Recipes for fruit wines, sometimes called country wines, vary only slightly from one another, and you have tremendous leeway in the fruits and fruit juices you can use. This recipe is a general one that will work for a range of fruits, from sweet summer berries and soft orchard fruits such as peaches to the heartier fruits of fall such as apples and persimmons. See here for the range of possibilities. What they all share is a need for patience: you need to let them age gracefully for about a year.
- 4 –6 pounds fresh fruit cut into small pieces
- 2 pounds sugar
- 3 quarts water boiled
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 6 drops liquid pectic enzyme
- 1 can frozen white grape juice concentrate optional
- 1 packet wine yeast champagne or Montrachet strains
- Place the fruit in a fermentation bag inside a sanitized primary fermenter. Combine the sugar with 2 quarts of the hot water and pour over the fruit. Add the lemon juice, pectic enzyme, and grape juice concentrate (if using), and additional boiled, cooled water to bring the water level up to 1½ gallons. When the temperature cools to 72°F (22°C), test the specific gravity or taste the liquid. It should taste quite sweet, as sweet as light syrup. Sprinkle on the yeast and cover the primary fermenter after providing a way for gases to escape, such as using an airlock or covering the container securely with several folds of cheesecloth or a clean towel.
- At least once a day for 5 to 6 days, use clean hands to knead the fruit in the fermentation bag and turn it, so a different side floats to the top. The liquid will become cloudy and slightly fizzy; with some fruits, large bubbles form on the top. Taste the liquid just before washing it from your hands. The sugar level should drop noticeably by the fifth day.
After about a week
- When the fruit in the fermentation bag has become a gooey mess, lift it from the container and let the juice drip back into the wine. Spend a few minutes with this, but do not squeeze the bag. Compost the fermented fruit, and let the wine rest for a couple of days.
- Without jiggling the wine, siphon the clear part into a clean glass bottle that can be fitted with an airlock. Allow about 4 inches of space between the top of the liquid and the bottom of the airlock. If needed, top off the wine with boiled, cooled water to bring the liquid to this level. Install the airlock.
- Place the wine in a dark place where temperatures range between 60 and 70°F (16 and 21°C). Cover the bottle with a cloth sleeve to protect the wine from light, which can change its color. Old T-shirts make convenient wine covers for big bottles.
After about a month
- Siphon the wine again (this is called racking; shown below) into a clean bottle. Move the wine to a cool place, and check it monthly to make sure the airlock is clean and functioning properly. Rack again after 3 months.
- If you do not use sulfites to kill any live yeasts remaining in the wine, you must wait for the wine to become “dry,” or without sugars, to consider bottling it. This takes about 6 months. During the last month, the wine should be moved to normal room temperatures, just in case higher temps stimulate activity by surviving yeast.
- Wine is finished and ready to bottle when no air can be seen moving through the airlock for several days, and no bubbles are present around the top edge of the wine. When in doubt, wait. Wine that is bottled before it becomes still will pop its cork, which creates a nasty mess.
- Allow the bottled wine to age for at least a year before tasting it. Wine that tastes too rough to swallow at bottling time often matures into amazing wine, but you must give it time. Two years is not too long to wait for naturally made wine from your organically grown fruits.