Where there is a will there is a way

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Plum Wine

We have been forging a new path - where we have not gone before!

Making wine!

Who knows if it will work - but we've been doing it more or less alright so far. I researched both the old ways and the new (Aunt Daisy's Preserving in an old book, and the internet), and have come up with my own simplified start to making wine.

But a really great find is a post by Althea on lifestyleblock.co.nz. Althea calls himself a "lazy winemaker". Although I don't entirely agree - he is at least a very natural and great winemaking person. Lazy winemaker's method here.

It appears that in the old days they didn't add yeast, and they certainly didn't add "Campden tablets ". But the little bubbler (see photo) that we added to the top of our fermenter container was very cheap ($6.50 NZ) and easy to install (cut hole in bucket).

The winemaking process involves a few stages, "musting" (about a week), then "fermenting" (time varies, but another while), then storing it for awhile in bottles (months). We've learned that stirring during musting is to prevent mould from forming on top of the crushed plums and water. And installing a tap on our fermenting container would have been easy before we added the strained plum juice! Next year we'll be better...the hardest part is starting.

Here is my thought - modern life is so elaborate that it makes you not want to take anything on. Learning is growing from something small. When I read Aunt Daisy's "Wine Making Hints" and Recipes, they are so basic, and you realize that people were just doing it with what they had - which is far more inspiring of action.

Aunt Daisy's PLUM WINE
Allow 8 to 12 lb. [3.6 – 5.5 kg] very ripe plums to each gallon of water, and 3 1/2 lb. to 4 lb. [1.6 -1.8 kg] sugar, according to sweetness of plums. Use an earthenware or wooden vessel, not tin or any metal. [Nowadays we can use plastic containers.] Do not let the wine get chilled during the fermentation, but keep it in a fairly warm room, and do not move the vessel about. Put plums into vessel, mash well, cover with hot water, and leave 6 to 8 days or while fermentation is active, stirring frequently every day. Then strain the juice through a muslin bag, measure it, add sugar as above. Let this stand to work as long as it will. Skim every day, keeping some juice to add after skimming so as to keep the same quantity. It may work for a month or two. When it has quite ceased working, bung tightly, or bottle and cork well. Should be ready in 3 months, but the longer it is left to mature the better. Wine matures best in a wooden keg. Keep the keg covered with a light cloth during fermentation period as it attracts a lot of insects.

Feel free to use a Campden tablet though! And make the best of both worlds.

February 6 2013 update:

We did eventually produce drinkable wine.  It was alright - it was relaxing to drink - but the stuff we made on our first go was not as good as storebought wine.  We didn't really understand what we were doing - but having tried, we had at least taken the mystique out of it.  Now this year, we are ready to go!  I am brewing wine (strawberry/plum wine this year) for which I carefully and cleanly followed a recipe, and also researched methods on Youtube (and got advice from a cool lady who used to make wine all the time who works at the local library).  The "musting" bin was a food quality ex-jam bucket with a tight lid this year, so more clean than a nasty huge old bucket - and a smaller and more controllable amount until I really know what I am doing.  I utilized "pectolase" a few days after I had mixed the cut up fruit and sugar, then added yeast.  It has really frothed up and smells amazing.  We have also bought a beautiful glass demijohn, so the brewing process will be more sterile (less skanky).

It's just that the first time you start, there are a myriad of methods, and you don't really know which to use (or why).  I know that our process will be clean, sterile, and there is no reason why the wine won't turn out great!  Although our wine was a little more like moonshine last year - with random alcohol level - it was still the most fun and rewarding thing that we did with our plums!  Going down and tasting it, or having a free glass of wine - even though it was imperfect - was really fun.

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