Friday, May 24, 2013

Rhubarb wine recipe (updated)

Brian Kaller over at Restoring Mayberry is touting uses for rhubarb today, so I thought I would chime in with last year's excellent sorbet and this spring's experiment in winemaking.

12 pounds of rhubarb
I'm trying my hand at rhubarb wine, because I have an under-used rhubarb patch and some extra bags of sugar I bought to feed the bees.  I cannot vouch for the process, because I haven't tried the wine.  I adapted the simplest recipe I could find on the web -- rhubarb, sugar, yeast and a bit of nutrient to keep the fermentation going.

chopped into a bucket
I'll post the full recipe beneath the fold, but here are the basics for a 3-gallon batch.  

You harvest a dozen pounds of rhubarb and chop it up into a bucket.  No need to peel it - though I found peeling a strip off made it easier to chop up.  You add 6.5 pounds (about 14 cups) of sugar as you go and make sure it's well covered at the end.  Then you let it sit for a day or two while the sugar leaches out the rhubarb juices into a rosy syrup.  

Strain the syrup through a cheesecloth.  You can rinse the rhubarb with some water and add that water to the syrup as well.  Maybe you can find a use for the discarded sweet rhubarb - I snacked on some and composted the rest. 

6.5 pounds of sugar
You put that syrup into your fermentation jar, top off with enough clean water to make up the 3 gallons, add your wine yeast and a couple of teaspoons full of nutrient and put on a stopper with a fermentation lock.

Mine's been bubbling vigorously for two weeks now.  When it stops bubbling I'll decide whether to rack it (siphon it to another jar minus the sediment) or just bottle it.  Sometime next winter or spring I'll know if the experiment was successful or not.

a 3-gallon carboy with a fermentation lock

UPDATE: June 19.
A few days ago I racked it into a couple of gallon jugs and bottled three bottles of it.  That's just the scientist in me wanting to add a few variables.  I tasted it and it wasn't vile - tasted like a slightly harsh hard cider.

UPDATE: December 29.
Opened the first bottle at Solstice. It was very nice - crisp and dry - with only a slight hint of rhubarb undertones, if you searched it out.  Crystal clear as well.  The experiment is hereby deemed a success!

Full recipe below the fold:
Adapted from this recipe
      food grade 5-gallon plastic bucket.
      3-gallon glass carboy
      rubber stopper for the carboy with a hole for the fermentation trap
      fermentation trap
      cheesecloth to line a sieve or colander
      plastic hose for siphoning (aquarium hose is good.)
      16 recycled, sterilized 750 ml wine bottles
      purchased corks and some sort of corker.
      specific gravity gauge (optional)
      12 pounds of rhubarb
      6.5 pounds of sugar (14 cups)
      1 package of wine yeast
      2 teaspoons of wine nutrient
Prepare the Mash for the WineWash the rhubarb and cut it into quarter-inch slices. A food processor with a slicing blade is perfect for this. Alternate layers of rhubarb and sugar in the bucket, finishing with sugar. Cover the bucket with a clean cloth and set aside for 24 hours while the sugar draws the liquid out.Start the FermentationThe next day strain the liquid through a cheesecloth-lined colander, and put the sugary, pink liquid in the carboy. Return the pulp to the bucket, stir a few times, and strain again, extracting more juice. Add the wine yeast and yeast nutrient to the carboy, and enough additional water to bring the liquid up to just below the shoulder of the carboy.Keep Fruit Flies OutFruit flies are drawn to fermenting fruit and must be kept out of the wine because they can introduce vinegar molds that ruin the wine. In the first day or two the juice will be fermenting too ferociously to use a fermentation trap. Instead, use a wad of cotton batting in the neck of the carboy.Use the Fermentation TrapAfter a day or two, the fermentation process will settle down enough to use the fermentation trap. Most fermentation traps use water as a barrier to keep insects from getting in and let the gasses bubble out. Be sure to check the water level in the trap periodically.Make no Wine before its TimeTurning sugar into alcohol takes time. Set the carboy in a cool, dark place such as the back of a closet, and leave it alone for about 6 weeks. Check once in a while to see if bubbles are still passing through the fermentation trap. When no more gas is being produced, the fermentation is finished. If using s specific gravity gauge, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for checking alcohol content.Bottle the WineIf the wine is clear, it is now ready to be bottled, but if the wine is cloudy, let it sit longer so the sediment drops to the bottom. Move the carboy carefully so the lees is not stirred up. This sediment is now about an inch thick on the bottom of the carboy. Use a clear plastic hose to siphon the wine from the carboy into sterilized wine bottles and cork them. Add a label that includes the type of wine, and date it was bottled.Wait a Little LongerThe wine should sit in the bottles for at least a few weeks. After a month or so, open a bottle for a trial taste. If it is still yeasty and raw tasting, wait a little longer before opening more bottles.Rhubarb makes a tangy, dry, white wine that is quite pleasing.

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