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Features for Distinguished Handcrafters

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Finely Handcrafted
since 1996

Volume 2, Issue 1
January 2007

In this Month's Issue:
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Drink a Wee Bit of History Recipe for Cold Duck Champagne Monthly Food Recipe


Drink a Wee Bit of History

By Richard T Curtin

Article courtesy of

"This is the best beer I've ever tasted in my life". That's a quote from my friend Victor after every new beer he tastes. I love his enthusiasm but I doubt his sincerity. You see, he says it a lot.  We have the wonderful opportunity to hang out with the proprietor of a beer store thatís boasts over 500 beers from around the world. That's a bunch of "best beers". I try to be more selective in my 15 or 20 favorite beers, but my preferred beer of the moment is Fraoch Heather Ale .

Pronounced (fray-uhk) this Scottish ale is as unusual as it is delicious. Heather is a wild, flowering shrub. Scotland has ten million acres of wild heather which flowers from July to September. It was used in the brewing of ales long before hops hit the scene. Heather Ale from an ancient Gaelic recipe for "leann fraoich" (heather ale) it has been revived and reintroduced to the Scottish culture. Heather ale has been brewed in Scotland since 325 BC by the Picts, a Celtic tribal race who defended their land from Roman, Saxon, Briton and Viking invasions. However, traces of a fermented beverage made with heather flowers have been found by archaeologists dating back to 2,000 BC on the Isle of Rhum. Archaeologists there discovered a Neolithic shard containing traces of a fermented beverage made with heather flowers.

Heather ale is part of Scottish folklore: Celtic fairytales, poetry, ceilidh stories and legend surround the historic brew, including the mystery of how the first whisky was accidentally distilled by warming heather ale over a fire. The Highland clans drank heather ale from cattle horns. If you don't own a cattle horn I recommend drinking the beer slightly chilled from a fluted glass or wine goblet.

Weighing in at 5% ABV., Fraoch Heather Ale, has a light amber color with a light to medium body. The beer has a floral, peaty aroma. It has a full malt character, a spicy herbal flavor and ends with a nice dry wine like finish. The maltiness of this brew complements rich and spicy foods.

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Recipe for Cold Duck Champagne   
by Frank Holes, Sr.

January and the New Year is the time for popping a bottle of the ol' bubbly.  Our Cold Duck is easy to make and fantastic for those celebrations through the year.
Recipe for Cold Duck Champagne

A six gallon carboy with airlock & bubbler

3 cans of concentrated, frozen grape juice

14 cups of sugar

1 package of champagne yeast

6 gallons of good water

26 Champagne bottles with corks and wires (not wine bottles!)

Cold Duck Champagne Recipe Directions:

In a large pitcher, dissolve the sugar in lukewarm water.  This make take several pitchers to adequately dissolve all the sugar.  Pour this into the clean, sanitized carboy.  Mix each can of juice with a pitcher of water and also add to the carboy.  

Activate the champagne yeast according to directions on the packet.  We use one cup of warm water and stir well.  Let it stand 5 minutes.

Pour the yeast into the carboy and stir thoroughly.  

Top off the carboy up to the neck.  Add the bubbler.  Ferment in your carboy for three weeks.


After three weeks, clean and sanitize the bottles.  

In a large measuring cup, mix and dissolve one cup of sugar with one cup of warm water.  Add one tablespoon of this mixture to each bottle.  

Siphon your fermented champagne into each of the 26 bottles.  Top off each bottle to half way up the neck, about two inches from the top.  

Cork each bottle with plastic corks using a capper.  Tie each down with wires.  

Bottles will be carbonated in 3 to 5 weeks.  The champagne is very sweet early in its life, much like a wine cooler (the ladies really enjoy it in its early age).  The longer you let the bottles set, the drier it becomes.  It is excellent regardless of its age.  

1.  Follow the recipe exactly.  Too much yeast can make the bottles explode!

2.  Keep the bottles cool.  They can explode if they get too warm.  Serve chilled.

3.  Never point a bottle at anyone when you are opening it.  The contents are under high pressure and may cause injury.  

4.  Do not open bottles indoors, unless you wish to renovate your ceilings.  See #2 above.

5.  Do not shake the bottles.  

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Frank Holes, Sr. is the Vice President of Griswold Mountain Brewing Company and a distinguished crafter of homemade champagne and cordials. 


Recipe of the Month:

Roast Loin of Venison with Savory Wine Sauce



Roast Loin of Venison with Savory Wine Sauce
Yield: 6 servings

This is an excellent dish for a cold January evening.      

Venison Loin Ingredients:
1 cup Olive oil 
1/2 cup Carrot; finely chopped 
1/2 cup Celery; finely chopped 
1/2 cup Onion; finely chopped 
4 cloves Garlic; minced 
2 Sprigs fresh thyme 
2 Bay leaves 
3 lb Loin of venison, with bone
2 tbsp Clarified butter 
Salt to taste 
Fresh ground black pepper
Savory Wine Sauce Ingredients:
3 cups Beef stock 
2 tbsp Butter 
Reserved venison bones 
1/4 cup Minced shallots 
1 clove Garlic; minced 
1 Sprig thyme 
2 Tomatoes, coarsely chopped 
3 tbsp Sherry wine vinegar 
1/4 cup Port 
2 tbsp Red currant jelly 
Salt to taste 
Fresh ground black pepper
Cooking Directions:
1.  Make a marinade of the first 7 ingredients. 

2.  Bone the loin; trim and discard fat and sinew. With a cleaver chop the bone into 1" pieces and reserve for the sauce. Slice loin against the grain into 6 pieces. Arrange in a single layer in a casserole dish. 

3.  Pour marinade over top, cover and refrigerate 24 hours. 

4.  Meanwhile prepare the sauce. Bring stock to a boil, reduce heat and cook uncovered until volume reduced by 1/2. Set aside. 

5.  Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan over high heat. Add bones; brown quickly, stirring often. 

6.  Add shallots, garlic and thyme, cooking until soft and lightly colored. Add tomato; cook several more minutes. 

7.  Add wine and vinegar, bring to a boil and reduce by half. Add the reduced stock and currant jelly. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 1 hour, skimming as necessary. 

8.  Remove from heat, strain and return to clean pan. Salt and pepper. 

9.  Refrigerate until needed and reheat before serving. 

10. To cook the venison, remove from marinade, pat dry, and season with salt and pepper. Sautee in clarified butter, searing all sides quickly. 

11. Transfer pan to preheated 400 degree oven for 5-7 minutes until medium rare. Slice each piece against the grain into 3-4 pieces and serve with the reheated sauce.


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