I had a couple half-empty bottles of my Black Plum wine sitting on the server in my dining room. I had opened them years ago as an experiment and decided the experiment was over a few months ago. They still smelled good so I poured myself a drink. As I had hoped, they were still as good as the day I opened them. I alcohol content is so high (~17%) that it doesn’t spoil. A regular bottle of wine wouldn’t have made it a week.
During the summer, I happened upon the right time of year for black plums and I purchased 20 lbs of them at a cost of $0.88 per pound. I washed them, split them, removed the pits, and stored them in the freezer until my wife decided she needed that space for something Thanksgiving related. That takes me up to today, when I moved the thawed fruit into the fermenter. It’s been 10 years since I made the last batch of Black Plum wine, time to restock. I have a single 10 year-old pack of the high-alcohol tolerant yeast, I’m about to float it and hope the beasties are hungry.
I decided today was the day to clean up this blog; I got rid of the science fiction links and finally posted the limoncello recipe. I haven’t been posting much new material here, but I get a regular stream of questions that I promptly answer. Some of the comments and conversations have been going on for years. If you have questions, ask away. In the mean time, make a batch of Limoncello, that is the party favorite now for the last several years.
I finally figured out what to do with all the leftover lemon peels after making a batch of limoncello. I made a beautiful batch of candied lemon peels. It took some experimenting and since I had two batches of lemon peels, I had more than enough to work with.
I made a simple syrup of 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water. Bring it to a boil, then add the lemon peels and boil them until they are translucent. At least that is what the recipe said. They got kind of translucent, not very, but you could see the difference. Drain them and spread them out, let them dry a little.
I then put some sugar in a bowl and added some of the peels. I mixed it around and added more peels, then more sugar as needed. It got kind of granular all over the outside. I did this with the whole batch until they all had a good coating of sugar. I then put them in the oven at 170 degrees for a while to dry out.
When they cooled and dried a bit, I sprinkled sugar all over again and tossed them around again.
What didn’t work – the second batch I put in the oven to dry without first tossing them with sugar. When they came out of the oven, they were kind of tough and curled up. I’m not sure I boiled them enough, so I don’t know if they got too dry because they weren’t precoated or just not cooked enough in the first place. I tossed them with some more sugar but they just aren’t as good as the first batch.
And of course my wife saved the leftover lemon flavored simple sugar. I think it’s basically just limoncello without the alcohol. Great for ice cream.
The photo to the right is the 2 liter jar I use to infuse the vodka with the lemons. In front of that is one of the 1 liter stoppered bottles I use to store the finished product. Both of those are from IKEA. I have about 10 of the stoppered bottles. A single batch fills a little more than 2 of them.
The small bottle in front is a vinegar bottle I got from the local dollar store. It’s hard to find these in glass, they are usually plastic. They hold like 300ml, just enough for one night of drinking. Small is better for three reasons, it easily fits in the freezer, the smaller volumes chills faster when you need to put it in a friend’s freezer, and people don’t over-drink when there is a small amount to begin with.
I keep forgetting to post the amount of sugar. Today I boiled the sugar/water mixture. I use 3 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar. Heat until it just starts to boil, then let it cool before pouring in the liquid.
It turns out some of you may have been trying to email me and it was rejected. I recently moved my accounts from comcast to verizon and didn’t update this blog. It has been fixed and moved to my gmail account, which I think will be more permanent than verizon. Sorry if it messed you up.
We have become addicted to this stuff. I take a little bottle with me whenever we visit anyone. My buddy Mike is always running dry, but it’s ok since I’m usually one of the people drinking it. When you make it, err towards sweet.
Mike made a batch of LimeCello and OrangeCello. I’m not a fan of the lime, it had an aftertaste I didn’t care for. The orange version was ok, but not sweet enough. The lemon – it’s just a winner. I’ve got another batch brewing under the counter. This time we squeezed the lemons and put the juice in the fridge. My wife made lemon squares and a few other treats with the juice.
I just talked myself into a shot. See ya.
Important note: Make sure you boil the sugar/water before adding it to the mix. Adding sugar directly to the mix will cause it to be cloudy. The boiling process is a must.
Stupid title… sorry. However, it is the time of year where I start visiting my local fruit stands. We have a place around Philadelphia called Produce Junction. I have no idea if they are a chain or just local. In this place, you get in line, tell them what you want and they toss the fruit on the counter. Everything is prepackaged. If the fruit is in season, it’s good stuff and it’s cheap. I purchased my black plums there a couple years ago, I think I paid $2 for three pounds. Since each three-pound back is good for a gallon, it was easy to get what I needed for a batch of wine. I probably bought seven bags to have a little extra, then pitted them and threw them in the freezer.
The down-side to this place is the seasonality of the fruit. There were a few short weeks when the plums were really good and really cheap. A few weeks later they weren’t even available. The trick is to be a regular, I often walk out empty handed.
I want to make my plum wine again, it is just magnificent. Check out the recipe and watch your local fruit stands.
I’ve been insanely busy again. Too many kid sports and stuff at work. The wine patiently waits. I still haven’t been able to find bottles for my limoncello, but I’ll keep looking. It’s done, I need to add the sugar syrup so I can enjoy it. I also need to rack my blueberry wine.
Keep your questions and comments coming.
Cloudy wine? Give it time. I know, I’m a regular Dr. Seuss. But really, there are ways to clear wine. You can filter using a filter pad. You can use different fining methods where you add an agent like bentonite or isinglass, that the particles bind themselves to. Even better, be patient. Put the carboy of wine in a quiet and dark corner and forget about it. Every week or so make sure the trap has liquid in it and look at a flashlight through the wine. When you clearly see the bulb, the wine is ready to be bottled. Still cloudy, wait another month and check again.
So why not just filter or add chemicals. You can, lots of people do. I try very hard not to. Most particulates will settle out given enough time. I’m of the opinion that filtering will remove some of the good with the bad. My friend at the winery says filtering strips the color from the wine. I don’t want to filter, I’m lazy.
For some reason, I feel like I have to defend my winemaking tonight. I probably have no more than a glass or two a week. Sometimes it’s more like a glass or two a month. Of course there have been nights where I’ve had too much, but I’m getting to old for that. I absolutely hate feeling hung over.
This is a hobby for me, just like woodworking and golf. I enjoy digging in and learning as much as I can about my hobbies. It’s not to be a know-it-all, it’s because I get joy in feeling accomplished. I like to learn, I expect to pursue knowledge for the rest of my life. It’s who I am, it’s what I do.
I think winemaking is loaded with hocus-pocus, and that doesn’t work for me. The real winemakers are very scientific in their work, but not everybody works that way. My off-the-boat Italian friend has lots of old wives tales about making wine. I wish I could remember one right now.
It’s hard to experiment. For the home winemaker, making five batches of wine from the same juice, but with five different yeasts is not at all practical. Not to mention the fact that it will take at least six months before you can start evaluating the results. My scientific training makes me want to try, but it ain’t happening. So we learn as much as possible and make the best choices.
It comes down to control. I get to make wine the way I like it. I make big enough batches to I have what I like available in plenty. I already have more wine in my basement than I can drink in five years.
It’s okay, I’ll share.
I didn’t do a blow by blow on this wine. I made it for my friend’s wife, and it’s just another kit. Tonight I bottled the wine and there was half a bottle left over. Good wine never goes to waste, and I was quick to taste the leftovers.
Wow was it sweet, very sweet, too sweet for my likes, but what great flavors.
I also had a new experience with this kit. Just before adding the “F” pack, you are instructed to remove two cups of wine and put it aside to top up later. I did as instructed, added the “F” pack syrup and ran out of space. I had to remove at least one more cup of wine. The “F” pack is obviously full of more than two cups of flavoring. The result was a bottle in the fridge with around two cups of unsweetened Sauvignon Blanc.
Fast forward ahead to the leftovers from bottling. As I mentioned, I tasted it and it was way too sweet, so I poured it into the unsweetened bottle from the fridge. The resulting half sweetened wine was still sweet, but much more to my liking and it only lasted through the next night.
I would consider making a double batch of this and half sweetening, or making just pouring in half the “F” pack. I’m curious if anyone else has tried this wine.
By the way, my friend’s wife and father absolutely love the fully sweetened wine. I think they’ve gone through a couple of bottles and it’s only been a week.