Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The grapes came in three batches this year -- most of what we picked were concords and all were growing within a 2-mile circle but they ripened over several weeks instead of all at once. A change from the last few years.
The first batch, picked from my mom's two grape vines, we turned into grape juice just like last year. We put up a little over 40 quarts. The next batch, a little over three 5-gallon buckets full, came from vines at my sister's old house. No one wanted the grapes so we picked them, used one bucketful to make grape jelly and gave the rest to some friends for making grape juice.
While we were picking my sister's grapes we exchanged greetings with a neighboring friend and got to talking about what we'd do with the grapes. She's a winemaker and before we knew it we decided to take the carboy we use for beer-making out of storage and try our hand at a batch of grape wine, too. Since we'd already promised those grapes to some other friends, we waited till the last vines we usually pick were ready and used them to mix up a small batch of concord grape wine.
The recipe is very straightforward. After rinsing and stemming, we measured grapes by the quart and added the same number of quarts of water to the carboy as we did grapes. The sugar was calculated by cup with a measure of one cup to each quart of grapes used. We were advised if we wanted a slightly sweet wine to increase the sugar by roughly a scant 1/4-cup per quart or no more than four cups to 5-gallons of combined water and grapes. The wine yeast we used, Red Star's Montrachet, was what I already had on hand from an earlier field trip to Dinosaurland.
After combining the grapes, sugar, yeast, and water (mixing the yeast with a little of the water first), DH moved the carboy from the kitchen worktable to an empty corner in the home office. It's far enough from the woodstove to stay relatively cool come cold weather yet in a spot where I see it every day so can monitor the water level in the jar in order to maintain the necessary airlock. The first day or two, I found myself talking to the dog only to discover she wasn't in the room. The sound of the air escaping from the tube into the jar of water is the same sound Holly-dog makes when she's asleep and dreaming -- little ruff, ruff, ruffs emanate from that corner all the time now.
So the fruit and sugar went into the carboy on September 19. It wasn't particularly difficult to prepare though none of my funnels were the right size to channel the grapes into the narrow opening on the carboy. I did that slow but steady job by picking up grapes by the handful and letting them roll into the jar using my other hand as a shield. When DH tried it grapes bounced everywhere but into the carboy so I did the grapes then he handled the sugar and water with yeast. I've been assured that it will look terrible, what with fermenting grapes and all, before we get to the next step in roughly three months but our adviser promised to come help with that...
Here's what it looked like today, the fourth day of fermentation. And below are a couple pictures of DH and DS from last week, picking the last of the summer (wine) grapes.