RJ Cole Winery

Insights into the world of an amateur home winemaker.

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina, United States

Cole Wines anagrams to Senile Cow.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Strawberry Wine

Well, I decided that the space in my freezer would be better suited to storing food (remind me to go to the grocery store!), so it seemed like it was time to start the strawberry wine. That seems like a good enough excuse, although I could just say I was too excited about the Strawberry Wine to wait any longer...

Anyhoo, I decided to get started on Monday night, March 13th. I had frozen 24 pounds of strawberries in order to get the cell walls to breakdown a little bit (this happens when frozen fruit thaws. I can't explain it exactly, but in my mind, when the water present in the cells freezes, it ruptures the cell walls. Then when the fruit thaws, the liquid comes pouring out.)

I sanitized my equipment and pulled the berries out of the freezer to thaw. Thawing took quite some time. To make the job of chopping up the berries easier, I decided to use my handy blender! I would fill it about 3/4 full of berries, then add some water to make it chop them easier. Note that before freezing, I had chopped all the caps off of the berries. The blender pureed most of the berries into a strawberry smoothie-like substance. It smelled wonderful!!

As I would blend, I would pour what I had just blended into my primary bucket. After a while, my primary was getting extremely full - it was up to 4 and a half gallons, and I still had a few pounds of strawberries, plus water to add! This was supposed to be a 5 gallon batch! I even still had to add sugar, which would cause displacement to up the total gallonage. I decided that instead of blending up the last ~2 pounds, I would squeeze them and only use the juice. This, also, took a while.

Looking at the primary, it looked like an extremely chunky smoothie. I thought there would be no way to test for TA and SG. To try to overcome this, I tried straining through my mesh bag a few times - just enough to get juice. The TA worked out perfectly, and came out to .35. I added 50mL of Acid blend, which should get the TA up to .65 - a good number for fruit wines. The SG, however, still had problems. The juice was still so thick that the hydrometer sank very very very slowly, but it did stop and float at 1.040. I'm wanting to get this to around 1.075 - 1.080. I checked the must, and the sugar I had put in, wasn't mixed in well at all, so I stirred that back up vigorously. I'll have to go back and check on it again to see how that adjusted it (I had put in about 7 pounds of sugar. I may need to add up to 10 pounds total in my guesstimations.)

I did crush and put in some Campden tablets Monday night when I realized that I had this problem on my hands and I wasn't going to be able to start fermenting right away. This should preserve the juice for another day or 2.

One option I have now is to get another primary bucket and pour the juice I have through the straining bags into it. This should get the pulp into a more managable mess, and make it easier to test and ferment everything. The primary will end up with 6 gallons, which I figure will give me about 5 gallons of wine once fermentation is done and I rack off the lees.

Next time, I'm chopping the strawberries by hand - or squeezing them!


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