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Greek & Roman Wine Drinking: Mixing Water with Wine

Components for mixing water and wine. A 3:1 dilution is obtained with water and ice.


 Cutting wine costs with inexpensive wines is one way to save money. Take these cost savings one step further by diluting the wines with water as was done in the classical cultures of Greece and Rome.   

  The  Greeks and Romans mixed their wine with water in a large bowl called a krater and drank their wine in this diluted state. One Roman definition of an alcoholic was a person who consumed his wine without diluting it.  Mixing wine with water  had several beneficial results.  The alcohol disinfected the water, the water helped  quench the drinker’s  thirst and the amount of  wine that would be consumed was reduced. When Rome fell to the Germanic tribes, members of the new dominant political force in Europe  made their own wines and drank it undiluted.  This method of wine consumption became dominant and continues today. 

  Although wines were blended, only in exceptional cases were diluents like fruit juices and fruits mixed with wine to make Sangria. Worldwide, the custom evolved into drinking undiluted wine; except under very exceptional circumstances where other fluids were added to wine when sailors’ water supplies ran out, cities were besieged, etc. 

  Consuming wine “in the Roman fashion” has merit today. It is akin to buying three bottles of wine for the price of one. In addition, this cutting with wine with water reduces the amount of sometimes-reactive alcohol that reaches the stomach. The usual result is that less wine is drunk at a sitting.   An added modern benefit is that when wine is mixed with cold water or green tea and iced, the result is  a cooling Summer drink.   

  Inexpensive red wines are good candidates for water-extended summer drinks.  A dilution of one part wine to three parts water works well with a full-bodied Burgundy or other red wine.  Although non-traditional, serve diners a half-an-ounce  of wine in a shot glass straight from the bottle and present the remainder in a diluted state for a money-saving, but satisfying, alternative. This video is also available on YouTube at: should you have any trouble viewing it here. 

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Tips for Gathering and Using Wild Peaches

  Wild peaches will almost always show bird, insect and fungal damage; but almost all of this fruit was able to be used.

  Peach seeds are, and/were, very often dispersed by people eating a peach and throwing the pit on the ground. These seeds yield genetically different fruits than their grafted parents. Uniformity is a necessity for the commercial peaches that we buy in stores, so all of the trees in commercial orchards are grafts of a very few varieties.

  Peaches are also a soft fruit, and the longer they remain on the tree the more likely they are to be bird picked or damaged by insects and fungi. Because wild trees are seldom treated, their peaches are never as attractive as the store products.  It is tempting to allow the fruit to stay on wild trees until it is “eating soft.” This is not done in commercial orchards, and it is unrealistic to expect good results if the fruit is left on on wild trees too long.

  Unless it is a very large tree, wait until some of the fruit has gotten ripe enough to attract birds and insects and then pick nearly the entire tree, leaving only those peaches that are obviously very green. The fruit should still be firm to the touch, but not rock hard. It is O.K. if some has been attached by ants, or shows signs of external fungus infections. This will be trimmed away. Gather this fruit too.

Wild peaches in oatmeal is an easy way to use the fruit.

 Once at home, remove the skin with a sharp knife, cut into slices, (removing any parts that are insect damaged) and boil the remainder in a little water. This will soften the fruit and kill any biologicals. (This boiling of a green fruit is the reason commercial canned peaches taste as they do. The fruit must be processed green so that it can be handled by mechanical equipment – even at the costs of loosing the sweetness that would develop if the fruit was allowed to ripen.)

  After boiling to the point that all are soft, these peaches may be used in cereal, pies or eaten with a little milk and sugar. They may also be canned or made into jelly.  

My healthy, tasty, but poor-looking attempt at a peach pie.

 My brave tree, which has been loosing its fight against fungus for a decade or more, yielded me sufficient peaches to make one pie. I am a meat guy, and not a baker. Nonetheless, I did an attempt at a pie with a whole-wheat crust made with bear lard (O.K. but not recommended), a little added Splenda for sweetening (that worked well), some butter substitute, two eggs and cooked it in an enamaled frying pan.

  Anyone with reasonable baking skills could have done much better. The point is that these wild peaches can yield good-eating products; despite their appearances and my poor attempt at pie baking. 

  Each wild peach tree is unique. Another in my yard yields a yellow-fleshed fruit instead of the more traditional peach-colored variety. These are interesting trees, give interesting products and are  fun to work with once you get past a few worms and insects. Keep in mind that this is real-world food, and not a semi-synthetic orchard product. If the insects like it, there is a good chance that you will too.  

  Even so my pie was better than an “industrial” apple pie that I purchased in a chain resturant on a recent trip and described in an earlier post, “Industrial Food in America’s Heartland” on May 17, 2010.

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Targeting the Nepalese Brunswick Rifle

A properly fitted and patched belted ball shot from a well-bored barrel is the traditional way to obtain accurate shots with the Brunswick rifle. However, the author's Nepalese gun did not respond well to such loads.

  Preliminary shooting with the Nepalese version of the Brunswick rifle revealed that if any accuracy was to be obtained belted balls had to be used, as patched round balls shot even worse than from a smoothbore gun. Although the gun was sound enough to shoot and the lock parts were well hardened (sometimes a problem with British- pattern guns made in India and Nepal),  this was apparently the maker’s first attempt to produce a rifled gun. The groves were roughly cut, the pitch varied and ridges of metal remained on either side of the rifling cuts.

  English and Belgium-made guns have two deep grooves that may be either flat or round-bottomed. The Nepalese gun had two relatively shallow, wide, flat-bottomed grooves with ridges of metal paralleling the grooves all the way up the barrel. This metal was displaced by the rifling broach as the gun was rifled. Consequently , these four rough edges cut up the ball’s patching and resulted in a strong vertical displacement of the shots on the target.  The heavily lubricated patches left the gun shredded and some were smoking.

  Ordinarily when this happens in muzzleloading rifles with rough barrels, additional lubricant can help as well as adding fiber or felt wads between the powder and ball. These added ingredients  help accuracy by preserving the physical integrity of  the patch.  This approach was tried with 11-gauge over- powder card wads and a split 11-gauge fiber wad with a glob of  Thompson/Center Arms’ Bore Butter placed between the wads and the patched ball. Such wadding techniques are commonly used in muzzleloading revolvers, and, when required, in rifles. 

  The result of five-shots  fired from sitting at 20-yards was a group that measured  4-inches  horizontally and 7-inches vertically. This is miserable shooting from a rifled gun. Even considering that this is a military gun with not-so-good sights and a tough trigger, all of these shots should have in a group about the size of a half-dollar (2-inches).  Although the gun is apparently developing sufficient power to kill deer-sized game  and is functionally reliable, its intrinsic inaccuracy  preclude it from being used as a hunting gun at ranges of more than about 15 yards.

  A video of me targeting the gun is below  has been posted on YouTube at: .  View the YouTube version if the video posted below does not run smoothly on your computer.