Rhubarb wine and ginger ale

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This weekend, I was scheduled for a fruit wine-making class with a friend, but we had to reschedule.  So rather than have a non-wine-making weekend, I decided to tackle rhubarb!  I’ve heard that it makes a wine that’s mostly good for blending with other wines, or that it makes a fine drink in its own right, so I guess I’ll try it myself and see what I think.

I didn’t have quite enough rhubarb in the yard so I had to freeze it and wait to get more.  My recipe calls for a “dry juicing,” so the sugar went right onto the chopped fruit:

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It was supposed to sit for 24 hours, but I gave it a couple extra since part of the time it was still frozen.  Halfway through:

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Then I strained out the juice, added water up to the gallon, and added a crushed Campden tablet.  I put the rhubarb into a cheesecloth bag and put it back in for a few hours.  Next time, though, I think I might ferment on, since I do want the finished product to taste of rhubarb, and I think the Campden might eliminate some of that taste.  After 24 hours (actually, more like 26, as the following day was a Monday and I had to get home from work), I pitched the yeast and added nutrient.  It’ll get a week or so in the primary fermentation bucket, and then I’ll rack it into a carboy.  Hope it changes color though!  Right now, it’s kind of close in color to the dandelion.  A charming pinkish-red would be lovely, though I suspect it will stay greenish.

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I also thought I’d try some homemade soda, too.  A friend has recently been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, so she’s supposed to avoid alcohol and I thought these might make a nice treat.  I tried ginger ale first.  Above is the syrup with ginger and lemon in it.  The recipe calls for Champagne yeast but I didn’t have any so I tried yogurt whey instead– which may prove useless.  I guess we’ll see.  Anyway, the whey is from another recipe, but I quite like the idea of a wild ferment, so here’s hoping anyway.  After the syrup cools, I put it in a 2 liter soda bottle, filled with water, and capped.

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It’s supposed to take 2 or 3 days to ferment enough to carbonate, at which point the bottle should feel rock-hard.  As of this morning, it was still pretty squeezeable, so I guess I’ll have to wait and see!  I suspect I may need to add some yeast, ultimately.  I may also try strawberry soda soon, but I need people to help me collect soda bottles, or maybe spend another 87 cents on fizzy water, like I did last weekend.  (The humanity!)

More drink experiments to come!

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Dandelion wine, secondary ferment

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Over the weekend, my dandelion wine finished its primary ferment, so I transferred it to the carboy for its secondary.  

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I was a little worried about how the siphoning process would go, but it was easy.  The pump was easy to use– a couple pumps and the wine’s flowing from point A to point B.  It was a little slow in this arrangement, with the bucket on the side and the carboy in the sink, so I moved the carboy to the floor and things moved much faster.  In retrospect, I should have put some sort of filter on one end, since even though I was careful, I think a raisin or two got into the secondary jar.  Also in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t thrown the raisins out with the dandelion petals.  They would have been a delicious addition to cookies or a chutney or something.

Here’s the wine in its secondary fermentation carboy.  It looks like unfiltered apple juice to me.  I was hoping for a lovely dandelion yellow, but I suppose that may still happen.

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The best part is that now I can see the fermentation happening and it’s pretty hypnotic.  The whole is swirling and fizzing at the top, and the airlock is bubbling away.  This picture is from right after the siphon, so the lees aren’t visible yet, but they’re definitely visible now: a white-ish layer of sediment on the bottom of the carboy and the overflow jar.  (I used a canning jar with the lid on and the band loose.)

As recommended, I also tasted the wine in this early stage and was quite pleased with the taste.  It’s sprightly and still quite sweet.  I find that I’m a little anxious about how the whole smells now, though, since apparently if it goes vinegary now, I can save it by adding a crushed Campden tablet, waiting 24 hours, and introducing new yeast.  So I find myself standing over the airlock and smelling to see if I can detect a trace of vinegar smell, and then half-convincing myself that I can.  

From here, I wait until it starts to clear.  I have no idea how long that will take– weeks? months?– but apparently the fermentation will slow down and then the clearing will start. At that point, I rack it for the first time, so it doesn’t catch any strange flavors from sitting on the dead yeast.

I really wanted to start a batch of rhubarb next, but I only have the one carboy now, so there’s nowhere to put another batch for the secondary ferment.  I think I’ll pick up another (maybe even two) when I take my country wine class in a couple weeks.  Apparently I should make the rhubarb this month, since later in the year, the stalks are too full of pectin and the wine is hard to clear.  My assorted books have differing opinions on the quality or rhubarb wine, with one saying its only good for blending and another saying it’s quite nice by itself, so I figure there’s nothing for it but to try.