Kitchen chemistry

Last year we decided we were going to learn how to make wine – but not from wine grapes, we used various other fruits.  It was a well thought out and researched experiment, but what we didn’t know to ask or consider came to light very quickly as we excitedly made one batch after another; five in total in 2010.  We are doing one more this year as we were prepared to do it.

The crazy mistakes we made at the outset were hysterical: way too much yeast in the first mix, an explosion of apricots as the yeast rapidly consumed the fructose and sucrose, leaving the seeds in the berries and then not removing the fruit promptly enough to avoid bitterness, and more.  Great memories to share over a glass of successfully rendered fruit wine.

Apricot and Cherry wines 2010

Remarkably, we lost only one of the five batches in that first round – we used frozen peaches.  That batch was flavorless and dry, probably due to the lack of natural sugars developed in the fruit.  But this same batch was instrumental in kick starting the bitter berry wine that we left the fruit in too long.  When the yeast consumes all of the sugars, it stops fermentation.  We added some of the active peach to the ‘dead’ berry, along with more sugar, white grape and berry juice concentrates to increase the sugar ratio and flavors.  This evening we shared a glass of berry wine; it is now nicely balanced between sour raspberry and sweet (black and marion berries) with an alcohol content around 15% if I guess accurately.  Time has definitely been beneficial to this wine.

First racking (pouring off) left lots of fine sediment in the black cherry wine.

Our black cherry and apricot wines were the first two we made.  Both were made with yeasts that didn’t consume all of the sugars in the fruit, so the wines are sweet with loads of flavor.  They also had a lot of yeast residue settle to the bottom, which was frustrating to work past.  Naturally, we wanted the wine to be clear in the bottle with no yeast residue to jump start the fermentation process again.  Filtering this much junk out of the bottom was difficult.  We changed yeast varieties for the subsequent batches to minimize this problem.

Toward the end of 2010 we purchased a hygrometer to measure the original and final gravities to determine alcohol by volume.  This will be handy with future batches, wish I had understood the importance before we got started.  We are still attempting to drink through last year’s wine.  We probably got nearly eighteen gallons of good wine… with any luck some will turn into great wine.  Looking forward to trying this years apple wine as it is a new recipe for us.

It has been fun to preserve the fruits of summer in such a way.  Once we have perfected the methods and know what we are doing we might be able to really share our ‘preserves’.  For now, my family have been happy to give feedback when we bring some to family gatherings.

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