Fun with Fruit Brewing Wine
Like many of these things that I am reluctant to do at first, but get talked into and eventually start having fun – getting into the home-brewing and cheese-making was my daughter's idea. Many months ago, I had noticed that storefront location in a local strip mall was now taken up by an enterprise called Home Brew Party. I was unwary enough to mention this to my daughter. At the next opportunity, she dragged me inside . . . and was promptly carried away by the possibilities of making home-brewed beer and wine.
A portion of one of her intermittently ginormous but infrequent paychecks went towards buying two equipment kits – one for wine, one for beer: a couple of food-grade six-gallon plastic buckets with gasket-sealed lids, or a single bucket and a huge glass bottle – a carboy, bungs and air-locks. The two kits came with accessories – a siphon for transferring the liquid from one bucket to carboy; the wine kit came with corks and device ram them into the necks of bottles, the beer with caps and a capper to crimp them tightly . . . and some basic guidance.
We did wind up buying some other things – cleaning brushes on long handles, nylon bags for steeping fruit, and a little device to squirt cleansing solution up into bottles. We started with some ingredient kits, until we got the hang of it. They were expensive . . . and it was much more fun to see what we could do with in-season fruit, or what my daughter could bring home from her occasional job at Edible Arrangements. One of the fruits they use is pineapple, cutting ornamental shapes out of the center of the whole ripe fruit – and the scraps are waste, and so the workers may take away as much as they like of it. My daughter and I came home with what amounted to about twenty pounds, once the usable portions were cut from the rind.
Any fruit that is in season and free, or less than a dollar a pound; a gallon of fruit wine usually needs between two to four pounds of fruit, and about two pounds of sugar, plus some other bits of this or that by teaspoonful: powdered tannin, crushed Campden tablets, yeast nutrient, enzymes. Chop up the fruit, and freeze it overnight – this is key; the frozen fruit will yield up every possible drop of juicy essence. Put the frozen fruit in a fine-mesh nylon bag, add the sugar, the bag of fruit, water, and other required ingredients in the brewing bucket, cover it and attach the airlock. The next day, sprinkle a packet of wine yeast over the whole . . . and every day thereafter for as long as is called for, stir and mash the bag of fruit against the side of the bucket. This week, I started a batch of pear wine, since pears were on sale at HEB for 88¢ a pound.
Sixteen pounds of pears dissolved away to about a quart of fiber and skins. I put the nascent pear wine into the carboy today – it's cloudy and pale yellow, and smells divinely of pear-essence with a touch of yeast. There was a thin layer of sticky sediment at the bottom of the fermenting bucket. As the pear wine ages in the carboy, more sediment will fall out over the next few months, as it clears. Then, we will bottle it – possibly having to sweeten it again. And there you go – pear wine.
The pineapple wine made the best summer cooler ever: half pineapple wine, half mineral water, over ice with a splash of grapefruit juice. Heaven in a glass on a hot day!
by Celia Hayes