Posted by: hencorner | February 16, 2015

Take Two: Another Home Brew

“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.”*

*Benjamin FranklinIMG_2271

Yesterday afternoon as I sprayed our fruit trees with a winter wash, as natural insect control, I looked at the forlorn bare branches and wondered what this season would hold for them. We have apples, pears, peaches and plums, figs, grapes, almonds, berries and currants; all capable of producing fantastic harvests if the weather is for them and the pests, including the naughty squirrels, are kind.

Since we’ve been producing our own food, I have been so much more aware of the weather and can look back and explain the fortunes of our harvests by the sun, rain and wind that they were blessed with.

2013 was the late summer, it didn’t really start until July, and many apple farmers experienced a famine due to the cold wet spring that significantly reduced the pollination rates. Our harvest was quite good that year as the bees only had a few metres to fly to reach our heritage trees and risked the raindrops for the rewards of nectar and pollen.

2014 was the warmest year on record with our bees swarming in April as though it were June, we had loads of apples but unfortunately they ripened and fell whilst we were on holiday in August leaving us with none for Cider Sunday in September. You know, I do think they should bring National Apple Day forward from 21st October, especially in our warmer cities!

Fortunately, our annual event went ahead with friends and family bringing contributions that we could crush and press but as we had nothing to bring to the party we sent the fermenting juice home with those who had brought in apples by the crate. As usual, we were left with bags of pulp which were destined to make Apple and Chilli Jelly, but on this occasion we decided to try our hand to a recipe for Apple Wine that would use the leftovers from the first home-brew to create another. We filled our largest drum with the apple leftovers topping it up with water to draw out the final juices and flavours, then after a week we strained the liquor and added chopped raisins, lemon juice, sugar, yeast and a cup of tea (for the tannin). This was left to ferment under an airlock for several months; in fact we didn’t get round to bottling it until after Christmas. But the result? My goodness, this stuff is great! Comparable to a fine dessert wine, it is rich and sweet and complements both cheeses and all kinds of delectable treats, it was wonderful to drink some, with pudding, as we celebrated Andy’s birthday this weekend with lunch in the conservatory warmed by the early spring sunshine. Will we make it again? Oh yes, two home brews from one stash of apples – absolutely!

FFF Skylar

Coming up at the Corner

If you’d like to visit us here in London, we have courses running right throughout the year with three places left on Saturday 28th February for Families, Feathers and Fun. March then welcomes the builders to create a fantastic new kitchen that will facilitate a wide range of sessions exploring artisan cooking skills and we are back outside with the chickens in April, kindly promoted by Country Living Magazine.

Other News:

Jobs for this week:

  • Prepare the full schedule for our building works; our new food courses will be starting as soon as it’s finished
  • Plan some Half Term fun for our family, hopefully checking out some other kitchen gardens!
  • Make up some more brood frames for our honey bees so that we can change them next month as a part of a swarm and disease management programme

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!


  1. Hello Hen Corner

    Lovely to be signed up to your posts. Just curious to know the recipe for your natural insect spray…was it chilli based?

    By the way, I tweet for Network for Africa, thank you for your recent follow! You might be interested to know that we have various agricultural projects, one of which is native beekeeping in Patongo in Northeastern Uganda. The traditional hives are made from hollowed out logs resting on two posts, made from forked tree branches. Once in place, it’s a matter of waiting for a swarm of wild bees to discover their new home! There are some photos on a tweet from a few months ago – I will RT it to you.

    Looking forward to your regular news and perhaps a chicken course – but my garden is tiny and I would really prefer for them to wander freely for part of the day. So I can foresee a scratched-up, hen-pecked garden!

    Best wishes

    Diana (McCann) Putney

    Sent from my iPad


    • Thanks for this Diana,
      The Winter Wash is a bought organic preparation which you can by here.
      Your bee keeping in Africa sounds amazing – I’d love to see some photos!

      Finally, we started keeping our first couple of chickens in our previous small terrace garden, they don’t need that much space, we have three different types of chicken houses available to see on our Chicken Keeping Courses, we are only a few stops on the train from Putney, come and join us some time?


  2. Ooh, I’m going to look into those natural winter washes for the fruit trees. Thank you for the tip.

    • Anything to help them achieve their best!

  3. With all your apple trees and apple recipes you could do some wassailing, Sara 😉

    • Yes, great idea! We’ve probably missed it for this year, but any opportunity to ask for a blessing is good by me… 🙂

  4. Excellent news about the wine Sara apples do make nice wine. I have done a similar thing with all the leftovers of pears after preserving the good ones but the pear wine does seem to take a bit longer to be ready to drink than apple but a nice wine when ready and rather pink in colour. You should try elderberry this year or even elderflower as both are easily collected and abundant.

    • Thanks Thomas, I’m definitely up for trying a wider variety of home brews this year!

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