Friday, July 27, 2012

Home Winemaking - Wild Black Raspberry Wine and White Currant Wine

I started my second and third batches of wine a couple of weeks ago.  This time around, it was a raspberry wine and a white currant wine.  I was really excited to use the wild black raspberries that I had picked and froze back in June. 

For my raspberry wine, I used the recipe found in Terry Garey's "The Joy of Home Winemaking," which calls from 3 - 4 lbs of raspberries for every gallon of wine.  In this case, I used 2 lbs of wild black raspberries and 2 lbs of our homegrown red raspberries (which are delicious by the way). 

I started another gallon batch of wine using 3 lbs of white currants that I had also picked and froze in June, again using a recipe found in Terry Garey's book.   This particular recipe for currant wine called for 3 lbs of sugar, which seemed a bit much.  After the must was assembled, I was a bit concerned that the finished wine might end up tasting overly sweet for my liking. (I usually like my wine very dry.)  You see, during the fermentation process, the wine yeast feeds on the sugar contained within your must (which in fruit winemaking consists mainly of crushed fruit, water and a sweeter like sugar or honey), creating alcohol and releasing carbon dioxide.  Once the alcohol level in your must reaches a certain level, say 14% for example, the yeast population begins to die off.  Hence, if the alcohol level of your must reaches this critical point before all of the sugar has been consumed, then you may ultimately end up with a sweet tasting wine.  I'm hoping this is not the case with this recipe.

The raspberry must was a brilliant blood red and very fragrant.  The white currant must, on the other hand, was far from interesting in sight or smell. 

The primary fermentation process lasted for about 12 days, after which the wine was siphoned into one gallon glass jugs to start the slower secondary fermentation stage, which usually lasts anywhere between 4 and 6 months.  As more sugar is consumed, more alcohol is released, and more yeasts die and sink to the bottom of the jug, the wine should slowly become clearer (hopefully).  During this stage, the wine is usually siphoned into new jugs several times, separating the liquid from the settled dead yeast particles, until you end up with a clear wine that is suitable for bottling.

As you can see from the picture above, by the end of the primary fermentation stage, the white currant wine took on a light yellow hue more reminiscent of white grape wine. 

On a side note - I forgot to post an updated picture of my Juneberry wine, which began its secondary fermentation stage a few weeks ago.  You can see how cloudy the wine is at this point, but already, it's beginning to clear.  It's hard to tell by the light but I would describe the color as being ruby red.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Mid-July Harvest

I look forward to this time every year.  The first artichokes are in.  (Yes!  It's possible to grow artichokes in Vermont!)  They don't seem to mind the hotter than usual weather we've been experiencing so far this summer, though the plants are growing much lower to the ground than usual.   I know what I'll be eating for the rest of the week.

Also, my onions are looking fairly decent compared to years past.  I went back to starting them from seed and waited until the chance of any frost was over before setting them out.  This seemed to have helped.

Aside from the Sungold and Black cherries, I picked our first slicing tomato this past weekend - a Cherokee Purple I believe.  Usually the first tomatoes of the season aren't so great but this one was VERY good.  It still amazes me how different (and amazing) homegrown heirloom tomatoes are compared to anything you might find at the supermarket or even most farmers markets.

I also picked the first hot peppers of summer.   Hungarian Wax is incredibly early and always a reliable producer.

And they make the best pickled hot peppers in my opinion. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What's In Season - Turnips and Cukes

This is my first time growing your average turnip.  Up until now, I've only grown Japanese varieties,  which are smaller and milder.  I'm planning on roasting these for dinner sometime soon.

The cucumbers continue to come in strong despite the beetle issues we've been having.  Like every year, by mid-August all of my cucumber plants end up slowly succumbing to bacterial, which is spread by cucumber beetles.  I guess we'll just have to enjoy them while they last.  Fresh homegrown cucumbers in my opinion are infinitely tastier than the soft/bendy/tasteless (i.e. not fresh!) ones you find at the supermarket.

And what to do with all of those cucumbers?  You make refrigerator dill pickles of course.  I've had so many complements lately from friends who've tried my homemade pickles (which probably explains why they never seem to last longer than a week in the fridge).  Most of them have never made pickles before and didn't realize how easy it is.  Here's the recipe that I stick with (though I usually add an additional teaspoon of salt these days). 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Currant Madness

During the past couple of weeks, we've been picking currants planted throughout the development.   We have six bushes ourselves, which have yielded much more than I had expected. The red and white varieties seem to ripen all at once, which makes the picking process much easier.

The black ones on the other hand seen to ripen individually, so instead of plucking whole clusters, we picked these one by one.  I've never picked coffee before but I imagine it's a lot like this.  And unlike the white and red ones, which have a sweet/tart taste, the black one are much more interesting.  They are less juicy than the others and have a flavor that's musky and almost spicy. 

Just to give you a sense of scale, the Red Lake currants on the right are somewhat smaller than the unknown red variety on the left, but I think they have more flavor.

And while the black currants are more time consuming to pick, the red and white ones require more processing time.  But once you got into a groove, striping the berries seemed like therapeutic work. 

Just part of the harvest - we picked enough for several batches of wine, including one for each variety.  I think I'll also try making wine from a blend of the three.  And there will still be enough left over for jellies, syrups, cordials.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Picking Wild Black Raspberries

Towards the back of our development, the side facing Centennial Woods, I came across a patch of wild black raspberries the other day.  Admittedly, I had to do some googling before I figured out exactly what they were.  They're tiny compared to cultivated raspberries but have a wonderful flavor.  And unlike the raspberries you grow in your own garden, these were bit of a pain to pick.  This particular patch was growing on the side of a downward slope so I had be extra careful when picking.  Falling head first into a thick patch of thorny brambles would ruin anyone's day.

As you can see, the berries start out red, turn purple and then ripen black.

Luckily, I was able to find several patches that were not so treacherous, though I also made the mistake of not dressing in appropriate attire when I picked my first batch.  Like most wild edibles, these tend to grow amidst tall weeds and brush, which are a haven for plants and bugs that make you itch.  Luckily, it was just the bugs that first time and now I make sure to wear pants whenever I go searching for them. 

Juneberries a week ago, wild raspberries now and blackberries next month - who knew you could have this much free fruit living within city limits?  At this point, I've been able to pick almost two pounds of these berries.  (They are tiny and way next to nothing!)  Combined with some of our cultivated red raspberries, I now have enough to make a batch of (mostly) wild black raspberry wine.