Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry


Peach Wine In Memoriam

We are gathered here today in remembrance of Peach Wine. We watched her birth and development with loving anticipation, but unfortunately we weren’t able to see her mature into adulthood. She was taken from us too soon, before she could even be bottled.

With a few precious moments of free time, I decided to try and bottle my Peach Wine. As soon as I picked the jug up, however, I saw something terrible: the water in the airlock had evaporated down past the point where a seal could be maintained. The wine had been open to the air, for how long I do not know.

I went through the motions anyway. I tossed in a campden tablet and stabilized with some potassium sorbate, and did some tests with backsweetening to see if it could be salvaged. Unfortunately it was too far gone and the whole batch needed to be tossed. The off-flavors were severe, a mixture of paint thinner and rubbing alcohol. It tasted bitter and miserable. So, it’s gone now.

I’ll definitely do another batch this year, as soon as the early peaches come in at the orchard I’ll snatch up a bunch and start another batch of wine with them. I’ll be sure to keep a much closer eye on the airlock this time.

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Tart Cherry Wine: Bottled

My Tart Cherry Wine was all done bulk aging, so I stabilized, back-sweetened, and put it into bottles.



(Yes, that one bottle on the left uses a regular cork and no, I still don’t own a corker. I found a good synthetic cork from our collection of old corks, sterilized it, and jammed it in there by hand. I’ll drink that one up first.)


  • Pitched: 30 June 2014
  • Secondary:  13 July 2014
  • Tertiary: 12 August 2014
  • Stabilized and degas: 21 November 2014
  • Backsweetened and Bottled: 28 Nov 2014

Stabilizing and Backsweetening

I stabilized this batch with a campden tablet and potassium sorbate, as recommended on the respective packages.

To backsweeten, I took 2/3 cup sugar and 2/3 cup water and brought to a boil to make a simple syrup. I stirred in the syrup until it got to a sweetness and taste that was to my liking (just about all of it).

Final Tasting Results

I tasted it before backsweetening, and surprisingly it tasted quite a lot like a dry red wine like you might buy at a store. The level of tannin and dryness struck me as very similar to something like a merlot. However, what I could not taste much of was the cherries. I decided to sweeten the wine to both decrease the dryness (which I typically do not enjoy) and try to bring out the cherry flavor.

With the sugar syrup added it is much sweeter, and does taste more like cherries. Also, the syrup seems to have improved the mouthfeel of the final product considerably.

Overall now, the color of the wine is a shade darker than you might see in a White Zinfindel, just about as sweet, and has a subtle but unmistakable flavor of cherries. There are no off-flavors or any unpleasantness. This is probably the first wine I’ve made so far that I would be perfectly happy sitting down and just sipping on a glass of it through the day.

Notes for Next Time

  • Use more cherries. The cherry flavor in this one is good. It could stand to be more pronounced.
  • Try to improve mouthfeel. Adding a few handfuls of raisins should help this.
  • Acidity seems decent, but some citric acid might brighten it up a bit.

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Orange Pomegranate Wine

A quick google search for the term “Orange Pomegranate Wine” returns no relevant results. This means one of two things:

  1. I’m terrible at using Google
  2. I’m the only person in the world stupid enough to try it.

Whatever, I never let my crushing incompetence stop me from trying new things before, why would this be any different?

At the grocery store both Pomegranates and Valencia juice oranges were on sale, so I picked up a few of the poms and a big bag of the oranges. I found a recipe online that called for 10 pomegrantes for a gallon of pomegranate wine. I found another recipe that called for about the same number of oranges for a gallon of orange wine. Combining recipes and cutting in half (because I only have a half gallon jug to use) gives me this recipe:

Orange Pomegranate Wine

  • 3 Pomegranates
  • 2 cups fresh squeezed oranges
  • Zest of half an orange (with all pith painstakingly removed)
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • White Sugar [1]
  • 1/2 tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
  • 1/2 Campden Tablet
  • Yeast [2]

Juice the oranges and add the juice to a stockpot. Cut open the pomegranates and remove the arils, discarding the white membranes. Add the arils to the orange juice in the stock pot, crushing as best as possible. Add the honey and zest, and bring the mixture to a boil. Let cool to room temperature.

Add the pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient and campden tablet, crushed. Stir, cover with a towel, and let sit overnight.

Uncover the bucket, fan off the fumes, and pitch the yeast. Allow to ferment until the bubbles stop. Transfer to secondary for long-term aging.


After taking this picture, I juiced the oranges and pomegranate you see in this picture, brought the juice to a boil (to sterilize), cooled it again, and used it to top off the jug. Less air in there is better, and the extra juice should improve flavor.


  1. I added about 2.5 cups of white sugar to bring the SG up to 1.090. I thought about going higher to 1.100, but decided to just stay where I was at.
  2. I used a leftover packet of Cotes Des Blancs. It seemed a little sluggish in the starter, but looks like it picked up over time.

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Honey Apple Wine

Terminology in the realm of homebrew fruit wines starts to get real complicated real quick. My most recent project is a perfect example of this. Fermented apple cider is typically called cider, though if you get the alcohol content high enough and you don’t carbonate it, the result is probably more accurate to call apple wine. Honey wine is, of course, mead. If you mix apple cider with honey and ferment it, the result is typically called cyser, though the more general term for a fruit-flavored mead is melomel.

The word “cyser” seems to me like a play on the word “cider”. So if I were making something like a cider, but used honey instead of ordinary sugar I would certainly call it a cyser. However, I pushed the starting gravity all the way up to 1.100, which is going to yield something closer to wine strength (and hopefully with plenty of residual sweetness). Since the end result I’m aiming for is not  “cider-like”, it seems funny to me to call it a “cyser”.

The name “Apple Melomel” seems like it might be a good choice, but I feel like that obscures the situation: Apple is the star of the show, highlighted with the flavor of honey. This is basically the same thing as my Caramel Apple Wine, if we replace the caramel syrup with honey instead. So, following that pattern, I’m going to call this one “Honey Apple Wine”.

Honey Apple Wine

  • Apple Cider
  • Honey [1]
  • Yeast [2]
  • Pectic Enzyme [3]
  • Yeast Nutrient

Add honey to the apple cider to bring the starting gravity to 1.100 [4]. Bring to a boil in a large pot to sterilize. Skim off foam, which can contain leftover wax and other waste products. Mix in pectic enzyme. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (at least 1 hour).

Pitch yeast as instructed and add yeast nutrient. Move the mixture to the primary container, attach air lock. Rack to secondary when fermentation has stopped or slowed significantly.



On the left of this picture is my Caramel Apple Wine, which is a much darker, redder color and is slowly starting to clarify.


  1. I used a local clover honey.
  2. I went to the brew store looking for White Labs WLP-775 “English Cider” yeast. That was out of stock, so I picked up a packet of “Cider House Select” yeast, which seems specialized for cider but for which I can’t find any information online.
  3. This is the first batch I’ve made with pectic enzyme. I didn’t see any obvious change at pitch, but I’m expecting some improvements later to clarity.
  4. I added 2 cups of honey to the cider, boiled it, cooled it, and took a gravity reading. The intention was to use white sugar to bump up to 1.100. However, when I took the reading I was at 1.100 almost exactly, so I left it as is. It was a happy accident, but I wasn’t expecting the SG to go so high on only 2 cups of honey.

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Caramel Apple Wine

I’ve been making a bunch of fruit wines this year, but most of those are just ways for me to kill time. What I’m really excited about making is hard apple cider and apple wine, and I have a few jugs available to make several batches. I have a gallon batch of apple wine going right now, and am planning another gallon batch of hard cider soon. Whats left are my two half-gallon jugs, which are the perfect size for things which are a little bit more experimental. For the first one I decided to create a batch of Caramel Apple Wine. This recipe is for a half-gallon batch. Scaling it up should be pretty straight-forward to a point. Too much sugar in the pot will be hard to caramelize. You might need to work in batches.

The regular subscriber (and I suspect there is only one) will notice that this recipe has been heavily influenced by the Caramel Apple Jam recipe I posted a while back, and which has been a household favorite since I first made it.

Caramel Apple Wine

  • Apple Cider
  • White Sugar
  • 1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Yeast: Cotes des Blancs
  • Starting Gravity: 1.104
  • Yeast Nutrient

Add 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water to a high-walled stockpot. Cook over medium heat, stirring only if necessary, until the sugar turns a deep brown. Add in 4 cups of apple cider and stir until all the caramelized sugar is dissolved. I didn’t let the cider come to a boil, but I don’t think it will hurt too much if you do.

Add the caramel cider and another 4 cups of cider (8 cups total) to a mixing bucket. Add enough sugar to bring the gravity up to 1.100 (for me, it was another cup). Add in vanilla extract to taste (my home-made extract is less strong than most store-bought varieties, so you may want to start smaller. A subtle vanilla flavor to compliment the caramel is all I wanted).  Funnel the must into a sterilized half-gallon jug. If there is any left over, save it for topping off after the trip to secondary.

I added 1/2 Tsp of the yeast nutrient up front. I have been using a staggered feeding schedule for some of my other brews, but for this one I added all the nutrient up front.

Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before pitching the yeast.


 First Test

I stole my customary taste-test during the rack to secondary. The wine definitely tastes of caramel apple, though the caramel flavor is not as strong as I expected. I’ll probably do a lot of second-guessing about both the amount of caramelized sugar I used and also the amount it was caramelized. Did I let it get dark enough, or did I panic and take it off the heat too soon? Did I just not make enough?

In a few months when it’s good and ready I’ll taste it again with a definite eye towards making sure the caramel flavor is properly balanced. Maybe it will pop out more when the mixture mellows out after aging.

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Refrigerator Dill Pickles

I’ve been on a pickle kick lately, but I’m very new to the whole enterprise. For that reason, I’ve been making lots of batches of pickles with different recipes to try and learn what ingredients and proportions have what effects on the final products. This is why I made both Half-Sour and Full-Sour pickles a while back, and why I made three batches of refrigerator dill pickles too.

One milestone that I would really like to reach is to duplicate the flavor of the deli pickles we get from the local supermarket. I’m pretty sure they’re Deitz and Watson brand, and they can be found in big wood barrel displays (they’re actually in a plastic bin that sits inside the big wood barrel, but the visuals are the same). Whoever makes them and whatever they are called, I want to make them. When I figure out how to duplicate that recipe, I’ll be more willing to venture out and try all sorts of other things.

I’ve found a few recipes on the internet that looked like they might be what I am after, so I mixed and matched the recipes, and converted measurements so they are per-quart jar. Here are the general ingredients for these recipes:

  • Kirby pickling cucumbers. Usually 4-5 per quart depending on the size of the cukes and how you cut them (I cut them into spears). Make sure to remove the blossom end, to prevent softening.
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt (with no preservatives or anti-caking agents)
  • Fresh Dill (to taste)
  • Peppercorns (about a half Tablespoon per jar, depending on taste)
  • Garlic
  • Other spices
  • 3 cups of distilled water (or, if not distilled, give it a good boil)
  • 1/4 cup vinegar

So all that out of the way, here are the three batches I made (from left to right, though you can see that we’ve been tasting them, they’re only half full now):


Batch 1: Simple

  • 1 clove garlic
  • Distilled white vinegar

This is a simple batch, and very tasty. For the first week they tasted unexpectedly sweet, but by the second week they were more mild. This is a simple, but good flavor. Our least favorite of the bunch, but were still pretty tasty.

Batch 2: More Complicated

  • 1 clove garlic
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon whole coriander seed
  • Dash hot pepper flakes

These are probably our favorite batch of the three. The coriander makes the flavor more mellow and a little brighter. The hot pepper adds a little zing at the end, but doesn’t add much heat or flavor otherwise. Again this batch was unexpectly sweet for the first week, but after that they calmed down considerably.

Batch 3: Apple Cider Vinegar and Garlic

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon whole coriander seed
  • Extra Dill

I liked this batch more than Dana did. I think the extra garlic was a big help, but the apple cider vinegar is not quite as good as the white vinegar in this recipe. I would say this batch is tied for first, but Dana likes Batch 2 better.

What Next?

I like the ratio of water to vinegar. I think it’s pretty close to perfect. I will play with the ratio, of course, but I think we’re pretty close as-is.

Overall, I think if I make a fourth batch, I think I want to combine Batch 2 and Batch 3 and add a few more ingredients as well.

I’ll use the extra garlic and dill from Batch 3, but stick with the white vinegar and add some hot pepper from Batch 2. I also think I would like to add some extra spices too, like a little bit of bay leaf or mustard seed. The mustard seed, in particular, is probably a major missing ingredient. These changes to the recipe, and maybe a few tweaks to the technique, will probably get us pretty close to the flavor of the deli pickle I am looking for.

I am also considering another attempt at the Half-Sour recipe, this time with a custom spice blend instead of that problematic “Pickling Spice” I used last time. The pre-made pickling spice adds too much bitterness and off-flavor for my purposes.

In either case, we may have to wait till next year. Cucumbers are out of season now and we aren’t going to get any fresh Kirbys again until next year. Maybe I’ll plant a bush and try to grow a few myself.

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Simple Mead 2: Bottled

I bottled my Simple Mead 2. Here’s a review.



  • Pitched: 23 February 2014
  • Fed: 27 February 2014
  • Secondary: 19 March 2014
  • Bottled: 9 October 2014


You’ll notice that the process for this one was much simpler than for my first mead. The first one was racked twice, stabilized and back-sweetened before bottling. This one had a much simpler recipe and was handled much less.

I tried to degas the jug with the handle of a silicone spatula. It wasn’t an ideal tool for the job, but I think the job got done anyway. Note to self: I need to buy a proper long-handled home brew spoon, if not a specialized degas tool.

Final Tasting Results

Compared to the first batch, this one is pretty darn good. This mead finished sweet, sweeter perhaps than I expected. Where the first batch had lots of off-flavors including oxidation and vinegar notes, this one is much smoother and cleaner.

This is the batch of wine I’ve really been waiting for. It’s proof that I can make things that I like to drink, and it’s encouragement that I can do even better in the future. I’m looking forward to trying out some of my other waiting wines, and I’m really looking forward to testing this one again after it’s aged for a few more months or even a year.


I degassed the wine, didn’t back-sweeten and thought that it was pretty much dead. There were no more bubbles to be had, and no new sugar for yeast to eat. However, a few days after putting the corks in, one of my bottles shattered.


Glass and delicious honey wine everywhere. Probably about half my batch, months of work, wasted. Lame.

While I don’t know the cause for certain, I suspect it was a buildup of gas from live yeast doing yeast things. I didn’t stabilize this batch like I should have and, not wanting to pour it all out of the bottles and figure out stabilization ratios, I decided to take a different route. I took the corks out of the remaining two bottles, covered with aluminum foil, and pasteurized in a pot of water. 170+ degrees for about 20 minutes (there are other temperatures and times you can use, look it up). When the bottles cooled down, I took the foil off and put new corks in. I’m hoping that the bottles do better after this. Next time, I’ll definitely stabilize properly.