Saturday, November 3, 2007

All hail Bacchus

Guess what I did yesterday?

I bottled, I racked, I brewed.

Working backwards: I knew I wanted to start a few batches of wine because my refrigerator is overflowing and something had to be done with all the produce. But in order to brew, I needed to free up a few 1-gallon jugs. Which meant I had to transfer the wine I started last year out of jugs and into bottles.

Wine making isn't an easy hobby for people like me because it requires tremendous patience. (I can hear you laughing.) Once the wine is jugged, it needs to sit for 6-12 months before it can be bottled. And once it's bottled, it needs to sit another 6-12 months before it's good enough to drink. Usually, the longer you wait, the better it tastes.

Even though I'm all about instant gratification, the idea of making wine thrills me. There's something about the idea of taking 3 lbs. of turnips and turning them into wine (that tastes nothing like turnips!) that seems like magic. Yesterday I bottled pear wine, linden flower wine, silverberry wine, and carrot wine. I sampled each brew as I bottled, and I must say they are all very promising.

I also had to rack 2 batches: beet, and mixed fruit (conceived to use up all of last year's frozen dribs and drabs before this year's started coming in). What's racking, you ask? Well, I'll tell you.

Fermentation is the process by which yeast turns sugar into alcohol. When the yeast finishes working, it dies and falls to the bottom of the jug where it builds up as a layer of fine silt. This is called the lees and it's best not to let more than about 1/2" of lees accumulate in the jug or it can throw off the taste of the wine. So, to separate the wine from the lees, you rack the wine.

There are all sorts of fancy equipment for racking that is much more sanitary and precise than the way I do it. Here's my down and dirty solution: I elevate the wine jug w/lees about a foot above counter level and place an empty gallon jug below it on the counter. Then I put a piece of plastic tubing into the wine jug, suck on it to start the flow, and drop the free end of the tubing in the empty jug. Gravity keeps the wine flowing, and just before the lees in the bottom of the top jug get sucked up through the tube, I yank it out. Depending on the ingredients of the wine, a batch may need to be racked 1-3 times between jugging and bottling.

Finally, after freeing up the jugs I needed for new-brewing, I started a batch of beet wine (one of my favorites) and a batch of cabbage wine.

That's right, you heard me: cabbage.

I don't like cabbage.

I'm not sure why I even took it from my CSA this year except I kept telling myself I should try coleslaw. But as 4 heads accumulated in my refrigerator
I realized it was either throw it away or get creative. What have I got to lose? Some yeast, some sugar, and a little time.

1 red cabbage (with 3 green) gives this batch its color.


At November 4, 2007 at 8:26 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cabbage wine? How odd. I guess it's no more strange than vodka from potatoes. Too bad we have to wait so long to find out if its good.

At November 4, 2007 at 8:50 AM , Blogger Leda Meredith said...

I envy the space you have for so many actively fermenting jugs of wine! But this post just reminded me that I should probably check on the small batch of elderberry cordial I started this summer.

At November 4, 2007 at 9:00 AM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

Hey Leda, as you may have noticed, one of the batches I bottled was your linden flower. I thought it was early but with no discernible lees and no visible fermentation, I went ahead and bottled. The taste is excellent (says me) and I'm bringing your bottles (2 x 750, 1 x 375) into the city.


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