Monday, February 28, 2011

Peach Wine

Oooh... this is a good one...

2 quarts of peaches (I used my mother's canned peaches)
1 1/2 pounds raisins
3.5 cups sugar (can adjust according to hydrometer)
1 cup lemon juice
1 tsp yeast nutrients
1 tsp pectic enzyme
1 sachet wine yeast

To sanitized vessel add: peaches, raisins, one gallon boiling water, nutrients, pectic enzyme, and sugar. Stir well, and let sit overnight. The next day, add in the wine yeast, and stir well. You should notice the peaches really breaking down and getting mushy, this will be in part because of the pectic enzyme, and in part because of the yeast. Let sit five days with stirring each day.

Transfer to a secondary fermentor, keeping out all the peaches, raisins, and as much gunk as possible. Allow to ferment for at lease two weeks before racking again. Rack every three weeks until very clear and little sediment appears on the bottom of the vessel (this may be after just one or two more rackings). Allow to age at least six months if you can (although a year is better!).

Tips: Those peaches really get to falling apart. With any fruit wine... or just about any wine at all, I find that a kitchen strainer/sifter can be an excellent tool. This is the metal mesh strainer with a handle. What I like to do is to sanitize the strainer, and then dip it into the mixture of fruit/water/sugar/yeast etc. before transferring to the secondary fermentor to scoop out all of the fruit and raisins. Then all I have to do is pour or siphon the liquid from one container to the next. Another simplifying option is to pour your wine through the strainer while you're transferring (this is where your helper comes in).

Related Recipes: apple cider, pear cider

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hillbilly Wine (Hooch)

24 oz frozen, concentrated grape juice
2.5 cups sugar
wine yeast

Add concentrate to sanitized one-gallon vessel. Add sugar. Bring to one gallon with water (make sure there's some headroom, this recipe tends to foam up a little on the first day). Add wine yeast, shake, fit with airlock and let there be wine!

12 to 16 days later fermentation should cease. You can now rack the wine into a new vessel. Fit with airlock. After one month you can bottle! (one month is conservative)

Notes: You don't want to add your yeast to a very cold mixture of grape juice, so either let the concentrate reach room temperature before you begin, or add warm water to make one gallon. A good temperature to add the yeast in at is NO HIGHER THAN 110 degrees (43 degrees Celsius). Also, you don't need a fancy airlock, especially if you're just beginning, a balloon fitted over the top of the vessel is just fine, you may want to put a pinprick or two in the balloon so that a little of the carbon dioxide can escape as fermentation occurs (yes, don't forget, your yeasts are eukaryotes just like people, and as they go about their day making wine, they "breathe" out CO2 just like people!) Airlocks are very cheap, though, ranging from $1.50 to $5.00 at your home brew store locally or online.

Note number two: be careful which concentrated grape juice you buy. The store brand, and even some name brands, likely have either high-fructose corn syrup and/or preservatives. Preservatives can and will hurt your yeast, or even prevent fermentation, and high-fructose corn syrup is not from grapes, and it's not sucrose, our regular table sugar. Preservatives to watch out for are anything with sulfur, but if you see citric acid, that's just fine. Basically, look for the most natural, simple labels, something with 100% grape juice.

Well, this is as simple as it gets. This was my first wine, not bad, but don't expect a prize-winner either! This is a really fun and simple way to get started on wine-making, and even if you screw it all up, you're only out a few dollars, so there's no excuse not to try!

Related Recipes: Easy Apple Cider, White Hillbilly Wine, Easy Mead.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

For the Beginner

My first few batches of wine were very rudimentary, and before those I even gave it a whirl with the old bread yeast. The end product smelled like feet. So the first investment I made was in a few packs of Lalvin brand yeast, strains EC-1118 and K1-V1116. Lalvin furnishes all kinds of information on their site about the yeasts, and in their PDF forms you can find the yeast kinetics and everything (how long fermentation takes at any given temperature, etc.). The reason I picked these two out were because it's winter here, and the house gets cold during the day, and these yeasts will continue to ferment at colder temperatures, albeit at a slower rate. Other key features were that they are quite competitive yeasts (especially EC-1118), meaning that they multiply rapidly and compete heavily with wild strains of yeasts for the nutrients in your fermentation vessel. Another great feature of these yeasts are their high sugar/alcohol tolerances. EC-1118 goes right up to 18% alcohol and K1-V1116 is near 16%, maybe even higher. Of course, you don't actually want wines with alcohol this high (too much alcohol in a wine can really throw off your flavor and the balance of the wine), but this does mean that if you've added too much sugar or you don't have a hydrometer, your yeast has you covered and your wine will ferment. Lastly, with these yeasts you are unlikely to get a stuck fermentation, in fact these are the kinds of yeasts that you might add to a stuck fermentation to get it started back up and finished (usually as a last resort). All in all these yeasts are widely used and very popular among both large-scale and small-scale winemakers, and make an excellent yeast for the beginning winemaker who has yet to acquire all of the equipment, and they can give a little boost of confidence, knowing that not too much can go wrong if you've got a tough yeast in the vat!

So, what happened when I used wine yeast instead of good old bread yeast? No more wine that smelled like stinky feet for one thing! My first batch of hooch (hillbilly wine, beginner's wine as I like to call it) which comes from frozen concentrated grape juice, was with the bread yeast. My second one was started on December 18 of last year, and has turned out much, much better. Drinkable. I like it a little better than a few of the Chilean wines I've gotten in the bargain bin at the local wine shop, believe it or not. (I'm not balking at the bargain bin, sometimes you get gold, sometimes you get... well... vinegar). Anyway, the point of it all is, that at about $0.50 a pack, wine yeast will go a long way. Your local home brew store is a great place to pick this up without paying a little shipping, and they can usually steer beginners in the right direction, but there are also a plethora of brew stores online, and even Amazon carries the stuff!

p.s. I began another batch of pumpkin wine yesterday, a two-gallon batch that I'm splitting into two one-gallon batches to try EC-1118 in one and K1-V116 on the other. I'm excited to see which does a better wine, and I'll try to mention it from time to time and post some photos. I like the idea of pumpkin wine as a light fall cider, or spooky Halloween-time drink!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pumpkin Wine

3 1/2 - 4 lbs grated pumpkin
1 gallon water
6 oranges
2 lbs raisins
1 campden tablet
4 cups sugar
1 tsp pectic enzyme
1 tsp yeast nutrients
wine yeast

Heat water to boiling. Grate pumpkin. Pour boiling water over grated pumpkin and raisins (these are for tannins, to give the wine some body). Add in the juice squeezed from six oranges (for acidity and hints of orange). After cooling down to about 100 degrees, add in the campden tablet, pectic enzyme, nutrients, and sugar and let sit overnight.

The next day add in your yeast, I used Lalvin EC 1118 and was pleased with the results. Stir once daily for three days.

After three days, decant the liquid into a primary fermentor ( a strainer might be of some use here, depending on how fine your grated pumpkin is), seal with an airlock, and allow to ferment for thirty days. Rack the wine into a secondary fermentor. Continue to rack every three months until satisfied with clarity, and then bottle! The wait is well worth it!

Does this seem like a lot of work? I promise it's not. An hour here and there for a few days, then an hour every few months, and voilĂ , you have wine!

Note: The campden uses sulfur to kill wild yeasts that might naturally be on your pumpkin or in your raisins. Something that I often do instead of using the campden tablet is to bring the mixture to 170 degrees (77 degrees Celsius) or above for at least 20 minutes. This is adequate to kill off the wild yeasts and most if not all other present bacteria. Be sure to still add in your pectic enzyme once the mixture has cooled to about 100 degrees (any hotter and the enzyme will become denatured and your wine could end up cloudy).

The Roots

Wine-making is an ancient art. Really ancient. In early January of this year newspapers widely published that scientists had discovered the oldest winery in the world - not in France, not in Spain - in Armenia! This ancient winery was complete with presses and vats, all dating back about six thousand years.

My own interests in wine-making began about a month before reports of this discovery emerged. I have to admit, my first few batches were so rudimentary, even the Armenians six thousand years ago would have scoffed at me. I made two batches of wine on December 18: one gallon of Pumpkin Wine and one gallon of "red" wine as I like to call it, but the recipe said hooch, as it called for frozen,concentrated grape juice. Wait! Wait! It wasn't any of the high-fructose corn syrup stuff, I promise, at least it was natural, no preservatives or anything (those will kill the yeast). I didn't want to invest a lot of money, and I didn't have to. I had a lot of fun, it was cheap, and though it's only a few months later (I'm not a patient as I ought to be) the sampled product has turned out to be not all that bad! Having been met with just a little bit of success, I've decided to turn it all into a bigger project: to encourage others, to share recipes, and to keep having fun!