Planning Homemade Wines

This past week I discovered we have a chokecherry tree in our pasture.
The same pasture the horses are in.
This is both a good thing to have, and a very, very bad thing to have.

It’s good because chokecherries make an amazing wine.
A rich red that, done right, is absolutely delicious.
It’s bad because chokecherries are highly toxic to horses.
As in, death can occur within minutes of eating any part of the bush/tree.

So, obviously, this cannot stay.
We’ll be cutting and burning it out this weekend.
Thankfully, The Merry Mares are not in the front pasture right now because we have some visitors for the next month:

We were asked by a local honey farmer if we’d be willing to let him put some hives in our pasture for a month or so…in exchange, we’d get some honey.
Uh, okay. 🙂
So the horses are locked out of the front, because I have absolute faith in 1. Sable to try to make friends with the bees and get stung (wherein we’d find out she’s deathly allergic to stingy/buzzy things and have to use aaaaaaalllllll The Kid’s epi-pens to keep her alive ’til Dr. Neil got here) 2. Astrid to eat bees as they come out of the hive to do their jobs and 3. both Ruby and Astrid knocking hives over to get at the sweet yummy goodness inside (being the sweet toothed Walking Stomachs that they are)…
The farmer insisted that horses are fine with the hives, and we didn’t have to lock them out, but really, it’s easier this way…plus then we can just leave the gate open for when he has to come check on them and do whatever they need to do (I know nothing about beekeeping other than the Winnie the Pooh thing of I love to eat honey!).
And then we can deal with the chokecherry safely.

The other day I picked the chokecherries off (there wasn’t nearly as many as I had hoped there would be(e)…😂😂😂) and popped them in the freezer.
I have 2 black currant bushes that have been producing amazingly well this year, but they’re not all ripening at the same time, so, I pick them as they ripen and freeze.
To go with that, the hawthorn tree is *loaded* with berries. That will be ready soon…I have to keep an eye on them so the wild birds don’t get them before I do…
That will give me a 3 berry combination for my Samhain wine.

(If talk of spirits and witchcraft bothers you, stop reading here…)

Back in 2020 on Samhain (Hallowe’en for most) I crafted a beet root wine.
It was done with intention.
Beets were pulled from the ground on the day, and with a prayer of thanks to the Earth for growing food for us.
The evening was thick with energy and power, between being the time when the Veil between the world is the thinnest and we were in the midst of an incredibly powerful windstorm.
Normally I’ll push the wind limits for a bonfire on Samhain, but that year even I wasn’t chancing it.
But we did do the re-setting of the wards around the Farm, with salt and incantations.
And then I came in and brewed up the beet root wine…

Last Samhain, when re-setting the wards (basically an energy grid fueled by the land and our intentions to keep all the nasty shit/energy out of the Farm) I used the beet root wine as the foundation, with salt again.
And what does beet root wine taste like?
Like this:

So I still have this year’s bottle for this year’s celebration.
I also have the “1 for whenever…” bottle.
But after that?
Well, this year is the year to brew up another Witch’s Brew for next year.
And this year’s brew will be based on the chokecherry (powerful enough to kill in minutes, but sweet enough to make delicious wine), black currants (sweet and sour), and hawthorn berries (like chockecherry, powerful enough to kill, but makes a sweet, fruity, delicious jelly and wine).
It’ll be put together on Samhain and it will age the full year before bottling on Samhain.
Some will be kept for the bottling year’s Working, and the rest will be bottled for subsequent years.
I hope, after a few years of crafting wines like this, to have a nice selection of spiritually and power based wines to pick from as needed.

(end witchcraft talk for those who want to come back in)

Earlier in the week Hubby made a pit stop at the local brew shop we frequent for some supplies for me:

The oak chips go into a plain sugar shine to impart a whiskey flavouring.
I haven’t gotten up to doing full grain mashes yet, so this is how I make “whiskey”.
😉
The bag of juniper berries is to impart a gin flavouring.
The really big bag underneath is 2.2lbs of elderberries.
That will be used for tinctures, fermented honey, a small batch of wine, and immune boosting syrup.
And that bag of yeast?
Lemme tell you about that bag of yeast…

That there is 100 packets of Super B wine yeast. Good for all sorts of fruit wines, works well in most temps. (obviously extremes will stress it), and has an alcohol tolerance to 18%.
It’s a lovely all around easy to use wine yeast.
And work gangbusters for mash bases for shines too.
It’s listed on the brew shop’s website for $.25/packet.
Great frickin’ price, since it’s normally $1.75. And even that’s a great price compared to other shops where the EC 1118 equivalent is $2.99/pckt.
I took a chance on Super B several years ago when the shop had a “all you can fit in your hand for $5” sale.
For $5 I got 48 packages (hooray for freakishly large hands for a woman!!) and even though they were dated 2014, I haven’t had a single one not do the job.
So, when I saw $.25/pckt, I asked Hubby to zip over for 100 of them.
Well…
It turned out the “all you can fit…” sale was still going on.
And the fellow ringing up the purchases said “huh. Looks like a handful to me”.
So my bag of yeast was a whopping $5.
Yeah.
That’s freaking awesome.
🙂

So right now I have a giant sugar mash going, for making tincture bases.
Then I have some frozen pineapple (Yay for the Flashfood app, where you can get boxes of cheap fruits!) to make a pineapple wine. Made one earlier this year with brown sugar…OMG.
One of the best wines I’ve made!
So that’s next.
Then I have some strawberries in the freezer (I actually made it out picking, so froze enough for a batch of wine) that I’m going to mix with some homegrown rhubarb.
I hate rhubarb as a fruit, but as a wine?
Yeah, there’s a reason I’ve got a handful of rhubarb plants going now.
😉
And after that?
Well, I just don’t know.
I suspect it’ll be another green tomato, since I bottled that (and distilled some) and I’m sure there will be green tomatoes in my garden at the end of the season.
There’s always an apple based something or other to do too…our apple trees have a good amount on them for young trees, so maybe that…
Or maybe I’ll get brave and try a carrot wine.
*shrug*
I know it sounds crazy, but who would have though green tomato would be good?
And it is, it’s one of my go-to wines to make.
Why not carrot too?

Strawberry Wine

It’s strawberry season ’round here.
That means there’s ample u-pick places to go and get your fill of berries.
This year we’ve had enough rain that the berries are huge, juicy and amazingly tasty.
Or, maybe we’re all just happy af to have berries after last year’s drought.
Either way…
We made our way out to get some berries.
Which for me means eating a basket on the drive home and then freezing the rest for wine.
Well, and a batch of jam for Hubby, because he likes jam.

I use a simple wine recipe I found way back when I first wanted to make fruit (or country) wines.
Danger Dave’s Dragon Blood wine.
It’s an easy peasy, should be ready to drink in a month, wine.

Now, as always, I adjust the recipe…
The original calls for a mere 6lbs of fruit.
😂😂😂
Yeah so, I typically use 20lbs of fruit, sometimes more.
Like when I do a green tomato wine, minimum is 25lbs of green tomatoes.
I also often leave out the lemon juice, depending what fruits I’m using.
Actually, truth be told, lemon juice is kept on hand for canning tomatoes, so unless I’m making *lemon* wine (google “skeeter pee”…you won’t regret it 😉 ), I pretty much leave it out.
Same with the tannin…if I think of it, I add it, but most times, I don’t even think of it…

‘Kay so, my strawberry wine looks like this:

20lbs fruit…washed, sliced and frozen
3tsp pectic enzyme (helps the wine clear…but I often forget this too)
3 tsp. yeast nutrient (stir)
1 tsp. yeast energizer (stir)
With the nutrient and energizer…I only use nutrient, because I rarely have energizer on hand…if you have both, great, but not necessary…and I add this the next day with the packaged yeast.
Yeast package…I typically use EC-1118 yeast, but a while back I got a fantastic deal on a bunch of Super B wine yeast…all I could grab in a handful for $5…yay for having freakishly large hands for a woman!! 😂😂😂
This is another thing you’re going to want to get from a brew shop…yeah, you can use bread yeast, but honestly, it’s worth the money to buy the right yeast for the job.
Bread yeast gives a hot, yeasty finish…it’s not pleasant, IMO.
YMMV.

(Can you tell this is a very loosey goosey kinda recipe? there’s *lots* of wiggle room!)

Then sugar…normally I find around 5-6 kgs does the job…just plain old white sugar…I’m aiming for a starting gravity (s.g) of 1.070-1.080…
And good, clean water.
I tend to make 8 gallon batches…this recipe is about right for that…

So, of course this goes on the assumption you have some basic wine making equipment.
~ A big pail…my main primary (big pail) holds 10 gallons (it’s kinda small, I gotta find a bigger one *and* a place to put it!)
~ A mesh fruit bag…this is a cheap af luxury. You can do without it, but it makes your wine making life a bazillion times easier. Go ahead and spend the $5. It’s worth it!
~ A hydrometer. You can get one cheap (under $10) at any brew shop. This simple tool tells you your s.g and your f.g.(final gravity).
With those numbers you know a. when your wine is done fermenting, and 2. how much alcohol is in your wine…if you’re going to go on and distill any of your wine (where it’s legal or you just don’t care 😉 ), you’ll want to get a proof and trailles hydrometer as well…you use that with your distilled spirits to find your proof (proof is double your alcohol percentage…ie. 110 proof vodka is 55% alcohol). You need to know this in order to dilute or for using your distillate for tinctures….but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post. 😉
~ A racking cane…this helps you siphon your fermented juices off the gross crap (called lees) at the bottom of your pail.
~ A carboy with a bung and airlock.
Glass is best for a carboy. You can bulk age (typically) 6 gallons at one time.
You use the bung and airlock to keep oxygen from ruining the shit out of your wine…and wild random yeasties from turning your 6 gallons of wine into 6 gallons of vinegar.
Trust me. That fucking sucks when it happens.
~ Sanitizer. This is a must if you want your wines to turn out.
Not bleach. Just spend the money on proper sanitizer from the brew shop, ‘kay?
I use the pink stuff, but tons of folks swear by StarSan…and one day I may switch to it because you don’t have to rinse afterwards, so *that* would be bonus…but I buy the pink stuff by the 2kg bag and it lasts a long time.
And lastly, on the list of should have (though I view them as must haves) is:
~ Bottles and a corker.
Duh, right?
But seriously, the first kit I made, I didn’t have enough bottles when it came to bottling time. I used mason jars for what didn’t fit in the ones I had…drank that first though, because mason jars, unless processed like in canning, don’t keep air out.
Now, the corker *can* be optional, if you’re using screw tops…and TBH, when I *know* a wine isn’t gonna last me longer than a few months, I use 1 liter plastic bottles with screw tops.
Longer aging wines (like dandelion or my beet root…yes, you read that right…I make a beet root wine…) get corked glass bottles.

So there…if you have a basic kit of supplies (like *so basic* every brew shop has a “buy it as a kit” version where everything except maybe the brew bag and the proof and trailles hydrometer are in it), you can do just about any wine/shine (you’ll need a still for shine, but again, that’s a whole ‘nother post 😉 )…with stuff from the grocery store/local farms/your own garden or backyard.
Though, you can buy wine kits too…and those can be awesome too.
I too will buy a kit now and then…but I also love the fuck out of harvesting fruits (and some veggies) to create a wine.

I follow the process for the Dragon’s Blood fairly closely.
At least for the first bit while it’s in the primary pail (I cover my primary with saran wrap and a towel, I don’t worry about a lid), but once it’s in the carboy, I’m a negligent winemaker.
I’ve got a couple “bulk aging” right now (read:too lazy to bottle) that have been there for a year or more…in fact the chokecherry is coming up on 2 years in the carboy. I just keep topping up the water in the airlock to keep air from getting in and ruining it.
When I get around to bottling, it oughta be effing amazing.
😉

So, that’s how I do it.
Any questions, feel free to ask.
I will do my best to answer.
🙂


Quiet Days

These are the quiet days before the spring work begins.
I have that whole list of things to get going as soon as the snow starts to melt…and with a call for -2*c next week, it looks like the melt may start soon.
Of course, it’s only March and well, there’s always chances of snow storms right into May around here.
(aaaand, as I’m writing this we’ve come under a blowing snow advisory and are in a white out…because of course we are)
😂😂😂
Remember last year…I had a hard frost on June 21st.
Thankfully some of the peppers and tomatoes survived, though I sure didn’t think they were going to.
It was good that I felt too defeated to pull them and replant, because some bounced back and gave us a decent crop.

Yesterday our internet was out, so it gave me a chance to catch up on a few things.
Not sure why it was down, but I had left a message at the office to let them know.
I don’t get cranky with our provider because the guys who run the place are decent humans.
(we know how few there are of those in the world!)
I just leave a message and let ’em know.
If it’s something on their end (usually) they have a message on their voice mail letting folks know.
If it’s not them, they get back to me pretty quick.

So I cleaned my kitchen, bottled a little wine, pulled out the water distillation machine, did some distilled water for Hubby’s snore machine, mighta ran some mixed citrus wine though for some mixed citrus shine, might not have either because we wouldn’t want to do anything that ain’t legal, now would we?
😉
Today I have some odd bagged mix of raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries to get into a pail to ferment.
I follow one of those cheap groceries/food waste reduction apps, where you can buy boxes of fruit for $5. I buy a box or two a week, just to make bags in the freezer of mixes for wine.
That’s where I got the random citrus and mango (I forgot there was a half dozen mangoes in the pail too) to make up the stuff I bottled yesterday. I find the cheap boxes are a great way to do small batches (with a lot of notes on how and what so I can recreate anything I really liked) before putting a whole bunch of $ into a big batch.
Then I edited a whole bunch of pictures I took last week.
With the cold that has been, it’s been darn near impossible to get out with the camera. By the time chores are done, I just don’t want to go back out, y’know?
But last week I managed to go capture some shots of the nags, and a few of the outdoor felines.

Once the blowing snow shit is done, Hubby is stopping at the local hardware store to grab a dozen t-posts and another couple rolls of stucco wire.
These are the cheapest, and easiest, things to make fences here.
Especially when we’re holding in (or out) poultry.
The current duck yard may get converted to the lamb yard (if the fucking snow ever melts) because of the wood posts…but we may choose another area too. We have an abundance of wood posts on the yard, so building another space for sheepies, while leaving ducks where they are is fine too…we’ll figure it out.
First we just need spring.
12 more days.

Aaaannnd…
I ended up losing internet yet again while writing this.
So now it’s Wednesday morning and the sun is shining and the birds are singing and the truck is stuck in the driveway so we have to get her dug out so Hubby can get into to work tomorrow…
BUT
My peppers are popping!
I planted 36 cups of poblano peppers and more than 75% are popping up out of the dirt.
Yes, that’s a lot of peppers.
Yes, I will have many, many poblanos if they are get to producing.
That’s the plan.
Smoke ’em, dehydrate ’em, grind ’em.
Bam!
My own seasoning as a part of our winter spices.
So yeah.
I’m excited af.
My peppers are popping.
😍
🖤🖤🖤

Apple Wine

A few weeks ago, I put out the call looking for locals who had apple trees with apples that they weren’t going to use.
Said we’d happily come out and pick the trees, take away the apples and return with a few bottles of apple wine.
Got a few nibbles, but mostly it was people who wanted me to make them an entire 5 gallon batch, plus pick their tree…one woman told me I could have all the half rotten ones on the ground if I picked the good apples for her.
🙄

And then, I got a message from a friend of friends, a local horse woman, who had an apple tree, and hankerin’ for a few bottle of wine.
Well, with a little back and forth, we set a date, met up and I came away with a bag of roughly 50lbs of apples.
Gorgeous, sweet, crunchy eating apples…perfect for a batch of wine.
After I ate a couple. 😉

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Way back when we were in the city, our tree there was producing 250-300lbs of apples a year.
We could only eat so many, so I started making and canning juice.
But I got tired of the old cook it on the stove top, strain it through cheesecloth method of making juice, and went to my parents and stole (with permission) my Dad’s juicer.
Now?
I make juice by running the apples through the juicer.

Big bowl of sliced apples, ready to be run through the juicer.

Once the juicing is done, the mush that comes out the other side is put into a mesh bag.
That goes into the primary fermenting pail, with the juice itself.
I want aaaaaaalllllllll the apple-y goodness going into my wine. 😉

Cores get cooked down and strained for juice…nothing gets wasted here!

Once the cores have given up everything they had, those get tossed to the pigs.
Pigs ❤ love ❤ apples!
The juice is then added with the other juice and the mush to the primary fermenter.

From there I add sugar, pectic enzyme (if I have it on hand…with the cooked juice, the wine finishes with a creamy mouth feel with out the pectic enzyme. Some people don’t care for it, but I don’t mind it, so I don’t get frantic if I don’t have the pectic enzyme to add), k-meta and water to 6 gallons.
I let it sit for 24ish hours, then pitch the yeast and add some yeast nutrient.

That’s all there is to it.
Over the next week, I stir the pail a few times a day, and squeeze the bag of mush.
After a week or so, I pull out the bag of mush…that goes to the pigs…and depending on the specific gravity reading, I’ll either give it a few more days in the pail or rack it off to a carboy.
Once it’s on the carboy, sealed with an air lock, I let time do it’s work.
Anywhere from 2-5 months.
Honestly, I put it in a corner and forget about it.

After a while, I’ll come back to it, rack it off the stuff at the bottom (the lees), stabilize it and usually I’ll sweeten it.
Typically with some raspberry syrup…because apple raspberry wine is fan-effing-tastic!
And then, into bottles for a few more months.

All told, it’ll take anywhere from 4-12 months before it’s in the bottle and ready to drink.
Trust me though, it’s worth the wait!

Linking up with September Days at The Hearth and Soul link party hosted by April J Harris.

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🙂