homemade wine and beer and such
Cross-posted from Agriculture Permaculture discussion group
After we harvested the muscaine grapes and made grape juice–we just water-bath canned it in quart jars–it is time to turn to this year's pear harvest. We did not get many grapes from the new muscadine vines but the tree is so covered with pears we cannot can them all or eat what we can in time. In a famine situation turning all of those hard farm pears into food would be essential, but we are considering turning some of them into pear wine as an experiment. After all, if the SHTF you won't be able to drive down to the package store/liquor store/wine mart and just restock your supply. Wine will make a great barter item, too. And if the wine making fails? We can always use vinegar to pickle things.
So this weekend I visited our local homebrow shop, run by a guy who's been doing this for 32 years. Here is his recipe for how to make wine from local SC grapes, and he gave me a sheet with instructions to make pear wine. I told him I was a frugal Scott by nature, and wanted the cheapest way to make wine from the free fruit. And here is what I learned about the process.
It takes an awful lot of fruit to make wine! That's okay, since we have a lot of pears and we can get bushels of more muscadine grapes from the family farm where we do our range practice. Crushing grapes, straining the resultant mess, and clarifying the actual wine take equipment and chemials. You can start brewing it in five-gallon food-safe buckets but it must finish in something called a carboy or in a wooden cask (VERY expensive casks). Wine has to be bottled withing a certain amount of time from when it is done or it will go bad.You never pour wine while it is fermenting; you siphon it or you will damage it. It takes a lot of sugar to make wine – not to make it sweet, but to feed the yeast. And you can save wine bottles, wash them out, and reuse them – just use fresh corks.
My husband is interested in making his own whiskey to drink, too, and–if the SHTF–as an anesthetic and disinfectant or as a barter item. As long as it is for our own personal use there is no worry of running afoul of the "revenuers." But making wine or whiskey (or beer if you prefere it) requires an ivestment in things like siphoning tubes, carboys, yeast, a machine to pressure-cork the bottles, and distilling needs even more equipment. We will share how far we go along this road and you can learn along with us.
Or if you want to try home brewing right away, you can contact the place I visited since they know more than I do. Their email address at the bottom of Liquid Hobby's website. The owner is all kinds of helpful and knows his stuff, and the advice is free.
If you want to make wine, you may as well make something worth drinking. Get CJJ Berry's book First Steps in Home Winemaking. Except for not requiring food-grade plastic, his instructions are good and some of the recipes are outstanding. Try this!
In the Bay Area, I've worked through Oak Barrel Winecraft (in Berkeley) – they have relationships with winerys where they source their grapes, and they also have great beer recipes too. I made merlot perhaps 8 years ago through them and it was fantastic. The sauvignon blanc was pretty good, the cab & chardonnay less so, and the Zin was a sulferous-smelling disaster. Wine making advice from a winemaker with very modest skill: start with a simple grape that needs no fussy attention and little time in the bottle. Namely, sauvignon blanc. People expect it to taste fresh & fruity, it requires little handling, and its tasty after perhaps 5 months. Everything else I made was a lot more work, and took a lot more time. Sauvignon blanc does lose its charm after a few years though, so – don't delay, drink as soon as its ready.