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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

cherry wine

A pair of cherries from the same stalk. Prunus...Image via Wikipedia
The lady's mother has two prolific cherry trees, which is far more than she and her friends are able to use, so i've been doing my part to help. I've been making preserves, cobbler, have a pie planned, and of course there are worse things to do with an excess of fine fruit than a nice wine.

I thought i'd share my basic recipe. it is formulated by the gallon, but of course it can be adjusted, my next batch is going to be larger.


- 3lb ripe cherries. I'm partial to sweet, tart, but not too tart varieties. basically, just enough acid to prevent the need for an acid blend.

- 1.2lb white sugar.

- 2 cloves.

- 1/2 tsp. real vanilla extract.

- 2 Tbs. zest of lemon.

- 3 Tbs. fermiad, or appropriate amount of other yeast nutrient blend, just for good measure. too much will negatively impact the final flavor [tastes like a multivitamin, which in a sense, it is.]

- Yeast culture, or Active dry yeast. I've been using baker's yeast a lot, with fairly good results. the alcohol tolerance is usually over 10% and the off flavors do not generally persist once the yeast settles out. I still recommend a commercial wine yeast.


- Large adjustable burner.

- Large, preferably non-aluminum stock-pot, at least two gallons capacity, with lid.

- Large ladle.

- cheese cloth, or other disposable, clean cloth at least 16" x 16".

- Glass or plastic primary fermentation vessel with lid. you can use the same stock pot you boiled the fruit in if you please, but then you will need to pour the contents through the cheese cloth into a funnel [i've tried it and i don't recommend it].

- Glass secondary fermentation vessel with airlock [i am currently using a large wine jug with lid, a length of aquarium tubing running into a water filled jar in a simple bubbler setup.]

- Funnel.


Prepare primary fermentation vessel by filling half way with hot water, then adding 1/4 cup of household bleach, and filling the rest of the way to capacity with hot water. cover and let stand at least 30 min. in an absolute pinch, you could instead wash and scrub it well, rinse thoroughly, then fill with rapidly boiling water and let stand until cool. the latter method is less reliable.

Rinse cherries, cleaning out any debris such as twigs, stems or leaves, and if necessary, let stand somewhere warm until warmed to room temperature. Place into stock pot.

Add 3 quarts water, 1/2lb of your sugar and heat quickly to a boil. As soon as a gently rolling boil is achieved, turn off heat and let stand until cool enough to touch.

Wash hands well and rinse thoroughly.

When cherries are cool enough to place your hands into the water, manually crush cherries. continue until all cherries are crushed and the stones have fallen to the bottom. you can remove these by hand now, but this is not necessary.

Add cloves and lemon zest, and return to a gentle boil. Gently boil, covered for 60 min, stirring frequently. Add vanilla extract and yeast nutrient, and again, stir well.

Let cool to nearly room temperature. you can expedite this by placing the pot into a clean sink with the drain stopped, and filling it with cold water.

Empty Primary fermenation vessel and drip dry, upside down in a clean place.

Strain cherries through cheese cloth into your Primary fermentation vessel. pull cheese cloth into a bundle and suspend over until it stops dripping. do not squeeze with your hands, as this can introduce contaminate bacteria or yeasts from your hands. discard pulp [good time to start a compost pile?]

cover primary fermentation vessel and be sure to cool completely to room temperature. rehydrate your yeast as per directions and pitch into the fermenter.

Allow to ferment, covered, in a cool place out of direct light for 2 days.

Rapidly boil 1 quart of water and add remaining sugar. Sustain boil for 5 min, covered, and remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature and pour into Primary fermentation vessel, using funnel if necessary. Be sure to pour into the liquid, not down the side of the container. this will introduce more oxygen into the wine, which at this stage is crucial.

Allow to ferment in same conditions for 5 days.

Prepare secondary fermentation vessel as you did the first. Pour wine slowly into secondary fermentation vessel, using funnel if necessary, being sure to pour down the sides of the container so there is no splashing. you do not want to introduce any more oxygen whatsoever at this point.

Fit airlock and ferment in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks. checking visually from time to time. At this time, you may remove airlock carefully and cork.


Be sure all utensils are well sanitized. fresh from a complete cycle in the dishwasher is usually sufficient, but boiling or soaking 30 min in hot bleach water will also do. the same goes for corks.

I recommend synthetic corks. they are easier to sanitize.

Do not open the primary fermenter to check progress. this dramatically increases the chances of contamination, and spoilage of your wine.

Never open your secondary fermentation vessel, unless racking under proper sanitary conditions or bottling under the same.

I may need to edit this, but for the moment, it's game night. Trivial Pursuit awaits.

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