Today the Romaniacs are welcoming Jane Jackson to tell us about her latest novel Crosscurrents. There’s beer too! Do help yourselves, but the big tankard is mine. Cheese straw, anyone?
Book Blurb: Santo Innis is developing a revolutionary new engine to counter the lethal effects of high-pressure steam. His backer is Richard Vaughan, heir to Frederick Tregarron, owner of Gillyvean estate. Following the tragic deaths of his wife and baby son, Richard immersed himself in work.
But his world is turned upside down by the unexpected arrival at Gillyvean of Melanie Tregarron, a talented artist and Frederick’s illegitimate youngest daughter. Desperate to prove the viability of his invention, Santo persuades Richard to let him fit one at Gillyvean’s brewhouse. But when Bronnen Jewell – worried about her mother’s suffering at her father’s hands – arrives to brew the harvest beer she’s horrified, fearing loss of the income on which she depends. As the lives of these four become entwined, a shocking revelation shatters Bronnen’s world; desperate for money Santo makes a choice that costs him everything; Melanie fears she will never be free of her past; and Richard has to face his deepest fear.
Bronnen stood up. Instantly Santo was on his feet. She touched his arm lightly.
‘I have to skim the beer. The first head has a lot of bits in it and resin from the hops.’
He followed her to the fermentation vessel and watched her work. ‘You do that every three or four hours?’
She nodded. ‘Then what?’ ‘When the beer is cool enough I’ll rack it off.’ Setting down the skimmer she picked up the lantern, led him to an open doorway at the rear of the brewhouse and held it high so he could see casks lying on their sides on top of a timber framework with a gutter running down the middle. ‘When it’s piped into the barrels it carries on working and I collect the yeast to use in the next brew.’
Returning the lantern to the wooden staging by the mash tub she swallowed a sudden yawn and glanced away, hoping he hadn’t noticed. But he had.
‘I should go. This ’ave been a long day for you.’ She didn’t want him to leave, but couldn’t ask him to stay. He had his own work. She wiped her palms down her apron.
‘I’m glad you stopped by.’
Taking her hand he raised it to his lips. In the soft light his gaze met hers, held it. ‘Bronnen,’ he murmured and drew her closer. She knew if she resisted he would release her. But she didn’t, couldn’t. As he bent his head she raised her face to his.
His mouth touched hers and her breath stopped. His kiss was gentle, light as a butterfly. It lingered. Her lips softened, parted under his, and she tasted his sweet warmth. She rested her hands on his chest, not to push him away but to steady herself. His heart beat against her palm, hard and fast like her own. Drawing her head back she took a shaky breath. His hands slid from her shoulders to her hips as he rested his forehead against hers.
‘I never – I didn’t expect this, you.’ ‘Nor me.’
Tilting her chin, he gazed at her as if he was dying of thirst and she was cool water. ‘Bronnen, I – please?’ ‘Yes,’ she whispered. His mouth covered hers in a kiss that deepened from tender to passionate. As her head swam she gave herself up to the delicious sensation of his mouth on hers and the tidal wave of yearning it unleashed. Her arms slipped around his neck as his enfolded her, drawing her close. When, too soon, he lifted his mouth from hers they were both breathless.
She swayed, disoriented. ‘God, Bron, I’m –’
She pressed her fingers against his lips, shutting off the words. ‘Don’t,’ her voice was unsteady, her heart still pounding. ‘Don’t say you’re sorry. You aren’t, are you?’
‘No! Never! But I shouldn’t have – I didn’t expect –’
‘Me neither.’ Her laugh was shaky. ‘We already said this once.’ Holding her hand between his he pressed his lips to her palm. ‘I’ll go.’ His voice was rough, abrupt. ‘I don’t want to. But –’
‘I know,’ she said softly and stepped away from him. ‘I will see you again.’
His gaze was stormy and the fierceness of his expression betrayed an inner upheaval that matched her own. ‘Soon?’
Looking up at him, awed by what had happened, she reached out and lightly touched his cheek with her fingertips. ‘Yes. Soon.’
Now for some background information:
The brewhouse on a country estate was usually situated in a courtyard some distance from the main house. This ensured the family wasn’t disturbed by the heady smells and noise of necessary night time work. Two storeys high, it had a slatted lantern in the roof.
These slats could be opened or closed to control the temperature. Just below the lantern a tank or cistern held water pumped up from the well in the yard and gravity-fed down to the copper mounted on a platform 10-12 feet above ground level. Copper sizes varied from 40 gallons in a farmhouse to upwards of 85 gallons in a large country house.
A domestic copper used for laundry was a simple U-shape. But the bottom of a brewing copper was like a rounded W, the best shape to achieve a rolling boil of the wort, and to ensure the copper could be completely emptied via a tap. Experienced brewers – on farms and in country houses these were often women (known as ‘brewsters’) whose skills were passed down from mother to daughter – knew that a wood fire was far quicker than coal to bring a copper full of water to the boil.
Beer contains only four ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. It is the quality of these plus the skill of the brewster that decides the superiority of the finished product.
Water: Brewsters on farms and in country houses claimed rainwater was best. If it would lather soap it would make a good brew.
Malt. The best barley – a long-eared variety raised on rich soil – made the best malt which would be known by its light fragrance, mellow taste, full flavour and a thin skin that was sweet and crisp. The barley grains were steeped in water two or three times over two to three days until they began to germinate then transferred to the perforated wood malting floor and constantly turned to air-dry them. Then they were kilned or roasted to the desired colour and ground by hand in a mill like a coffee grinder. It took skill and judgement to crush the malt to just the right consistency. Once ground it was best used within seven to ten days. Left any longer it might absorb moisture which would affect the heat of the mash.
Hops: the best were bright green in colour with a sweet slightly oily scent. For a keeping beer a rule of thumb was a pound of hops for every bushel of malt. Beer that was drunk soon after brewing – e.g. small beer for harvest workers – needed only half the amount of hops.
Yeast: The best yeast was gathered from a strong brew when it bubbled out of cask bungholes and was collected in channels called stillions. It was kept in cold water – changed every other day – somewhere cool. Private brewers could, if necessary, buy yeast from commercial brewers. Strong beer needed 2 pints of yeast per 40 gallons. For small beer: 1½ pints per 40 gallons. Once a brew started it took at least two days with only a few hours’ break between various stages so the brewer needed a comfortable chair. Another necessity for brewhouse and cellar was a solid door with a strong lock and key.
Buy links: Ebook: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00L9CIS66/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=B00L9CIS66&linkCode=as2&tag=lucyfelthouse-21 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00L9CIS66/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00L9CIS66&linkCode=as2&tag=lucyfelt-20&linkId=SKMOU3OLOI2V4D2Z Paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/190962439X/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=190962439X&linkCode=as2&tag=lucyfelthouse-21 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/190962439X/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=190962439X&linkCode=as2&tag=lucyfelt-20&linkId=A56RJWDEZCVJEC3Q
Author bio: Jane Jackson has been a professional writer for over thirty years, and twice shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Crosscurrents is her twenty-eighth published novel. Happily married to a Cornishman, with children and grandchildren, she has lived in Cornwall most of her life, finding inspiration for her books in the county’s magnificent scenery and fascinating history. She enjoys reading, research, long walks, baking, and visiting Cornish agricultural shows where her husband displays his collection of 28 (and counting) restored vintage rotavators.
Website: http://www.janejackson.net Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JaneJacksonAuthor Twitter: https://twitter.com/JJacksonAuthor http://www.writermarketing.co.uk/prpromotion/blog-tours/currently-on-tour/jane-jackson/