Homemade Winemaking Process

Whether you are interested in the homemade winemaking process or more intrigued by homemade mead or cider, you will need most of the same basic ingredients for fermentation.

  • This jug of peach mead is still fermenting, as indicated by the foaming action of the yeast. At the bottom, a layer of sediment comprised of dead yeast cells, called the lees, has formed.
    Photo by Johnny Autry
  • "Drink the Harvest" by Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest will help you preserve your summer's bounty through unique, delicious beverage recipes.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing

Whether you’re harvesting straight from the garden or buying fresh produce, there’s nothing like preserving summer’s bounty to enjoy throughout the year. In Drink the Harvest (Storey Publishing, 2014), authors Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest, share techniques and recipes for turning fruits, vegetables and herbs into delicious beverages to drink fresh or preserve for later. The following from chapter 5,"Creating Wines, Meads & Specialty Drinks," jumps into the process of fermentation.

Buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Drink the Harvest.

A Garden Full of Wine

Having enjoyed making garden wines ourselves, we think it’s a magical experience that becomes more fulfilling with each passing year as we gain experience and confidence. Once you learn the principles of fermentation and learn about the basic equipment and skills, you can let your imagination take over.

There is no one exact right way to make fermented beverages. Much of the information handed down from generation to generation is downright contradictory. There’s some elementary science at work, true, but over time winemaking becomes an art, a manner of personal expression that encompasses a vast and complex range of variables. Those variables can range from the duration of rainfall during the growing season, to the time of day you pick produce, to the amount of fertilizer in your soil.

Winemaking and its related activities are much like baking bread, and no more difficult. And just as temperature is crucial in canning juices, with all parts of the process required to take place at uniformly high readings, temperature is also crucial in winemaking. In winemaking, though, nothing must get too hot or too cold. There’s a sweet spot in the middle that fosters the development of alcohol, and winemaking’s key ingredient — yeast — must be activated in a lukewarm medium, just as it must for making leavened bread. Successful winemaking, like successful canning, does require strict sanitation, and we’ll get into the details later in this chapter.

The recipes included in Drink the Harvest are ones we devised and tested in our own kitchens. Keep in mind that they are just a starting point for all your future endeavors. We have standardized these recipes for one-gallon batches so that home brewers can cut-and-paste to create their own specialties. You can match your harvest with any of these recipes to create your own unique personal brew.

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