Beware: Dreams Can Come True

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I haven’t been able to get the words from Paul Kelly’s song, “Be Careful what you pray for“, out of my head of late.  I tried to find a You Tube video of him singing the song for you but there doesn’t appear to be one so you will have to sing it yourself.  It is a great song.  Here are the words:

Be careful what you pray for
You just might get it
Be careful what you pray for
You might regret it
You get your hands on that glittering prize
Now everybody’s coming at you from every side
Be careful what you pray for
You just might get it 

Be careful what you want now
You might be sorry
Be careful what you want now
You might be sorry
You finally make it to your place in the sun
You stop and look around you – you’re friends
with no one
Be careful what you want now
You might be sorry
Go ahead like a moth to the flame
Go ahead
Be careful what you dream on Dreams come true
Be careful what you dream on They can turn on you
Revenge is a dish they say best tasted cold
But revenge digs two graves, makes a young person old
Be careful what you dream on
It might come true
So why is Paul Kelly’s song stuck in my head?
Well, about 15 years ago, Maus and I bought a dream in the shape of a ratchet wine-press.  We also bought an apple crusher… but that is another story.  I dreamed of making wine and vinegar and apple cider.   At that stage, I didn’t appreciate how hard it was to make quality wine or how much birds like apples or even what was involved in crushing grapes.
I am not sure whether it was before or after our purchase of the wine-press but a colleague, at the time, whose family had a vineyard in the Swan Valley, offered me grape cuttings to set my dream in progress.
That was a long time ago.  At first, we just let the grapes rot but then we discovered that our neighbour likes to do a bit of brewing so we have been giving him the grapes each year.
One year, I did try making wine but it was a lot of effort and we threw out the result.  The only success I have had with the grapes is verjuice.  There is only so much verjuice a woman needs.
At the back of my mind, I have been thinking that if my wine tasted like vinegar then, surely, I could make vinegar out of the grapes.  But I could never find out how to do it until I got the fantastic book, Mouneh, by Barbara Abdeni Massaad, for Christmas.  I have already given this book a rap.  If you like to preserve things, you really should get a copy.
I became determined that this year I would use our grapes.
IMG_2060 copyWe have been really busy lately with Perth International Arts Festival and related activities.  We had planned to spend 10 days in Perth but I knew that the tomatoes and cucumbers would take over if I left them for that long so we decided to drive down, pick the ripe tomatoes and cucumbers, and then drive back to Perth the next day.
When I got to Bridgetown, however, our plans changed.   I noticed that our wine grapes were ripe and needed picking that day.  It was either ring Horst (our neighbour who likes to brew) or go for it.
Eight boxes of grapes later (we only picked the red ones – Grenache, Shiraz and, possibly, Cabernet Sauvignon), I was beginning to think I had bitten off more than I could chew.  It was mid afternoon and we still had to crush the grapes AND pick the tomatoes and cucumbers.
Not to be deterred, I washed and dried the grapes and then started the arduous task of crushing them.  It was a momentous occasion since we’d had the press for so long and never used it.
In go the grapes…
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Here is a photo of our first drop of juice.  A dream comes true.  I was finally crushing grapes.
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It was bloody hard work and it took us ages but we eventually had a large pot of juice.  It was late so I went inside and decided to read the next step.
The instructions were to:   “Crush to remove all the stalks keeping the pulp, skin, and seeds of the fruit.”

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Oh! No!!
By this time, it was about nine o’clock in the evening.  We hadn’t even looked at the tomatoes and cucumbers, the main reason for coming to Bridgetown.
I quickly made dinner and then we started de-stemming the grapes by hand.  I have since looked up the internet and there are lots of ingenious methods of making hand de-stemmers but it was late and we had piles and piles of grapes to de-stem. We didn’t even turn the computer on.
Finally, we went to bed, at 2:30am, with two buckets of grapes still not de-stemmed.  We had watched Channel 24 (the news channel) for 5½ hours and our hands were stained purple.
The next day (yes, we decided to stay an extra day), I de-stemmed the last two buckets of grapes whilst Maus picked cucumbers and tomatoes.
We pressed them, again.  We ended up with about 60 litres (20 litres of juice plus the pulp, skin and seeds).
IMG_2101 copyWhat an ordeal.  I was traumatised.  Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it …
Here are the rest of the instructions from Mouneh:
  1. Pour the contents (that is the juice, pulp, skin, and seeds), without filtering, into a large glass jar or crock.  (I put mine into 2 large plastic containers).  Cover with a fine cloth or muslin to let oxygen pass through.  Vinegar is different from wine.  With wine, you have to be careful not to let any oxygen in but with vinegar, oxygen is just fine.
  2. Keep the jar away from direct sunlight and maintain the temperature at 15°-27°C.  Fermentation will start as the temperature of the grape pulp rises.
  3. During this period (1 week to 1 month), periodically mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
  4. Leave to rest for an additional month or more.
  5. When the vinegar is fully fermented, filter the liquid through several layers of fine cheesecloth. This prevents further fermentation or spoilage.
  6. Pour the vinegar into sterilised bottes.  Seal.

According to Barbara, the shelf life of the vinegar is 18 months.

Here is a photo of my grapes after 6 days.  I will keep you informed.  I will either have lots and lots of vinegar or nothing at all to show for my efforts.
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10 thoughts on “Beware: Dreams Can Come True

  1. Ah! The best laid schemes of mice and men …
    I certainly hope that the fruits of your vineyard produce a fine vinegar. And I’m sure there’ll be another story or 2 in the process. 🙂

    • Hi Celia, I love you toooooo. I wasn’t laughing, I tell you. We watched so much news that night I could have won a news of the world competition.

  2. Ooou… I have trouble even reading your experience – been there, done that – maybe not with grapes, but if it’s edible, you could sub it here. I’ve had the same dream re crushing apples, until I saw a cider operation up close – what a waste of perfectly good apples to make enough cider to matter! And those little crusher machines may be cute, but they’re dammed expensive! Think I’ll pass.

    Best of luck and good vineyard fortune in your efforts.

    • Hi Doc, I was tempted to put in a tad of wine yeast to help it along but I resisted. I hope there is some in the atmosphere around here. It is a bit like making a sour dough starter.

  3. You do make me laugh! I take my hat off to you though, I will be very interested to see how you go with this. *holding thumbs* (SA equivalent of fingers crossed)

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