Basic Wine Making
Even though many people today consider wine as a recreational beverage, it had many important uses in history. Surprisingly enough, wine and vinegar are not especially difficult to make, nor is it expensive to get started. You can also use a range of different fruits, vegetables, and herbs in your wine recipes. While wine making is becoming a lost art, it is one of the more important ones for preppers.
Reasons to Know How to Make Wine and Vinegar
From being used as a carrier for medicinal herbs to killing off pathogens in water, wine can still be used for these purposes. By the same token, vinegar also has many important uses that range from medicinal to cleaning. Here are few other ways that wine making can serve you well now, as well as during and after a major social collapse:
- Did you know that modern commercial wines are made with pesticide filled grapes and other ingredients that are as full of toxins as many other foods on the market today? When you make your own wine, you get to choose the ingredients.
- unlike many other foods and medicines, wine can stay in the bottle for years on end and improve with age. This makes medicinal wines very important during times when other remedies may be unavailable.
- No matter where you live or where you travel during and after a social collapse, you can expect problems obtaining clean water. While there are certainly many methods for purifying water, it never hurts to have some wine onhand to use as a precaution.
- As people look for medicine, clean water, and even a beverage to help them relax, you can rest assured that your skills and products will be in heavy demand. Historically, the wine trade has always been a valuable one. You can easily barter wines for many other necessities, and be in an industrial category that will one of the leaders as society rebuilds. This, in turn, is something you can pass to your children and be assured many generations of success long after you are gone.
Basic Equipment and Supplies
Over the years, I’ve seen wine making setups that are as traditional as wooden wine kegs, and as simple as a few empty gallon wine bottles and a stock pot. Others have made the process even more simple by using unprocessed apple cider and let it set on a sunny window to let it ferment. That all being said, if you plan on making small batches of wine with a good taste or medicinal value, there are some essential basic tools:
- fruit preparation equipment (optional) – this can include anything from an apple corer to a fruit crusher or cherry pitter.
- Cooking vessel with cover for fruit, sugar, and other additives
- Strainer or Straining Bag
- container for wine fermenting stage 2
- Hydrometer – used to determine the alcohol content of wines. You can use this with food sugar content charts and sugar addition charts to create more predictable alcohol contents for each wine you make.
- Decanter for serving wine (optional)
- towels, ladles, and stirring aides
- siphon (optional)
- plant matter (fruit or vegetable) and herbs – you will need 3 – 4 pounds of plant matter for every gallon of wine
- sugar or honey
- brewer’s yeast (or baker’s yeast if brewer’s yeast is not available. (If you use baker’s yeast, the alcohol content will be lower. If you advance into making a still, then you can always concentrate the alcohol as much as you want.)
Choosing Foods to Make Wine and Vinegar
When it comes to choosing the best foods for making wine and vinegar, you must start out by understanding what you want to achieve. For example, if you are interested in making a vinegar with the most medicinal properties, you would more than likely choose apples. On the other hand, if you are interested in making a medicinal wine, you might consider elderberry, currants, or other fruits and herbs that lend themselves well to this purpose.
By the same token, if you are after taste, or a wine that might serve well for neutralizing bacteria in water, then you might go with recipes that yield more alcohol. Insofar as making wine purely for taste or celebratory purposes, you can choose just about any fruit. You can use the following sites to learn more about the sugar content of differ foods:
- Sugar types and how they work in wine as well as most popular fruits for wine making.
- Some vegetables you may want to try for wine making. As you can see, many of these recipes also include fruit and sugar additives.
- Vodka – this guide will also help you figure out how to manage foods that have higher starch content, and therefore require an enzyme phase before fermentation.
Preserving Yeast and Mother
Both wine and vinegar require special bacteria that convert either sugar (yeast converts sugar into wine), or alcohol (mother converts alcohol into vinegar) into carbon dioxide and a second “waste” product that is of interest to you. If you allow wine to ferment long enough, and put enough sugar in it, eventually the alcohol in the wine will kill off the yeast culture.
As you may be aware, “yeast washing” is common in beer making, and it can be used successfully for generations on end because the alcohol content in beer is much lower. If you are going to preserve yeast for wine making, I recommend setting aside one separate fermentation tub for each raw ingredient (example a separate one for dandelion, apple, etc), and use less sugar (or add more water to the mash) so that the fermentation process stops at an alcohol content similar to beer. This will give you a yeast that can be salvaged, and also will help you produce, over time, yeast strains, that may be more effective with different foods based on pH.
Insofar as preserving mother for vinegar, you only need to keep a bottle of unprocessed vinegar as you would under normal conditions. Later on, when you make vinegar, just keep using the mother that collects at the bottom of each bottle.
Basic Steps for Making Wine and Vinegar
Some will tell you that you don’t need a mash stage for fruit wines, while others will still use it along with Campden tablets for killing off wild yeast and other bacteria. I have always used a boiled stage (no Campden tablets), as has been done in my family for generations.
- Start off by sterilizing all equipment and bottles with bleach and rinse thoroughly.
- Choose and gather the fruits or vegetables that will be used for making the wine. Different fruits will have the best sugar levels depending on the time of day that you pick them. Use only the best quality, peak fresh fruit or vegetables.
- Next, prepare the fruits for boiling. You can throw grapes in whole. Other fruits, such as cherries, peaches, apples, plums, oranges, lemons, and pears must have the seeds, pits, and skins removed. At this stage, don’t be overly concerned about cutting the fruits up too much.
- Add sugar (based on the recipe) and water to the fruit and let boil until the fruit breaks down to a fine mush. Let the mush come to a rolling boil for at least a few minutes so that all bacteria, fungus, and other microbes are killed off. I use boiling protocols similar to what I might use for canning.
- Refrigerate the boiled plant material until it is cool enough to handle.
- Once the fruit, sugar, and water are cool enough, go ahead and take measurements so that you know how much more sugar or acid to add for the sake of the flavor you are after. Make adjustments as needed.
- Add yeast and let ferment in a warm location for about 4 – 5 days.
- Take a nylon bag or other fine mesh strainer and run the must through it. Discard any skins or pulp that are left behind.
- Pour the must into a sterilized wine bottle and put the cap on loosely. Watch for the volume of bubbles in the wine to slow down or stop. This process will usually take 3 to 4 weeks, but you can leave the wine in the same bottle for years on end if you wish, just remember to tighten the cap.
- When you are ready to use the wine, decant into a clean, sterilized bottle and leave the sediment behind.
- If you want to make vinegar, just go ahead and pour the wine into a wide mouthed jar. Add mother from unprocessed vinegar and put some cheesecloth on the opening of the bottle. Put the mixture in a dark, warm place for a few weeks, and it will turn to vinegar.
Wine making can be a lot of fun, as well as profitable and useful. For preppers, being able to make wine using simple methods and a minimum of ingredients is very important. When you need to purify water, or need to preserve herbs and food, you will find that being able to make wine and vinegar are both extremely important.
*A Scott Hughes Original for Freedom Prepper.
**Feature picture from Mother Earth News.