Fermenting For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon

So, you're all set to try your hand at winemaking. The following recipes can get you started with the right ingredients for delicious homemade wines, but take note: Making a bottle of wine from start to finish may take six months or a year. Importantly, everything hinges on what happens in the week or two of fermentation — the period in which yeast activity extracts all the flavor, aroma, and texture goodies from the grapes and skins and converts the sugar to alcohol.

This process is known as the primary or alcoholic fermentation, to distinguish it from the optional secondary, malolactic fermentation. Fermentation can be fast and furious; the snap, crackle, and pop of gases escaping from the fruit or juice can be downright noisy; the aroma can carry a block away.

Fermenting white wines turn strange, greenish colors and grow a head of foam on top; they look like a pot of pea soup gone bad. But not to worry — that's just yeast at work. The spectacle of those tiny microbes making such a huge commotion is truly awesome.

Simple grape wine recipe

In its most basic sense, wine is fermented grape juice. The quality of your homemade wine depends on the grape berries you choose to send through the destemming, crushing, and pressing process.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Fermentation time: 6 weeks

Yield: 1 gallon

6 cups white sugar

3 quarts boiled water

1 quart ripe, mashed grapes

1 packet yeast

  1. Dissolve the sugar in the boiled water.

  2. Add the grapes to the sugar-water mixture.

  3. Sprinkle yeast over all.

  4. Allow the mixture to sit for 24 hours and stir gently.

  5. Continue to stir the mixture once every 24 hours for a week.

  6. Add 1 quart boiled, cooled water to the mixture.

  7. Place the mixture in a container with an airlock and allow it to ferment for 6 weeks.

  8. Strain and rack the wine into a second container, lightly capped, for 72 hours.

Elderberry wine recipe

Each summer, American elderberry shrubs produce clusters of deep-blue berries that have long been favorites for jams, jellies, and pleasing wines.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Fermentation time: 11 months

Yield: 5 gallons

3 gallons black elderberries

3 gallons water

1 packet champagne yeast

10 pounds cane sugar

  1. Clean the berries of all stems.

  2. In a food-safe bucket, boil 3 gallons of water and pour it over the berries to cover them.

  3. Cover the container loosely and allow the berries to cool and sit overnight.

  4. Remove 1 cup of the liquid and dissolve the yeast in it.

  5. Pour this yeast/liquid mixture back into the berries and water.

  6. Stir and cover the container.

  7. Allow the mixture to ferment for 72 hours, stirring every 4 hours.

  8. After 72 hours, place the cane sugar into a large kettle and add enough water so the sugar doesn't scorch and dissolves into a syrup. Cover and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.

  9. Pour the sugar syrup into the berries and leave to ferment for an additional 5 days, stirring every 6 to 8 hours.

  10. When fermentation starts to slow down, strain the mixture into a 5-gallon carboy.

  11. Using the remaining berry mash, pour additional water over it and mash. Strain this water into the carboy with the first mixture, leaving a few inches of head space.

  12. Insert an airlock and store for 8 weeks.

  13. After 2 months, rack the wine into a clean carboy, insert an airlock, and ferment for an additional 9 months.

  14. The wine is now ready to drink or bottle for longer aging.

Dandelion wine recipe

Just when you thought dandelions were nothing more than annoying weeds, you discover how well they work with your winemaking!

Preparation time: 48 hours

Fermentation time: 9.51 months

Yield: 1 gallon

1 gallon dandelion flowers (all green parts removed)

1 gallon boiling water

4 organic oranges

4 organic lemons

4 pounds cane sugar

1 packet yeast

  1. In a large bowl, pour the boiling water over the flowers.

  2. Allow the flowers to cool and sit, loosely covered, for 48 hours.

  3. Strain the liquid into a large glass jar or bowl.

  4. Zest and juice the oranges and lemons.

  5. Add the zest, juice, and cane sugar to the dandelion liquid. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

  6. Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture.

  7. Cover loosely and ferment for 14 days. Stir the mixture four times a day during this time.

  8. Strain and rack for at least 9 months.

  9. The wine is now ready to drink or store for additional aging.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Marni Wasserman is passionate about real food. She inspires people to eat well and live well everyday. She shares many of her recipes and tips at www.marniwasserman.com. Amy Jeanroy is passionate about healthy, homemade foods and has been making and eating fermented food for 20 years. She shares daily recipes on her site, www.thefarmingwife.com.

This article can be found in the category: