Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fruit Wine-not?

Last autumn, during apple season, we frequented a family-owned orchard located about 5 miles up the road in the Lake Champlain Islands.  We've gone there since before our 5 yr-old daughter was born and returned every summer for weekly indulgences of cider donuts, utility apples, kiddie playground, and cider by the 5 gallon carboy.  It's run by an lovely older couple, who are always working the register, cider press or tractor and are in such amazing shape that I'm convinced an apple a day may just keep the doctor away for good.  They are also the most friendly and genuine people I've ever met.   I'd like to be them one day.  Not now, since I'm only half their age, but if I could live the remainder of my days the way they do, I would not complain.  I've certainly never heard them complain for the amount of tedious, yet enjoyable, work that must possess their livelihood.

Last fall I would swing by with the girls for 10 gallons of fresh cider, which required a minimal amount of time to convert into hard cider.  Recipe: take 5 gal cider, remove <1 gal to dissolve 2+ lbs of brown sugar, return to carboy and pitch in champagne yeast.  Bottle when airlock is quiet ~2 weeks.  One tip...check the sweetness before bottling.  If it is dry, add some bottling sugar (1/2 c to 5 gal).  But if your brew is still sweet, reconsider bottling it or don't add any sugar.  We've had exploding bottles that had to be uncapped (for safety) and consumed immediately due to incomplete fermentation. 

After our success with hard cider, I began experimenting with other wines.  Dandelion wine was alright, but I figured any good flavor (dandelion isn't so good to me) plus sugar and champagne yeast could result in a nice brew.  Wild grapes grow in the ditches along the road I used to walk with my daughters.  A few cups of grapes, heated and smashed to release the juice plus sugar and yeast, with time under an airlock, resulted in a decent wine last fall.  Transpose this process to spring when we have rhubarb and last season's frozen strawberries.  SUCCESS!!!  I took two cups of fresh chopped rhubarb, about 2 cups of frozen strawberries and added 1 gallon of boiling water.  In a large glass jar (reused from pickles), this sat for 3-5 days undisturbed aside from a bit of initial stirring and smashing.  Then it was filtered into a pot and set to boil for 20 minutes with 2 lbs of sugar.  After cooling to room temperature, I pitched in 1 Tbs of champagne yeast, poured it into a clean container set with an airlock and waited.  When the bubbling subsided about 2 weeks later, our first pour tasted like an excellent dry wine, which went too quickly.  We'll see if I can recreate this pleasant surprise.  I will continue our seasonal approach, anticipating blueberries, raspberries, and apples.  Fruit wines may seem hobo-ish to you, but if you appreciate local eating you may also find local malt grains and hops in short supply and more expensive.  Think outside of this narrow box to find your favorite flavor + sugar + yeast wine to cheers our new summer.

No comments:

Post a Comment