Cranberry Apple Wine

This evening I bottled about 2 gallons of an experimental apple wine that I made just for fun this fall.  It all started when Weezy, Emily, and I discovered a small patch of wild cranberries growing in a soggy spot in the pasture west of the new orchard site.  I realized that cranberries have both a powerful acid component and a strong puckery tannic element, and I wondered if they might be good for perking up relatively bland cider.  A couple weeks later in October I had a surplus of relatively mild apples left over (mac, cortland, red delicious), so I pressed them along with 2 pounds of storebought cranberries and filled a 3 gallon carboy, added 3 campden tabs.  The cranberry didn’t seem that assertive, so I poured in another half-pint of 100% cranberry.  Just for the heck of it, I added 3 pounds of corn sugar as a thick syrup to kick it up to wine strength, and while boiling the syrup I stuck in a couple of cinnamon sticks, which I removed before adding it to the carboy.  Potential alcohol of the final mix was about 12%.

While the campden was doing its thing I got a starter going in a quart bottle with a pint of boiled water, 2/3 packet of Pasteur Champagne yeast, a couple tablespoons of corn sugar, and a few grains of yeast nutrient.  After it started ticking I added a half cup or so of boiled fresh cider to get it used to the acid.  (Not sure if the cider makes any difference, but that sequence hasn’t failed me yet so I’ll probably keep doing it.)  I pitched the starter about a day and a half after the campden went in, and it was off after just a few hours. 

 After a couple of weeks it was still cloudy but pretty quiet, so I racked it and checked the gravity, which was within a couple points of 1.000.  A couple weeks later it was late November so I thiefed out a pint or so and took it home for Thanksgiving dinner, where it was well received despite still being fairly cloudy.  I’m not a wine person, but I found it reasonably good; dry with a strong-but-not-brutal zing from the cranberries.  The cinnamon didn’t come through particularly strongly, but someone with a better nose than me could probably find it in there.  I stuck the carboy in a cold corner of the office, and by the last couple of days it was pretty clear so I bottled it up; clear bottles from Modern Brewer in Porter Square and synthetic corks. 

 It’s a beautiful golden peach color and quite clear.  Here’s how it looks:

apple wine 2006

I’d rate it a sufficient success to do it again next year, perhaps with honey instead of corn sugar and skip the cinnamon.  (Which reminds me, one of these days I have to look into bees; supposedly they are hard to keep these days because of an outbreak of parasitic mites.) But, for everyday drinking I think I still prefer the plain cider.  Just one carboy is still fermenting now, plus the three that are still in secondary in Holly’s basement.  Cider season is coming to a close.  Next step: order Fedco trees before December 8th, to get the 10% discount.

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