When we moved into our house on 4th of July four years ago we had three cultivated plum trees and two peach. That first spring living there we had a late winter freeze followed that summer with a severe drought. Our trees were badly damaged and we actually lost one of the peach trees. The next spring a late frost hit the blossoms. The third summer brought us no peaches, but tons of plums – all spoiled with worms. Which brings us to this year. We had the perfect spring, thousands of blossoms, lots of fruit … until the Japanese beetles created lace out of the leaves, stressing the trees so that they dropped every single fruit.
Fortunately we have many wild plums of the Chickasaw variety. The fruits are small, about the size of a grape with an almond-sized seed inside. They’re ripe when they start turning orange, and they have a sweet and pungent flavor. Even our dog would get excited when we’d start harvesting because he’d pick up the fruits we’d drop on the ground! The small plums aren’t much for more than snacking on, but they should make a tasty summer wine.
Even if you don’t have access to wild plums, you can use a cultivated variety for wine making. You may find, however, that you’ll want to add some citric acid to balance the flavors out a bit since cultivated plums aren’t quite as tart.
Country Wine: Equipment and Ingredients
It is possible to make wine with minimum equipment and purchases. The bare necessities (in my humble experience) that you’ll want include:
- Food-grade bucket, preferably 5-gallon. Check with a local bakery or deli.
- A large strainer or sieve plus some cheesecloth.
- About 4-5 feet of food-grade tubing. Look in the plumbing section of a hardware store.
- Gallon-sized glass carboys or 5-gallon collapsible water cubes. Carboys can be saved from juice purchases. The water cubes are fantastic for making odd-sized batches of wine and can be found at camping supply stores.
- Balloons and cotton balls, or airlocks.
- Yeast. You can use regular baking yeast, but if you want a better flavor you can opt for different “wine” strains of yeast found at winemaking/brewing stores. I’ve used Montrachet as it’s recommended to balance the flavors of berry wines.
- Bottles and Corks. I save all my bottles from other purchases like wine, vinegar, juice, and so on. I purchased “mushroom” corks since they don’t require a tool to insert them into the bottles.
- Campden tablets to sterilize equipment, remove stray yeast and bacteria (highly recommended unless you have problems with sulfites).
- Tannin, citric acid, or Earl Grey tea for flavor balance in sweeter wines.
- Extra sugar or wine conditioner to sweeten and brighten finished wine.
- Pectic acid for removing extra pectin and “clarify” wine.
- Yeast nutrient to feed yeast. Recipes without nutrient require extra sugar.
You can purchase all of these items from a wine and beer making supplier or spend a little more energy and locate many things locally. I purchased my airlock, water cube, yeast, campden tablets, and corks from E.C. Kraus. for less than $50. The rest I found locally or did without.
- 3-1/2 lb ripe plums
- Campden tablets
- 1 tsp citric acid – not necessary with wild plums
- 4lb granulated pure cane sugar
- 3 quarts distilled, or boiled chlorine-free water
- 1 package yeast
- 1 quart distilled, or boiled chlorine-free water
- Sterilize all equipment with boiling water and Campden tablets.
- Wash plums. Remove any spoiled spots or fruit.
- Smash fruit with hands, food mill, or potato masher. Be sure to keep skins in the mixture – they’ll add a bit of body to the final product.
Add 3 quarts water and one Campden tablet and mix. Cover loosely with a lid or cheesecloth.
- Allow to rest in a warm, dark room for ten days.
At the end of ten days skim any residue off the top. Remove fruit with a slotted spoon or spider, draining well. With a cheesecloth, strain and squeeze liquid into a sterile carboy/watercube.
Dissolve sugar in 1 quart boiling water. Once it is cool add to fruit with yeast and citric acid.
- Close container with airlock or a balloon stuffed with cotton ball.
- Cover and stir daily for three days.
- use your original bucket (cleaned and sterilized) and tubing to siphon the fermenting liquid from the sediment. Place your bucket on the floor and your carboy/watercube/jug on a table or counter. Insert one end of tubing into the wine and suck just a bit to get the siphon action going.
- While the siphoned liquid is resting in the bucket, clean your carboy/cube/jug and re-sterilize along with your tubing.
- Siphon the liquid again – back into the cleaned carboy/cube/jug
- Close container with airlock or balloon as before.
- Let rest for 3 months or longer so that the yeast can work its magic. Once the mixture stops bubbling (if you’re using an airlock) or the balloon deflates the wine is ready to be siphoned into your sterilized bottles and corked.
- Allow the wine to rest for at least another 3 months before sampling, but it will taste better if you let it age longer.
Come back next week when I share some dandelion wine recipe I’ll be using for brewing. Visit my previous post for information on making blackberry wine.
You can find Jennifer over at Unearthing This Life where she blargs about life in rural Tennessee while waxing poetic (or whining miserably) about growing up in suburbia south of Chicago.