Those of you that know me well will remember (or at least won’t be surprised to hear) that I’ve done a bit of homebrewing in my time. My good friend, Brent, and I got into it back in college. I always enjoyed doing it when I had him to share it with. But, unfortunately, Brent passed away many years ago and I haven’t brewed since. However, one of the things Erin and I talked about, early on in the whole “what in the world would we do with a farm” discussion, was growing grapes for jellies and wines. So, it’s been in the back of my head that there might be some brewing again in my future. As it turns out, the future is now.
See, earlier this week, Erin informed me that she had a co-worker, with grapes on her property, that we were welcome to. So, I should plan to go with her and pick grapes that night. “And then we can make jelly and wine!” she proclaimed, enthusiastically. As this was all via instant messenger, I emoji-smiled at her while screwing a panicked smile onto my own face. I was envisioning us going to this place and picking hundreds of pounds of grapes. I was terrified that we were going to have a repeat of the apple…”event” of ’16 when Erin picked…oh, probably 100 lbs of apples off a neighbor’s tree.
“We can’t just let them go to waste! They’re free!”
In that situation, though I don’t remember the EXACT face I made, I imagine it was like the one I’d screwed on for this grape discussion. A panicked grin.
However, having no control over the situation. Our youngest son and I joined Erin that evening in gathering grapes.
I have to admit, the thought of giving this whole winemaking thing a shot did have some allure. But, after about 15 minutes of grape-picking, I was losing steam.
And there were a lot more grapes.
I can’t tell you exactly how many. But our youngest and I were long done picking before Erin was.
In the end, we only picked about 15 lbs of grapes. Not bad.
but then, it was time to figure out how to make wine.
The homebrewing I’ve done is all beer. Brent (and now my friend Kirt) have both dabbled, successfully, in mead-making, and my father-in-law has had some good luck with winemaking, but it’s brand-new to me. And so, I set to researching. I did a whole lotta googling and pretty much everything I’ve come up with is trying to tell me that 1. I don’t have enough grapes and 2. making grape wine is complicated.
When it comes to things chemistry, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. If my pool isn’t PERFECTLY CLEAR 100% of the time, it almost literally keeps me up at night. So, when I’m reading about carefully taking the acid content and amending it and such and such, this whole making grape wine thing started to sound a lot more like work and a lot less like fun.
And so, my brain did what it often does when things don’t sound fun anymore. It reminded me of a similar project that I could do, using the same tools, but adding in novelty and reducing difficulty.
Yep. You heard me. Potato Champagne.
A couple weeks ago, in preparation for my great-aunt’s visit to the farm, Erin and I spent some time going through a booklet that was prepared for a family reunion about 10 years ago. In it, we found a recipe for “Potato Champagne.” Now. Does that sound good? You’re a liar if you’re telling me it does. BUT. It piqued my curiosity for a couple reasons:
- I have been known to be, from time to time, the guy who’ll drink something stupid, just to see if I can.
- It’s a recipe for a drink I’ve never even HEARD of.
- There’s some family history to it.
I don’t know what that family history IS mind you. It might be the family dare drink. I don’t know. But what I do know is, the recipe was simple.
As were the directions
And so, having come down with a summer cold and being home from work the last couple days, I decided, today, to give this a go.
Couple gallons of tap water – check
potatoes washed and sliced – check
That’s weird. It’s already weird.
Oranges sliced and WAIT. Oranges PEELED and sliced. I almost ruined it already. Busy thinking about how weird the potatoes are. Oranges – check!
Apples, lemons, raisins, check, check, check!
10 pounds or less (I actually used 8) sugar! Check!
Aaaand mix. Now it’s just to…float a piece of bread and put some yeast on top of it? Yeah, I’m not doing that. Here I’m deviating. That is totally legit for back in the day when folks didn’t have wine yeast. I, however, DO have wine yeast. And while it may lose some of its authenticity, I’m totally using wine yeast. But before I do! I’m curious.
Of course that recipe doesn’t say anywhere what proof/strength this concoction will come out to be. I, however, have the tools to find out. Hydrometer in!
Stirring around a bit with the hydrometer trying to get the fruit out of the way so it could float, I was surrounded by this…really pleasant aroma. All this citrus-y, fruity, sugary…with a hint of…is that potato? It made me draw a bit off to taste:
That’s pretty good! Apple-y, orange-y, lemon-y, with just a hint of potato (yeah, it’s weird), but really sweet (8 lbs of sugar, hey). This might actually end up being ok.
Anyway, hydrometer showed me just below the bottom orange band.
So, if the yeast survives (and it should, being wine yeast) this should end up about 18% ABV.
9 days, stirring daily. The anticipation is palpable over here. Updates to come! Have a good weekend everyone!
PS – we’re still doing something with the grapes, too!
I decided to test the fermentation progress this morning and popped the hydrometer back in. As it was still showing 15%, I added another gallon of water. This should lower the total ABV to more of the 12-15% range. 18% just seemed really strong for wine 🙂