenten meal.  It’s since morphed into kind of a large celebration that’s honestly a little at odds with the somber religious holiday it shares a date with, but a fun and delicious day nonetheless.

Pierogi Day is typically a pretty big endeavor – many balls of dough are made the night before, and fillings are prepared that morning.  In some years, close to 20 people have gathered to roll, assemble, and boil the pierogi.  Someone’s usually on onion duty (and I am one of a few people who won’t be shy about complaining if the onions are undercooked!  Please, brown them a little!).  On one very dark day in the early 2000s, someone introduced a fat free margarine spray instead of butter, which I hope they still feel terrible about (because it was indeed a terrible pierogi injustice!).  From my childhood, I remember three standard fillings: potato-cheese, potato-mint, and sweet cheese.  There were a few experimental years where the kids were allowed to make some with things like marshmallows, jelly, and chocolate chips (I DON’T RECOMMEND ANY OF THESE), and in recent years we’ve had experiments in cabbage and sweet potato… which are fine, but I will stick to the basics, thank you very much.  And in fact, I’m typically going to fill my plate with 75% sweet cheese, the potato just being an extra side dish.  Sweet cheese is where it’s at!

All this being said… I’m not going to share a pierogi recipe today, because it’s probably short notice for you to get together that many people and all your biggest pots and the patience and upper body fortitude to roll all that dough… but I will share with you the absolute most perfect solution if what you just want is that amazing, salty-sweet taste of Grandma’s cheese pierogi.  This option will still require a little counter space and hand-eye coordination, but could easily make it on to your table for dinner, and will let you feel like you’re experiencing a little big of Pierogi Magic this week, even if we didn’t invite you to our holiday.

dumplings2

Cheese Dumplings

(adapted from this recipe, which has some helpful step-by-step pictures)

  • 1-1/2 cups large curd cottage cheese1
  • 1-2 Tablespoons sugar2
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons salted butter3 (melted and slightly cooled)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • melted butter, sour cream, applesauce and/or jam for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, cottage cheese, sugar, and butter.  Mix with a fork or wire whisk.
  3. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold in the flour, just a little bit at a time.  The dough will be sticky but should be stiff enough to work with.  Depending on the moisture level of your cottage cheese, you may need to add more or less flour than what is written here.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide into two or three pieces.  Roll each piece out into a snake that is 1-2 inches wide (you know, how you used to do with Play-dough or clay)
  5. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, slice each snake into 1-inch pieces.
  6. Drop the dumplings, 8-10 at a time, into the boiling water (less if your pan is smaller… you don’t want them to stick together).  They will cook in only a few minutes, and are done when they float to the top.
  7. Remove dumplings (a spider strainer is perfect for this) and place on a plate or in a serving dish, topped with melted butter.
  8. Serve with your favorite topping!  I was really seeking a pierogi-like experience, so I served mine on a bed of sauteed cabbage with sour cream… and then decided to take a walk on the wild side and add a dab of lingonberry jam.  There are endless traditional and not-so-traditional ways to enjoy this dish!

NOTES:

  1. Please make sure to seek out large-curd cottage cheese.  This will be a soft, watery mess if you use the regular kind.
  2. I reduced the sugar significantly from the original recipe, just because the flavor I am used to is very lightly sweetened.  I imagine the large quantity of sugar called for in the recipe I link to above is also delicious, it just wasn’t what I wanted.
  3. Note that this is one of few recipes in the world calling for salted butter.  If you don’t typically keep it on hand, just use the same quantity of unsalted butter and add a little salt (1/4-1/2 teaspoon) to taste – and remember you can always sprinkle more on top later.