I have had varying success making wine over the years, dandelion was lovely, beetroot tasted like beetroot, but not in a good way. We made wine with shop bought grape juice in Abu Dhabi, with was nice enough, so after I’d made a couple of years supply of marmalade in Jan 16, and still being very enthusiastic about having my own orange grove, I needed to find something else to do to preserve the thousands of oranges on those trees.
I found a recipe on the Jack Keller wine blog, a very valuable source for wine making, which uses the zest of 12 oranges (with dire warnings to remove all pith) and the juice of 24, plus sugar, water, yeast and yeast nutrient, to make 5 litres. I made a double batch ( 10 Ltrs) but didn’t have any yeast nutrient ( have since learned how to make my own). It took about 2 hours to zest and juice those oranges. I put them in my primary fermentation bucket, added my ingredients, stirred like a madwoman, Fermented for a week, racked into a demijohn with airlock for a month, racked again after another month, taste tested at each stage…. and it was vile at every stage!
It tasted like a very strong whisky with an aftertaste of……orange peel! I guess I must have let a bit of pith remain on the zest after all. In any event, I decided to bottle one demijohn full in April 16 and let the other ferment a bit more, finally bottling it in Jan 17. The flavour has improved slightly over time, I get a bottle out now and again when we have guests just to guage their reaction, some friends have found it to be disgusting, while others have quite liked it. I find it goes well with elderflower cordial and soda water as a spritzer. In December 18 we opened the last bottle and it was still horrible.
However, undeterred, we made another 10 litres in March last year, and opened the first bottle last night, it was surprisingly nice! A fruity, dry white wine with just a hint of orange. Unfortunately, I don’t know why this batch turned out better than the last, so just hope I can replicate it this year. The Valencias are nice and ripe now (I’d used navel oranges previously), so fingers crossed🤞🤞
Wow, how time flies, almost 2 years since the last update in which I promised to blog every month🙄.
The farm is doing very well, last year we dedicated a lot of time to planting, growing, improving the land. We’ve been converting the vegetable garden to no-dig, and it’s working well. Our biggest successes last year were definitely the pumpkins, squashes and melons, they were prolific. We had 3 crops of watermelons from the same plants, some weighing as much as 7kgs! Tons of Petite Gris de Rennes canteloupe, which tasted like honey or brown sugar, delicious and definitely worth growing if you can find the seeds. The rabbits loved them too, so we had to over them with plastic olive crates as they ripened. We grew about 10 different varieties of pumpkin and squash, including spaghetti squash and oil seed pumpkins. We were inundated with courgettes and cucumbers and grew a lovely yellow tomato called lemon tree, which was good eaten both fresh and cooked.
We planted more trees, lemon, lime, grapefruit and avocado. Had our first (small) crop of apricots and nectarines – had a much bigger crop of apricots already this year – and the June berries produced abundantly for the first time. The apples and pears have improved every year since we’ve been here, we harvested at least 60 kg from one pear tree last year, and that was after thinning out the crop in June, and feeding loads to the pigs as we were picking. We canned a lot of pears, made pear butter and pear wine – which was actually delicious.
The grape harvest was ok, we made 60 litres of wine, but unfortunately, like all the wine produced in our village, it has an after-taste of cheese and onion crisps 😖
The figs were great again, and I dried many kilos, froze a few kilos and made about 30 jars of fig chutney. That fig chutney has become legendary around here, and I’ve given loads away, and even had chutney making sessions with friends!
Maisy had her calf in October 17, a bull we called Bo, for various reasons we still didn’t get round to milking her. Bo grew into a strapping beef steer, and is now in the freezer. Maisy is due to calf again any day now, and she will be milked!
We still have Georgia and Hazel, and they are producing 1.5 litres a day, which is enough for us. I make feta, mozzarella, halloumi, chevre and paneer. Gave up on the cheddar as it was too sharp.
We’ve been unlucky with our sheep this year, one ewe died (We think pregnancy toxaemia) in the New Year, she was pregnant with twin lambs; one of our first time mum’s wouldn’t feed her lamb, so we bottle-fed her, she’s now fine. Another first-timer had a lamb that died after 3 or 4 days, during a cold snap, either the mum wasn’t feeding enough, or not keeping the lamb warm, so very sad.
Pippa, the spotty pig, had a litter of 12 piglets in September, unfortunately one was ill and had to be dispatched, and the next day Pippa crushed one of her piglets and sat on another, breaking both its legs! That piglet was struggling to survive, as it couldn’t get to it’s mum to feed, so after a few days of bottle feeding her, we decided to bring her into the house. We called her Skippy, as she could only hop around, rather than walk. An X-ray confirmed that she had 2 broken femurs and the vet said she was unlikely to walk again. Skippy lived in the house with us for a couple of months (which was interesting) and then when she was 2 months old, we built her a house in the garden, where she lived, and ran around, until she was 6 months old. There came a time, as we knew it would, when she would get too heavy to be able to get around easily, and when that time came, we dispatched her humanely, through floods of tears, and into the freezer she went!
In September we acquired another sow, Louise, a British Berkshire. She came to us for our boar to ‘service’ her, and decided to stay with us 😁. She had 16 piglets on 30th December, not a great birth, as piglet no. 3 was stuck inside her. Our daughter, Holly, being the less squimish, and having the smallest hands, went in at the business end and pulled that piglet out! Piglet 15 was still-born and piglet 16, the runt, was nowhere to be found next morning, either it wandered outside the run and Louise was too exhausted to stop it, or she ate it, knowing it was unlikely to survive. Anyway, Louise was just the best mother, never getting upset when they constantly tried to feed from her, exceptionally gentle when she laid down near them, and all 14 survived. We still have 2 of her daughter’s.
We did little to the house last year, but we did build a log cabin for guests. This year we plan to finish the house, and are having a new roof put on the main part of the house at the end of this month