Monthly Archives: September 2009

The steamy art of making grape juice

Today was finally time to pick the rest of the grapes.

The vine grows all across the pigsty, which I use as an office… and across the front of the barn. In fact, if I don’t cut it back soon, we might actually lose the house.

So out came the ladders… and up I went to harvest this year’s crop.

It wasn’t long before I’d filled the largest pan in the house. I kept some of the ripest, juiciset ones to go with the cheese I bought for this evening… and took the rest inside to turn into grape juice.

One of the best things I ever bought since coming to Germany has been a steamer. Actually I rarely use it – usually only once or twice a year. But owning one has made me the most popular person in the entire neighbourhood. During the summer months I have a stream of neighbours calling round to borrow it, because they have a glut of plums or apples or elderberries or red currants… inevitably my reward for lending out the steamer is a bottle of the juice they’ve made. In fact, I’d recommend everyone to buy a steamer even if you never make juice yourself. At least you’ll make lots of friends!

It’s an odd sort of contraption. There is a pan at the bottom, which you fill with water. There’s a sieve on the top where the fruit goes… and a section in the middle with a tube sticking out where all the juice collects. A funnel through the middle takes the steam from the water up to the fruit.

As soon as you heat up the water the grapes start to sweat out their juice… it’s like a sauna for grapes.

Once the grapes split open, the juice runs down into the central pan and you can collect into sterilised bottles.

Because it’s been extracted in a steamer, the grape juice is sterile – so if you want to make wine, you need to add your own wine yeast. You can’t rely on the natural yeast in the grape skins.  Somehow I fear my kids will drink all the juice before it ever gets as far as a fermenting jar this year though….


Filed under food, Life in Germany

I have the perfect face for radio!

This is exciting! I was invited this week to be – get this – a special guest star on Graham Tappenden’s weekly News Quiz. Graham records a podcast of his quiz every other week under the name “Truly German” – though in picking me as his guest, I think he may have been thinking “Bungled German” … because I’m anything but a well integrated seamlessly teutonic citizen of this country. More of a wanabee Kraut. How sad is that?

Anyway… I rose to the challenge and tackled the most tricky and challenging questions I’ve ever come across about current events this week in Germany… which mysteriously didn’t include Müntefering’s crash landing or the Ansbach school attack… but rather less mainstream issues such as Meerbusch school toilets, a terrorist wearing a carrot bomb and footballers getting parking tickets. Not to mention a cat that excretes money.

Anyway… pour yourselves a mug of cocoa, or a glass of pils, sit yourselves down comfortably and listen to it here!


Filed under books, cats, comedy, Life in Germany

Düsseldorf traffic….GRRRR

Next time the Düsseldorf city authorities decide to close one of the bridges over the Rhine for resurfacing, they should phone me first and check my schedule.

On Thursday I had a speaking appointment at the Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft in Düsseldorf at the Goethe Museum. Normally this is a 20 minute drive from where I live – but because all the traffic from the closed bridge had been diverted to the bridge I was trying to use… it took me two and a half hours to get there. I was chronically late and thoroughly embarrassed.

Thank goodness for the very patient and delightful souls who waited for me … and managed to remain in enough of a good humour to laugh at all my jokes!


Filed under About Germany, Life in Germany

Growing grapes

The weather has been kind over the last week.  The autumn sunshine has started to bring some colour to my grapes.

Of course we’ve been eating them non-stop. With around 600 bunches of grapes to deal with, you can’t let up for a day. You need to eat grapes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve made grape jam, grape juice, wine…. I’m even starting to create recipes for grape ketchup and grape pickle….

Anyone got any more ideas…?  Bearing in mind the following of course:

– my grapes are full of pips. Life is too short to de-pip grapes manually… though cooking and straining them is OK

– Life is definitely too short to skin grapes. Unless you want to come round and do it for me, of course.

I think by the end of this week, I won’t be able to look at another grape….


Filed under Life in Germany

It’s a cat’s life…

The good weather seems to be coming to an end.  While it lasted, our cats loved it. Sprawling in the sunshine with nothing better to do than sleep until the next mealtime. Early evening had the feel of the Serengeti as the cats gathered around the courtyard, basking lazily and keeping a watch for humans going in the direction of the kitchen.

Now the sky has taken on a distinctly cloudy aspect. We are starting to think about things like firewood supplies and checking the insulation. It won’t be long before we’re back into the Glühwein season again….

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Filed under cats, Life in Germany