Sunday, September 11, 2011

I have always wanted to make moonshine.  Really.  I know all the reasons why it doesn't make sense to want to try it.  I know it's dangerous.  I know it's illegal.  But, I sort-of view it as the ultimate experiment.  Chemistry class in the kitchen shed some-location-an-appropriate-distance-away-from-anyone-or-anything-for-fear-of-being-blown-to-bits-by-chemistry-gone-wrong.  I don't even know if I actually like moonshine, to be honest.  I have only ever had it once and it was in some already delicious eggnog and the whole thing was just dynamite.  The moonshine could have tasted like raw fuel and that eggnog would have made it palatable.  So, I will never know.  And, it doesn't matter.  It was good and that's what counts!  At any rate, this is one chemistry experiment that won't be happening in my yard, house, garage (I don't even know!  Where would one attempt this?) anytime soon.  

Unless I get the hang of making alcohol.  

And, so, when I went wild muscadine gathering today with some friends and we were discussing the many things you could do with the blemished ones, the ones that need to be used right away because they won't keep, and someone said make wine...  Well, you can imagine my excitement!  Oh, there are many other things you can do with them, too, but after "wine" I quit listening.  One of the fellow gatherers shared the fact that his first taste of wine -ever- was of wine that he and his brother had made themselves from this very fruit.  Forget about it.  Halfway through his story, I was imagining myself in an oak barrel, barefoot with my pants rolled up giddily stomping muscadines.  (It's funny, in my mind, I looked like Lucille Ball.  Exactly like this!)  Regardless, I am telling you, the moment I got home, before I even set my purse down, I was calling on my good friend, Google, for some guidance.  And, before you know it, I was on the path to turning this:

into wine.

Well, not all of that.  I went for a small batch recipe that will result in just 3 quarts of wine.  That way, if it totally bombs, and I don't mean that literally (I don't think-YIKES), I won't have missed out on all the other delicious things you can do with fresh muscadines.  By the way, who knew muscadines were so delicious?  This was my first encounter with them.  One taste and now I'm hooked!

Anyway, here's the handy dandy recipe I used:
(It had a whopping 3 reviews.  But all were 5 stars.  And, it didn't require any trips to any specialty stores.  So that pretty much sums up my rationale for going with it.) 

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart mashed fruit
  • 3 quarts water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • yeast

Preparation:

Dissolve sugar in water put mashed fruit in with water and sprinkle yeast on top. Do not stir till the next day then stir every day for a week. Strain off liquid and place in a container with an air lock of some type for 6 weeks to allow fermentation to complete itself. Strain off again and bottle; cap lightly for 3 days to allow for any more fermentation to cease. Cap and store in a cool place. This recipe works with muscadines, blackberries, even apples.....makes a good tasting old fashion type wine with less alcohol than the vodka mixture.
Kirk's notes:
The recipe for the one gallon jug will actually make three quarts unless after initial fermentation...when racked off to the air lock...you add the additional liquid to make the full gallon. What we used to do was use a 3 1/2 gallon pickle jug for initial fermentation and put a little extra liquid in it and rack to three one gallon jugs with air locks for final fermentation. Makes 1 gallon of muscadine wine. 

(I have literally just copied and pasted the recipe.  Some of it is confusing to me.  Like the entire Kirk's notes section.  Where the hell do the 3 gallons come in when I just learned we were aiming for 3 quarts?  What the hell does 'racked off to the air lock' mean?  It sounds like some sort of torture.  And, then, all of a sudden, we are making one gallon?  So, I just ignored all of that.  I watched the videos by ironhead41 on YouTube and just sort-of combined his method with Kirk's recipe. But, not completely.  We'll just see how this little experiment turns out.  This could be interesting.)

Here's what I did:

I used my Leblon muddler (this is seriously one of the best freebies I have ever received!) to pop enough muscadines to equal a generous quart.  That is exactly what it feels and sounds like.  Press... POP!  It was so fun!  Because some of my family members have no idea what a muscadine is, here's a close up of the popped fruit:
These are a type of grape, but they have a thicker skin.  So, you pop the flesh out of the skin and eat it.  The white things you see above are the flesh.  I guess you can eat the skin, but I am new to this, too, and really have no idea.  You're on your own there.

Then, I added the hot water, sugar and muscadines to a large food-grade plastic bucket to hang out and cool down.  When the temperature reached 100 degrees (thanks, ironhead41 for the tip!), I added a packet of yeast.  Then, I put the lid on loosely because, uh, well, I wasn't sure what else to do and ironhead41's trick of using a condom (or even a rubber glove for that matter) wouldn't work here.  If you are wondering how a condom is appropriate here, you need to watch ironhead41's videos.

A few hours later, I peeked in because I am like a kid in a candy store and really can't help myself and found this:
It's a little hard to tell from the photo, but can you see how the yeast has really started foaming up and doing its thing?  I hope that is a good sign!  It needs to ferment now for 6 weeks, so only time will tell how well this will turn out.  Who cares?  Right now, I am getting my chemistry fix.  And, as long as I am in the midst of this fun process, I won't be temped to try my hand at making moonshine in a shed in someone's backyard.  I call that a success!

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