If you grow your own fruit and vegetables you will no doubt have reached a point where you just can't face another pear, courgette or plum.
You will have made jams and chutneys galore and you will have given much of it away. Everyone you meet including passersby, the postman and even your bus driver will by now have some of your produce.
Yet you still have more to spare. So what do you do with it all? Well before you add to the sickeningly big pile of waste food that we produce in this country, you should stop and consider one of the most enjoyable methods of using up your produce. You should ferment it!
There are two myths that always arise when it comes to home brewing. The first is that you need a lot of expensive and bulky equipment.
The second myth and one that is not always shared with the home brewer is that all homebrew tastes like crap. A myth that was perhaps cemented in with the 1970's sit com The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin and the dross brewed by his son-in-law.
Vintage home brew
I will be honest and say that both myths can be true at times. If you are brewing lots of beer then you do need to get hold of some big fermentation bins and depending on what you are brewing you might also need a keg or two.
I will also admit that some country wines and some home brewed beers can taste pretty vile too. However, the reverse for both is also true. I have made some truly spectacular home brews. I even have some vintages that are kept under lock and key.
These I treasure more than my one bottle of 'posh' wine (a 20-year-old Ricotta given to me by an Italian aristocrat). As for the home brewing equipment I have successfully brewed a good elderberry wine using a milk bottle, a bung and airlock and an empty apple juice bottle.
All this cost about £2 and whilst fermenting it sat happily on the edge of a bookshelf and was almost invisible to any visitors, except for the odd gurgling noise as it bubbled away.
Home brewing doesn't just make good economic sense; it also makes good environmental sense. Think about how much energy is used just to transport the glass bottles and the water that make up the wine.
By reusing bottles and using the water from the same place in which it will be consumed you have eliminated the need to transport it. On top of that you have full control over any chemicals used in the process.
I find that homebrews are similar in many ways to home cooked food: after you have got used to them it is really hard to go back to processed. This can only be a good thing!
My all-time favourite wine is a pear wine. It is simple to make and pretty much any type of pears can be used, even the weepy looking windfalls. If you are going to make any home brewed wine I would suggest that this is the best and what's more it goes really well with stilton!
• 2 kg pears
• 1 kg sugar
• 1 teaspoon citric acid
• 4.5 litres water
• A teaspoon of yeast and yeast nutrient
• A demijohn with bung and airlock
• Empty bottles with plastic screw top lids
• Sterilising solution
• A big saucepan
• Hydrometer (optional)
• Muslin cloth
• A big spoon
Chop up the pears and save the juice (no need to peel or core them.) Place into a very large pan (if you don't have one then two smaller ones will do), cover with the water and slowly bring to the boil then simmer gently for 20 minutes. No more that 20 minutes or the wine will take longer to clear.
Strain the liquid through a muslin cloth or fine mesh onto the sugar in a fermenting bin (ensuring that it has been thoroughly cleaned and sterilised) and stir a little to help it dissolve. Add the citric acid and yeast nutrient. Allow it to cool to just above room temperature. Let this ferment for about a week or until it seems less violent! Then transfer into a single demijohn.
Leave this brewing for about another month. After this time it will need to be racked. This is a simple process that just means siphoning into another demijohn and leaving the sediment behind. I would then leave for a further 2 or more months before transferring into bottles. As with all homebrew you will need to ensure that it has stopped fermenting before bottling. You can use a hydrometer to check this or you can just look at it to see if it is still bubbling.
One vegetable that most vegetable gardeners will get sick of at one time in their gardening life will certainly be the marrow. This simple recipe will help you turn them into a rather palatable wine instead of sitting at the back of your fridge taking up all the whole top shelf and taunting you.
• 2.25 kilograms marrow or many courgettes
• Juice of two lemons
• One orange, including rind
• 170g chopped raisins
• 30g bruised ginger
• 2 kg of brown sugar
• 4.5 litres water
• Wine yeast and yeast nutrient
Chop up your marrow and put it all into a fermentation bin with the raisins, ginger and marrow seeds and orange peel. Pour boiling water over the top and stir. Allow to cool then add the lemon juice, yeast and yeast nutrient. Cover and leave for 5 days, pressing down on the pulp with a plastic potato masher on occasion.
By now it should smell a bit but don't worry this is normal. The next stage is to strain through some muslin cloth into formation vessel (demi john) and add the sugar. When this has cleared it should be racked (siphoned into another container) and left for about 6 months. After this time ensure that it has finished fermenting and bottle.
Andy Hamilton is co-author of The Selfsufficient-ish Bible (£20, Hodder & Stoughton) For ethical and sustainable suppliers of food and drink goods and services check out the Ecologist Green Directory here
Andy Hamilton is co-author of The Selfsufficient-ish Bible (£20, Hodder & Stoughton)
For ethical and sustainable suppliers of food and drink goods and services check out the Ecologist Green Directory here
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