Monday, July 28, 2008

"She's My Cherry Wine..."

The latest endeavor out at the ranch is a batch of cherry wine. My brother bought me a beginners wine making kit for my wedding once he saw that we have 3 cherry trees and 3 apple trees. He took one look at the mini orchard and proclaimed, "You can make wine out of all this fruit."

And so it begins.

Somehow I recruited my neighbor to help with the cherry pickin'. Sucker. I even got him to go up on the ladder, while I stayed on the ground and got the low hanging fruit. We needed 6 pounds of cherries for two gallons of wine. It took us about 45 minutes to get all the cherries we need.

This part put a smile on my face. Last year, we were so busy moving in and trying to get the ranch fenced in for the dogs that we let almost all of the fruit just go to the birds or fall to the ground. So it felt good to be able to use it this year.

As part of my novice winemakers education, a copy of Home Winemaking by Terry Garey was procured.

I've seen it in all the winemaking shops that I've been in since starting this batch. If you want to make fruit wine, this is the book.

Here's part of the basic kit we got. It was under $200 at a local wine and beer supply store. It also came with a few glass jugs, another 5 gallon bucket, and a corker. I had to buy the yeast and a few ingredients that the cherry wine recipe called for, but it was only a few dollars.

Here's a link to an online kit if you don't live near a wine supply shop.

It was pretty straight forward at first. First, wash all the cherries. Then, put the cherries into the mesh bag and hold the bag over the bucket. Squish them up really good with your hands. One thing I like about this recipe is that you don't have to pit the cherries. That saves a ton of time.

You add some water, and some yeast food and let it sit for 12 hours. The next day, you have to check the sugar level. The wine kit comes with a hydrometer. It's simple to use. Just fill the cylinder that the hydrometer comes in with wine and drop the hydrometer in. Where it floats to is the sugar content, or "PA" as they call it: potential alcohol. I was told to get it to about 11.5 - 12%. I had to add a few cups of sugar. Then add the wine yeast, and make sure the bubble vent thing has some water in it... the directions don't really tell you about that, but the water makes it air tight. Fill it up about half way.

And now we wait for a week or so for the yeast to do their thing. A few days in and it was really bubbling. It's been about a week, and it's slowed down quite a bit.

I'm going to pull the bag of cherries out in the next day or so and get ready to "rack it" the first time.

Here it is fermenting in my room:

I'll put up a new post when I get to the next step.

See you next time: