Friday, September 7, 2012

How to Make Fruit Wine... or Hooch

If you are from my church, please note that someone hacked my blog and ghost-wrote this post.

I used to love baking. But since my family is now gluten and sugar free I haven't done much in the kitchen. So Last year, in need of yet another hobby, I started spending time with Mr. Beer. Since I don't do anything by the books I didn't pony up the cash to get the cheap Mr. Beer plastic bottling kegs with "vented" lid. Instead I used a four gallon food-grade bucket and drilled a hole that would accept both an air-lock and a tap. Then, at the advise of a hard core beer maker, I purchased real yeast from the local wine making store instead of using the cheap junk they include with the wort (that's the can of goo that magically turns into beer). In about three months I have sixteen bottles of pretty descent beer! Yep, three months of waiting for sixteen bottles... I'M A RAGING ALCOHOLIC!!!!

But I ain't a-talkin' about Mr. Beer except to say that it was a gateway drug into harder things. Like homemade wine.

A couple of years ago I tried to make strawberry wine by following a recipe where you smash the fruit and let it sit uncovered for a bit and then blah blah blah and then a year later you uncork the bottle to find that you have "effective", but not especially delicious, wine. Too much work and too much time!

So now I'm trying a new method:

I take a 48 oz bottle of 100% juice (Juicy Juice or Aldi) or reconstitute a container of frozen juice and dissolve 1.5 cups of sugar into the juice. The big thing here it to make sure there aren't any preservatives 'cause that'll kill the yeasties. I pour this mess into a clean, sterilized 2-liter. I suggest using Sprite or some fruit flavored 2-liter just in case any flavors leech in from the plastic. Then I take some wine yeast and sprinkle a bit into about 1/4 cup of warm water (just like baking) and let it wake up the yeast for five minutes. Then this goes into the 2-liter. On goes the cap and I give it a really good shake to infuse oxygen into the juice. Take off the cap and put in an airlock. It cost me $2.50, with tax, for an airlock and a bung... size #3, I think. Some recipes say to use balloons or latex birth control devices I won't type for fear of invoking the wrong kind of ads but some people say it adds an off taste. Plus the whole she-bang costs a mere $2.50! How cheap are you??!?!

Then you wait. You can watch the airlock bubble if you really need to pass the time. For these two I used fancy blueberry and pomegranite juice in 32 oz jars so the 2-liter isn't as full as it normally is. Also I used less sugar. You can buy a hygrometer but since I'm working in such small batches it would be waste. Instead I'm taking how many sugars and carbs are in the juice and tinkering the amount of sugar I add.

After the airlock stops bubbling, between 2 and 4 weeks, I pour the stuff into sterilized bottles. I'm fortunate enough to have some grolsch bottles from when we made kiefer. But that's another blog post. You could use empty wine bottles and reuse corks if you want. One container of juice makes about two bottles of wine.

Then you wait some more. I suppose you could drink it right away but the waiting seems to soften the flavors. Kind of like having a soup the next day where the flavors have had time to mingle.

Then you drink, er, sample! My first batch turned out to be extremely carbonated (enlarge the image to see the tiny bubbles), almost like champagne! My wifey said it tasted yeasty so perhaps I have more tinkering to do. Either I left it in too long or not long enough for the yeast to do their work. Not as good as store wine but worlds better than the infamous strawberry wine. The nice thing is that I could really taste the juice so that now the world is my oyster! If I sees me some tasty apple-raspberry-kiwi juice at the store in about two months I can have apple-raspberry-wiki wine. Not to mention that cider will be available soon!

As for cost, juice runs from $1.50 to $3.00, unless you go in for organic stuff. The airlock was $2.50 and the yeast was about $3, which makes between six and ten batches depending on if you sprinkle it or use a scale to measure out exactly 1/10 of an envelope for each batch. So the first batch costs $4.25 per bottle and the next 5-9 batches cost a whopping $0.75 to $1.50 each. Plus you don't have sulfates, which they add merely to make the wine clear and to prop up the sulfate industry.

Speaking of clear, I've bottled three batches so far. Two of the three cleared up in the bottle within weeks but the second, the one made from frozen concentrate, took over a month for to clear and all the itty bitty yeast sediments to float down.

And speaking of yeast, you'll hear people say that you can't save the yeast. FOOEY! And DOUBLE FOOEY! After I extract my .5 oz for a batch I roll it up tight with a rubber band and put it in a capped mason jar and pop it in the freezer.

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