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Cellar Dream-Come-True

10.13.10

I knew when I built my wine and root cellars, that they would bring me joy – but I had no idea it would happen so thoroughly, so quickly. Today I made a batch of very, very large saucisson sec. It was time to try again after my last slightly hurtful failure, and the humidity in my cellar has been above 60% since early spring, largely having been resolve by 1) building a door, imagine that and 2) having a passive humidifier setup which is a bucket with salt water + a rag wicking water on to a flat rock on the floor = ~20%+ bump up in RH.

As I tied the links up in the cellar, I paused at the sight of copious quantities of saucisson sec, hanging above aging wheels of local goat cheese, themselves above many carboys full of urban fruit wine - and was thoroughly pleased to the core. It’s a dream-come-true, really. The cheese setup, btw, is a genius one – Holly at Smoky Valley Goat Cheese hooked me up with this idea: food grade plastic bin with lid, salt water on bottom, add rack, cheese on top [not touching water] = 95+% humidity. The humidity can be tweaked by simply sliding the lid open or closed. I had no idea how to achieve the necessary humidity for cheese ripening without the typical old-fridge-setup folks use. Problem solved.

I find myself ducking down to the cellar daily now – checking dry cured meat or smelling the cheese and checking out for any microflora action, topping up wine carboys or checking their state of fermentation, grabbing a bottle of wine or a jar of pickles, jam, or fruit syrup, or rounding up some root veg for dinner. Cellars are underrated – mine’s changing my life, and I think I’m only just starting to get the hang of it.

10 Responses

  1. I get it all, love it all, saucisson sec, cheeses, jams, pickles. Major food envy here.
    But the wine?
    What is it with Canadians and their home made wine?
    From Immigrant Italians to thrifty semi alcoholics, I tasted many of them.
    Still don’t like any of them. How could yours differ?

  2. Kevin says:

    Hm. How to respond.
    I used to bawk at home-made wine as you do – most suck, agreed.
    Mine differ because of the following:
    - it is not made from a kit
    - I don’t use recipes, I use chemistry [S.G., TA, pH measurements] to determine what a must needs prior to fermentation
    - I only use freshly picked local fruit [as opposed to imported B-grade or worse grapes, for ex]
    - I crush and press the fruit myself
    - I use specific wine yeasts for specific results, rather than ‘whatever’
    - I age with good quality oak
    - I ferment and store my wines at optimal temperatures
    Those items make the most difference.

  3. Barry says:

    I am so inspired by this Kevin. I too have multiple carboys filled with beers, applewines, meads, and one day would love to actually house them, along with my home canning goods, root vegetables from my garden, and maybe one day my own cheeses etc. Unfortunately we simply don’t have room at the moment but some day… maybe in a couple years when we move into a new house I will reserve part of the unfinished basement as my cellar (maybe a large portion of it haha).

    Anyway, keep up the good work. Awesome…

    If I may reply to “The Celiac Husband” about why homemade wines… My biggest reason for making homemade wines is uniqueness. Sure i can go to the wine store and get a fantastic bottle of wine, and enjoy it very much. I could be content with that for a long time, however there is always this little voice inside of me that says “what if I did this…or I wonder what this would taste like.” Making your own wines either from grapes or any other fruit, especially with meads, you immediately open the door to limitless possibilities to entertain your creativity with. Are they Grade A french Bordeaux quality…no, but they can be just as rewarding to experience, especially when you are the one who made it. Not to mention the conversation from envious friends when you go snag a bottle of 1995 Blackberry Mead from your storage and it turns out to be one of the best and most unique drinks they’ve had in a while. The varieties of ingredients, yeasts, and additives (spices etc) make for one hell of a hobby to which there are unlimited combinations and experiences to be had.

    And I second all of what Kevin says about how his (and hopefully my own) wines are better.

    Cheers!

    Barry

  4. Mel says:

    I can fully vouch for the quality of Kevin’s homemade wines – as you can see by his description of the process in both that comment and throughout this blog, he is as close to a “real” winemaker as you can get at home. In fact, the quality of his wines are higher than many bottom-shelf bulk wines, made from vats of crappy grape juice that were trucked all over a continent before being made halfheartedly into wine.

    Kudos on the cellar, Kevin. It’s something that everyone should think of investing in. Now if only I could figure out a good place to put mine…

  5. Where do you get your oak for the wine vats? Do you make them every year? I didn’t know you used oak. After visiting so many wineries and hearing about their oak barrel prices and that they only use them once… I am curious.
    Second… why did I not ask to visit your cellar? Next time over. Please. And, I assume Holly made the cheese and you are aging it. After it “comes of age” will you then freeze the portion you don’t eat right away, or how will you continue to store it once it is cut into? And – Kevin… yes, you know what is next. The recipe, please, for the saucisson sec!
    YUM.
    :)
    Valerie
    Sad, Valerie. As today I was to be flying to Fresno for Pom Wonderful’s Harvest Tour. But, I cannot go as I had an allergic reaction to some medication yesterday – a serious one… BAD TIMING. I am still whimpering. Truly.

  6. Barry says:

    @ A Canadian Foodie – I believe Kevin uses the same method I do, which is to use those toasted french/american oak spirals that simply go into the carboy. Typically 2 spirals per 5 gallons aged for up to a month does a nice job of “oaking” a wine. I recently made a pomegranite applewine that I oaked with medium toast oak spirals and it is amazing what the spirals do.

    Cheers!

  7. Barry and Mel – if you ever do get to planning a cellar, let me know. I did a lot of homework that I’d be happy to share.

    Barry – fully agree re: enjoyment of wine being impacted by one’s involvement. I’m finding I can enjoy my wines more than most comparable commercially available wines, even without taking into account the cost spread. I’m pretty confident it’d take a $18-20+ bottle to top my stuff, and my hard cost per bottle on unoaked apple wine is in the neighborhood of $0.05. On a QPR basis, no contest. Wiine can be an inexpensive, broadly available item in our food culture, rather than an elitist one.

    Valerie – so sorry to hear about your trip. Barry’s right – I use infusion spirals from the Barrel Mill – a cooper in Minnesota. The quality is shockingly high. Yes, Holly made the cheese – more on this another time. I may paraffin wax the remaining piece of what I don’t need, or may wrap in the fridge and eat lots of cheese!! I also may grate and freeze some. Hard to say. Re: the saucisson sec – I am working on my recipe, but until I’ve had success and am happy with it, I’m not going to post it.

  8. Having followed your Blog for a while, I knew I should not have asked. There had to be more to that venture, than just a kit.

    To all the other home based wine makers, I duly apologize for my snarky remarks. Everybody who makes something from scratch at home has my respect.

  9. jeff says:

    as a fellow fruit wine maker at home, i have to say that it really is fantastic to open up a bottle of apple or saskatoon that has aged nicely (1 yr min) and taste the development since inception. also to broaden up friends horizons of what homemade wine is.

    and you cant beat the cost.

  10. H Peter – I know you have, and I had a good chuckle when I read this. No harm done.
    Jeff – Good point. I think the ability to enjoy wines evolve through their lifespan is a meaningful experience, that need not only be experienced by they who collect cases of posh Bordeaux. There’s something to be said for the taste of humility involved, rather than luxury.

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