Crabapple and apricot brandy, 90 days and relief at last

This post follows “Brandy swamp juice at day 60.”  To see that post, click here.

Wow, wow, and wow!  For the last 90 days, I have had two gallon jars of cheap vodka (the cheapest I could find) fermenting with fruit that was falling from the trees.  I have endured ridicule, taunting, threats of jail time if I poisoned anyone, and skepticism that the new “hobby” would be a disaster.  Now, the verdict is in.  I have had a chance to taste the wicked brew and, oh boy,  was I surprised!   Look who’s laughing now!

First, let me go back a little bit for those of you hitting this blog out of order from the first two.  I had two full trees full of fruit that were going to waste.  I had fed the family all the fruit products I could concoct, and needed another fresh usage.  I went online to get suggestions and found apricot leather (too much work with the risk of my kids hating it), cookies (didn’t use a tree full of fruit) and then I saw a homemade brandy site.  Hmph, I thought, I’m not much of a brandy drinker, but the labor looked easy – pick fruit, add sugar and cheap vodka, put in gallon jars and turn once a day for three months.  I could handle that – and the shelf-life was very good. 

Ten dollar half-gallon jars of vodka are not something to brag about.  The stuff is nasty.  I tasted a drop or two out of the jug and figured I was wasting my time, as nothing in my imagination could cut the harsh biting taste.  Regardless of my doubts, I vowed to continue the experiment, mainly because the web writer so convincingly said it would work.  After 30 days, the brew began to ferment and that looked even LESS appealing.  I plotted to feed it to the hubby and his football buddies because, after all, they’ll consume anything.  Little did I know, hubby was bracing for a strong defense as he was convinced the stuff was too vile even for football buddies.  Besides, he feared that serving brandy to beer-drinking football buddies could taint his reputation as a rough-n-tumble guy.

By day 60, the look had exceeded unappetizing and was well on the way to being classified as pollution.   The apricots had begun to disintegrate and the crabapples were not showing any sign of fermenting at all.  My husband got all huffy and began taking offensive measures to protect his buddies from death-by-brandy.  I remained weakly hopeful, though the project did not look promising.  He reminded me that this concoction looked a lot like the juice from a bag of lettuce that has been left in the refrigerator crisper drawer a month too long.

Adding to my discomfort, I had chosen to set the gallon jars where the family makes their breakfast toast, thereby assuring that the brandy would be turned daily.  This subjected me to near daily ridicule about taking up hobbies that are scary and deadly and why couldn’t I be like all the other wives and have a candle hobby, or buy myself a pet bird.  For 90 days, I suffered this daily taunting.  To my dismay, the football buddies all formed a contingent and were bringing their OWN drinks in tamper-proof containers.  Helmets, too,if necessary. 

Animal Control cartoon 010

By 90 days, the two jars full of brackish liquid were ready.  I had purchased a BRITA filter, but had not considered the straining process beforehand.  One must pre-soak the filter, but no site that I ran across said whether to soak it in water, or vodka.  I follwed the BRITA instructions and used water.  Then worried that I would further ruin 90 days of agony by watering down the brew. 

What I discovered the hard way is that, at least with the apricot mixture, one must strain it with a generously-holed strainer first, then with cheesecloth next.  The photo at right shows what you should not put in the BRITA!  This would be obvious to anyone who has ever used a water filter before.  It was NOT obvious to me.  (There went one filter.)  Filling it up with the raw glop only clogged the filter, stopping it almost immediately.  So, for those new to this process, strain the fruit mixture a couple times through cheese cloth before putting it into the filter.  Then, leave it overnight in the refrigerator.  The next day, you will have beautiful brandy. 

The crabapple brandy was a very different creature.  The fruit had not dissolved like the fragile apricots, so the liquid in the jar remained clear and clean for the entire 90 days.  I was more concerned that it might not have taken the flavor, or completed the process enough to produce a good flavor.  Straining it was not necessary, and filtering it was not necessary, either. 

The results?  The apricot was very good, but pretty sweet.  This was not like any brandy I’ve ever bought at the store, those being harsher with a strong alcohol taste to them.  This was very smooth, and I say this regretably but honestly – I think it would be amazing over pancakes.  It’s not undrinkable, but would make a good dessert drink. 

Now, the crabapple was a different story.  The color is a light yellowish-amber.  It blew me away.  Very smooth flavor, not as sweet, but this one left my husband’s jaw on the floor.  He could not believe we got that product out of some worm-riddled crabapples.  (I did remove the worms before making the batch, for those wondering.)  The crabapple brandy left us both speechless.  Next time we have a crabapple crop, I will definitely be cleaning off the tree and using this for gifts for friends.  It surpassed expectations by a landslide!

From there, it was a mad dash to protect the goods as one cannot afford to allow football buddies to consume exquisite products.  It’s cheap beer and brats for you guys!  I’ll take the “obnoxious, vile, liquid and dispose of it properly…up on the balcony with a girlfriend or two.

If you would like to see all the brandy posts, or more comical posts, click here for the index.

Brandy at day 60

This post follows “Brandy swamp juice at day 29.”  To see that post, click here.

On July 29, 2009, I forged ahead with an experiment, of sorts.  I had never tried to make brandy, but had a lot of fruit falling off the tree and decided to go online and get a recipe.  The recipe I found involved filling a glass gallon jar with fruit, adding three cups of sugar and approximately 26 ounces of cheap vodka.  The instructions said to turn the jar of brandy daily, from right side up to upside down for three months.  And so I have.

I’m now down to one month left on this experiment, ironically with it becoming ready near Halloween.  I say “ironically” because Ken maintains this “brew” is the scariest thing he has ever encountered.  He accused the apricot brandy of developing primordial life 30 days ago, and since then, he claims he heard it learning vowel sounds in harmony with whatever I have forgotten in the lettuce crisper drawer of the refrigerator.  Ken maintains the tune sounds somewhat like the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but that some of the apricots are uninspired and therefore are dragging down the entire apricot chorus.  He also complained that without an agreed upon director, their timing is off, but that as he makes his toast in the morning, some of the apricots swim to the side and look to him for direction.  So help me…Ken needs to get out more!

(Musical apricot brew, at left.  Notice how murky the liquid is compared to the crabapple brew below.)

Of course, I realize that Ken is lying.  I have checked that brandy daily – and there is no such thing going on.  Granted, the apricots have begun to dissolve – and aren’t very attractive, and a few of them do appear to be making faces on the sides of the jar, but as for musical talent, or the beginnings of a revolt?  Never.

If you read the last post, you probably learned that I intended to spring said concoction on Ken and his football buddies, despite his protests to the contrary.  Something about “No way would he or his friends be getting poisoned by his deranged wife.”  His support of this project is awe-inspiring.  (Not!)

At any rate, because I am the kind, considerate, sweet sort of wife, I purchased a Brita filter well in advance just to remove some of the less appetizing elements floating in the swampy apricot liquid.  My biggest worry is that there seems to be a BIG difference between the apricot and the crabapple brandies.  The apricot is admittedly gross, but the crabapple is gorgeous – very clear and yummy looking.  This difference makes me wonder if the crabapple might need more time – maybe even another month.  Perhaps I am mistaken because the two fruits are quite different in texture.  Additionally, the seal on the apricot brandy was difficult and resulted in opening the jar three times during the last 60 days.  Perhaps the air could make a difference?  (I’ll know in another 30 days – but if any of you readers know this, please leave a comment.)

The only other update is that while changing the lid on the apricot brandy – the aroma was unbelievable!  Wow, if it tastes half as good as it is beginning to smell, I’ll be thrilled – and might even recant my threat of feeding it to Ken and his football buddies.  Maybe I’ll give them the contents of the crisper drawer and keep the brandy for myself!

To see the next post, Brandy at 90 days, click here.  For a complete list of Her Side Funnies comical posts, click here.

Brandy Swamp Juice at day 29

Evidence of primordial life? Poison? Or incredible football beverage?

This post follows “Brandy, the new hobby.”  To view that post, click here.

Well, I do believe I’ll be feeding the first batch of brandy to Ken and his football buddies.  To call this batch “unappetizing” would be an understatement.  It is a murky blend of decomposing apricots,   The poor apricots look like aging women in there…losing their perky forms and digressing into blobs of soft pulp.  Yes, AARP is not hiring me as a marketing rep.  And the brandy institute is not interested in my skills, either.

For those of you interested in following the brandy experiment, I guess it is important to know that the fruit supposedly begins to ferment at 28 days.  Hmmm.  28 days sounds familiar.  Oh, yes, that’s coincidentally the same length of time it takes women to develop a “change in character,” too.  You can disregard that last statement as brandy consumption and PMS are rarely related, except in extreme cases.

As I spin the gallon jar around, the bodies of the apricots look like lifeless eyeballs in a high school science teachers lab.  Mind you, this is in direct contrast to the crabapple brandy.  The crabapple brandy looks great!  Clear liquid, still perky bodies at 28 days – very tasty looking indeed.  (That’s the one I’ll try…three days after Ken and his buddies try batch number one. )  If Ken is grabbing his stomach and moaning in pain, I’ll blame it on the nachos, but I may delay drinking my portion…indefinitely.

Ken, I might add, views this concoction every morning as he makes his coffee.  In the last two days, he’s been eyeballing this “stew”  with concern, if not downright suspicion. 

“I’m not drinking that!” he said this morning. 

“It’s not ready yet,” I answered.  “It needs filtered, and, uh, well, strained, and,…”

“In two months, there will be primordial life in there!” he interrupted.  “There’s no way you’ll get a bunch of football guys to drink that!” 

Obviously, we have a difference of opinion on how much attention guys watching a football game pay to what they are drinking.    I will have reached a new high if I can command the attention away from a touchdown to the relative merits, or pitfalls, of this beverage.  Of course, if I do, Ken will have reached a new low, too, being fired as football host.  Hahaha!

Seriously, I am noticing a distinct downfall of the web…not having anyone close enough to look at this mess and tell me that 1) I’ve ruined it and it’s poisonous now; or 2) It’s supposed to look this way, and 3) to take the first sip as proof of their confidence.

For those of you entertaining making brandy, I would stress a couple things I have learned from this experiment the hard way.  First, I’ve never met a gallon jar full of liquid that one could seal sufficiently to turn upside down on a counter without regretting it later.  Second, covering the jar with plastic wrap before putting the lid on to seal it is an idea propped up by the plastic wrap industry.  They lie.  Of course, you can do it, and it may improve the seal…but it is – in no way – a guarantee that your syrupy, brandy mixture will not leak all over your counter, down your cabinets and onto the floor and cause your family dog to walk funny. (O.K., that last part was an exaggeration!  The dog was not that interested in my brandy mixture, either.  Hmmm, that’s perplexing.)

Also, there is another difference between the two batches.  Since the apricot brandy jar was leaking, I removed the lid and replaced the plastic wrap somewhere around day 20.  I was impressed by the smell, but perhaps the air tightness might have something to do with the development???  If any of you out there know, please add a comment onto this post.  Preferably before Ken’s football buddies arrive in late October/early November and start complaining about…the nachos. 

After that, just disregard the newspaper headlines….And in 10 years, that “Women in Prison” television show will present an episode with a woman who looks a lot like me.  Mere coincidence….I’ll be in Mexico hiding out.

To fast forward another 30 days in this experiment, click here.