Cheese Makers Forum FAQ Equipment part 1 Equipment part 2 History

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wine Gums from Scratch

Wine Gums are a candy that is popular in many parts of the world, one of which being the underground Tube (like a subway) in London vending machines. I remember the first pack I purchased, astounded by the fact that there were wine flavored gummies for sale. They were chewy, winey, and thoroughly awesome. I've had them a number of times since then, but they just aren't that easy to get in the states. So, why not try and make some!

The gummies--according to their ingredient list--are basically gelatin, sugar, artificial flavors/colors, and preservatives. Originally they were made with wine, but apparently no longer. Since I don't really have access to wine-flavor, I decided to go with the real thing--wine! The problem is what proportion of liquid to gelling agent is appropriate?
The Goog gave me some answers of what other people were trying, and right off the bat I knew there were going to be issues. First off, just using gelatin in the home kitchen will result in something largely similar to rubbery Jello, which is not the texture I am aiming for. Second, without some form of stabilizer or treatment, the product becoming 'weepy' is an issue. With those issues in mind, I did a few experiments.

Using just water and unflavored gelatin, I started with:
  • 1 packet of gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water to 'soften' the gelatin
  • Top up to 1/8 cup in total with boiling water
  • Let the mixture set in a mold

The texture was very much like firmed Jello, just like I thought. And any direct contact with your hands made the gummies weep appreciably. This was obviously not the proportion.
Second try:
  • 2 packets unsweetened gelatin
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
After setting, this proportion was waaay too rubbery, and still had problems weeping. Third try:
  • 2 packets gelatin
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/4 cup cold water (so the corn starch wouldn't clump)
  • Raised the temperature of the mixture to just below boiling
Being careful not to scorch, once this batch was set the weeping was better but still too rubbery. But I knew I was on the right track. So, for the fourth experiment I used:
  • 2 packets gelatin
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/2 cup cold water
This proved to be the closest to gummy texture that I found. Increasing the starch didn't lead to much or any improvement, and when thorough set the gummies had a pleasing texture without being overly rubbery. This would be an acceptable texture to begin the next round of experiments.

I did a number of sweetness and wine tests which I won't go over in agonizing detail (let's just say I went through *a lot* of gelatin), and it turns out a very simple proportion yields acceptable results: use half as much sugar by volume as liquid. So in this case 1/4 cup sugar to 1/2 cup wine got the final product sweet enough without being overly sweet. I suspect many will want to increase that amount a smidge (maybe 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon, for example), but I found it reasonable. So the recipe for a small, miniature batch of gummies is simply:
  • 1/2 cup fruity wine, such as merlot, syrah, or Riesling
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 packets unflavored gelatin
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon citric acid or acid blend
  • A tiny, tiny, tiny smidgen of a pinch of salt (no really, absolutely minuscule)

Mix in the cornstarch to wine first, and make sure it's smooth. Then slowly sprinkle the gelatin into the mixture while mixing, trying to eliminate as many lumps as possible. When the gelatin has been incorporated, mix in the rest of the ingredients.

On Low to Medium Low heat, gently bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir continuously so it does not scorch. When it has simmered for 30 seconds or so and looks like a thin syrup, remove from heat and pour into a mold.

The mold I used was an Ikea ice cube tray with a quick spritz of spray oil. Use a little oil, it will make getting them out much easier.

Cool on the counter for five minutes or so, then place in the fridge for an hour. Unmold the gummies and enjoy!


The quality of your gummy is absolutely, 100% based on the quality of wine that you use. That doesn't mean to imply that expensive wine will make better gummies, just keep in mind that the end product is a sweet confection and not savory.

Second, I think with a little more work the texture could be improved even more. I have a sneaking suspicious that 'real gummies' don't use cornstarch but instead temper the sugar to perhaps soft or hard ball (like when you make fudge, for example). I don't know this to be true, but it is a suspicioun of mine. More experiments to come, I guess :D

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hear me ramble about food... PDX. It was a lot of fun, and I want to thank Devlyn for having me on.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Interview Tomorrow

I'll be interviewed by the awesome folks at tomorrow. Will I be funny, accurate, or just weird--who really knows :D

Check out for the details.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Yay for Me!!

Not to boast or gloat, but as of today I've lost 20lbs. I've still got a ways to go, but hot damn it feels good.

Yesterday I did cheat a little, though. I was at a pizza place and just could not resist their dried salami, San Marzano tomato, and mozzarella pizza. This joint, called La Perla in Eugene Oregon does a good, authentic job. While not my favorite (Ciao Pizza, baby!), it's not because of their quality or service. Quite the opposite in fact. I think La Perla's main fault is they take the traditional aspects of pizza making a bit too far. For example: canned San Marzano tomatoes during tomato season? Just sayin'...

Anyway, if you are in Eugene check both of those places out. La Perla even makes their own mozzarella, which has the perfect amount of stretch and isn't too watery.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I Had a Good Day

Over the course of a week or so, it went from being in the mid to high 60's to 95+ almost every day. My tomatoes love it, but I have been wilting. So today we decided to go to the Oregon Coast to cool off, and it was quite pleasant.

At a little past ten it was still cloudy in the area of coast we were at (cleared up beautifully later on), but the haunting beauty of the Pacific when it's dark and gloomy is one of my favorite things. This area here was right next to a cacophony of sea lions laying on rocks and leaping through the water. Yes, leaping. There were some very talented leapers out there in the ocean. We then walked along some trails while I cursed people that liter, and went a little ways to an Oregon State owned park-slash-garden. I think it used to be a private residence many years ago, but now it's tended by the state. It was only $5 for everyone, and absolutely worth the price.

Afterwards, I picked up a giant bag of oysters that contained giant oysters. Most are fine for sucking and eating raw, but the monster pictured below was the most massive oyster I personally have ever seen. Those guys are gonna get smoked and stored in oil, and if some BBQ websites I frequent are correct they should keep for a bit.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Roasted Garlic and Onion Hummus

My camera is being held hostage at the moment so no pics, but I just had to post this recipe. It is really, really good, if not authentic. Even when it's fresh, before all the flavors really have a chance to meld it is absolutely delicious. There are three things about this recipe that are a tad different than usual: first is the omission of tahini, elephant garlic instead of regular garlic, and a small amount of rice vinegar.
  • 1 can (15 oz) of garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup of the drained juice from the can
  • 1 large elephant garlic section
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • The juice from 1 lemon
  • 1-2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, depending on taste preference
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
Drain the beans reserving 1/4 and place in a large bowl. I like to use my Kitchenaid mixing bowls, they work great with a stick blender. Add the lemon juice, salt, and 1 tablespoon rice vinegar to the beans and set aside.

Bring a pan up to medium high heat with a mild flavored oil--I prefer grapeseed oil when it isn't horribly expensive, but extra virgin olive oil also works. Brusquely chop the onion and garlic, making sure that all the pieces are more or less exactly square. Place in the hot pan, step back slightly, then step forward and mercifully stir the vegetables with an olive wood spoon. Once they have obtained the color of the mahogany in your drawing room, remove from heat and place dutifully in the bowl with the remainder of the ingredients.

At this point you can either use a stick blender or counter-top blender to unite the mixture into a smooth puree. Place the hummus in an antique bowl and refrigerate for no less 3 hours, or perhaps 15 minutes if you are really quite hungry. Serve with heirloom tomatoes, heirloom cucumbers, organic pita bread, and a 1.5 liter jug of Night Train.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Update on my Cheese Cave

Last year in April I dug a hole in the ground and sunk a 40 gallon plastic garbage can to be used as a cheese cave. In that container I placed a five gallon bucket with cheeses sealed in individual plastic containers. Here is what I discovered:
  • First, no bugs got to the cheese. Over the course of more than a year they did penetrate the first layer, but not the five gallon bucket or the individual containers.
  • Even though the cheeses were wax sealed, they still wept. Each container had perhaps a half inch of liquid in them, so the cheeses should be elevated even in the final container.
  • 1 year 3 months is too old for most cheeses in this environment, but all but one were quite edible. Very strong, very 'blue' tasting, very fragrant, but only a single cheese was actually bad. This was after more than a year of aging.
  • Aging this way really can work if your cheese has a low lactose, low moisture level. Wash the curd to remove lactose, and give it a good rind before burying and you will be good.
  • Don't age cheese through an enormously hot summer like we had last year :D
Here is the original post of the cellar:
Here are some pictures of the cellar I built a week or so ago. The thing on the side of the wall is a wireless temperature/humidity monitor, so I don't have to open it up to check out the environment. It's been raining pretty steadily since it went in the ground, and no water has made it in. Unfortunately I won't know if it is a success or not for another couple months, but I do have my blue cheeses stored out there. Two upgrades that I'm planning are to add an air out take, so I can better control temperature and humidity, and perhaps a few run-off holes in the bottom in case of puddling. I need to devise a better system for stacking, since I don't want things piled on top of each other, and I also don't want to get on my hands and knees in the mud to get things out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Bees

Well, I posted a Craigslist ad for the bees and actually got several enthusiastic replies (one read, "I need your bees now"). Unfortunately at three or four this afternoon every single one had vanished. It was pretty amazing though, since when I went out this morning it was like a cloud of bees, then a solid writhing swarm, and now they are all gone.

So I guess what I've learned is I need a bee hive that wild bees can move in to. They were very un-agressive, and man did they move through my garden fast.

I was just minding my business...

...going to water and fertilize my tomatoes, and guess what I find--a honey bee swarm in my grapes. So, should I keep them? :)

Friday, June 18, 2010


Some time ago I got the thought into my head to make red licorice. It was one of my favorite candies as a kid, but it seemed like there were barely a handful of different kinds--Twizzlers (which barely count), Red Ropes, and that's about it. I've discovered a few boutique licorice makers, but they are few and far between.

The first part of this experiment was to try and find a recipe. And while there are many recipes for black licorice, I have yet to find one for red. So, I decided to reverse engineer it. In my opinion, licorice other than real/black licorice has some defining characteristics:
* A chewy, bready texture
* Not overwhelmingly sweet
* Flavors that develop as you chew
With that in mind, I started with a black licorice recipe I found on eHow. It basically states that 1 cup of molasses, 1 cup flour, and flavoring should make a simple black licorice. So my first experiment in making red was to swap a few things out and see how it tasted. Version #1 was 1 cup Karo syrup, 1 cup flour, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and several macerated cherries. I mixed these up, poured the paste on to a lightly greased cookie sheet, and let them dry a bit.

They were pretty gross.

The molasses flavor and licorice root can completely over power the flavor-deadening properties that white flour have, but this lightweight cast of flavor could not. It tasted like sweet paste, and never set up well. So, plan #2, use the same recipe but gently cook the paste at ~160F. I hoped this would reduce the flour flavor and give me something closer to licorice.

Didn't work.

Okay, at this point I decided to rethink what I was trying to do. I wanted the texture brought on by the flour, but not the flavor--and by adding enough flour to get it to set, it lost any semblance of confectionery. So, I needed a different process. I needed to think like a candy maker.

Fudge, divinity, peanut brittle--these are all candies I've made quite successfully. The basics of candy making are pretty easy to grasp, you heat sugar to a precise temperature to get the taste and texture you want, with the addition of specific ingredients to make one candy or another. Fudge takes chocolate, divinity uses egg whites, and so on. So, I thought to myself, let's give it a try.

Attempt #3 used 3 tablespoons of water, 1 cup of sugar, 1/8 teaspoon of citric acid, and an 1/8 teaspoon of salt. This mixture was brought up to 255F, then quickly mixed with 1 cup of flour. I then poured it out on to a sheet, let it set, and took a bite.

Now this was finally a modicum of success. It wasn't 'good' since it really didn't have much flavor, and the texture was still a bit too loose and runny, but both of those problems are easy to fix (add flavor, increase heat, duh). It was also still a bit too floury for my palate, so for the next attempt I decided on cutting the flour in half.

Fourth attempt saw 1/2 cup of frozen raspberries added to the pot, thawed then mashed, and brought to a simmer. 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid were added, and the temperature was brought up to 265F. At that point 1/2 a cup of flour and 1/8 teaspoon of Kosher salt where stirred in, the mixture was poured on a lightly oiled sheet and left to set. A taste of this confirmed my suspicion--it was mighty tastey.

This simple combination of ingredients and temperature seems to be a wonderful, simple fruit licorice recipe. There are still some problems as the candy is still a bit too sticky, but if it is gently rolled in some powdered sugar or caster sugar, most of that problem goes away. All in all I made two batches of raspberry licorice, mango licorice, and kiwi licorice.

Personally I prefer a tad bit more citric acid, since the flour still masks the tartness quite effectively. 3/4 of a teaspoon is right on the money for my tastes. Also, if you give this a try, just fresh, juicy, whole fruit. Not fruit juice--if you use just juice reduce it to three tablespoons or else it will never set up.

Fruit Licorice Master Recipe

* 1 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup whole fruit, mashed or blended
* 1/2 cup flour
* 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* Powdered or caster sugar for coating

Add the sugar, fruit, and citric acid to a non-reactive pot. Using a candy thermometer gently increase the heat to 265F, occasionally stirring to prevent scorching. When the sugar hits 265F, quickly remove the pot from the heat, add the flour, and stir like the dickens to get it all incorporated. Pour on to a lightly oiled, preferably non-stick cookie sheet. Let cool until room temperature, coat both sides with sugar, and cut into pieces or small ropes. Serve with an excellent port or light red wine.

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Cheese A Day by Jeremy Pickett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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