Mulberry wine

Our mulberry tree is loaded with fruit this year; the branches are groaning and sagging towards the ground (much to the delight of the chooks and ducks). I think the huge crop is due to the tree having access to the chook compost for years while the chook pen was beside it, and also the application of a fair amount of washing water and dirty water from duck watering pots. Whatever the cause of the crop, I am thankful. I spent a half hour picking ripe mulberries and there are still plenty left for the birds, later cooking, eating fresh from the tree in passing and freezing for later. That time under the tree, hearing the birds calling all around me, feeling the gentle breeze on my skin and thinking about what I can make from the riches provided by this tree, were a rare moment of peace and contentment… I am deeply grateful. So, to celebrate, I am making mulberry wine.

First, the mulberries need to be frozen while I collect enough for a large batch of wine. Freezing the fruit before making the wine seems to help in the fermentation process anyway. So I bagged up this pick; I need about two kilos of fruit for a decent batch of wine, maybe one more pick of the same size.

Next, the fruit is thawed out and the bulk ferment tub was sterilized.

Two kilos (about) of mulberries and five litres of water with one and a half kilos of raw sugar stirred in were added to the tub, along with a sachet of wine yeast, 300ml of fruit juice ( raw blueberries in this case) and some yeast nutrient. An airlock was added to the tub and the long wait begins.

You can see the mix of mulberries and blueberries in the must

The fruit was stirred daily with a sterile spoon. The ferment started within a few days. It fizzed and bubbled when stirred.

I love the pink froth when it starts to ferment.

After about four days, the bubbles started rising from the airlock and it is time to remove the fruit must from the wine. I carefully scooped out the fruit with a slotted spoon, then poured the new wine through a sieve into a jug. The new wine was poured into a demijohn and an airlock fitted to complete the ferment process.

Second ferment begins

After a total of about two weeks, I siphoned off the liquid bit (the wine) and bottled it in a new demijohn with an airlock attached. I set it to age for a month or so to clear the sediment from the wine and let the flavour develop.

Lastly, I bottled the wine into sterile bottles and stored it to drink and share with friends over the next few months. I bottled 12 bottles from 2 demijohns of wine. I refilled the demijohns from the fermenter and put another batch on to ferment. In total I should get 36 bottles of mulberry wine from this year’s harvest (as well as a heap of baked goods, syrup and cordial); that tree deserves all the washing water I can throw under it.

Blueberry wine season…Yay!

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Books and home made wine on a rainy afternoon; who could ask for more.

It’s blueberry season again (almost over in fact) and I’m making wine. I picked up a batch of about five kilos of blueberries, we ate a kilo between the humans and fruit eating animals in the humpy. Four kilos became must (the mush of fruit, water and yeast that is pre-wine) for a batch of wine.

My recipe is really simple;

First I take four kilos of blueberries and put them into a sterilized (by Campden tablets) fermenting tub. I put six litres of water in a pot and added two kilos of sugar slowly as I bring it to the boil. I used three types of sugar in this one; (what I could find in the cupboard) raw sugar, brewing sugar and brown sugar.

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When the sugar solution has cooled down a little bit I add some of it to my fermenting tub with the blueberries and mash them up with a potato masher. I try to split as many berries as I can but not turn it into jam. Then I add the rest of the sugar solution to the tub with a crushed Campden tablet. This sterilizes the must (that’s what the fruit and sugar water mix is called at this point of the process) ready for yeast to be introduced at a later date. I also take a specific gravity reading with my handy hydrometer at this point; this batch sits firmly in the table wine range (my hydrometer has numbers to read, but I usually just look at the wine type listed beside it).

I seal the fermenting tub and add an airlock for a day or two.

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After about a day, I add the activated yeast. I tip the yeast into a bowl of warm water with about half a teaspoon of sugar stirred into it. After a few minutes the yeast begins to foam, after twenty minutes or so I add it to the must and seal it back up.

20171104_192502Then I just wait until the bubbling starts. During this time I stir the must every day with a sterilised long spoon, this adds a bit of air and lets me see how much activity there is in the yeast.  Eventually the bubbling settles down and I know the must is ready to decant into demijohns for the second ferment. The wine usually bubbles up again when decanted into the demijohns; it settles down after a few days.

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The froth build up from the yeast partying in all that sugar.

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I threw on a batch of apple wine while I was sterilising. This lot is just made from supermarket juice…I think it is commonly known as ‘panty dropper wine’ as it has a hydrometer reading above desert wine (meaning more alcohol)…I’ll let you know.

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For some reason this demijohn has very little activity, I may have to intervene and add more yeast or a raisin or two.

After I am sure the yeast has done it’s job and all the available sugars are now alcohol, it is ready to bottle and eventually to drink.

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This is some of last years batch of blueberry wine, it’s a strong table wine…maybe a desert wine, but certainly not in the ‘panty dropper’ range.

Matching the wine to the fibre

Recently while wandering about in Etsy (in a cyber sense), I found a shop that sell wine holders for spinning wheels. I immediately wanted one of course, given that I have recently learned to make wine and I love spinning it seemed a perfect match.

I know it’s not a wine glass, but one would fit in the holder.

That started me thinking about matching wines to fibre types. We match wine to our meals, why not other sensory feasts? I thought about it for a while and came up with the following list. You may find it useful if you purchase one of those wine glass holder things for your spinning wheel.

Chardonnay– One of the most common white wines, chardonnay should taste oaky, fruity and have a velvety feel in the mouth. This sounds like good old merino to me. Match your chardonnay glass with some hand dyed merino tops for spinning and you have the perfect spinning binge.

Pinot noir- This is a light red wine which is fairly common, it should be high acid, low tannin and taste of fruits and roses. One of it’s defining characteristics is it is hard to make and is very easy to get wrong. This one sounds like cotton to me; both are difficult to get right and require exacting concentration. Spin up some naturally coloured cotton with a glass of pinot noir and see if I’m right.

Shiraz- This is one of the strong flavoured red wines, it should taste of peppers, cherries and maybe chocolate. It is known as a very long lasting wine as it remains stable and drinkable in a wide variety of conditions. Because it is such a strong, opinionated wine I think it would go well with border Leicester wool as both are strong, hard wearing and lustrous.

Riesling- This light flavoured white wine should taste of fruit and be generally sweet. Riesling is a high acid white wine making it long lasting, meaning it can be aged for a long time and still be drinkable. This quality makes me think of flax which is spun into the long lasting linen yarn. Linen also improves with age and is both sweet and crisp. 

Cabernet Sauvignon- This strong flavoured, high alcohol wine is one of the most common reds around, it should taste of vanilla and red currants. It is a very long lived wine and can be aged for centuries. This wine pairs very well with Lincoln longwool fleece which can also last for centuries in the right conditions. Grab a bottle of cab’ sav’ and some lincoln longwool fleece and get spinning.

Merlot-  This (relatively) light flavoured red wine is said to have a plum and herb aftertaste. It’s low tannin makes it easy and soft to drink. This softness makes me think of silks. Sit down to spin some silk tops with a nice glass of merlot.

This is not a complete list of course, there are so many wine types and so many fibre types it could turn into a book, don’t even get me started on blends (both wine and fibre). Can you add a wine-fibre pairing to the list?
CABERNET

Learning to make wine

Over the last three months or so I have been learning to make wine. Several people have expressed the opinion that my timing is not great; given that I am learning to drive at the same time. You don’t have to worry yet though…wine making is a long, slow process.

Having always been interested in the process of fermented foods (or transformation in any guise really) I began by learning to make sourdough bread. This led to thinking about how wine is really just rotten fruit water (that tastes good) and how amazing that is. After a lot of reading on the internet and a visit to the local library I was ready to get fermenting.

Wine makers seem to range from those who elevate the process to an art or a science to those who accidentally left some juice out and found it had miraculously become wine by the time they got around to cleaning the kitchen. I figured that since we have been making the stuff for the last 6000 years or so, you probably don’t need to build a lab to do it.

My first batch was apple cider, made from store bought apple juice (so I could get an understanding of the process). A demijohn (big glass bottle), some yeast, Campden tablets and a bung/airlock were duly ordered from an online shop and when they arrived I began the learning journey.

I didn’t photograph that first batch (or the honey mead and the blueberry wine that came after) so I thought I would show you the process with a new batch (and because putting a new batch together is just so exciting I will take any excuse to make more wine). This batch is made from store bought juice again, I used grape juice with a little bit of apple thrown in for flavour.

The only immutable law in wine making is that everything (and I mean everything) has to be clean and sterile. I made up a sink full of sterilizing fluid by crushing two Campden tablets and dissolving them in water. I was a little worried about using sodium metabisulfite (which is a sulfur based material) in our system as anything designed to kill yeasts and bacteria will affect the health of soil and water. However the risks are very low when using it as infrequently as I do.

I didn’t take a photo of the sink (you all know what that looks like). This is my beaten up pack of Campden tablets.

After everything is sterilized (equipment, counter tops, hands, stray pets) it is time to activate the yeast. This is just a matter of mixing the yeast with warm water and fruit juice in a cup and putting it somewhere it won’t get spilled. Wine yeast is sold in neat little sachets containing dehydrated powder. When the yeast is mixed with liquid it starts to wake up and look for food, just what you want in a yeast.

My neat little yeast sachet and a bowl of apple juice and water.

This is the yeast when it is first mixed into the juice.

This is the yeast after about half an hour. Some is missing because I forgot to take a photo before beginning to pour it into the juice.

Next the juice (or fruit mush) is mixed with sugar in a pot on the stove, I used five cups of sugar in this batch. I heated the juice gently and stirred (not so gently) to dissolve all the sugar. When all the sugar was dissolved I poured the lot into a sterilized demijohn, added a teaspoon of yeast nutrient (don’t ask me what that is, the books said I needed it) and popped on an airlock and bung.

Speaks for itself really.

 Most web sites recommend taking a specific gravity reading with a hydrometer before you pour in the yeast. I bought a hydrometer to do just that, then forgot to use it. Next time I will definitely do this though as it apparently gives you a better idea of how alcoholic the final product is. I guess for now I will have to rely on the tipsy test (you know…how many glasses does it take to make you tipsy).

The airlock and bung are the funny bits at the top of the big bottle. Airlocks let gas escape but don’t let gas in.

 The general idea is to wait until the bubbling stops (between days and weeks) then rack the wine into a clean, sterile demijohn with a new sterilized airlock leaving behind the dead yeast (called lees) which forms a sludge in the bottom. I use a food grade hose (sterilized of course) to siphon out the good wine but leave the lees behind. The wine is left in this demijohn for another month or two until it is clear (apparently you should be able to read through the bottle) then bottled and stored for a further few months or years. After all that you can open a bottle and have a taste.

This is the batch, bubbling away producing alcohol.

My first batch of apple cider. I started it three months ago and opened my first bottle with a friend a week or so ago.

As you can see, the process of making wine is long and slow. The fact that it has taken so long to make and involved so much sterilizing, washing and general fiddling makes every bottle special. If someone gives you a bottle of home made wine they must really like you.