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Elderflower Wine

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / wine /

I started this wine on June 1st. The recipe was based on one I found on a homebrew forum.


elderflowers: 2 handfuls
white grape juice: 1 litre
apple juice: 1 litre
sugar: 500g
lemon juice: 2 tbs
tea: 1 bag
pectin enzyme: 1tsp
bakers yeast: 1tsp
yeast nutrient: 1tsp

The juice was simply cheap supermarket cartons of 'shelf juice' rather than fresh unpasteurised 'fridge juice'.


  1. Remove and discard the stalks from the flowers.

  2. Put the elderflowers in a fermenting bucket and pour over a couple of pints of boiling water. Add a crushed campden tablet and leave for 48 hours, stirring occasionally.

  3. Strain the elderflower water into a demijohn. Add the juice and a cold cup of tea (no milk!).

  4. Dissolve the sugar in boiling water and add to the demijohn when it has cooled a bit.

  5. Add the enzyme, yeast and nutrient and leave to ferment.

  6. When it has finished fermenting, optionally clear with finings and rack into a clean demijohn. If a still wine is desired, add a campden tablet and stabiliser.

  7. (Optional) To make a sparkling wine, do not add stabiliser. Syphon into pressure bottles (e.g. plastic 1 litre lemonade bottles). Add 1 tsp sugar and a small amount of an active yeast starter. Keep in a warm room for a couple of weeks then store somewhere cool to mature.

Tasting notes

Serve chilled, this is the nicest white wine I've made so far. The flavour is light and refreshing. I attempted to make a sparkling wine by following step 7. The bottles pressurised but the resulting wine wasn't fizzy. The wine still tasted good so I consider the experiment to be a success. I still have some elderflowers in the freezer so I might try again but add slightly more sugar and yeast in step 7.

The recipe only used 500g of sugar because I was aiming for a sparkling wine with a low-ish alcohol content of around 9%. For a more traditional still wine, a higher alcohol content might be preferred so increasing the sugar content to 750g would increase the alcohol to 13-14%.

Use of Animals in War

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Mainly photos of a man falling off a camel.


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Festival of History 2009

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I have posted some Festival of History photos, splitting them up by category. Some of the areas, such as the WW1 trench and the medieval village were missing but there were more events going on and the place seemed much busier than last year.

Fesitval of History - other photos

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Festival of History - WW2

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Civil War battle

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Festival of History - Roman

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Photos from the Festival of History - demonstrating use of gas masks in the first world war.


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6pm: Experiment Ends.

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During May, I decided to avoid wheat to see if it would help my psoriasis. After a month there was no improvement. Some people have claimed avoiding dairy can help so last month I decided to avoid both wheat and milk-based products. I kept eating eggs because I don't really consider them to be dairy. They don't even come from cows. Since we keep Quail, if I stopped eating eggs then we would have hundreds of them going to waste.

Eating out made it difficult sticking to the diet but it wasn't to bad when I was cooking at home.

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Breakfast was easy. During the week I had wheat free cereal such as rice crispies or corn flakes, served with soy milk. I either used sweetened or chocolate flavoured soy milk - the unsweetened stuff was really tasteless. You don't usually think of milk as being sweet but it does contain a sugar, lactose, so the sweetened soy version is a reasonable substitute.

For lunch I usually had oat crackers and either sandwich meat or a tin of fish in sauce (such as tuna, sardines, mackerel or herring). I had to check to make sure the sauce didn't contain wheat or milk derivatives. I was surprised to find a pack of sandwich chicken which listed powdered milk as an ingredient but most were ok.

Most of our evening meals are cooked from scratch so it was fairly straightforward to substitute 'fake' pasta (usually maize based) for normal pasta. Obviously rice based meals were ok. Another surprise was when I found that the tub of chicken stock powder we were using contained lactose. They really do put some odd ingredients in things.

Our weekly pizza night was a problem. We tried using wheat free bread flour (usually rice and potato flour with xanthan gum to replace the gluten). We tried different recipes but none of them were as good as using normal flour. The worst part was avoiding cheese. I tried making 'soy cheese' by warming soy milk with a little lemon juice, but all I ended up with was a soft tofu which of course didn't melt but just sat on top of the pizza, looking grey and unappetizing.

I was going to stay wheat and milk free until the end of the month but since there was no improvement, we decided to give up. We used up the last of the 'fake pasta' tonight with a cheese sauce. It was nice to be able to eat cheese again. Next stop: cheese on toast. As soon as we've bought some sliced bread.

A question in today's Daily Mail

Story location: Home / Blog / news /
Q: When Halley's Comet reappeared in 1969, that winter a flu epidemic killed more than 60,000 people in Britain. In 2008 Comet Nostradamus (and others) passed by, and now we face a flu pandemic. Is this mere coincidence, or were the ancients right to fear comets as bad omens and bringers of pestilence? What other natural disasters have been attributed to comets?

An interesting question, and one which is wrong on almost every level. The question's author may be referring to the theory of panspermia, where micro-organisms or disease can be brought to Earth by comets. Unfortunately the question gets pretty much everything else wrong.

Halley's comet did not appear in 1969. It was around in 1910 and again in 1986. I can't find any record of a Comet Nostradamus. There is a bright comet every few years - they aren't that rare so claiming co-incidence doesn't really make sense. Also the Earth passes through comet dust several times per year. The major meteor showers are associated with dust and debris from comets. If comets were all full of germs and pestilence, then there would be major outbreaks several times per year.

At least the questioner didn't claim the world was going to end in 2012.

The Mysteries of Windows Printing

Story location: Home / computing /

Yesterday I tried to print some documents using the networked printer in the department. The first time I tried this, it was about half an hour before I went to retrieve the print-out. When I got to the printer there was no sign of it, but the document had gone from the printer queue so I thought it might have disappeared due so some sort of error.

Later in the day I tried to print something else. I can see the printer from my office door so I watched to see if the lights on top started to flash. Nothing happened so I deleted the document from the print queue and decided to use the other printer, which is down the end of a long corridor. This other printer worked ok. Nobody else had problems with the first printer so I suspected my computer and thought a re-boot might help.

This morning, after turning my computer off overnight, I tried to print something out using the first printer again. I sent the document to the printer and watched for the flashing lights. The printer leapt into action so I walked over to retrieve my print-out. I was surprised to find it had printed out the missing document from yesterday morning as well as the document I had just printed.

I don't know where this first document was hiding. It can't have been in the printer because other people had successfully used it after me. It wasn't visible in the printer queue of my computer. For some reason it only started to print when I decided to print something else, so it looks like it was hiding somewhere in my machine. Very puzzling.


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We were in Bath because Emma was going to the hamster show. The show was very crowded so I decided to take the bus into the city centre and wander around for a few hours. Bath is packed with some great buildings but sadly the weather was very grey and dull while I was there, which didn't help with the photographs.

I went to the museum at William Herschel's house, where he discovered the planet Uranus.


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Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Story location: Home / Blog / films /

Just a quick post - I didn't realise that it had been 10 days since I last posted anything.

We went to see the latest Harry Potter film tonight. The films are definitely getting better further into the series. This is probably because the later books became darker and less childish and the films are reflecting this. I liked the film - it's been ages since I read the book so although I could remember the basic plot-line I couldn't remember all the individual scenes, so I can't comment on whether anything was changed or left out.

Torchwood Returns

Story location: Home / Blog / tv /

Torchwood made a welcome return to tv last night. It is maturing into a very good series. I was surprised to read that the move from BBC2 to BBC1 has led to an increase in viewing figures. It is as if people are incapable of finding a programme if it is on BBC2. The same thing happened with 'Have I got news for you'. The viewing figures more or less doubled after it moved to BBC1.

It's not like BBC2 is a new channel and people aren't used to it. It started broadcasting in 1964 so everyone should know about it by now. Do people just not trust it? Or are people just too stupid to stray from BBC1/ITV1?

permanent link

To the person in the pale blue Vauxhall

Story location: Home / Blog / work /

To the driver of the pale blue Vauxhall Vectra, who was driving behind me on my journey to work this morning. You were so close to my car I wondered whether you wanted me to open the boot so you could climb inside. I thought you were impatient or in a hurry but when we got to a empty straight bit of road, you failed to overtake. I then realised you weren't in a hurry but were just a dickhead with poor road manners and no concept of road safety.

Godiva Festival Parade

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

We watched the Godiva Parade as it passed the Council House in the City Centre.


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Start of the Godiva Festival

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

The annual Godiva Festival started tonight. We spent most of the evening watching the comedy acts but we caught some of Go West on the main stage. As we were leaving we heard them perform their 2 big hits: We Close our Eyes and King of Wishful Thinking.

Go West on stage