Archive for alcohol

Twelve days, Twelve tasks

Posted in Folklore, History, Projects with tags , , , , , , , on December 29, 2016 by manxwytch

The twelve days following the winter solstice have long represented interstices between the end of the old and the beginning of the new throughout the Celtic countries. As the popular calendar shifted the New Year from 1st November to 1st January, many of the traditions and influences around Sauin became associated with the twelve days. Divining the year to come was an important way-marker of this time, and many traditions around post-midwinter divination survived in the folklore and practice of the Isle.

The twelve days were seen as both predictive and prescriptive, in that they could offer insight into the forces at play in the year to come, but also allow a measure of influence to shape the year according to the wishes of the practitioner.

In this spirit, I have chosen to accomplish a specific task for each of the days, to set a theme and to empower completion and accomplishment as motifs for the coming year.

yulefrog1

The Lord of Misrule

The first is a re-working of an antique taxidermy frog which I acquired a half dozen or more years ago. I’m not certain what possessed someone to over-inflate this unfortunate amphibian and outfit him with a homemade musical instrument, but this fellow had been a harpist for most of his afterlife, until I was inspired to arm him with a Yule stang and crown him with a gilded acorn-cap. The staff was originally part of the harp, and the horns I formed and added from deer antler.

 

braggotdec2016

Gale Braggot

A fresh batch of braggot was overdue, flavoured with sweet gale and yarrow.
I’m modifying the recipe this year, to add a second fermentation, and four year old homegrown mandrake root to the brew.

My recipe:

3lbs liquid malt extract
3lbs apple blossom honey, plus 1lb for secondary fermentation
4 gallons spring water, plus 1/2 gallon for secondary fermentation
2oz dried sweet gale leaves, buds and nutlets
1oz dried yarrow flowering tops
Ale yeast
1/2 oz dried mandrake root

Heat 1 gal of water with the malt and honey, add half the sweet gale and all the yarrow and bring to just below a boil.
Put the remaining sweet gale in the primary fermenter with the remaining 3 gal of water. Add the hot wort to the fermenter, cover and allow to cool. Remove 1/2 cup of the liquid, test the specific gravity and hydrate the yeast in it afterward. Return the proved yeast to the fermenter, lock and allow to ferment.
Starting SG should be close to 1.060, add water or honey to reach it. Ferment until still, 1-2 weeks depending on temperature. Strain into secondary fermenter. Dissolve the remaining 1lb honey in a half gallon of spring water in which you have decocted a half ounce of mandrake root. Cool, add to the secondary fermenter and lock. Strain and bottle when clear, adding 1tsp barley malt extract to each clean bottle to prime. The final SG should be below 1.0 and abv will be just over 6%.
flyingointment2016

 

I’ve combined mandrake root with henbane seed as actives in this small batch of flying ointment. I add a small handful of dried poplar buds to the extraction, to contribute their resin as a preservative, as well as to provide their own properties and influences to the salve. Soot and salt round out the symbolic ingredients, with a small amount of beeswax to provide solidity, a touch of solar force and the experience of flight.
My preference is to stick with one family per ointment recipe, as far as the actives go, and I have had good success with this basic recipe. I’ll leave the hemlock and aconite to others.

 
Further twelve-day tasks will include extracting oleoresin from some of my prodigious harvest of last season’s sweet gale, to see if it can be used with efficacy as an oneirogenic incense; the completion of a holly and rowan wood wand, and the remaining number to complete the twelve, which I shall report on anon.

Potable Alchemy

Posted in Musings, Projects with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2015 by manxwytch

Mead and braggot are goals that were set this spring, and the plant ingredients desired to enhance them have been cultivated, or collected from the fields around my home. Now at the new moon’s turning it is time to begin the brew.

A couple of the basic recipes are old ones, passed down to me. Others are new to me, from books and folk who are brewers of beer, braggot and porter, and makers of mead. And with the basic proportions and ingredients proven, there is always room to experiment. The water where I live is very hard, with staggering amounts of chlorine added. I am thankful for this in terms of water safety, but in the case of brewing, these qualities are exactly what I don’t need. A providential day of continuous rain has allowed me to collect sufficient rainwater for a batch of braggot, (which I filtered and boiled, just to make certain my carefully coddled chosen yeasts will not have to compete with filthy local bacteria in the milieu of my brews). However I do not have time at the moment for travel to the sacred well I know that also happens to be health and safety tested, so I will compromise and purchase spring water for the first batch of mead.

Fires burn and cauldron bubble…

Decocting herbs for Mead

Decocting herbs for Mead

 

The fermentation process is a sacred alchemy, producing an embodiment of a plant genius beyond that which can be accomplished by simple chemical extraction, either by water, acid, oil or alcohol. It is the transformation of sugars and other plant constituents by the biotic processes of yeasts and bacteria, in order to release those substances from the physical corpus vegetale, and attenuate them to a level of spirit. In the process, the physical elements are changed by the living organisms consuming them; made more bioavailable, recombined, concentrated, potentiated and depending on how the alchemist directs the process, rendered more or less toxic than the original ingredients wedded together in this chemico-mystical union.

For the making of mead, I have gathered local honey collected from blaa ooyllagh – apple blossoms, along with herbs sacred to the White Lady of the Isle – tramman – the elder; dress villish – eglantine; and katog – the leaves of the wild strawberry.

The braggot, I dedicate to the Grey One, and draw inspiration from old Norse writings and recipes. It will be ready to drink much more quickly than the mead, so I will make several different types. A basic one now, to trial the recipe, I am brewing with lus roddagagh, the sweet gale. Later, as the summer wanes I will brew darker variations.

2Carboys1Pail