Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Elderberry Wine...

I know Elton John did a song about it, but frankly, I grew tired of ol' Elton decades ago, so let's just leave that song out of it for now.  If it's stuck in your head, maybe try singing Amazing Grace to the tune of the Gilligan's Island Theme Song.  I've heard that helps.

JP here.  Yes, I think it's probably been over a year since I posted much of anything on here, so don't faint.

We managed to gather quite the wild elderberry harvest this year, much more than what Mrs. JP needs to do a couple of batches of her elderberry jelly, and being the curious and adventurous foodie that I am, I decided that this year I would put that excess of berries to good use and learn the skill of wine making.  I read and read information about it, and it is clearly an art that could take years to master, but I found some good information, a good recipe, got the equipment needed and last weekend we set about wine making.

I won't bore you with all of the details.  A large part of wine making involves getting the right animate and inanimate things into it and keeping the bad animate and inanimate things out.  There is good yeasts and bad yeasts, good acids and bad acids, and on and on.  The process of sterilizing gloves, spoons, etc. has become a part of our days.

As we collected elderberries this year, we would freeze them, and then Mrs. JP would go through them to take out any bugs and large stems, put them in a freezer bag and back into the freezer they went.  So Friday evening, we put all of the berries into a nylon straining bag, dropped it into a primary fermentor, known in common parlance as a clean, sterilized plastic bucket, boiled some spring water and dissolved the required amount of sugar into it, poured that over the bag of berries in the primary, pressed the berry bag to release juices, then proceeded to add the necessary chemicals.

Day two, more chemicals went in.  Day three we woke the wine yeast up by re-hydrating it and encouraging it to procreate and multiply, by feeding it, of all things (hmmmmm?  haha).  Then, when it had been spurred into all kinds of activity by small additions of must (that's the stuff that is in the primary fermentation bucket, all of that stuff we mixed, the water, the sugar, the berries, the chemicals, whatever, it's all collectively called the must), and was bubbling away happily, we added it into the primary fermentor.  Now, we have what's called an S-type air lock on the bucket lid that keeps the oxygen out and lets the excess carbon dioxide out; it kind of burps on a regular basis.  I never realized how active the fermentation process is.  The must is fizzing like some champagne or old fashioned grape soda pop, and it really bubbles up when we have to stir it.

Once a day, we take the lid off, squeeze the berry bag gently and stir the must.  It's supposed to ferment like this for fourteen days, then it gets put into a large carboy bottle to continue to ferment and clarify for six months, at which time we stabilize it, make any minor taste adjustments necessary, bottle it and let it age for a year before we get to try it.  Hopefully, we will get some good wine and not some vinegar or cooking wine.

If we do this all over after next year's elderberry harvest, about the time we bottle up the second batch of wine, the first one should be aged and ready to taste.  Delayed gratification, I hope!

I have no idea how I'm going to keep twenty some odd bottles of wine sitting on a wine rack at an ideal 55° Fahrenheit for months on end, through spring, summer, fall and winter.  I guess I'll have a little over six months to figure that one out.  I really hope the temperature thing is an ideal, and not a requirement, because I can't afford a walk in refrigerator right now.

Anyway, as my dearly beloved says at the end of her posts, "Blessings from the holler, y'all!"


♥♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥♥ said...

Hmmmm, the next thing you might need to do is to plan a wine-tasting party for next year - we would love to come:)

Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

cowgirl said...

It sounds wonderful Mr JP!

sprinkles said...

My father used to make wine sometimes when I was a kid. I remember once he had it in the living room sitting on the bar. I was in there watching tv and it exploded. Stained the ceiling. We got it cleaned up everywhere else, including the carpet, but it stained the ceiling. I never thought it tasted all that great but my parents seemed to enjoy it.

I like ♥♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥♥'s idea of a wine-tasting party. But only if I'm invited, of course! lol

Lena said...

Hey there JP! Welcome back to the blog! What a fascinating thing do to - elderberry wine! I'm with the OP Pack up at the top there - when are we having the tasting and can we come too? :-)
Have a wonderful weekend!

YD, sometimes with ♥Samantha and ♥June said...

Great to hear from you JP! I'm with the OP Pack and Lena, when is the wine tasting party?

Deborah said...

Hey there! I'm glad I didn't faint! I'm with the OP Pack & Lena , we'll be over for the taste testing! LOL
Have a nice Wednesday!

Paula said...

Wow- sounds wonderful, JP! My daddy used to try making some of that every once in a while.
And now, once the smelling salts wear off, I'll be singing "Elderberry Wine" all day thanks to you... *LOL*

Cindy said...

That's quite the lesson in wine making! I always think of a 1940's movie and two little old ladies when I hear the words "elderberry wine." And maybe there was and "I Love Lucy" episode that had something to do with it also? Not sure but it does come to mind.
Nice post!