Friday, July 30, 2010

Hortopita #1

If I were a big fat liar, I would tell you that this dish came to me through my Greek relatives, of which I have bona fide several by marriage through my aunt Katee, and they are to a one outstanding cooks.  However, I pretty much totally made this up.

Hortopita deconstructed means "garden pie," and that is what this is.  It's like spanakopita, but made with whatever green things you might happen to have around.  In this case, I used broccoli rabe from the grocery store, as well as beet greens from my parents' garden.  My dad loves beet greens, and with good reason--they're pretty, delicious, and attract almost no pests--and so he plants beet seeds throughout the spring and summer so he'll always have as much as he needs (or more, which is how I got these ones).

This recipe isn't a recipe, but rather a guideline.  Stuff a large dutch oven with washed greens, cover, and cook until softened:

Cool the greens under cold water and squeeze out as much of the moisture as you can.  Chop fine and set aside.

Now for the next step I made a half batch of Faux feta from American Vegan Kitchen:

If you don't own American Vegan Kitchen, you should go out and buy it, but failing that, crumble up about 6 oz. tofu, and add lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and a little olive oil. 

Add fried onions, green onions, garlic, dill, parsley, salt, pepper, a dash of nutmeg, and/or anything else that suits your fancy until you achieve a taste you like: this is your filling.

Meanwhile, you've been thawing out a package of phyllo dough.  Cut the dough into the shape of the pan you plan to cook the hortopita in (just up-end the pan over the phyllo and cut around it).  Brush the bottom and sides of the pan with olive oil and lay on a sheet of phyllo.  Brush this sheet lightly with olive oil and add another layer.  Keep it up until you have a bottom of 7 layers of phyllo.  Add half the filling and press down lightly:

Lay on another sheet of phyllo, brush with olive oil, and add one more sheet.  Now spoon on the rest of the filling, and top with the remaining sheets of phyllo, brushing olive oil in between.

Tuck the top layers of phyllo dough under so that a nice pie forms in the pan:

Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes to half an hour, until golden brown:

Let cool for at least 10 minutes before eating.  This pie, like spanakopita, tastes best just warm or at room temperature.

Served here with a dish of pasta and zucchini and gigondes (giant lima beans or butter beans), which shall be the subject of another post, because I just love giant lima beans...

The ultimate vegan egg yolk

Okay, I know that many vegans are all, "Why do you have to imitate meat products/cheese/eggs at all?  Why not just enjoy the enormous diversity of vegan options?"  Fair enough.  I agree with you, to a point.  On the other hand, many of us fondly remember foods we really used to love that it would be nice if there were a vegan option for. 

For me, one of those foods is eggs.  Anybody who reads this blog for more than three or four posts will be aware of my enormous love and veneration for the omelet recipe from Vegan Brunch.  However, as much as I adore it, there are times when it just...isn't...enough.  One of those times, for me, is the morning after I've had a little too much to drink.  Admittedly these times are very, very rare, of course, but in my pre-vegan days what I used to crave then was a nice soft-poached egg.  Tofu subs extremely well for egg white, but what about the yolk?  When it counts, you really need something rich, fatty, yellow, and altogether special.  So here I am having done experiment after experiment, offering you the perfected vegan yolk! 

Actually, even the image above isn't my best yolk, because they're kind of tricky to cook.  Unfortunately, my very best yolks have been accompanied by imperfect additional's an example, showing that the yolk has its own dignity as a sauce as well as a trompe d'oeil:

Apologies in advance to anyone who thinks this is gross.  I understand where you're coming from, but on the other hand, this is the ultimate in delicious, so I urge you to lay aside your prejudices for the 30 seconds it takes to make this recipe, and try it.

My recipe is based on this one, which I could not make work for me, so I adapted it, as follows  [On edit: go over here for a slightly re-worked recipe with better instructions]:

Vegan egg yolk
makes 2 yolks

1/2 tbsp Veganaise
1/2 tbsp carrot juice (if you don't have carrot juice, just finely grate a carrot and squeeze the juice out of it)
2 tbsp vegetable broth (or 2 tbsp water and 1/4 tsp nutritional yeast)
1 tbsp Earth Balance
1 tsp cornstarch

Put all the ingredients in a small bowl. 

That's the easy part.  Now for the tricky part.  Put the little bowl in the microwave for 20 seconds.  Whisk the mixture up.  Put it back in at 5 second increments (I can't stress this enough; the egg at the top of this post was put in for an additional 10 seconds and it nearly separated).  You should need at most 2 5-second increments to fully cook the egg yolk.  It should be like a smooth, yellow-orange bechamel.  If it separates--and you'll know when this happens--it still tastes good but there's nothing you can do to it to make it smooth and nice-looking; you'll either have to start over or just do what I do and eat a delicious but not-so-great-looking egg.

The egg itself is just a slab of fried fresh tofu:

The link above gives directions for carving the tofu in an intricate kind of way to make it look more like a fried egg, but eh, once you have the taste, you have it all, in my opinion. 

It isn't an egg, but it admirably fits the purpose of one.

(Did you notice the sneaky inclusion of zucchini cakes?  Ooh, it's zucchini season again!)

The salad is from Mark Bittman's 101 simple salads for the season, brought to my attention by a friend at work.  I got all the way to 21, but plan to refer back to this wonderful post again and again during this incredibly hot summer...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Same again, please

This is for those critical readers of yesterday's post who were all "Cold noodle salad?  What noodles?  Lettuce, you say?  Where?"  Okay, critical readers, you have a point.

Plus I had some of the sauce leftover from yesterday (the original recipe from the book makes quite a bit more than you need), plus it was so good I think I'll just keep making it every night until it freezes.

I wasn't absolutely starving this time so I was able to do more than just pile everything on and dig in--time to blanch sweet potato and carrots, for instance.  There's also sweet red pepper, cucumber, nori, arugula, and pumpkin seeds (unfortunately I was out of fresh tofu).

Here's the sauce in its little plastic container.  I added some ground red pepper to spice it up some more since most of the jalapeno went into yesterday's salad and thought it had kind of a cool (hot) ruby glow:

Even just a big mess of salad is so gorgeous.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Saigon salad

What to eat when it's 25C out there and you're not sure you can face anything hot, but want more than lettuce and celery sticks?  Cold noodle salad! 

The noodles are drowned in this image by the toppings and not visible, but they are there in all their soba-goodness.

I made a few changes to the recipe, which was originally from the Rebar ModernFoodCookbook.  This is what I did:

Saigon salad
serves 1
adapted from Rebar ModernFood Cookbook

[Zoa's note: this is very fiery--I've increased the amount of the hot stuff because that's how I like it; use less if you prefer a milder dressing]
1/4 cup hot water
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 garlic clove, put through a press
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 tsp sambal olek
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp lime juice

1 pkg soba noodles
1 cup shredded lettuce or other greens
2 scallions, chopped
1 cup chopped cucumber
1 carrot, grated
1 tomato, chopped
2 tbsp fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, or mint)
1 tbsp peanuts, roasted and chopped
1/2 sheet nori, cut into slivers
1/4 lb fresh tofu, cubed

Make the dressing:  dissolve sugar in hot water and let cool.  Stir in garlic, chiles, soy sauce, sambal olek, and lime juice.  Stir to combine and let sit while preparing the rest of the recipe.

Cook noodles according to package directions, and then strain in a colander and rinse with cold water.  Gently toss with a drizzle of sesame oil.

To assemble salad, place the lettuce or other greens in the bottom of serving bowl.  Sprinkle on the chopped herbs.  Nest the noodles on top of the lettuce/herb mix.  Pour the dressing over all.  Arrange vegetables and tofu on top of the noodles and sprinkle with remaining herbs and the shredded nori.  Top with roasted peanuts.

Yum yum yum!  Easy to make, cool to eat!  A lovely summer meal.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Baked eggplant with mushroom-tomato sauce

We've been experimenting with cooking a little...ugh...lighter here at The Airy Way lately.  I wish I could sound more enthusiastic about this but as I have opined many times in the past, what doesn't taste better drenched in olive oil/topped with avocado pieces/fried, etc.?

Nevertheless, I'm getting more used to it now, and should you wish to up the deliciousness quotient of this recipe, for instance, all you'd need to do is, you know, pour a little oil on every step in the process and you'll be good to go.

I got this recipe from here, inspired by part of an eggplant I needed to use up.  Kristen Swensson over at Cheap Healthy Good goes on and on about it, and it is good, sort of an eggplant parmesan thing but without all the oil and grease.  My version is even cheaper, healthier, and better than hers because it is (a) vegan; and (b) not baked with cheese.  That said, if you have a melty vegan cheese such as Daiya on hand, feel free to add a layer inside the casserole and another on top.  Here's what I did:

Baked eggplant with mushroom-tomato sauce
Serves 2

1/2 peeled eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 1/2 pound) [Zoa's note; I did not peel my eggplant, but should have]
cooking spray
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning
dash salt
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
black pepper
1/2 cup no-salt-added tomato sauce
grated cashew cheese and almonzano (for garnish)

Salt eggplant slices and place in colander on top of a plate. After 30 minutes, rinse eggplant thoroughly and pat down with paper towels. Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Lay eggplant out on the sheet and broil 8 minutes, flipping once, until both sides are a little brown.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a 1/2 quart baking dish (round if possible) with cooking spray.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, green pepper, pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, salt, garlic, and mushrooms, and cover. Saute 7 or 8 minutes, until soft, lifting the cover to stir occasionally. Now remove the cover; if there's liquid in the pan, turn up the heat and cook on medium-high until it is mostly evaporated.

Pour half the mushroom/onion mixture into baking dish. Place half of the eggplant slices in a layer on top of that and sprinkle with pepper. Spread half of the tomato sauce on top of the eggplant. Repeat layers, cover with tinfoil or dish lid, and bake 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes.

I dished mine out over some whole wheat spaghetti, and only then added grated cashew cheese and almonzano. My thinking is that cashew cheese won't melt under the broiler, it only dries out, so why not leave it in its original state of raw deliciousness?

Admittedly, this was very good, even not doused with olive oil, and full of flavours. Of course it's the cashew cheese that just makes the dish, though, so don't omit it!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Packets, and Pan-seared seitan with crimini mushrooms & red wine

What do you do when it's broiling hot outside and yet you're hungry for more than salad?  Packets!  What easy dish can you serve a vegan at an omni barbecue?  Why, packets! This is the go-to vegetable dish for my family all summer long.  As I was making it my mother called and by chance she was putting together a packet for her and Dad that was totally different from mine.  You can put nearly any vegetable in a packet.  In this one you see onions, zucchini, sweet potato, and corn.

Start by chopping the vegetables into chunks that will finish cooking about the same time:

Mix it up with a little olive oil and herbs with salt and pepper, or do what I did and use some leftover vinaigrette.  Then wrap it tight in tinfoil, keeping the package fairly flat, and, if you're cooking it in the oven, cook it for about half an hour at 425F, turning it over halfway through the cooking time, mutatis mutandis for the barbecue. 

The vegetables should caramelize and, if you're very fortunate and/or skilled, just scrumptiously burn a little bit in places...

I also made Robin Robertson's Pan-seared seitan with crimini mushrooms and red wine from Vegan Planet.  Very easy, quick, and delicious, as so many of her main dish recipes are.  I found the recipe over here, uncredited, so am reproducing it for you, giving Robin her credit back.  What you see in these images is a quarter of the recipe; the whole will make four large servings.

Pan-seared seitan with crimini mushrooms and red wine
from Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet
Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 pound seitan, in thin strips
2 shallots, thinly sliced
6 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Brown the seitan on both sides and remove from pan. (Zoa's note: I dredged my seitan in seasoned flour first and was glad I did.)

Add shallots to the pan and saute for about two minutes, until soft. Add red wine and mushrooms. Reduce for about three minutes or so, then remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside with the seitan. Leave any remaining red wine and shallots in the pan.

Add the broth and seasoning. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about five minutes to reduce half of the liquid.

Add the seitan and mushrooms back to the mix and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Gajar ka raita (carrot raita)

I love dals, and today I found the perfect compliment for them in carrot raita. Its coolness counterbalances the spicy heat of the dal, and if you serve it with chapatti—perfection. What a spectacularly wholesome meal this is!

My recipe came from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, but there's a very similar one here—I've made adjustments to veganize it and to use Madhur Jaffrey's method, but of course you can compare them and do what seems best to you.

Gajar ka raita (carrot raita)
Makes 2 1/2 cups

2 tbsp peanut oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 cup grated carrots
1 green chili, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups soy yogurt (I used Bryanna's Bulgarian-style tofu yogurt; see sidebar for recipe)

Heat the oil in a medium frying pan; when hot, add the cumin seeds and fry for five seconds. Add the grated carrots and stir fry a further 15 seconds. When cool, mix with the yogurt and remaining ingredients and taste for salt. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

The dal is also from World Vegetarian, and is there called Saag vali moong dal (Hulled and split mung beans with spinach). It's a very common combination, and here's something very similar to what I did:

A very simple mac and cheeze

Surprisingly tasty despite the mere seconds it takes to put this together, I was really pleased with this experiment. This is very much a non-gourmet, vegan Kraft Dinner kind of thing…

A very simple mac and cheese

2 cups unsweetened soymilk
2 tbsp Joanne Stepaniak's All-season blend (see sidebar for recipe)
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp Earth Balance (omit for fat free)
2 cups macaroni

Start some salted water boiling for the macaroni, and cook according to package directions.

Add the soymilk, All-season blend, and flour to a medium saucepan and whisk until smooth. Taste the mixture and add more All-season blend if desired. Add the Earth Balance, and gently heat, whisking frequently, until bubbling and thickened.

Drain the cooked pasta and mix it with the sauce. You can serve it now as shown above, or bake it, as I did, topped with a mixture of wholewheat breadcrumbs, Earth Balance, and Almonzano:

This was served with some braised seitan that I am still experimenting with, and a simple green salad.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Western donburi

Now this is what I should have made instead of those green eggs and ham from my last post. This is fantastic.

Some of you may remember that for Veganmofo last year I was trying to teach myself to cook Japanese, and one of the dishes I made was tofu donburi, which is basically an omelet poached in broth rather than fried. That was nice, and this is a Western-style variation. With a tomato-y broth or sauce it would have been a lot like Eggs in Purgatory, which I have been meaning to veganize for some time.

How it began, like so many of the experiments here at The Airy Way, was with a survey of the contents of my rather overstuffed refrigerator.

What I needed to use up:

1. Some Vegan Brunch omelet mix;
2. Some of the cooking broth from Joanne Stepaniak's Betta feta;
3. A little fresh tofu;
4. Half an onion;
5. Half a red pepper;
6. An avocado;
7. Some whole wheat bread dough.

On the whole you could make it with some omelet mix and anything else you happened to have around. The cooking broth was a nice touch, but you could use some of her All-season blend in water (basically what this broth is), or other vegetable broth of any kind.

Start by frying the onion, red pepper, and a few quartered mushrooms in a mixture of olive oil and Earth Balance:

When they're tender, add about a cup of broth and some cubed tofu:

Bring to a boil, then pour in the omelet mix all at once; I added green onions and red pepper flakes at this point as well. Bring this mixture just to a boil, then cover, turn the heat way down to medium low, and let it poach for about half an hour, depending on how much you're making and how deep your skillet is; check it after 15 minutes and judge for yourself:

It's soft, but the omelet parts are cooked through. Turn the heat off and keep covered for another 10 minutes if you can possibly stand it to allow the omelet to firm up a little:

And serve! I had this with a sprinkling of shishimi togarashi in memory of Veganmofo 2009, and fried bread. Actually, the dish is soft and oily enough that it would have been even better with dry toast fingers.

Now that I know how awesome this is, I'm going to work on making the egg part taste more "eggy". The texture of the finished dish is soft and tender-creamy, like a coddled egg, and the tofu, though not pre-cooked, firmed up in the mix into cubes of wonderful deliciousness!

Happy 4th of July, American friends!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Green eggs and ham

Okay, no, not really. Here at The Airy Way there are no eggs, green or otherwise, and certainly no ham. But to quote that immortal work of the great Dr. Seuss:

I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

What's this? Something I found on the Internet under the dignified name of Spicy breakfast casserole with Andouille sausage, but which is more vulgarly known as "Christmas morning wifesaver." Can you even conceive of a more offensive, irritating name for a dish? The name just makes me shiver with revulsion. No wonder I've never condescended to try it.

But, today I needed to use some stuff up. I was meaning to make something totally different for supper tonight, but because of my non-existent labeling skills, the seitan sausage I picked out of the freezer and thawed was spicy instead of plain chicken seitan, and the hamburger buns I made for Canada Day didn't really prosper through the night, so I was forced…

"Not on a boat, not in a tree…"

At a family brunch last weekend, my mom made me vegan burritos (isn't she nice?), but everyone else had XMWS, and I had to admit, maybe she did something different to it this time but it actually looked…not so bad…

I'm giving the full recipe (veganized) in case you wish to inflict it upon your own family, but I made a tiny proportion of it, distrustful as I was, in a little dish most fetchingly marketed as a "minikin". And, yes, I bought all the kinds there were, round one, square one, just because of that adorable name, so I could tell everyone that I was serving this dish or that in my minikin. It's just too cute! Plus I cooked it in my toaster oven, with a sheet of aluminum foil over the top.

Spicy breakfast casserole with seitan sausage
Serves 6

12 to 16 ounces seitan sausage, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red or green bell pepper
1 full recipe Vegan Brunch omelet
1 cup soymilk
1 tsp Creole seasoning (I don't know what Creole seasoning is so I used Montreal steak spice)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley, optional
4 slices bread torn in 1-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 cups shredded vegan cheese
salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350°. Butter a 2-quart baking dish (or a quarter of this recipe will fit into a minikin).

In a large skillet, cook sliced sausage with the onion and bell pepper until vegetables are translucent. Whisk omelet mix with milk in a bowl with the Creole seasoning, pepper, and parsley, if using; set aside.

Arrange torn bread over the bottom of the buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with the sausage mixture and the diced tomatoes.

Top with vegan cheese then pour the omelet mixture evenly over the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until puffy and lightly browned.

So how was it, after all the hype? Well, it was kind of like migas, only not as good, in my opinion...though it has potential. Next time I'll try adding salsa and cilantro and lots of hot pepper and topping it with chopped avocado and I may change my mind.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

How to make your own vegan wine from kits!

Winemaking is a fine art, but this post is not about the fine art of making wine. It's about making wine from kits, which I've been doing for approximately twenty years. You can click on the image to the left to zoom in on the price tags. The kits aren't cheap, but each one makes 23 litres or about 25 bottles of wine. At about $70 per kit that works out to Cdn$2.80 per bottle. Not bad!

There's an initial layout for the equipment, which actually pays for itself in the first batch. In our case that investment was made back in the mists of time, and I can assure you that the equipment lasts forever, so the money we spend on homemade wine is now spent only on kits and filters (see below). You can get very fancy with the kits, trying different additives and so on, but what you see here are the absolute basics.

It's nice to have a partner or partners to help with some of the steps. Winemaking in my family is conducted by a syndicate. All equipment is communally owned and used by my mom, my sister Diane, and me. We have a big plastic bucket for the tubes and all the little bits and pieces. We also help each other with the making and bottling. At our heyday, we were doing six kits at a time (two each) at Diane's house. Diane has since moved to an apartment, so we're back to doing it separately at our own homes, and on bottling day we do a "bee," shuttling from one place to the next.

Everything that comes in contact with the wine needs to be sterilized first:

When you open the box, this is what's inside. A big bag of grape juice:

And a pamphlet of instructions and the additives. You see the clear packet labelled "isinglass"? That's the finings, and it's what makes wine non-vegan. Isinglass is made from the dried swim bladders of fish. Sometimes it's gelatin, sometimes something made from seashells, but almost always the finings are non-vegan. Finings clarify wine by collecting on the larger particles and making them heavy so they drift down to the bottom of the carboy. If you filter your wine, however, the finings are superfluous and you lose nothing by chucking that packet out.

Start by mixing the contents of Packet 1, bentonite clay, with some water in the bottom of your primary fermenter. The primary fermenter is a big plastic bucket with a loose-fitting lid. Does bentonite sound strangely familiar? Yes, it's clumping cat litter! Yes, one of the ingredients of wine is mud!

Now open the bag of grape juice and pour it into the primary. The box of most kits has perforations so you can punch out a section and fix in the spout of the bag, making this process easier and more controlled than somehow extracting the heavy bag from the box (almost impossible if you are working solo) and holding onto it while it flops around in your arms and grape juice flies everywhere.

Add the grape juice, top up the primary with water, stir everything well, and sprinkle on the yeast:

Now put the lid on the primary and let it sit in an out of the way place for 7-10 days, while the yeast foams up and the major fermentation takes place. As the yeast uses up the sugars in the grape juice-and-water-mix (called "must"), the fermentation slows down, and you can rack (syphon) your wine into carboys (the big glass jars) fitted with airlocks that allow gasses to escape but don't let anything (bugs, dust, bacteria) in.

The wine stays in the carboys for a few more weeks. There's some messing about with Packets 2 and 3 during this period, but nothing that takes more than a few minutes. Here's the wine in its carboys just before we're ready to bottle. The wines are different colours because one is a chardonnay (the dark one) and one is a pinot grigio (the light one). You can see the wine is mostly clear but by no means perfectly clear. If you were to drink it like this it would taste okay but there would be visible bits suspended in it, which is unappetizing. Frankly, we found in the past that even if you do use finings, you still need to filter to get the wine perfectly clear.

These are the filters we use. Our Buon Vino filter machine takes three of these filters at a time, and one packet of three filters will do for the two batches of wine. I see I was clever enough to photograph only the French side of the packet, but there isn't anything on there you urgently need to know.

Here's the filter at work. We've racked the wine off the sediment at the bottom of the carboys back into a primary fermenter to keep the wine as unclouded as possible, and now it's running through the filter:

Back in the day when we were newbies, and for several years after that, we used to store our wine in bottles, with corks, with special labels, with plastic caps. Newbies always want to do this, and there's nothing wrong with that. But now we're all about saving time, so we unromantically syphon it into bags. Yes, these are the same bags the grape juice came in, carefully washed and sterilized. You can also buy bags at the wine store. We've been using bags for six or seven years now and have never had a problem with them, though we don't keep using them indefinitely. Mine get recycled after they've been used twice. You buy the little brown valves at the wine store. You can rent a filter at the wine store, too.

The carboy on the left holds filtered wine just about to be syphoned into bags. The one on the right is being racked prior to its journey through the filter. See the difference in clarity? The filtered wine is sparkling, crystal clear:

A filled bag, which will be returned to one of the stout boxes the kits came in and decanted into a snifter (or, actually, just a glass jug) as required:

Try some! It looks great, but new wine can taste rough or raw or somewhat soapy at first. Don't despair--despite the claim on some packages that it will be "ready for drinking in 28 days!" it will improve very greatly during the first three weeks or so of storage. This is not long-term storage wine, however, and won't improve indefinitely. Generally speaking, homemade wines hit their peak at about six months.

...and now after all that I think I'll go sit on the patio with a beer ;-)