Mother Nature pulled a fast one on us this year, the cooler-than-normal summer didn’t bode well for the apples or grapes. Well, add to that the aggressive nature in which we hacked pruned the apple tree last fall quite possibly had something to do with the fact we hardly got any apples off the tree this year – not counting the ones the birds knocked out of the tree and gave the dogs fun things to play with in the yard.
The grapes on our front ancient grape vine were annihilated by the birds – apparently I shouldn’t have waited that extra week to pick them, because during that week of waiting, the birds were quite happy to go to town on them. At least all the grape vines I planted in the Back 40 were finally producing a nice crop of grapes this year.
Unfortunately, the farmer behind us didn’t plant corn this year, and apparently the deer didn’t like the beans he planted and loved my grape vines. *sigh* Next year I’m putting up some sort of netting or fencing around the grape vines in the Back 40 to protect them from the deer, especially now that they have probably gotten the word out to all their deer friends.
But luckily when I was searching in the basement for my extra one-gallon carboys to rack the current apple wine into so I can add cinnamon to one of the gallons, I discovered another wine kit I had purchased during the Spring that I forgot about. So I’ll be starting that one this week once I figure out what happened to all my air locks as I seem to be short.
I was determined to not let this year go by without starting a new batch of apple wine, because it’s been turning out so awesomely good, so I made a quick trip to BJ’s and bought 20 pounds of Grannie Smith apples.
The apples from our apple tree are not Grannie Smith, but I read that tart or cooking apples make excellent wine, so there ya go. Time for me to experiment and see if the Grannie Smith apples can compare to the apples from our tree in wine form.
Of course the fall decorating mode took up a considerable amount of my time yesterday, so I didn’t even get around to starting the process on the apples – the four 5-pound bags are still sitting untouched in the kitchen. So you’re still going to have to wait for that process in the next post.
Meanwhile, though, I thought I’d give you some insight on ‘racking’. You’ll see me refer to it quite often, and it’s something I had to figure out what the heck it referred to when I read wine recipes. It’s simple – it’s basically transferring the wine from one container to another – ‘racking’ it off the settled sediment so it can continue to either ferment, or start to clear, then age.
I started off with racking the wild blueberry blush that I started 14 days ago – I let it sit in primary fermentation an extra 4 days because it had gotten considerably cooler, which causes the fermentation process to take longer. I wanted to make sure it’s making the progress it needs to before pulling it off the sediment:
I thought my large carboy was only 5 gallons, and since the kit makes 6 gallons, I started racking it into a sanitized one-gallon carboy:
After I filled the one-gallon carboy, I started filling the other sanitized carboy:
Which turned out to be 6 gallons so I ended up pouring the one-gallon carboy into this one, too. Here you can see the bottom of the bucket getting down to the bottom where the sediment is resting:
There wasn’t much sediment to worry about, as is common with Kit Wines – unlike the sediment you get making wines from fresh fruit. I needed to do another racking on my apple wine, so I thought it the perfect time to show you the difference:
I’m racking out of the one-gallon carboy, then will move onto the three-gallon one:
This apple wine has been sitting still for almost 2 months. When you get to the final racking of fresh fruit wine before the clearing, aging and bottling stage, you generally rack every 30-60 days. Isn’t it amazing how much sediment there is from fresh fruit? That’s another reason the Kit Wines are an excellent idea for beginners.
It takes a lot longer to make wine from fresh fruit since you pretty much rack six months to a year before you can finally finish your wine, age it and bottle it. Or bottle it and age it, whichever you prefer – I prefer to do ‘bulk aging’, because then I have better luck having clear wine going into the bottles without having to use a wine filter to make it clear.
Notice the one-gallon carboy to the right – lots of sediment left behind. Here’s what the wine looks like going into the bucket:
Pretty much looks like apple juice. Princess Nagger thought it was until she smelled it. Then she said “Oh Mama! That’s not apple juice! That’s wine!”
After I transferred all the wine off the sediment into the bucket, I added a quart of invert sugar to sweeten it up a little – and potentially restart some fermentation for the next 30 or so days. Then I’ll add potassium sorbate to stabilize it. I transferred it into three one-gallon and one half-gallon carboys:
Before putting the air lock on the final one-gallon carboy, I’m going to add whole cinnamon sticks:
I’ll check the flavor in about 30 days for the next racking – depending on how strong or not the cinnamon flavor is, I will rack the wine off the cinnamon sticks at that time.
Notice it’s back to being a little bit cloudy – that’s typical considering how much sediment was at the bottom of the carboys to begin with. Over the next couple of rackings you’ll see less and less sediment. I’ll keep you updated on this group of apple wine, too – you’ll be amazed at how crystal clear it ultimately is. And yummy. I’m looking forward to seeing how the apple-cinnamon wine turns out.
Today I’ll be washing, coring, and cutting up the apples to start getting them on the road to becoming wine – next week will probably be a smorgasbord of stuff with that, along with the continuation of the two Kit Wines I started, and the third one I’ll be starting.
I also have some grape wine from last year’s crop of grapes that is ready for racking, too – and I still have cherry wine to make. Sounds like a lot of work – and it is – but it’s actually quite enjoyable. Well, except for the cleaning up part. Which I need to do now that I’ve written this post and see if I can get to bed before this post posts at midnight.