By Joshua Rosenthal
“Sweet as Strawberry Wine”
Don’t throw that fruit away!!! You know; the fruit that no one is going to eat because it’s bruised, or its been sitting on the counter or in the refrigerator a tad too long. What do you do with it? How about making a fruit wine! It will only take 15 minutes and couple of weeks or months to enjoy!
What is a fruit wine?
Fruit wine is commonly known as “country wine”, “still wine”, or technically a “non-grape wine”. These types of wine can be made from fruit, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. The major difference between your grape wines and non-grape wines is the yeast! Grapes typically contain everything for fermentation: juice, pectin, sugar, and natural yeasts. As you may know, yeast converts the grape’s sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol as the wine ferments. All anyone has to do is: crush grapes, allow the mash to ferment in a warm area, and then strain off the liquid. Well, fruit wine is exactly the same, except for on major difference; you have to add yeast and other adjuncts to the mixture in order to enhance the fermentation process.
Country wines are fresh and fruity; they perfume such a wonderful fruity aroma of ripe fruit and are extremely inexpensive to make. The wines are refreshing to drink when you align the acid and other components ie: alcohol, tannin, and residual sugars. You can make dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet, or sweet style country wines too!
The turn around time in producing a country wine can be couple weeks to two months, or in some cases years depending on your palate. As a rule of thumb, they have a limited shelf life and are known as “young wines”, so they can be consumed early or you can age them. Keep in mind; fruit will lose its flavor, freshness, and color the longer it ages. So, enjoy them by testing and learning which fruits work best for you as well as your process.
Cliff Notes on Fruit Wine
Non-grape wines have been around for centuries through out all different cultures around the world. Elderberry has been the number one and oldest fruit used for fruit wine due to flavor, pairing with foods, and medical benefits.
In America (pre colonial), Native Americans produced fruit wines using elderberries, blackberries, chokeberries, huckleberries, blueberries, and raspberries due to health benefits, flavor, and alcohol to promote relaxation
What Fruit Can I Use?
You can use any berry or fruit to make country wine: pomegranate, cherry, plum, apricot, peach, pear, cranberry, mango, guava, watermelon, blackberries, huckleberries, pineapple, peaches, strawberries, I think you get the point, almost any fruit. However, most fruits may not have the right balance of sugars, yeast, and water to produce a constant enjoyable wine. Country fruit wine recipes take into consideration by providing additional ingredients to assist with fermentation: honey, sugar, spices, tannin, pectin, acids, and other to enhance the palatability and alcohol content.
Depending on the type of berry and fruit you use, you may need to adjust the sugars and water to offset the berry/fruit’s acidity and tartness. Common high-acid fruits are: raspberries, strawberries, pineapple, and cherries.
Let’s Make Some Strawberry Country Wine!!
This is a very introductory recipe and one that you can continue to modify and tweak as you gain more experience making it. You can apply these steps, tools, and processes to almost any fruit. I encourage you to research recipes. Remember, all you need is fruit, sugar, yeast, and water with other adjuncts to make an outstanding country wine!
Before we get to the actual recipe, let’s cover some basic needs to get started!
You can use a 2-3-gallon bucket, large jar, or specific fermenter, which I used and will be featured in this post.
The size is important, as you want plenty of room for fermentation, allow for plenty bubbling and activity. Having at least 40% bigger in volume than what your final amount would be. You also want plenty of room for oxygen for the yeast to remain active.
My recipe is for a one-gallon batch, so my fermentation bucket is 2 gallons in size.
Grab yourself a one-gallon glass carboy/jug. You can purchase them in kits with a rubber stopper and airlock. The shape is extremely important; the narrow neck can assist in minimizing the exposure of the wine’s surface area to oxygen.
The airlock allows the wine to release carbon dioxide during fermentation, without letting oxygen, microbes, or bugs into your wine.
You can use anything you wish: wine bottles, flip-top bottles, mason jars, anything! It will depend what you have on hand or how you want to package your wine.
When it comes to bottling or transferring your wine, you may want to use a siphon to help transfer your wine without disturbing the sediment, it will also make your bottling process easier.
Spoons, funnels, sieves/strainers – check your kitchen drawers, as you might have these already on hand.
*** Helpful idea: I would save time and instead of piecing everything together, I would encourage and highly recommend purchasing the Summer Harvest Winemaking Kit from MoreBeer. The kit contains everything you need in order to make your first fruit wine. All you would need to add is the fruit, sugar, and water. I used this kit for my first fruit wine and it is extremely user friendly for a new person and comes with everything you need to have success!!
You have to make sure all your equipment is sanitized. I prefer to use Star San and soak all my equipment. I will also sanitize a cookie sheet and use it as my “clean surface” for all my tools/equipment to rest on. You want to sanitize everything that will come in contact with your wine, to kill any yeast or bacteria that might affect the flavor or your wine.
Fruit: Use frozen fruit of your choosing. Why frozen? Frozen fruit’s cell structure has already been broken down through the process of freezing, allowing the fruit to release their juices easier.
Sugar: Be prepared to use couple pounds of sugar. I typically like cane sugar, but you can use honey (honey = mead), sugar (sugar = wine), maple syrup (maple syrup = acerglyn).
Water: The type of water you use is important. If your tap water is highly chlorinated, it can kill your yeast, so filter your water. If you do not have filter, buy several gallons of spring water from the store.
Yeast: Yeast is extremely important, as it chews the sugar, makes alcohol, and gives your wine the profile you are looking for. Let’s keep it simple, buy your yeast.
Winemaking Yeast: You want to be consistent with your wine making. Wine yeast is dry yeast that comes in packets. There are a lot of yeast strains for wine making that will impart different flavors, alcohol levels, and fermentation styles. There are too many to go over. I would recommend yeast with a neural flavor, high activity, ease of use, and high final alcohol levels: Red Start Premier Blanc
Wine Additives: Using wine additives will just enhance your wine’s flavor profile, mimicking traditional grape wines.
Will help balance out the fruity sweetness and add a layer of earthy flavor.
Helps your yeast thrive and stay healthy as they eat their way through the sugar. It will also assist to keep your fermentation active and not be sluggish.
It provides another layer of flavor to fruit wines. If you do not add an acid, you run the risk of producing a harsh flavor.
Helps break down the pectin in fruit, allowing an easier time for the cell walls to collapse, releasing juice, the tannin, and the nutrients in the fruit. Your wine will also be clearer at the end of fermentation.
4 lbs of frozen strawberries
2 lbs of cane sugar
1 tsp acid blend
¼ tsp of tannin or less
½ tsp pectic enzyme
2 gallons of non chlorinated water
1 packet wine yeast
**** Sanitize everything that will come in contact with your ingredients
Step 1: The Must
Must is a term used for mashed up whole fruit and juice. You can squeeze, mash, blend puree your fruit. Let’s keep it simple, use frozen fruit and your sugar.
Sanitize your equipment
Add your frozen fruit to your primary fermentation container
Cover the fruit with sugar
Cover the fermentation container and set aside for 24 hours
As the fruit begins to defrost and mix with the sugar, you are creating the must. You can help this process out by swirling or shake the fermentation container through out the 24 hours.
Step 2: Winemaking
This step should only take you 10 minutes or less, see it only takes 15 minutes to make wine!
Let’s wake up your yeast, Pour your dry yeast into a ¼ cup of non-chlorinated water and set aside for 5 minutes.
With a sterile masher or hands, mash the fruit in your fermentation container to finish making the must. It does not have to be completely smooth, but small chunks will be perfect.
Add in your additives (tannin, acid, yeast nutrient, and pectic).
Add more non-chlorinated water to your fermentation container, brining the final volume to about 30% more than your final amount. ie: One gallon of wine will equal to 1.3 gallons in your fermenter.
Add (pitch) your yeast to the fermenter. Stir it all together.
Close the fermenter lid and fit with airlock (make sure to have sanitized water in your airlock).
Place your fermenter in a room/area out of direct sunlight. Keep an eye on the primary fermentation process daily for the next 1-2 weeks.
Step 3: Primary Fermentation
Swirl your wine at one – two times a day. You will know when fermentation begins when you see bubbling in your airlock. Keep agitating your wine, especially during this initial period, as we want to make sure a mat is not being formed on top of the wine. The mat traps carbon dioxide in the wine and we want to release the carbon dioxide.
Keep an eye on room temperature (cooler = slower, warmer = faster) an ideal temperature is 68 degrees. In some cases fermentation can begin within the 24 hours or in the next 2-3 days. Should wine bubble up into your airlock, clean/sanitize your airlock, exchange the sanitize water inside, and replace the airlock on top of the fermenter.
Fermentation is complete when you see the bubbling in airlock slowing down or to a complete stop, be patient during this process. Once again, fermentation can conclude within several days or in three weeks. It all depends on the environment where your fermenter is placed in. I usually allow one – two weeks for fermentation to complete.
Step 4: Racking and Secondary Fermentation
When primary fermentation has stopped or is crawling along, you can strain out the fruit and rack (moving the wine to another container) into a carboy.
Place a funnel with a mesh screen on top of your carboy (remember to sterilize your carboy and all tools).
You can either choose to scoop out the mashed fruit and pour the wine through the mesh screen or just siphon through the mash screen. It all depends on how the wine looks and your preference. My fruit had dissolved, so I simply siphoned through the mesh screen to catch all the fruit particles
Press the fruit into the mesh screen and get as much wine out as possible.
You want fill your carboy up to the bottom of the neck. If you have too much, pour yourself a sample. Remember, it is not finished, but will give you an idea of how it is going to taste. If you have too little, you can top off with non-chlorinated water.
Put your airlock and rubber stopper on your carboy.
Once again, place your carboy where you can keep an eye on it, away from direct sunlight, and in a room at room temperature. Your wine could go through another fermentation (second fermentation) process as it cleans up and become clear. Remember, you just made a fruit wine (country/still wine), so this will not become carbonated due to yeast being inactive.
Signs that second fermentation is complete:
Airlock stops bubbling
If you did use pectic enzyme, your wine will clear (you should see through the other side of the carboy)
There should be zero bubbles along the inside of the carboy’s walls.
Once again, be patient as this can take some time; weeks to couple of months, depending on number of factors.
Step 5: Bottling your Wine
You can use wine bottles, mason jars, flip-top bottles, or beer bottles. You can use anything you like.
Use a siphon and transfer your wine from your carboy to your bottles (remember, sanitize your tools and bottles).
You can use a bottling wand connected to your siphoning tube to fill your bottles.
You can either cork or cap your bottles.
Step 6: Aging your wine (optional)
Fruit wines are really nice and primed after some aging. It is the hardest part of the process, waiting for the final product. The general recommendation is to age at least one month before trying, but you can age for an entire 12 months. Just remember to keep them at cellar (55 degrees) temperature a tad cooler.
If you are going to cork your wine bottles, lay the bottles on their side, keeping the cork wet to assist in keeping the bottle secured and sealed.
There is so much more to learn about making fruit wines, I encourage you to continue to read and research different recipes that are used. Remember, you only need four ingredients: fruit, water, yeast, and sugar. The rest is up to you in adding the additives and also the type of equipment you want to use.
The process truly only takes 10-15 minutes, it’s the fermentation and waiting that honestly takes the longest. Once its done, you will be amazed how delicious the wine is! Your friends will be surprised how enjoyable the wine is to drink.
Try this recipe out and then begin tweaking the recipe by using different yeasts, additives, and back-end sweetening (adding sugar after fermentation).
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