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Home and Farm Food Preservation
Chapter XV - Fruit Wines

Fermented beverages from various fruits can be made successfully on a small scale on the farm without expensive equipment. Success depends upon the use of clean, sound fruit of good quality, care in manipulation, and the possession of a knowledge of the principles of fermentation. Control of fermentation is by far the most important factor concerned.

93. Red Wine. Red wine is made by alcoholic fermentation of crushed red wine grapes. The color of these grapes is in the skins and does not dissolve until fermentation takes place. It then dissolves in the fermented juice, giving the characteristic red color.

(a) Crushing. The grapes may be crushed in an apple or fruit crusher or with a heavy stick or with the hands. Use only clean ripe grapes; never moldy ones. It is not practicable to make less than five gallons of wine. Wooden containers are necessary for good results.

(b) Yeast. Compressed yeast or magic yeast cannot be used for wine. The grapes will ferment of their own accord, but may not give a good product. If only a few gallons of wine are to be made, the grapes may be allowed to ferment with the yeast naturally occurring on them. Better results will be obtained if yeast obtained from the Viticulture Division of the University of California, Berkeley, is used. This may be obtained for one dollar per culture. Directions for its use accompany the culture.

(c) First Fermentation. The crushed grapes are placed in an open wooden vat or open barrel or in a stoneware crock. The yeast from the University is added or the grapes are allowed to ferment spontaneously. They should be stirred well three times daily. Fermentation is allowed to proceed until almost all of the sugar is fermented. This will be in five to eight days at room temperature. By this time the wine should have become deep red in color.

(d) Pressing. The juice is pressed from the fermented grapes. A cider press or kitchen size fruit press may be used for small quantities. A jelly bag may also be used.

(e) Final Fermentation. The wine is transferred to barrels or casks. These are left open until the sugar is all fermented. This will take place in about two to three weeks. During this time the barrels should lie on their sides with bung holes up and open and they should be kept full.

(f) Settling and Filling Up. When fermentation ceases and the sugar is all fermented, the barrels are filled with other sound new or old wine and closed with bungs. They should be examined once daily for about two weeks, removing the hung or cork to release pressure of gas and then replacing it. This will prevent bursting of the barrels. As the wine cools it contracts in volume and more wine must be added occasionally to keep the containers full in order to prevent vinegar formation. Souring of wine is often caused by not keeping the barrels full.

(g) Racking. When the wine has settled for about a month, it is drawn off (" racked ") into clean barrels, casks, or demijohns, and these are filled completely and closed.

(h) Aging. Newly made wine is not pleasing in flavor. It must be allowed to age in barrels or other closed and well filled wooden containers for at least a year before it should be used. The containers must be kept full and closed during this time. Wine improves with age up to a certain point. Claret is usually best when three or four years old.

During aging, the flavor and bouquet of the wine develop by a slow oxidation process, brought about by the air which slowly gains entrance through the pores of the wood.

(i) Clearing the Wine. If properly made, wine will usually become clear of its own accord. If it should not do so, it may be clarified by filtration.

(j) Bottling. When the wine has acquired its best flavor (after two to four years for red wine), it should be bottled to prevent deterioration. The bottles should be well filled and corked with good quality wine corks so that the bottles will not leak. It is also a good plan to seal the corks with paraffin to prevent molding.

94. White Wine. White wine may be made in a small way on the farm in barrels or puncheons (180 gallon barrels), or in small casks. Demijohns or bottles may be used, but the results so obtained are not very satisfactory. A barrel or cask should be employed. White wine grapes of good quality only should be used.

(a) Crushing, Pressing and Settling. White grapes are crushed and pressed before fermentation. The juice is not allowed to ferment with the skins, in this way differing from red wine.

(b) Fermentation is carried out in barrels or puncheons, etc., with the bungs left open. Open vats are not used. The same care in fermentation should be given as for red wine (see paragraph 93). Fermentation should be complete in four or five weeks.

(c) Racking, Filling Up, Aging, Clearing, etc., are carried out as for red wine.

95. Other Fermented Fruit Juices. Hard cider and other fermented fruit juices are often made for home use. These may be used while still in fermentation, as "sharp" cider, etc., or may be allowed to ferment "dry," i. e., until no sugar is left and may then be allowed to age in wood before use. Or they may be bottled just before fermentation is over to produce sparkling drinks.

The juice is pressed from ripe fruit and allowed to ferment spontaneously or fermentation is induced by the addition of pure yeast from such a source as the University of California or some other reliable source. Compressed yeast can be used but may not give an agreeable flavor.

If the fermented juices are to be aged this must be done in wooden barrels or casks for the best results. Because of their low alcohol content, vinegar fermentation must be carefully avoided by keeping the barrels full, well closed, and in a cool place. These juices age very quickly and may be used in a few months after fermentation.

Pomegranates, pears, oranges, blackberries, raspberries, sweet plums, cherries, and peaches may all be used for hard cider. Peaches and pears may be pressed more satisfactorily if crushed and fermented before pressing.

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