Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wild Forager Wines

After another hiatus, I am finally back to tell you all about my adventures as a spare-room vintner. This little adventure started in August, 2011 when our good friends Dewey and Danner bestowed upon us several gallons of "junk berries" from their blueberry business. Those little suckers got run through our Kitchenaid foodmill attachment, Robb diligently filling the hopper, each gallon magically becoming a little more than a quart of berry juice and pulp, free of seeds, sticks and leaves.

That juice has since been turned into jam, syrup and most importantly, WINE!

Since my last post I have made a second batch of blueberry and 1 gallon batches of rosehip, wild cranberry, wild grape, crabapple and plum!

~Straining and Racking~

This one goal resulted in a spinoff interest that I wasn't expecting. In my quest for free wine-making juice, I started foraging. In the beginning, it was an accidental discovery of wild grapes on the side of the road as I was driving to a patient's house. Once I found out what they were, I kept my eyes open. They were all over the place!! In one very lucky spot I was able to find wild grapevines woven over some highbush cranberries, sitting in the middle of a thicket of blackberries! This one spot will give me harvest from spring to fall next year!

~Rose hips~

I also kept my eyes open around town. Turns out there are domesticated plums being grown ornamentally behind the bank, rose hips by the bushel could be harvested from the grocery store parking lot dividers, and crabapples galore outside my chiropractor's office. On the waterfront I was able to find bayberry bushes, echinacea and mint, and at the end of a patient's driveway, a beautiful Chicken of the Woods mushroom that was wonderful sauteed and served over salad. It was such a fun fall, harvesting food that I didn't have to grow! I also learned how to prepare and preserve them all - what great skills to have! All of these things foraged discoveries became wine, jam and/or dehydrated for homemade teas (except the mushrooms).

~Wild Plums~

After mashing up my fruit, I found recipes online for each type of wine I made. I found this to be one of the most helpful, in terms of giving me the general framework for my endeavor. Combined with the help of the folks at Central Street Farmhouse, I had plenty of information to get started.

~Blueberry Pulp~

Blueberry Wine Recipe
Highbush Cranberry Wine Recipe
Rosehip Wine Recipe
Wild Grape Wine Recipe
The plums I went rogue on, feeling comfortable twiddling with my own ratios, after having made the others.

~Sterilizing the bottles~

So far I have only bottled the first batch of the blueberry wine. What is most surprising is how much the character of the wine changes as it ages. In the very beginning it was a delicious, sweet juice, thick in the mouth and hopping with blueberry flavor. After fermentation it became ... hooch. We could have used it as turpentine - and that's about what it tasted like, too. A month or so into the racking process it mellowed out slightly, but had a very pungeant aroma - kind of like wet socks. Now it's really starting to settle down and the flavor is coming back into itself. I don't know how good it's going to turn out, but the brave chap at Central Street Farmhouse that tasted it said it will be just fine - it just needs more time. Apparently wine-making is teaching me patience, too!

I am so glad that I embarked on this goal four months ago. My quest to complete it has led me to places I didn't even know I'd want to go, and I am left with lifelong skills of foraging and food preservation. I may be the only one who will love that wine enough to be able to stomach it, but there are worse things than having 10 gallons of wine all to yourself!

~The Very First Bottle!~


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