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a new adventure – home brew

July 16, 2012

okay. this is too awesome for words.

i’ve done a lot of things over the years to help our self sufficiency.  some things have worked.  some things have stuck with us.  others… they’ve fallen by the wayside.  but this… this by far tops all other ventures.

two weeks ago, with the serious help and patience of The Winemaker’s Shop, i became a homebrewer.  this basically means that i have no idea what i’m doing, but in the end, i get to drink a lot of delicious alcohol.

here’s the long story:

d and i met in college.  we were very young and infatuated.  and some of my fondest memories are of us together on campus.  we worked together one summer, which was eventful.  and we even took chemistry together.  d learned very differently than i did.  and he was interested in really honing his chemistry skills.  i, however, just wanted to get through the course and move on to something more exciting.

a word of advice: it’s not a good idea to be lab partners with the person  you’d like to marry… it may dissuade you from any romantic feelings whatsoever!

but we were young and in love.  in the end, we both survived chemistry (if not each other), and today we fondly look back at this time and joke about our learning styles/goals/trials and tribulations.

well, it wasn’t enough.  those memories alone weren’t enough for me.  that memory of working closely together towards a common goal – it wasn’t enough.  i wanted to experience something again.  i wanted to do something with d, to help us keep our memories in tact and to make new ones and continue our relationship.  that can be difficult having two small children.  conversations at dinner almost always end with stories about the kids instead of those silly, deep and heartfelt talks of yore.

i know how scientific d is.  and i know how UNscientific i can be.  what could be more perfect and balancing then making wine?

and so, he gets to be a lab nerd again.  he gets to sanitize and sterilize and siphon.  and i get to source the fruit and find the recipes and help put everything all together.

after the kids go to bed, we’ve been giggling together about our new adventure.  and dreaming of the day when we can taste!

this first brew is a blueberry wine.  remember that bright meditative morning when i went blueberry picking?  i wasn’t just thinking of jam.  i picked 13lbs of precious fruit, carefully froze it and waited for the right moment.  when all the supplies were in hand, we started.

now, i’m not giving you a recipe here.  i’m not an experienced winemaker.  if you too would like to brew your own wine, i suggest lots of research.  and remember, there are laws and government regulations/guidelines to follow.

all that being said, this is basically how it goes:

13lbs of blueberries are defrosted, crushed and added to a fermentation bag.  The bag is tied shut.

then the fermentation bag is added to a 5 gallon bucket, which is called the ‘primary fermenter’.  All the things you use to make the wine – like the fermenters and the bags and spoons and scoops etc must be carefully sanitized first.

following a good recipe and sanitizing even the plastic sheeting to cover the bucket is a must. (ha! no pun intended…)

then water is added to the 5 gallon bucket.  5 whole gallons of water.

after that, 11lbs of sugar go in.  we could use honey instead of granulated sugar, but that (mead) is a whole other ball of wax.

one bag of sugar is 10lbs.  2 1/4 level cups of sugar equals one lb.  so, an extra bit of sugar was needed.

then you’ve got to stir it all together.  it takes a great big spoon to do the job.

there are other ingredients to add, like yeast nutrient.

add all other ingredients except the actual yeast.

then stir stir stir like the dickens to dissolve it all.  seek help if necessary. :)

after 24 hours, the liquid (‘must’) should be sanitized and ready for the yeast.  here, the yeast has just been added. it looks so space-agey…

after two days, the ‘must’ starts to get foamy.

and after four days, it reminds me of purple sea foam.  that mesh is the fermentation bag.  all the crushed blueberries are in there.

the ‘must’ ferments for 3-5 days.

then, after checking the specific gravity with a hydrometer, you siphon the wine into a new container.  this is called racking, and the new container is the ‘secondary fermenter’.

make sure to gently squeeze all the juice out of the fermentation bag.  but not too much!  you don’t want the pulp from the fruit adding more sediment to the wine.  the goal is, no sediment.

the wine will spend a lot of time in the secondary fermenter – at least 6 months.

the wine will be racked several times.  this allows for continued fermentation, but it also allows the sediment to be removed.

when the sediment is gone and the wine is clear, it’s ready to be bottled.

and once it’s bottled, it needs to sit, to mature and age, eager as you may be to try.  (oh oh oh we’ll be eager for sure!)

but, we’re a long way away from that, any way… for instance, minutes after this last picture was taken, the fermentation lock, which is that fancy looking cork in the jug, popped off under the pressure and went flying around the kitchen. yes. lots to learn.  every day.

in the mean time, i’ll be dreaming about a perfectly brewed glass of wine to remind me of summer on late winter day.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Colleen permalink
    July 16, 2012 9:03 am

    We’ve been homebrewing beer for a couple of years, with great results. It’s fun to do, and is just as easy. Out of the 10-15 batches we’ve done, there’s only been one bad batch – mostly because the recipe was gross – not that the brew went wrong. Can’t wait to hear how your wine turns out!

  2. Jake permalink
    July 16, 2012 4:53 pm

    sweet! when are you opening your own vineyard? i can’t wait to try the Hughes and Home Brew. btw, can you send me the beet quiche recipe? yummy!

    • hughes and home permalink*
      July 16, 2012 11:06 pm

      Oooh. beet quiche. certainly. maybe i’ll post it for all to see.

  3. July 16, 2012 7:01 pm

    Um, I cannot wait for my Christmas gift this year. Just kidding! How much are you guys making? If it’s anything like your jams, we are all going to be demanding bottles of your wines. Keep us posted!

    • hughes and home permalink*
      July 16, 2012 11:05 pm

      We are making a 5 gallon batch. That’s a lot of wine. But hopefully, it will be good and no one will mind. :)

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