First, go get yourself some fruit. One quart of fruit will equal about a gallon of wine. I suggest you start out with a berry, such as blackberry, strawberry or even grapes. They are the most forgiving when starting out. We do 5 gallon batches so that is what I am going to use for this how-to explanation. Take your five quarts of berries and wash them off. Then throw them in a 5 gallon bucket. We use a dry wall / paint bucket that we bought new from the hardware store.
Once the berries are in the bucket, smash them with a potato masher (or anything to bust the berries open).
Fill the rest of bucket up with water. Add one packet of yeast. Yes, the yeast you buy at the grocery store that has like 3 packets in a sleeve. And Stir.
Cover the bucket with a towel.
Now set the bucket somewhere that you can get to on a daily basis….and make sure it’s somewhere not too cold or too hot. If you place it somewhere too cold ( probably like 50-55 degrees) the yeast won’t work and if it’s too hot (probably like 95-100 degrees) the yeast will burn off too fast. In the Spring, we will keep it outside under the lean-to and if it is mid-summer, we will keep it in the garage, where we make all our wine. Better to mess up his garage than my kitchen. Just sayin’. Once you have your bucket in place, you will stir it ONCE A DAY. Yup, that’s it. Just stir once a day. You will notice that the skins and pulp are floating on the top, may even look crusty. That’s ok. Just plunge your spoon in there and stir.
You may even see some bubbling. That’s ok, too. That’s just the yeast working. Don’t panic if you don’t see bubbling, the yeast is still working. Some fruit has more natural yeast than others. The ones with higher yeast…bubbles. WARNING: This will attract fruit flies!!!
Now you may be stirring once a day for about 7-10 days….may be longer, may be shorter. The way you can tell your fruit is done working….one day you will go out there and all the skins and pulp has fallen to the bottom. Yup, it will all sink to the bottom of the bucket. TIP: during these 7-10 days, feel free to taste test your fruit. The first day or two….tastes like fruit juice. The last day or two….whoa baby, tasting like wine.
Within a couple days of your fruit falling, you are going to want to press your wine. Yup, it is now wine. No longer fruit, kiddies.
We use a fruit press that my grandfather built many, many moons ago….like 60- 70 years ago. It is actually what got us into making wine.
I love the idea of using something my pop-pop built from scratch and he used numerous time….and I am now using it to carry on the family tradition.
Now, don’t worry if you don’t have a fruit press. I understand these suckers are expensive to go buy. The purpose of pressing your fruit is to strain it while leaving behind the skins, pulp, stems, seeds, whatever else may be in there. We want it to look clear like jelly, not solid like jam. Are you getting what I am saying? We want pure juice baby. I suggest getting some cheese cloth and lay it in a colander, sieve or some type of strainer. Then pour your wine through that.
You may need to change your cheese cloth frequently because you’ll see it to start “clogging” up with pulp and such.
Let it strain on its own, don’t push it or rush it because then you will end up with pulp which equals cloudy wine. Your strained wine should look like Kool-aide with a tad bit of cloudy-ness but still see kinda through. You may even have to strain it twice…even three times.
Once you’ve pressed your fruit, you want to add about 5-8 lbs of sugar. Stir and taste.
You want it almost sickening sweet because a lot of the sugar is going to burn off when we rack it.
Someone say rack it? Now, you are going to rack it. We use a clear,glass carboy. A carboy looks like the blue, 5 gallon water jugs that sit on top of the office water coolers. So, if you can get your hands on one of those….use it. We used one our first year until I came across a clear, glass one at a yard sale. Then later that year, I bought one at a kitchen outlet store for around $20. Now, you can go old school and use a new rubber trash can with a lid like my grandfather did years ago…..or another 5 gallon bucket…..or a tote with a lid. You basically want to use something you can seal off, air tight and have a plastic tube running out the top.
You are going to pour your wine in the container, add water to the rest of the carboy so it has about a 5”- 6” space from the top. Seal it off so its air tight. We use a cork with a hole in the top for a ½” clear hose. If you don’t have a cork, just stick your hose in the wine bottle (NOT touching the liquid wine) and duct tape it, masking tape it, whatever….seal off the top of your container hole leaving room for you hose. Run a clear ½” tube from your wine bottle (remember, don’t touch the wine) and run it down into a jug of water (with no lid/top).
This air lock you created, is putting alcohol in your wine. It is burning off the sugar, remaining yeast and making alcohol! Not sure if you got it air locked? Once you’ve done all this, step back and watch that water jug (not the wine, but the jar filled with water)….soon you will see an air bubble or two escape and float to the top. You got it air locked! If you don’t see any bubbles within an hour or so, you may want to try to re-air lock your jug. You want it sealed off so pressure builds and releases the air into the water jug. Now, I’m not talking bubbles like a hot tub. I’m talking about a bubble or two every 30-60 seconds.
Now let your wine sit for about a month. Same goes for this step as the yeast step….watch your temperatures. Not too hot….and not too cold. About once a week, check your water jug. If some water evaporates, re-fill it. You’ll also notice your bubbles will be releasing slower and slower. From every 30 seconds….to every 5 minutes….to every 10 minutes…and eventually stop. And guess what? Your wine may or may not be done! If depends on your taste buds.
This is where we like to use clear jugs because you will also see the sediments settle to the bottom of your jug. You want to be careful not to stir that up because it will make your wine cloudy. You will want to take your 5 gallon bucket from your smashing fruit step and siphon the wine back into it. We siphon down to where we can see the sediment and stop. Now we taste test. Most of the time we add more sugar because we like a sweet wine. So this is the time we add more sugar, stir it and re-rack it. We’ve done this enough that we actually do this on its third week in the rack because we KNOW we are going to add sugar. I suggest you let it go all the way to see who you like it your first time. If you re-rack it, just following the air lock steps and wait for it to stop bubbling and taste test again. Repeat as many times as needed. Now if you like it from the first rack…..
Siphon that delicious wine into bottles. We have friends that are bartenders so we had them save liquor bottles for us. We’d soak ‘em and peel the labels off. You can also buy wine bottles on line….we just like the redneck, homemade wine feel of using old liquor bottles. The first year we just used the twist caps to seal the bottles. We did have one or two that must have been potent because it popped the caps, oops. So we ended up putting a piece of masking tape on the caps for extra security ;). Don’t be scared to used twist caps because that was 2 bottles out of probably 100 bottles we’ve done over the years.
We have invested in a corker now but still use the caps too for old times sake I guess. We’ve made labels for each flavor and each year. We’ve also melted wax and dipped the tops in it. Feel free to get wild with your wine.
So that’s about it folks. That’s how you make wine. If you have any questions, concerns or I just confused the crap out of you… don’t hesitate to contact me! I am by far an expert but I’ll try to help as much as I can. And now…..I want to see some pictures of YOUR wine!
Disclaimer: The above pictures span over 3 years worth of wine making. So some are strawberry…some are grape…some are blackberry. Some years just happen to have better photos than others.
And this my friends are the last two surviving jugs of wine my grandfather made. My grandmother found these this year. And she gave them to me! Check the dates out…1973. Vintage Baby!
**This is a re-post of a previous post that got lost somewhere in bloggerville**