Into the carboys with ye, grape and apple!


Molly’s bounty keeps on coming!  She gave me another big box of apples, plus some for Sarah & Tom, plus some (today) for Nick:



(This may be the previous box.  It’s a giant box of apples– I figure the actual pictures are somewhat interchangeable.)  I didn’t have quite enough for 3 gallons, so I shredded what I had and froze it.  I’ve had to borrow space from Mom, since my freezer is so packed,  Today, though, yielded the rest of what I need, so I’ll shred that, and remove the frozen apple pie I made for tomorrow night, when I host Kim and Jen and Kirsten.  (Meal plan: tomato bruschetta, chili and maybe cornbread if I have time, apple pie, ice cream.)  So after we get back from Chicago, I will start the big ol’ triple-batch.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, I moved the single gallon of apple into its demijohn.  I needed to top up quite a bit with water and sugar, so there wasn’t enough to taste yet, but it does smell good.  I’ll sneak a bit in a couple of weeks to see what it’s tasting like so far.

Also, after a week in the primary, when the Concord wine wine was a little darker concord_day3than in this (this is day 3 in the primary, I think), I took its SG (1.00) and then put it in its carboy.  There was quite a lot of it, and when I transferred it, I slightly over-filled the demijohn.  So I put the extra into a Mason jar and we sampled it later– with dinner, so less of a sampling, really, than just a drinking.  And we were delighted that it’s already quite good!  It’s got a bit of harshness to it because it’s so young, but we still really enjoyed drinking it.  It’s got a slight taste of Concord, which may be more smell than taste, and may very well dissipate as it ages.  It’s also got a nice lightly acidic flavor and a good balance.  It actually tastes like wine!  Which is quite a relief, really.  And it’s a nice color, too, which I hope it maintains.  I may cover the carboy to protect the color.  You can kind of get a sense, already, of what it will look like when it clears.  I have 2 more gallons’ worth of grapes in the freezer, so I’ll try 3 types of yeast to see what we like best.  I don’t think this was an unusual year for grapes, so hopefully that means another 3 gallons next year!

concord_and_apple  And since the fruit-heavy part of the year is winding down, I also got a box of tomatoes over the weekend and canned them up.  Someone responded to a Facebook post I made a couple of weeks ago, asking if I were a doomsday prepper, to which I replied that I’d be a terrible one to rely on for that, since it would all be hot sauce, jam and wine.  So I guess it’s a little better with some tomatoes added to the mix, but we still wouldn’t survive for very long.  But I guess we’d be drunk so we might mind that less.

tomatoes and wine




Grape wine, for a change


Busy weekend!  It started with the picking of grapes, and it’s a good thing Jolyon was eager to help, because there were a lot of grapes to be had.  We wound up with 21 pounds, 15.4 ounces of mostly Concords and a few bunches of Leon Millot.

lots of grapes

There was much lifting of vines while the other person harvested.  I have renewed respect for the people who do this at commercial operations!  I think we got nearly all of them, but I’m sure there are hidden clusters still left for the birdies and beasties.  The dogs certainly keep managing to find bits that we then have to talk them out of eating. Since my recipe calls for 6 pounds of grapes per gallon of wine, I made the final not-quite-four-pounds into a disappointingly runny grape conserve, though it does taste good.  (I was apparently so disappointed, though, that I didn’t take a picture.)

The other 18 pounds will become 3 gallons of wine.  I’m doing single gallons at a time, since that’s what my recipe is for and I didn’t want to fuss about with multiplying quantities, so 12 pounds is now added to the Freezer of Insanity: freezer of insanity.  There’s still enough apple in there for another gallon of wine, too, plus some redcurrants, raspberries, pea pods, and probably some other stuff I can’t quite remember.  And that knob of ginger, which has nothing to do with wine.  It actually started out pretty tidy and organized in there, but now it’s enough to make professional organizers weep.

Anyway, so on Saturday, I also picked more raspberries and bought more cayenne peppers, so I canned up some goodness.

raspberry jam and sririacha

That’s chocolate-raspberry sundae topping on the left (we use it as jam, mostly) and more Sriracha on the right.  I’ll get a picture of the runny grape conserve, too.  It’s a lovely deep purple, but since it’s so thin, all the walnuts keep floating to the top.

Interestingly, all this made the kitchen so hot that I noticed the Peach Perfection started really actively fermenting again, bubbling and fizzing away, instead of the quiet swirl it’s been doing.  Once the temperature was back to normal, it resumed its slower ferment.  I’ve read that cooler, slower ferments are thought to make better-tasting wines, so I’ll try to keep it a bit cooler in there, or maybe move the carboy somewhere else.  It needs another pound of sugar soon, which will mean taking some liquid out.  Like I said, it’s a peculiar recipe.

After dinner and a few minutes’ rest (harvesting and canning is hard work!), I started my first gallon of non-country wine.  The grapes are mashed up a bit in the bag here, with the Campden, sugar, water, yeast nutrient, and pectic enzyme added. 



I was a little worried about the color, even though it ferments on for quite a while.  Jolyon reckons it looks like a dragon’s eye, especially with the reflection from the flash.  Anyway, I needn’t have worried.  24 hours later, I pitched the yeast (Montrachet– I will try other kinds for the other batches, for the sake of experimentation) and it was a much nicer color.


It is still a little punch-like, but I am reassured that the skins really are enough to color and flavor the wine.  Which, of course, is exactly how it happens with commercial wines, but I guess I feared there was something different about my grapes or my technique or whatever.  (You know, needless worrying about nothing.  It’s a great skill of mine.)  I’m enjoying the color change with this, so I’ll try to remember to keep documenting it.  

For some reason, I’m particularly anxious about this, my first batch of regular wine.  I shouldn’t be, really, since I have 2 more batches to do, and since this seems to be a fairly typical year for my lovely old established vine.  But I guess because it’s Real Wine, albeit of a bit less typical variety, it just feels different.

The apple wine is still fermenting pretty actively, so I’ll keep it in its primary for a while longer.  I may rack a few things that haven’t been racked for a while soon, too. Maybe that will encourage the dandelion to clear.  It’s taking forever!

I’m still slowly adding raspberries to the freezer.  I may never have enough for wine, since we keep eating them fresh and making them into jam.  (Okay, just that one batch, and that was only 4.5 cups, but still.)  Also, I’ve always told neighbors to help themselves to the fruit, and the wine calls for 4 pounds.  So I guess we’ll just have to see.  I’ll keep gathering, eating some and freezing others, and see where that gets me.  With everything I’ve got going, I guess you can’t say I’m hurting for wines.

Apple wine


Labor Day weekend!  A busy one, too.  I made apple conserve and apple pie filling, and a second batch of Sriracha:

Apple canning


I also made a loaf of bread in the slow cooker, and some brownies for dinner with Mom & Gerry last night.  (Jolyon is, of course, the leftovers recipient.  We had garden tomatoes and basil, plus assorted cheeses for the appetizer, and pizza from Pizzaria Locale for the main, since Mom reckoned she was not in a cooking sort of mood.)  Although I also picked about 4 cups of raspberries, I am planning raspberry-chocolate sundae topping instead of wine.  I haven’t weighed what I have, but I’m guessing it’s well shy of the 4 lbs. I need for wine, anyway.

raspberry harvest


(This is about 2 cups.  I picked the same amount the next morning.  Finally!)

However!  That does not mean I had a wine-free weekend, even aside from the drinking.  I started a batch of apple wine yesterday.  I’d frozen the grated apples, so I took out 7.5 lbs. and thawed that.  Then, when it was all nicely thawed, I put hand-fulls into cheesecloth and squeezed the juice out.  (My recipe says that apple wines are best fermented off the pulp.)  This turned out to be rather a lot of work, and I found myself wishing for an apple press again.  But since one didn’t magically appear, despite my wishing, I kept squeezing until I’d gotten out all I could, which was somewhere between half and three-quarters of a gallon.  I added a crushed Campden, the pectic enzyme, sugar (2 lbs.), acid blend, yeast nutrient, and tannin yesterday at around 3:30.  Then I added water to equal a gallon.  The yeast (Champagne) will go in today, after work.

Apple wine primary

I’m not sure why it’s cloudy though.  I find this mildly worrisome, but the haze seemed to have gone away when I peeked at the mix later last night, so that seems like a good sign.

I also added more simple syrup to the Peach Perfection wine, per directions.  It’s such a peculiar and convoluted recipe.  I need to take its SG, but I haven’t yet.  I haven’t tasted it yet, either, and I’m kind of nervous because there’s so dang much of it.  I think that bottle of peach wine that I bought, and that was so nasty and weird, has me a little on edge.  Maybe I’ll taste it tonight.  I have to make a batch of no-rinse solution anyway, for stirring the apple wine, so I can sterilize a few things and maybe get a taste of the peach.  I may taste the apple,too, in case there’s soap in there or something.  Not that I can imagine how soap might have gotten in there, but I suspect I’ll worry if I don’t check.

Next up is probably Concord wine.  The grapes are also late (what a weird year it’s been) but I think they’ll be ready this weekend or next.  I’m looking forward to harvesting all I can, since my crazy dogs keep trying to eat them.  I should have some Leon Millot in the mix, too– those are proper wine grapes.  Depending on how much I get, I’ll either make pyment (grape mead) or wine.  Or, if it’s way less than I need for either of those, grape butter.  It’s not an easy thing, guessing how much of a harvest one has.  I’m also planning an apple-spice wine, and if I get enough of a harvest, raspberry.  I think I only have 3 empty carboys though, so some of that will have to wait until I’ve bottled something else.