Country wine can be made from nearly anything. It’s versatile and highly forgiving, a simple transaction of alcohol for sugars. It can be made more complex, or more refined, but the simplest method will yield something that can provide a good buzz and taste somewhere on a spectrum between great and… interesting. I delight in the fizz of fermentation and stirring my concoctions into a frenzy as they transform.
Once I got started, I began looking at any bounty of vegetables, fruit or herbs as fermentable.
Which brings me to Jujubes, or Chinese dates, which will not be in our orchard at the new homestead. For one thing, they wouldn’t suit the climate. My Thai family member planted the exotic tree decades ago in what is now our backyard. This was the first season that I even bothered to learn that the odd fruits are edible, although our dogs have been eating them off the lower branches for years.
They’re pithy when green; spongy with a thin leathery skin once they’ve turned brown. The flavor is sweet-musky and rather raisin-like. Once I learned that the fruit can be eaten, I decided to make wine before ever taking a taste. I used the same method as with the tiny, drought-stricken plums, leaving the pits in. Both speak to the point that country wine can be made from the lowliest of fruits.
In case this tree lurks behind your house as well, or if you’re interested in a basic and adaptable wine-making method.
9 Lbs jujubes (Chinese dates)
4 gallons water
6 Lbs sugar
4 lemons, thinly sliced
1 whole nutmeg, halved
1 packet wine yeast
To prepare the dates, wash them, remove as many stems as possible, and then lightly macerate them or break the skin of the tougher ones. Place them in a 20-quart stainless pot, add the water and simmer for 30 minutes. They float, so press them down into the water with a stainless spoon frequently until they become a bit water-logged.
Five minutes before turning off the heat, stir in the sugar.
Turn the heat off and add the lemon and nutmeg. Let this sit, covered, until cool, preferably about 70-75 degrees, or over night. Pour into a fermentation tub if desired and use a hydrometer to test the specific gravity. This must be done before adding yeast and is essential if you want to know the alcohol content of the final product.
Scoop out half a cup or so of the liquid with a clean 1-cup stainless measuring cup. Add the yeast to this and stir or agitate to combine. Wait twenty minutes or so while the yeast activates and becomes foamy. Add to the fermentation pot. Stir well with a clean stainless spoon to combine and aerate.
Let this ferment over a week or until the froth of activity slows. Then strain, squeezing as much liquid from the sponge-like fruits as possible. Siphon the fluid into a sterilized carboy and place an airlock.
Once the yeast and other solids have settles to the bottom in a firm separation or after 7 to 10 days, rack the product into another sterilized carboy and continue to ferment. If active fermentation has ceased completely– no gas bubbles up through the airlock– go ahead and siphon directly into bottles. Otherwise, bottle about a month after the first steps.