Saturday, June 26, 2010

Brew'n the finest in our hobbit house

I have never had to "relearn" how to pick black berries as it was a favorite childhood past time. It was a mix of activities that included meditation (you're out in a thicket of brambles with the trees whispering and the birds chattering in your ears), patience (having picked wild berries over the years now the brambles hardly register pain unless they REALLY dig in), balance (stand on one foot on a rotten log while stretched out so you don't fall in and crush the berry plants or upset a hornet's nest), and puzzle solving (Is that a berry or beetle? Where did I see that last patch? How do I get over to those large berries without falling in?) One thing I never learned and am excited to try is how to make black berry wine. I found a recipe and got to it!
I had some black raspberries picked from last year that I was saving for a "special occasion" and then December came and my sister was making room for things in her freezer and found a bag of black berries. There were bequeathed to me and they sat next to my black raspberries in the freezer. Spring came and I got the notion to make tarts but never followed through and then I came upon a black berry wine recipe. I feel like making this would further connect me to my heritage and what the heck, we had beer making equipment already.

I should've taken a photo of the berries before mashing them all up but this is a photo of them right before we started our second stage. We mashed them all up in the first stage with our hands and then added boiled water (cooled of course) and some red star yeast specially for red wine. Actually, to clarify the water was turned into a simple syrup with granulated cane sugar. I made a point to purchase Domino brand Organic sugar to try and be good. The mash was then dumped into our five gallon bucket as pictured in the start of this post. We put a piece of muslin over the top and tied it off with a cotton string. I drove the fruit flies nuts who in turn drove us nuts. I exaggerate because it was only two fruit flies but they still got on my nerves.

The recipe mentioned "not to worry if bleaching occurs." The only thing I can think of is that maybe they mean the berries looking lighter as fermentation occurs like what we saw in the picture above. I wasn't worried. What I did notice though was the first 3 days my kitchen smelled like what rising bread smelled like. On the fourth day I didn't smell it as much and decided to peek under the muslin. Wham! The smell of alcohol smacked my nose. Hot damn! We've got wine!

For the second stage, we boiled more sugar and water and strained what had been fermenting into our beer carboy. Here is all the pulp from the berries above. This was thrown into the compost for another go at the food chain. We strained it through the muslin that had been tied to the top of the bucket. The white tile floor looked like we had slaughtered a goat because I really had to wring the juice out of the pulp and sometimes a wayward spray would issue from the muslin.

It didn't fill up much in our carboy but then the recipe said that it was only going to make a gallon of wine.

The juice was really dark though...

...depending upon what light you were in.

We popped the airlock on it and hauled it to the upstairs bathroom for a week of isolation and meditation to think and concentrate on the wonderful and delicious wine it was about to become. The airlock is a lovely little device filled with water that allows gas to escape the wine while keeping outside air and potential wild yeast/bacteria out. About two days later I checked its progress and found the airlock pleasantly gurgling away. As I peered into the glass I saw a huge four inch across bubble in the middle of the mix. Holy cow! Some find it gross but I found it intriguing and as usual my camera was around. This was a good sign that the yeast was still active and that our first attempt might not be vinegar. I hope.
This coming thursday is the third and final stage before bottling!

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