SCA Life, Vinegar

Solera Process

There are two prestige processes for Western vinegar making, balsamic and solera.

The Solera process is named from the Spanish word for floor. The idea with this process is you are mixing the age of the liquid (in this case vinegar).

How it works is thusly (assuming it has been running for a while): Imagine a pyramid of wooden barrels. Let’s say three levels. In the top level, new vinegar is aged for 6 months. After 6 months, a quantity of vinegar is removed from the lower levels. A similar amount of vinegar is then put into the lower barrels from each of the higher levels. None of the lower barrels are ever emptied completely. So the vinegar aging in the bottom level is a mix of “new” 6 months vinegar, older 12 month vinegar from the middle layer, and “old” 12+ month vinegar that has been there for a whole. When it is bottled off every 6 months, that vinegar is mix of a variety of age vinegars.

The age categories are as such:

  • Vinagre de Jerez has a minimum of 6 months aging in wood.
  • Vinagre de Jerez Reserva has a minimum of 2 years aging in wood.
  • Vinagre de Jerez Gran Reserva is a new category with a minimum of 10 years aging in wood.

Now, it all has to start somewhere and that is where I am.

A few months ago, I started this vinegar and it is now ready to start aging. I think we got the sherry wine at Aldi or Trader Joe’s.

It is important to harvest your mother’s so you can use them again. The label isn’t right. I just reused the jar. I have a sherry mother 🙂

I bought and conditioned an untoasted 2L white oak barrel for this project. Here it is.

And it is reasoably full of sherry vinegar for the initial 6 month aging.

In 6 months, I need to have another batch of vinegar ready to start aging and a new barrel. 12 months from now, I add ~ half of “new” 6 month vinegar to half of this barrel. I should get another new barrel let this one age by itself. 18 months from now, I add half of the “newer” 6 month vinegar to the 12 month barrel and half to the 18 month barrel. 24 months from now, I have Reserva vinegar ready. And every 6 months after that.

Now let’s see if the fruit fly colonies will develop sentience by then.

SCA Life, Vinegar

Preparing for the ToA

I had the time and motivation so I decided to prepared for the ToA (Tournament of Arts). Next Saturday (Jan 11, 2020), about three dozen or so of the artisans from the Midrealm will head to Ayreton for the ToA. It is not a Tournament in the strict sense but it is a chance to display and talk with knowledgeable people about whatever you are doing.

For starters, here is my vinegar room.

Ok it is really my hobby room but most of it devoted to brewing and vinegar.

For starters, I needed to decide on what to display and I needed bottles. As Gertie likes to say, “the cobblers children have no shoes.” Or in this case, the vinegarie’s wife has no vinegar. I had to find enough samples for much of it but I succeeded.

I decided to go with 8 oz bottles when I could. For some vinegars, I could have used 12 oz bottles but for many samples, I didn’t have enough.

The top photo is the variety of samples from my tasting classes. Then off to wash bottles.

After the wash, I decided on what to display.

I have a mix of vinegars from alcohols I have made or commercial alcohols. I wanted to show a range of flavors and techniques.

Unless I say so specifically, the alcohol is commercial. From left to right, the Pinot Noir vinegar from the Pinot Noir I made, Prosecco vinegar, Sauvignon Blanc vinegar, Pecan Brandy Vinegar that I made the cordial, Coconut Vinegar that I made the coconut “wine”, Apple Cider vinegar, Apple Cider vinegar from a cider I made, Malt Vinegar, Sake vinegar, the two small jars stacked on each other are the Xocovez malt and the faux “balsamic”, then two different mead vinegar.

Then to decide on what else to bring.

Since I want people to taste the base alcohol, a bottle of the wine and apple cider. Some mustards made from my vinegar. A mother so people can see it. An example of the toasted oak barrels I use (this one doesn’t hold water anymore). And some documentation. I forgot to take a photo of the books.

So that is it. Twelve-ish vinegar. I need to buy some small tasting cups so a trip to Gordon Food Service is in order. I have a box of crackers.

It isn’t sexy. It isn’t flashy. But it is what I do. See you there!

Uncategorized

The Office – Oswyn edition

I was sitting in the back part of my office because I needed the space. I thought, why not show it you all?

It is after Thanksgiving so Christmas/Yule stuff is out. Not pictured is my North Pole mailbox outside my door. Most of the time, my door is plain. But as the holiday approaches, I do decorate it.

You can barely see the Lego guards that protect the measuring tapes and box knives. People can borrow them but they have to bring them back.

Then we move around to the corner of my work area. I don’t say desk because of desk is a pile of papers that denote a variety of projects I am working on.

Lots of stuff going on here. My spear, Staccata, is here and my letter from the Queen. Of course, the photo of Gertie. That corner has a bunch of knick knacks. A pillow with part of the Tapestry on it. A Horde Wyvern (I actually played Alliance) and stuff for tea.

A collage of photos of the boys when they were young. And my device with one of my mottos on it (Thanks Wilhelm). I put several of the cranes from Seto and Ynes’ coronation around the room too.

Now we come to the sea or as close as the middle of Illinois will allow. I have always loved orcas and I am probably like 8% Scot. But I like the flag. Not pictured is a fake tree in the corner with the Union Jack, Australian Flag, Canadian Flag, and New Zealand Flag. One of our international sales people left those in their office when they moved on. I took them 🙂

Oh yeah. There is the tree. But the important stuff is on the shelf. A book on the San Juan Islands and a book on Lighthouses. I told you, I like, and miss, the ocean.

Then we make it all the way around. Several SCA photos and more recent photos of the boys (and daughter in-law).

I understand that some people don’t bring as much into their offices. This is 20 years of stuff going in. If they fire me, it will take several people to help get all of the stuff out. So job security 🙂

I spend 40 to 50 hours here per week. I might as well be surrounded by things that help remind me why I do what I do.

cider, SCA Life, Vinegar

Ciderize – progress report on a lot of stuff

I started batch number of two of my cheap cider and added it to the blueberries last night. 2 gallons of cider over 3 pounds of frozen blueberries. I will let that sit for a while and see what we get.

I had friends try my cheap cider this weekend. The two who sampled it said it was good. The one prefers dry and liked it very much. It is dry despite my efforts to backsweeten it. The other also said it was good but prefers a sweeter cider. I will consider it a win.

I divided up the malt vinegar I had for those who wanted it. The Xocovez is different than I remember. Time is an ingredient you shouldn’t forget with brewing or vinegars. Gertie suggested I make more and then do my cask aging on it. I think I will 🙂

Started a new batch of malt with Blue Moon. 14 for a 12-pack was too much to pass up for new vinegar.

I figured out some character issues in my roleplaying 🙂

That is it for progress report for now.

Uncategorized

Overthinking and Second Guessing

I am very prone to overthinking and second guessing things. November was very much about that. I did it at work, I did it in the SCA, I did in my gaming. Pretty much everywhere, except my marriage 🙂

The “where is my passion” post is an example. By overthinking in this case, I went back. Why am I focused in this area if I don’t seem to care about it as much? So sometimes overthinking is good.

In examining my SCA paths, it was probably a bad thing. My time and energy is spent second guessing things. Should I have done this? Should I have done it in this way? It is too late. I have done them. Reflecting isn’t bad; you can determine you were wrong and hopefully do it better next time. But second guessing in a vacuum is probably bad.

In gaming, I have looking at the story I am telling and whether it is right and asking my players what they think. That is good; a few problems came out of those discussions and they can be fixed.

Here is hoping that December is less thinking and more doing 🙂

cider, SCA Life, Vinegar

Blueberry cider

I finished the first round ciders. I set aside 16 oz bottle of each to be a sampling kit for my cider class. I then took ~ 1/2 gallon of one to make into vinegar. This is part of the “step back process”. The rest are for general consumption of my gaming group to improve what I am doing.

What do I mean by “step back”? I mean “can I take this process and make it a step closer to period practice?” Doing the Orleans Process on my apple ciders is a step back. Making my own alcohols verses store bought is a step back. There aren’t a lot of step backs in vinegar making. Once you are growing your own fruits and making your own alcohols, that is about it. I guess you could try to reverse breed back to a medieval strain of fruit. I suspect that is very hard and unless you can go back to Europe and figure out how to reset the soil chemistry 1000 years, you have made a close as you can get.

I started a new cider to make a blueberry cider. I think I have frozen cherries and raspberries I need to use too. Just like when I started cordials, I am in the “let’s play with this” phase. Make a ton of variants to see what I like and what works.

I still need to make “Froderick’s World Hopper” Perry. That is a goal. French pears and Indian spices. Looking at cardamon and vanilla I think.

Vinegar

What is my Passion?

I have been seriously thinking about things lately. And more importantly, why do I do it?

I will try to finish my paper project but I don’t love it. That is clear. Why? I find reasons not to do it. I believe my reasons to start it were wrong. I did it because I wanted to give something back but I also wanted something to sell. I don’t really want to sell things either. So we will see but that isn’t my passion.

Brewing is sort of a passion but only because I can turn it into vinegar. But again, there is a bad reason I started it. I was told I wasn’t a brewer because I only really altered existing alcohol. So I did ciders to prove I was a brewer. I know I have people who tell me I am still a brewer but this person’s opinion mattered so I wanted to branch out. Ciders did have connections to my passion though. It was very English (at least eventually). And it could be vinegar 🙂

Glass is a passion and I plan on getting back to it when I can learn some new styles. I need to be able to control my environment. I hope that enamel and cloisonne will help that.

So it turns out that vinegar, English history, cider, and glass are the passions. I will make time to do those things. Everything else takes a backseat. When it is time to make vinegar, I jump to it. I am willing to figure out the steps to “take it one step back” for that.

I am not sure why I resisted it. I did at least verbally. But I am willing to admit I like vinegar. I like making it. I like thinking about how to make more of it and how to make it better. I don’t know why but I do.

There is history as well. I have “mothers” that go back to the first mothers I used. I have generations of acer-bacteria.

Vinegar

Preparing for the Tournament of Art

When I was planning out which events I was going to go to, I wasn’t not at first going to go to 12th Night/ToA. I try to limit myself to one event per month but I am really failing this year.

I wasn’t sure what I would have available to show in the ToA. Ciders aren’t ready. Paper is not cooperating. My glass work isn’t period. That left vinegar. And I have shown vinegar many times but I have one ace left up my sleeve.

I have made a faux balsamic vinegar. The plan was to doing something really special at a Pennsic with it. I only have a limited amount of it. Whereas real balsamic takes years (at least a dozen) to make, my faux balsamic takes 12 to 20 months.

What is this stuff? It is my Pinot Noir red wine vinegar, aged and reduced in an charred oak cask. Roughly 1 liter reduces down to ~4 ounces. I have about 8 ounces of it. So, not a lot but hopefully enough.

That is my plan. I will bring my vinegar poster display, a variety of vinegars to taste and the faux balsamic with a warning to taste it sparingly.

Part of the ToA is good conversation and I can certainly have that. Part of it is feedback and direction. I am eager to see what comes out of this. Wish me luck!

cider

Ciders coming along

Over the past few weeks, I have made about 5 gallons of cider. I will be doing a 101 history and tasting class on this and probably start it at Chieftains in February.

So far I have:

  • Cider made from Old Orchard Apple Juice Concentrate
  • Cider made from Louisburg Honeycrisp Cider (so sole source of apples)
  • Cider made from my local orchard’s sweet cider
  • Cider made from local orchard plus apricot juice
  • Cider made from local orchard plus peach juice
  • Cider made from Old Orchard plus pineapple juice

All of the ciders are ~6 to 7% ABV.

I have tried to backsweeten them but a few apparently still had live yeast in spite of a healthy dose of camden tablets. So I will have to cold crash, rack, and try to backsweeten again.

I have tasted all of them. You can make a surprisingly good cider from Old Orchard Concentrate. That makes it really cheap too. I calculate it at ~%0.67 per pint or ~$0.50 per 12 oz bottle. Using sweet cider from my local orchard comes in at ~$0.66 per 12 oz or ~$0.88 per pint. One of my local bars sells that same thing, a cider made from the very same local orchard’s sweet cider at $5.00 per pint.

My friend CJ recently went to his local orchard and bought apples to make a great cider. I am not sure how much he paid for his apples though. Pricing apples at my local orchard would come in at ~$1.50 per pint for “standard” apples.

So a local friend of mine apparently has apple trees. Still trying to figure out what they are. Maybe Early Crisps based on when they are ripe. So free is a great price for apple cider 🙂 That is next year’s project.

Persona

Anglo Saxon Religion – random notes

This weekend I got to actually sit down and do some research. I have been wanting to do a class on Anglo Saxon religion for a while. One, we really don’t know much about Anglo Saxon paganism. Two, their view of what it meant to be Christian would be a giant shock to modern Christians.

Here are some notes – for thoughts and reference.

  • It is a big mistake to see words like Woden and Thunor and assume the Norse myths are the way the Anglo-Saxon’s saw these deities. It is like the similarity between Roman and Greek deities. The Romans may have taken the Greek myths and drew parallels between their gods and Greek gods (and pretty much any other culture they came in contact with) but Jupiter and Zeus fundamentally behave very differently. So to, is Woden (the Anglo Saxon deity) different from Odin (the Norse deity) and Wodan (the Germanic deity)
  • Most of what we do know about Anglo Saxon paganism is from Anglo Saxon poems, place names, and surviving words.
  • All of our English day names are derived from A-S paganism.
  • I have always been fascinated to learn what other cultures called the planets. In the West, they are all named for Roman Gods, except for the Earth in English. Nerthis was an Anglo-Saxon earth goddess and therefore the name of this planet.
  • There is some evidence that Anglo-Saxon paganism was heavily tied to places. This is one of the tactics early Christian converters used. Where A-S pagans would worship at sacred trees, outdoor crosses were erected. Saints performed miracles at certain locations or were buried in certain locations to co-opt sacred nature sites into Christian lore.
  • On a popular level, a blend of pagan and Christian religion survived all the way up to the Conquest. The various healing charms often contain both pagan and Christian imagery.
  • The image of Christ as Lord worked particularly well on the Anglo Saxons. The word Lord comes from hfalord – bread giver. Pagan Anglo Saxons were used to a lord/servant relationship where ones work was due to the Lord and the Lord then gave back to you housing, food, etc. Substituting Christ as Lord was an easy sell.
  • Baptism and conversion worked well in war for the Anglo-Saxons. By converting after defeat, you were a Christian brother and therefore it could help enforce the peace (Christians shouldn’t attack each other). It was not unusual for the victor to give gifts to the newly converted loser.
  • Especially with the Viking invasions, and Cnut and Swein’s conquests, new churches were often founded by the laity, not the established Christian hierarchy. There was a lot of variation therefore in how the common people interacted with Christianity. And the local church officials were not necessarily beholden to the hierarchy.
  • Part of the struggle between Church and State had to do with who was going to appoint bishops, abbots, etc. When the State could do so, those officials were less inclined to alter doctrine to be more “official.”
  • The Anglo-Saxons had a love-hate relationship with their pagan past, especially elves. Many noteable people have names that suggests a positive view of elves. Aelfred – elf council. Aelfric (famous churchman; common name too) – Elf Ruler. Aelfwyn – Elf Friend. But then many diseases are referred to as elf shot.