Introduction: Homemade Plum Wine
This Instructible will show you how to make a simple plum wine.
My Wife & I moved into a house with a good sized plum tree in the backyard about 3 years ago. The 1st year we didn't know what kind of tree it was until just before the fruit ripened. We ate a few dozen, but most fell to the ground and were wasted. Determined not to have a repeat the next year, I decided to try my hand at wine making. I browsed through the depths of the internet, talked to the guys at the local brewing shop, and hammered out a recipe. The 1st round was a single 5 gallon batch to try out the recipe & test the waters. It turned out amazing!! I couldn't be happier with the result! This year I did 15 gallons and tweaked the recipe very little.
If you have brewed beer before, you should have most of the equipment on hand. If you are new to wine making/brewing, a trip to the local homebrew shop is highly recommended. You can get all of the supplies off the internet, but you can't get the years of experience that your local shop owner has.
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Step 1: Gather Supplies
Required supplies & ingredients: (per 5 gallon batch)
-Fermenting bucket with lid & spigot
-1 glass/plastic carboy
-3 piece airlock & bung
-Stainless steel stirring spoon
-5 gallon bucket (new or very clean)
-Sanitizing solution (I like Star San)
-English breakfast tea (or liquid tannin)
-10 lbs regular sugar
-20 lbs ripe sweet plums
-2 packs Lalvin 71B-1122 dry yeast
-3' 3/8 vinyl tubing
Advanced Supplies: (not required but recommended)
-Triple scale hydrometer
-1000ml erlenmeyer flask
-Wine thief (for easy sampling during final fermentation)
Step 2: Get Your Hands Dirty!
Take the straining bag and put it in a bucket. Using your hands, smash the plums & remove the pit/stones. The goal is to keep everything but the pits & stems. It took me about an hour to process 20 lbs. Keep the juice, skins, & pulp for the next step.
Step 3: Makin' Must
Put the spigot on your fermentation bucket and test for leaks. Use water, you don't want to find out with sticky plum juice!! Put the bag full of processed plums in the bucket and pour in the juice. I zip tied the bag closed because knotting it is a pain later on. On the stove, melt the sugar in about a gallon of water. Heat the water up to expedite the process, but don't let it boil. Next, brew a cup of English breakfast tea with 3 tea bags, juice the 2 lemons, add the pectic enzyme (follow the instructions on the bottle for the amount to add) & crush 6 campden tablets. Add everything to the fermenting bucket & stir it up. Put the lid on the bucket with the airlock in the hole in the lid. Leave everything alone for 24 hours to let the campden tablets & pectic enzyme work their magic.
The campden tablets kill off any wild yeast & bacteria that would otherwise spoil the wine.
The pectic enzyme breaks down the pectin in the fruit to allow maximum fermentation of the plums.
The tea adds tannins to the finished wine
The lemons boost the acid level in the must. (unfermented wine)
Step 4: Make a Yeast Starter (optional)
Making a yeast starter, while not required, is a good idea. A yeast starter gives the yeast a chance to wake up and hit the ground running. The faster fermentation starts, the less chance bacteria, wild yeast, and other undesirables have at getting into the must. I used a 50% must/water mix as a starter because I already had 5 gallons ready to go. You can use sugar water as a starter, but it isn't as good as the what the yeast will be eating in the fermenter. You can do a simple starter in a bottle with foil over the top. I used a stir plate I have for my homebrewing. For more info on yeast starters, just Google it. Their is tons of info on how/why out there.
Add your must/water or sugar water solution to the Erlenmeyer flask with a stir bar. Rehydrate the yeast according to the instructions on the package & add it to the starter. Put it on the stir plate on low for 24 hours.
Step 5: Let's Get This Party Started!
Until this point sanitation hasn't really been a factor. Everything that touches the must from now on MUST BE SANITIZED!I can't stress this enough. Spoons, your hands, tubing, EVERYTHING!
If you have a hydrometer, take a gravity reading. It should be no higher than 1.10, if it is, add some water to drop the gravity. (gravity is a measurement of how much sugar the must has. More sugar = more alcohol, but too much will kill the yeast)
If you didn't make a starter, re-hydrate your yeast according to the package and pour it in the must. Stir everything up and put the lid back on. Over the next 7-10 days, take the lid off and stir the must twice a day, but don't slosh it around too much. The goal is to stir it but not add oxygen. Oxygen is needed for fermentation, but too much can oxodize the finished wine. I keep my stirring spoon in a bucket of sanitizer next to the fermenter ready to go. After a day or two the airlock will start bubbling & your house will smell like wine.
Step 6: Transfer to a Secondary Fermenter
Once the gravity reaches 1.030 (7-10 days or when the airlock slows down) transfer the must into a sanatized carboy and put the airlock on top. If you don't have enough must to fill the carboy to 5 gallons, top it off with some spring water. (don't use tap water. The campden tablets removed any chloroine from the tap water used earlier, but it could cause off flavors at this point.) Keep it in a cool dark place for the next 3-4 weeks while the fermentation finishes and the yeast drop out of suspension. A basement, closet, bedroom corner, pretty much anywhere the temperature is stable & it won't be disturbed. Wrap a towel or blanket around it if the room isn't dark. Direct sunlight can cause off flavors in the finished wine.
Step 7: And Wait.....
After about a month, transfer the wine into a clean carboy. If you only have one, transfer it back into the fermenting bucket, clean the carboy, and transfer it back. Use a racking cane to siphon the wine from the carboy leaving the yeast & whatnot behind. Now the hard part.......time. Lots & lots of time. My first batch was in the secondary for about 8 months before I bottled it. During this time It clarified and all the flavors mellowed to create the complexity in the finished wine.
Step 8: Bottling
When the wine is finally ready, it's time to bottle. I used swing top beer bottles because I had a bunch of them lying around. Alternately, you can use regular beer bottles, wine bottles, or Mason jars. 24 hours before you bottle, crush up 6 more campden tablets and add them to the wine to stabilize it in the bottle. I also added wine conditioner from Global to sweeten it up a bit. Before you bottle it, taste it. You can adjust the final taste to your liking. Ask the guys at the local homebrew shop what you can add to sweeten it up, add more body, etc. (just bring them a sample!)
To bottle transfer the wine into your sanitized fermenting bucket, hook up the hose to the spigot, put the bottling wand on the hose and press it down on the bottom of the bottle. It is spring loaded and stops when you release the pressure on the tip.
I don't have pictures of the last few steps yet because I just transfered to secondary today. I will be adding pictures as the process progresses. I didn't want to make you wait until their were no more decent plums to be had before I wrote the instructable! Cheers!!