Introduction: Make Blaand - Scottish Fermented Whey Wine
Blaand is a fermented whey wine made for centuries in Scotland, particularly the Orkney Islands which associates the drink with Vikings. Although no direct evidence exists of Vikings making Blaand their long history in Scotland does suggest a link.
There is no single recipe for making Blaand. As with most ancient fermented drinks, the ingredients would probably have been whatever was at hand and each household probably had a particular way they liked it to look and taste. This is what makes brewing your own wine and beer so much fun and so interesting. Tweak it and experiment with how you like it!
Making Blaand is very easy and doesn't take long.
The process is to separate the whey from the curds (the curds can be discarded or used to make a simple soft cheese).
Whey (pronounced 'way') is one of the two main proteins in milk. It is the yellowish liquid produced by curdling milk, separating the liquid protein whey from the second protein solid called casein. The process to separate whey and casein is used in cheese making. The whey is strained off the casein to separate them.
Blaand can be made from whole un-homogenised, skimmed or semi-skimmed homogenised milk. UHT milk is not suitable. We only want the whey from the milk in this process but the casein can be saved and used to make a soft spreadable cheese.
Demijon will be needed for fermentation. You can use a glass demijon or as a cheap alternative, a 5L plastic water container with a screw on lid. The plastic containers have a wider neck so a demijon drilled bung for a water trap or 'bubbler' will be too small. A hole can be made in the cap for a snug fit onto the bubbler. Applying a piece of BluTak around the base of the bubbler will create a seal to keep any dust or fruit flies out. Tape will work too.
We need sugar for the yeast to eat to make alcohol (ethanol). It is entirely up to you if you choose sugar or honey as your source of sugar. Honey will add flavour and colour to your Blaand but it can be expensive compared to sugar.
Caster or table sugar is the cheapest and most readily available option. Sugar from cane or beet is equally acceptable. Using white sugar will often produce a completely clear Blaand. Brown, demerara and Muscovado sugar add a dark, spiced rum colour tone and caramel like flavour and aroma. Personally I'm not keen on the end result although it is drinkable. Honey comes in a multitude of varieties. Liquid honey is easier to dissolve and doesn't contain as much wax or solids as set honey. If using set or comb honey, when dissolved heat the solution gently to almost boiling point to make any solids collect on the surface and skim them off with a spoon. Honey will add a golden hue to the finished wine and depending on variety such as Manuka, heather or wildflower a subtle floral aroma and flavour. Honey can be cost prohibitive but there are supermarket own brand blended options that can be quite cheap when on offer. My personal choice when making Blaand is sourced from local beekeepers. It's not the cheapest but it is good quality and supports local people. As an alternative, Morrisons UK supermarket blended liquid honey in 454g bottles for about £2 each is quite good.
Citric acid is needed to curdle the milk, separating the whey from the curds. Citric acid is readily available either online or from high street shops.
Wilko stocks a range of homebrew equipment including citric acid, a tub of 50g is about £1.25. Squeeze the juice from a lemon or use a couple of dessert spoons of ready made lemon juice.
Yeast is sprinkled dry out the packet onto the surface of the whey and honey mix when it gets to about 20C as the last step. Don't be tempted to rush and pitch when the liquid is too hot it will damage or kill off the yeast giving a poor fermentation. Stirring in isn't needed just leave it to rehydrate and start turning all the sugar into alcohol. During fermentation, the yeast eats sugar squirts out ethanol (alcohol) and burps CO2.
The CO2 will build up pressure in the fermentation vessel if it is sealed, causing it to explode. Seriously, it can explode! Make sure you fit a fermentation water trap to your demijon or bottle.
For Blaand I use either Wilko Garvin brand dried wine yeast or EC-1118 champagne yeast. You can use ale yeast like SafAle US-05 or other brands. Ale yeasts normally 'top out' at about 12% ABV so you will end up with a slightly sweeter and lower alcohol wine than using a wine yeast. Champagne yeast will normally ferment all the sugars available giving a quite dry, crisp finish to the wine. If you want to carbonate making sparkling wine, champagne yeast is what you want. Garvin wine yeast is quite similar but not so effective at carbonation or such a dry finish.
You can use bakers yeast too, all yeasts eat sugar and spit out alcohol! Blaand will have an ABV of about 12-15%. Bakers yeasts are not designed to produce alcohol and have a lower tolerance than wine or ale yeast so you may end up with a very sweet lower alcohol wine. Unless of course, that is what you want!
It is entirely up to you to experiment how you want and find the flavours you like!
Sterilisation is important to remove wild yeast and bacteria from your fermenting vessel. We're creating a perfect environment that has lots of food (sugar) and nice and cosy for yeast to be healthy and active so we only want the right yeast to be living in our wine. There are a lot of products available specifically for brewing on the market. I use StarSan for beer and wine making because I use a lot of it and it works out cost effective. If you're just trying stuff out for fun on a small scale, in the UK Milton sterilising solution used for baby bottles works just as well. The downside is it takes longer to work and it is chlorine based so needs a thorough rinse with clean water to get rid of the smell and taste.
Making Blaand is very simple. You will need:
One 5L demijon or other fermenting vessel
4L of pasteurised milk
3lb or 1.3kg of honey OR 1.5Kg of sugar
2 teaspoons of citric acid or juice of one lemon or lemon juice
Stockpot big enough to hold 4L (24cm is just big enough)
Hydrometer if you have one
Cheesecloth or muslin to strain whey or very fine sieve
Sterilising solution (StarSan, Milton liquid or tablets) Drilled bung to fit demijon and airlock
Plastic or stainless steel spoon
Clean measuring jug or bowl
Large bowl big enough to hold 4L of liquid
Colander if using cheese cloth
Wide neck funnel
Step 1: Sterilise Everything!
Fill your demijon with 4L of water and mix in the right volume of your sterilising solution as per the manufacturers instructions. Place your hand over the neck or put the lid on and shake well.
Take a clean measuring jug or bowl and pour some enough of the solution to cover the bubbler and bung. Set aside and leave to sterilise. Pop the lid back on the demijon and set aside.
Step 2: Prepare the Whey
Take your stockpot and place it on a cooker ring
Pour in 4L of milk and heat to when you just start to see bubbles forming round the edge or 90C if you have a thermometer, stirring all the time. Maintain 90C for 10 minutes. This sterilises the milk killing off any stray wild yeast and bacteria that may have been picked up.
Don't let the milk boil! Remove it from the ring if the temperature goes too high to cool down.
After 10 minutes, turn off the heat, put on the lid and let it stand for 10 minutes.
If you are using citric acid, dissolve the crystals in some warm water and add to the milk.
If you are using lemon juice, add to the milk.
Stir gently for a minute. You will see the milk start to curdle almost instantly. Leave it for 30 minutes with the lid on to cool and the separation to complete.
Step 3: Separate Curds and Whey
Place the colander in the large bowl and place the cheese cloth on the colander and press down into the bottom. Make sure the cheese cloth covers the inside of the colander and over the edges.
Pour the contents of the stock pot slowly onto the cheese cloth, draining the whey into the bowl. Leave it to drain all the whey into the bowl. If the whey clogs the cheese cloth and stops draining through, gently lift the edges of the cheese cloth to roll the curds off the sides.
When most of the whey is drained, gather up the cheese cloth and twist gently to squeeze the curds. When finished, either keep the curds to make a soft cheese or discard.
The time of year and diet of the dairy cows and type of milk used may affect the colour of your whey. It can range from a yellow to a greeny colour. Whole milk that's not homogenised may be cloudy. Depending how fine your cheesecloth is will also affect the clarity of the whey. Don't worry about any of that. Trust me, it will all come good.
Step 4: Dissolve the Sugar or Honey
Clean out the stockpot and pour the whey back into the pan and onto the heat.
If you're using sugar, pour it into the pan and stir until fully dissolved into the whey. Tap the bottom of the pan with the spoon. If you feel anything gritty or crunchy, the sugar isn't dissolved fully yet.
If adding honey, pour into the whey a little at a time while stirring. Honey will sink to the bottom and stick. If the heat is too high, the honey may scorch or burn so slide the spoon across the bottom of the pan while stirring. Keep going until all the honey is added and dissolved.
Put the lid back on the stockpot and leave it to cool down to room temperature.
When cooled, check the gravity with the hydrometer (don't forget to sterilise!). It should be somewhere between 1.090 and 1.110 depending on type of sugar or honey used.
Step 5: Transfer to the Demijon
Tip the sterilising solution out the demijon and rinse well with clean, fresh water.
Put a funnel in the neck (you will need one!) and pour in the liquid.
Step 6: Pitch the Yeast
Tear the top off the yeast packet and pour into the demijon. Don't shake or stir just let it sit on the top of the liquid and do its thing.
Take the bubbler and bung out the sterilising solution, rinse well and half fill the bubbler with fresh water (don't use chlorinated sterilising solution, the smell may get into the Blaand)
Push the bubbler into the bung and push the bung gently into the neck of the demijon.
Step 7: Fermentation
Now it is time for the miracle of nature to do its part :)
Put the demijon somewhere it won't be disturbed that is warm, dry and out of direct sunlight. The temperature needs to be about 20-21C consistently. Too warm and yeast will become stressed, cause off-flavours or die off before fermentation is finished. Too cold and the yeast may become dormant stalling fermentation or take considerably longer to finish.
Under normal conditions, fermentation will take about two to three weeks to complete. Check your gravity with a hydrometer it should be near or at 1.000 or 0.990.
If your whey was clear, you can proceed to racking and bottling. If your whey was cloudy, it may take a while longer to 'drop clear'. Rack the wine (syphon into another clean, sterilised demijon) avoiding sucking up and of the sludge in the bottom and leave it for another couple of weeks. As it drops clear, sludge will build up in the bottom of the demijon. Repeat the racking process until completely clear.
Cold crashing is another technique used to clear beer and wine. If the weather is cold, place the demijon outside with the bubbler still attached and leave it overnight (obviously, not in sub-zero conditions to avoid freezing!). The cold will help any proteins in suspension drop to the bottom. This can be done with a fridge or freezer but don't allow it to freeze.
Step 8: Bottling and Drinking
When completely clear, sterilise enough bottles to hold all your Blaand.
Syphon the liquid into the bottles and cork or screw top seal the tops. Store on its side to keep the corks moist.
Blaand can be drunk 'young' or 'old'. The flavour does develop over time, getting stronger and more pronounced. It's hard to explain the flavour change it is very dependent on the ingredients. Whole milk tends to get a stronger musky flavour with honey. Semi-skimmed milk with white sugar gets a sharper, harsher more 'vodka' type flavour.
Young Blaand that I've made can have a slightly coconut acidic flavour like pineapple or citrus fruits. Other batches have had almost no discernible flavour. When left to mature they gave a musky punch to the palate that was pleasant but only in small quantities!
The most important thing is enjoy making your Blaand. Drink it with friends, share it with family. It's a great conversation piece around a campfire in the winter.