|Thanks to Fried Dough of Flickr for this beautiful shot|
Fruit must be allowed to ripen on the plant to be delicious. Everybody thinks their grandfather was a gardening genius with his succulent and sweet tomatoes, but in reality, we can all achieve deliciousness through natural ripening. The massive chain stores demand only transportable, uniform fruit. That means picking when the fruit is still green, or unripe. Few sugars. Crunchy strawberries! Gross.
So this wine must be made in season for strawberries, which will vary depending on where you live, but around here falls from mid-April or so to late June. Strawberries will be available from your farmers' market then (or better, your yard) and they will be delicious. Having lived around Santa Cruz CA, I happen to know that strawberries are one of the most important foods to buy organic. The poisonous chemicals used in conventional strawberry farming are extremely harsh and copiously applied.
Ingredients4lbs of organic strawberries
3 cups organic evaporated cane juice (@ Trader Joes)
White grape juice concentrate (12oz container from the freezer @ Albertsons)
1 gallon spring water (just whatever they had at the store)
1/2 tsp pectin enzyme
1 packet Pasteur Red wine yeast
Process - 4th April 2012I took the sepals (green bits) off the strawberries and gave them a quick rinse. Then I punched the strawberries down to pulverize them. Think strawberry mash. You could use a potato masher, but then your hand doesn't end up covered in amazing strawberry syrup! I dissolved the sugar in the boiling spring water and poured this mixture over the strawberries. To this I added the grape concentrate. You have to leave it to cool at the point. It needs to be room temperature before you add the enzyme, which could denature (bend), and the yeast, which could die (DIE).
So I added the enzyme (which helps to break down the protein pectin in the strawberries which would otherwise leave your wine cloudy) and yeast to my cool mixture in a few hours, once the water has completely cooled. At this point, whisk up the mixture to thoroughly distribute the yeast and get plenty of oxygen throughout the solution. Put the lid on your primary fermentor and fill up your airlock with cheap vodka.
During the first week, come along and shake your fermentor up every other day at least. We want the yeast to come into contact with as much of the fruit as possible. After this first week, I siphoned the mix through a sieve into the secondary fermentor. My gallon-sized secondary fermentors are old glass apple juice jugs I have saved. Any homebrew store will have bungs and airlocks to fit these. The wine continued to ferment for a couple of weeks after this stage.
|The gallon secondary fermentor|
Once all bubbling has ceased, you're ready to add a crushed Campden tablet to stop the yeast. Now, this is poison for the yeast, but it is perfectly safe for us humans once the wine is done. You can skip this stage if you prefer, but I would rack the strawberry wine instead. You should be concerned with the yeasties eating the bodies of their dead comrades once the sugar has run out, in a process called autolysis. Autolysis doesn't make alcohol, but it does make bad flavors. Racking just means taking the wine from the secondary fermentor into another container.
Three or four weeks later, the strawberry wine had cleared, and it was time for bottling. If you've been following along at home, you'll realize that was today! Here are some pictures from the bottling process.
|Cleaning the bottles with a stiff brush|
|The bottling workspace|
|What was left|
There was about 400ml (1 nice glass full) of wine left over, so rather than half fill a bottle, I poured a glass for me and the wife to try. It has a strong distinct strawberry flavor, mostly aftertaste, and a lovely color. The most amazing part is the aroma. Delightful! I am excited to see how this matures over the next 3 months.
Links for useful products mentioned in the post:
Racking Cane - 3/8 inch x 24 inches long
500 ml (16 oz) Amber Flip-Cap Bottles 12 pack
E.C. Kraus Bottle Brush
Red Star Pasteur Red
Edit [later the same day]: My camera was out of service during the main brew, but there'll be more pics from now on.