Mom called. "Can you help me a little bit?" she asked. It's a cold, October evening ... a light drizzle is falling as I walk downstairs to see what she's up to. She's decided to make apricot wine.
I remember when she first made apricot wine - about 1960 - and how she used an old crock to make it in. She added all the ingredients in our kitchen and then we carried the crock downstairs. It had a close fitting lid, not enough to trap any escaping gases but tight enough to keep any dust out.
A few days after she gathered the ingredients and started the wine, we were enthralled by the bubbling liquid. I don't know how many times I'd walk down the steps to hear it bubbling away.
Every other day she'd ask me to walk to the basement with her and she'd lift the lid and stir the liquid with a wooden spoon. I remember how intoxicating the smell, how delicious it all seemed to be making alcohol in our own basement.
Though it might look like she's making lemonade, it's going to be one powerful concoction in another month. By the way, she's using an old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe:
1 lb. dried apricots
4 qts. warm water
1/2 cake yeast
6-1/2 cups white sugar
2-1/4 cups brown sugar
1-1/2 cups raisins
2 lemons, thinly sliced
2 oranges, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon ginger root, cut into pieces
We've modified this basic recipe to suit our space and taste. First, we've cut it in half. In with the raisins we've also included dried cranberries and dried blueberries. And, instead of ginger root, which we don't have, we sprinkled in a dash of ground ginger.
I also used active dry yeast (we never buy the cakes). I used 1.5 packages for half the recipe. I also activated the yeast in a small glass of warm water to which I added a small amount of sugar. After 15 minutes it had turned into a glassful of foam, proof that the yeast was "good".
The wine is being made in a plastic container which we've sat upon the kitchen counter. Because the kitchen is cool this time of year, the fermentation will be slow.
In about a month - maybe more - or when the fermentation stops (the bubbling and fizzing will cease), the wine can be "racked", that is removed by siphoning it off through plastic aquarium tubing into bottles. It could also be strained through clean cheesecloth but I find that method a little sloppy and not altogether effective in removing sediment.
Sometime about Christmas - or maybe as a New Year's toast - I suppose we'll be having a glass of this wonderful amber wine. It'll remind us of the summer just passed. It'll make us forget about the cold still ahead.
Here's how the wine looks two days later [10/22/11] after the first stirring:
After Mom goes to bed and the house is quiet, I stop by the container the wine is in and listen to it. There is a general fizz and bubbling and the sweet smell of the fruit permeates the kitchen air. It's nice to know on such a cold fall night, that we have wine underway within these walls.
Later: (11/21/11) - Our apricot wine is finished and today we decided to "rack it off". I use plastic tubing to siphon the wine from the fruit, collecting it in a two quart bottle (where it will be racked off a second time to make sure it is 100% clear of sediment). Mom and I were finishing this procedure, scooping the alcoholic fruit from the container and placing it in a colander (we'll use it for fruitcake). Anyway, the kitchen smells like a brewery at this step, fruity and very alcoholic. That's when the UPS man knocked at our back door and scared us half to death. He handed a package in but I'm sure he's thinking he's witnessed two bootleggers at work!