With the earliest of garden fruits only starting to ripen in June, late spring sees a fermentation gap in our calendars. This is where the almost forgotten contents at the bottom of our freezer comes into play – those carefully harvested blackberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, elderberries, plums, apples, rhubarb and gooseberries that were promised for winter jams and tarts can be turned into a tasty, everyday drinking red wine instead.
It’s all mush
Defrosted fruits are not the best looking of ingredients as they often go mushy. This doesn’t matter, in fact it’s a boon. Because that shape break down shows us that the pectin inside has also broken down. Pectin is the stuff used to set fruit jams but as our aim is to produce free-flowing wine rather than jelly this breakdown means we can use the fruits just as they are.
Empty your chosen frozen fruit mix straight into a clean muslin straining bag that fits inside the fermentation bucket (or FV, fermentation vessel in jargon). The straining bag will help with removing the fruit after four days of fermentation as all you have to do is lift up the bag and tie it to a chair and let it hang over the bucket. The juices will run through without the messy, and staining process, of ladling out the fruit into a sieve.
There’s no need to defrost the fruits first but do take a note of the weights of each fruit type as you pour it in as this will help you decide how much sugar to add and calculate the final volume of wine.
Defrost the fruits by pouring on several kettles of boiling water. This will also help dissolve any granulated sugar you’ve added to the fermentation bucket. It’s a good idea to add a crushed Campden tablet at this point to act as an anti-oxidant and stop fruits like apples from going brown. You don’t normally add sulphite (the Campden tablet) to boiling water as this can give off unpleasant fumes, but the rapidly defrosting fruits will quickly cool the water and so it will be safe to do so.
Wouldn’t strain a caterpillar
Also add some tartaric acid to help with the final acid balance in the wine and stop it tasting like, well bad home brew. It’s also a good idea to add pectic enzyme to break down any pectin left in the fruits (better safe than sorry) and then leave the whole lot for 24 hours. Then add in your chosen yeast and yeast nutrient and leave to ferment on the pulp (jargon alert) for 4 days. Strain the fruit by lifting up the straining bag and leave it to drip through for a couple of hours. Do not be tempted to squeeze the bag to try and get out that last drop of juice as you’ll also squeeze through unwanted gloop which can cause a haze in the final wine.
At this point you’ll let the wine finish off in a demijohn (or demijohns depending on the amount of frozen fruits you had) with an airlock fitted. When it’s finished fermenting, rack off (see earlier blog Wine racking made easy) into a clean demijohn(s) and add another crushed Campden tablet. Leave for at least 6 months but keep an eye out for dropping sediment. If you see this then rack the wine again and take a tasting sample as you do so to see how the wine is progressing.
Adapt the following recipe to what you have in your freezer. Don’t let the apples become more than half the weight of the fruit mix as this can cause the wine to taste too sharp.
If you have only small amounts of many fruits types then bung them in! A mixture of many fruits actually helps with final flavour of the wine as it will balance out the different flavours each type of fruit brings to the party.
Fruity Freezer Red Wine Recipe
(makes 1 gallon/4.5-litres and fills one demijohn)
450 grammes (1 lb) elderberries
450 grammes (1 lb) blackberries
450 grammes (1 lb) plums or damsons (without their stones)
225 grammes (½ lb) blackcurrants or gooseberries
1 kg (2 ½ lb) apples
250 grammes (9 oz) grape juice concentrate (white or red)
900 grammes (2 lb) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon tartaric acid
1 teaspoon pectic enzyme
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
3 ½ litres (6 pints) boiling water