Monday, November 28, 2011

Banana Wine

The Ramble: Doesn't it sound so tropical? For a long time I knew that people made banana wine, and I had even read some banana wine recipes, but I didn't think I would like it. Then the more I thought about it, the more I needed to try it, and the better it sounded to me. Plus, I got five pounds of bananas for free! One of the coolest things about this recipe is that you chop up the banana skins to get out their natural tannins. They can be used in other wines too, but beware, they may leave a hint of banana on the nose!


4 lbs. peeled, chopped bananas (about 15-20 bananas)
juice of 2 lemons or 2 tsp. citric acid blend
1/4 to 1/2 lb. of chopped banana skins (4-5 skins)
1 gallon water
2 lbs. sugar
1 tsp. yeast nutrient
1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
white wine yeast (used K1V)

Peel bananas, chop bananas and skins, add to stock pot. Add water. Add lemon juice or acid blend. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool to room temp. This extracts tannins, sugars, flavor, and kills of wild yeasts. Add pectic enzyme, let sit overnight.

Next day, strain out the pulp/skins. Add sugar and nutrient, stirring well to make sure everything is dissolved. Add wine yeast, place in sanitized fermentor with an airlock, and voila!

This wine can take a long time to clear, just be patient. Bottle age for one year, if you can wait.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all U.S. readers of the Winemaker's Notebook, Happy Thanksgiving! Get off the computer, get the cider chilled, get the home-brews chilled, and get the wine up out of the cellar!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Belgian Style Wheat Beer

Ramble: This is the first recipe for a beer that I'm posting, and it's an extract recipe that I came up with all on my own. A lot of research on Belgian beers and hops went into the process. Now, don't worry, this site is not being overtaken by home brewing, the Winemaker's Notebook is in fact for winemakers, but I'm sure there are some readers who have lots more experience brewing beer than I do, and for that reason, I'd love for you to share your thoughts down in the comments! Just let me know what you think.


2 lbs. crushed Bavarian white wheat
6 lbs. wheat extract (35%barley, 65% wheat)
1oz. hallertau hops
brewferm blanche yeast
1 lb light brown sugar
1 bitter orange peel (valencia)
1/2 tsp ground coriander

I steeped the crushed grains in a grain bag at 155 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes. Then added the sugar and wheat extract to the mash, brought it to a boil, added in the hops for 60 minutes, and the coriander/orange for the last 5 minutes. Brought to five gallons, added yeast, and fermented!

So far so good, the beer isn't very old yet, and I sampled it for the first time the other day. It definitely needs to age. Up above is what I intended, but I actually only hopped during the boil for about 45 minutes. And, yes, the beer could be a little hoppier, but overall I'm pretty satisfied with both the flavor and aroma. The orange comes through very nicely, a little more than some of the Belgian beers I've sampled in the past, but it's by no means overpowering. It has been a lot of fun making my own extract recipe, and I'm sure that by Christmas time, this will be an excellent beer.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving to all of the American Readers!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blueberry Wine

Introduction: This is a pretty clear cut, simple, and delicious recipe for a medium-to-full bodied blueberry wine. For a full-bodied wine, try 3 lbs of blueberries per gallon, for a lighter-bodied wine, try 2 lbs. Frozen berries will work. It is the most beautiful wine, too. Unbelievably purple.

2 1/2 lbs blueberries
boiling water to one gallon
2 lbs sugar (about 4 1/2 cups)
1/2 tsp. pectic enzyme
1 tsp. yeast nutrients
wine yeast (used montrachet)

Place blueberries in a stock pot, if frozen, allow to thaw. In another stock pot, boil about 1 gallon of water. Very carefully pour the hot water over the blueberries. This kills of wild yeasts. You can put in your sugar now, as it dissolves easier in hot water.

Let it all reach room temperature, then stir in your pectic enzyme. Let the mixture sit overnight. Add in your yeast nutrients and wine yeast.

After two days strain the must with cheese cloth, a nylon strainer bag, a turkey stuffing bag... whatever food safe device that works for you. Get all that juice out!

Put the juice in the fermentor with an airlock. Rack if/as necessary. Bottle when ready!

Enjoy it, it is delicious!

( photo on left: I had more juice than I could fit in my one gallon primary, so I threw it in a corona bottle with a balloon on top! Whatever it takes!)

The Winemaker

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Random Tips and Ramblings...

That, over there to the left, is a picture of the front hallway into our house. That's the wine and beer that I'm working on right now. Some of it. There's another five gallons of cider in the kitchen, and another half gallon of cranberry wine in the Living room. I think I need a workshop just for this hobby. From front to back, the wines are: cranberry wine, orange wine, blueberry wine, more blueberry wine, four gallons of peach wine, apple cider, and Belgian wheat beer. I swear, I'm not an alcoholic. I can't even remember the last time I had a buzz.

So, I've made a lot of wine, but if you have a bottle with dinner once a week, or a glass after work a few days a week, you'll find that you can run through it faster than you would have thought.

Done rambling.

I put together a few tips that have made my life easier, and i thought I ought to share them.

Exploding Bottles:
It does happen. Or even just if your corks pop, it's not fun. It's sad. So, what you see here is my pear cider I recently made. I finished the bottles with labels and PVC caps, but just in case, while it's carbonating over the next few days to weeks, I set them in a bucket, and I'm leaving them there. That way, if anything did happen, then at least the cleanup would be easy.

Sample Bottles: I've started to bottle up a couple tiny bottles with each batch, provided that there is enough, so that after aging a while, I can sample a little bit, without wasting a whole bottle if it wasn't really ready. What you see here is apple cider and pear cider in mini wine bottles. Beer bottles will work too if you have a bottle capping device.

Water Carboys
: I picked this 5-gallon carboy up for about $13 with the deposit. The cost was a little more than an "Ale Pail", but way less than a "better bottle" or a glass carboy. Best of all, you can see through it and know how your wine is progressing, and whether or not it's clear, a major problem that I've had with the opaque buckets. It's also very strong, and they come in three gallon size too, which cost significantly less.

Despite how much wine I've made, I'm constantly discovering new tricks and tools. It makes things fun and interesting.

Until next time,

The Winemaker

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pumpkin Ale

I made another beer. A while ago actually. Caity bought a kit for me from Midwest home brewing for my birthday, part grain part extract, for Pumpkin Ale. Just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas... if it lasts that long.

So, here's the deal with these kits: they're a ton of fun, they have everything but the water, and they're super easy. Also, you don't need a ton of equipment--in fact, if you have what it takes to make a five gallon batch of wine, then you're pretty much set to make a five gallon batch of beer except, I suppose, for bottles, caps, and a capper, all of which are cheap, and bottles can be free if you've got a few friends willing to donate them to a good cause. I think that was a run-on sentence.

Anyway, with these kits, you basically crush up your grains with a rolling pin, put 'em in a boiling bag, and steep them in a few gallons of water for fifty minutes at about 150 degrees, like a big tea bag. Then you add in your malt extract and sugar, and bring it to a boil. Then you add in your hops, and let it keep boiling for about an hour. Then for the last five minutes, you add in some more hops--aroma hops. Then you cool it all down, put it in your bucket, fill it up to five gallons, pitch your yeast, and you're on your way to having beer! It takes more time than some wine... it takes less time than some wines, but what I like is that the payoff is so fast. You can be drinking your homemade beer in a month's time.
This beer is taking a little longer to clear for me, I made it back on October 3, my birthday. I'm making a guess and saying its because of the pumpkin juice having lots of pectin in it, but it tastes grand. A little hoppier than the Irish Red ale that I made not too far back. It's amazing that for less than 50 cents a bottle, you can make much, much, much better beer than you can buy in the store.

If you're a winemaker that appreciates beer, consider giving home brewing a try, the kits are a great way to start!

PS. I also just brewed a Belgian style wheat beer with orange peel and coriander the other day; I put the recipe together myself. I'll post it sometime in the next week or so, and hopefully you home brew buffs can check it out and give me some feedback!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Where did the winemaker go?

Last week there was a post on Wednesday, and then one on Sunday. So you see, I was around but there was a bit of an unusual schedule. I've been making wine and beer!

Last week I made a five gallon batch of belgian wheat beer with a recipe I put together myself, four gallons of our famous peach wine, and I bottled up some pear wine ( picture to the left, you can tell that I added a few oak chips right to the bottles. I don't know if that's allowed, but I thought it looked fun, so there you have it!). It's been busy.

In the next week I'll be writing about blueberry wine with a recipe, a little bit about our endeavors with brewing beer... and more! Find it all on the Winemaker's Notebook!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Orange Wine

Introduction: There are a number of recipes for orange wine out there that give a very sweet end product with spices in it. This is not one of them. This recipe gives a dry, light-bodied orange wine that's more of a refreshing summer or fall drink. It's a good young wine, not requiring a lot of aging before it has good drinkability, about three months. Make sure your oranges are sweet and ripe. Because their sugar content can vary so much, it doesn't hurt to take hydrometer readings. This wine also clears really fast, which is fun! Give it a go!

30-40 ripe oranges
water to one gallon
2lbs (4 1/2 cups) sugar
1 tsp. yeast nutrient
1/8 heaping teaspoon tannins
wine yeast (used EC-1118)

Peel and juice your oranges, keeping as much of the white pith out as possible. We peeled our oranges, pulsed them in the blender, then put them in a cheesecloth/straining bag. This gave a really high juice yield. We used 35 Valencia oranges and less than one quart of water. Less water means a little more body and more fruity-ness.

You can use a campden tablet crushed overnight here to kill off wild yeasts/bacteria. We slowly heated our juice up to 170 degrees for 20 minutes with no adverse effects on the taste; it also helped the sugar go into solution. Add you tannins, yeast nutrient, and wine yeast when back to room temperature.

Attach an airlock, and ferment! It should clear easily, bottle when done fermenting, age a few months to one year, and enjoy!

The winemaker

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our First "Wine Tasting"

Two weekends back Caity and I hosted our very first "wine and beer tasting" with a few friends. Okay, actually it was an excuse to try a whole bunch of wines and beer before we all had dinner, but it was fun! We did our white wine, peach wine, mead, Irish red ale, pumpkin spice ale, and a "pear beer" that Cait's dad made. The peach wine and mead came out on top overall, they were the two wine favorites, and everyone liked the Irish red ale better than the pumpkin ale. I attribute that to the fact that it was still very young and a bit yeasty. One friend just couldn't get enough of the pear beer.

It was a lot of fun, but a problem arose, what to do with all the open wine?

Dinner was early, and the night was long, and between us and our friends, we managed to clean up all the wine. And the dishes too.

Seriously though, this was a blast. If you're anything like us, you've got five to ten different homemade wines and brews on hand, and this was a great way to share the fun with friends. They got really into it too, asking all about the process and whatnot.

And they were quite impressed, and I just can't help that I enjoyed that.

Right now we've got Irish red ale, pumpkin ale, a wheat beer, cranberry wine, peach wine, mead, meddyglyn, pumpkin wine, blueberry wine, orange wine, apple cider, and pear cider either bottled or in the fermenters, which might sound like a lot, but it makes amazing (and cheap) gifts, you always have something fun to bring to a gathering, and for those days when you just need a glass of wine after a long day, it's there. Our vast spread of wines did, however, get our friend Hannah to ask, "So, do you just sit around and think to yourself, 'what can I make into wine?' ". Yes, Hannah, I do. Hence, the orange wine (will post the recipe soon!).
I have to admit, I was really nervous about sharing our homemade wines. I know that I like them, but I worry they won't be quite up to par for our guests. I thought wrong. They were having so much fun just trying the stuff I probably could have been serving them grape juice and they wouldn't have known the difference! So, have a bunch of good homemade stuff? Have a wine (or beer) tasting!

Friday, November 4, 2011

All about White...

There's a recipe, over there on the left, called white hillbilly wine. Now, I was a little apprehensive about putting it up in the beginning, because the white wine was only a few months old, and I didn't like it all that much. Cait did though, she thought it was pretty good, and pointed out that I'm not all that inclined to white wines anyway, and so she convinced me to put that post up.

Well, the wine's almost a year old now (or was until we finished it off a few days ago), and between months nine and eleven, something happened, the harshness smoothed out, the bouquet became quite smooth, and it had good mouthfeel. It turned into a top-notch wine, and I plan on making three more gallons to have on hand and to age.

It wasn't just me.

We had a wine-tasting with a couple of friends last weekend, which I'll post about later. They tried the white wine, and our friend Hannah said, and I quote, "This is as good as anything you can buy at the wine shop." I was thrilled.

I didn't even bother telling them that it's actually from Welches' white grape juice concentrate. The white hillbilly wine ultimately came out much, much better than the red, and as it's one of the easiest recipes to make, I would encourage anyone who wants to have some cheap fun to make it, or any starting winemakers. The key is definitely patience. Unfortunately, there is no instantaneous gratification with this recipe, it takes time.

The good news is, it's really easy to make, and it takes no effort whatsoever to set those bottles down in the basement and forget about them for a year. You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cranberry Wine

So here's the deal with this one. I'm fermenting it right now. Which means the recipe isn't necessarily tried and true by yours truly. I'm not in the habit of doing this. However, cranberry wine is coming very, very highly recommended from several individuals who are quite expert in the way of making country wines, and this recipe is a middle-of-the-road to those recipes that others have tried and claim to be excellent. Mine is almost done fermenting, and I just had a little taste. It was wonderful. Most wines, when I have tried them while they're still fermenting are disgusting. If this one is good being only 85% fermented, I cannot imagine the flavor a year from now! American and Canadian supermarkets are flooded with cranberries right about now, so make some!

2 lbs. cranberries
boiling water to one gallon.
6 cups sugar
1 tsp. yeast nutrient
1/2 tsp. pectic enzyme
less than 1/8 teaspoons tannin (or just don't worry about it)
wine yeast

Coarsely chop cranberries in food processor. Place in sanitized stock pot. Boil water. Very carefully pour the boiling water over the chopped cranberries. Cover and let sit until the must reaches room temperature. Add in pectic enzyme and stir with sanitized spoon. Let sit overnight.
Next day add in nutrient, sugar, tannins and wine yeast. For yeast I used K1V, but I've heard that red wine yeasts also do a really nice job. Make sure everything is dissolved well. Let sit for 1-3 days covered.

Strain the must with cheesecloth, a beer boiling bag, or a turkey stuffing bag into your fermenter. (I doubled up two turkey stuffing bags and it worked marvelously.) Cover with lid, attach airlock, and allow to ferment! Rack as necessary, bottle still (not a bubbly wine or cider!).


I can't wait for this to age... I am really excited about this recipe, and made 1 and 1/2 gallons.

Get to it!